Asbury Park firefighters along with members of the Red Cross and other organizations distributed free smoke alarms to city residents Saturday.
By WILLIAM CLARK
Asbury Park organizations teamed up with the American Red Cross to install free smoke alarms for Asbury Park residents during the Sound the Alarm event Sat., Jan. 13.
More than 70 volunteers took to the streets in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr National Service Day to knock on doors and hand out free smoke alarms to residents.
Beginning at St. Stephens Church volunteers were trained as educators, installers or documenters. Once each person understood their responsibilities, teams split up into six zones, taking to the streets in the name of safety.
Kim Goetz, Executive Director for the Central New Jersey chapter of the American Red Cross, said community partners were vital to the mission of the day. Those partners included the Asbury Park Fire Department, St. Stephen’s AME Church, Triumphant Life Church, the Asbury Park Housing Authority and several city departments.
In addition to free 10 year lifespan smoke detectors, Goetz said that discussing safety plans with residents was another goal. That included escape routes and plans, access needs for those with disabilities and the risk of space heaters. Volunteers also nstalled smoke detectors as necessary.
Goetz said it was important the community viewed the outreach as safety driven. She pointed to the importance of volunteers that could provide translation services to those that need it, making sure that residents felt safe interacting with teams of people knocking at their door.
Jo Poplawski, the Disaster Program Manager for Monmouth and Ocean Counties, said that about 40 percent of doors get answered. Most people are courteous but supervisors did make sure volunteers knew that they were around in case any conflicts occurred.
Councilwoman Yvonne Clayton was at the event representing the City Council.
“We’re not passing out smoke detectors,” she said to the crowd before they set out. “We’re saving lives.”
Fire Chief Kevin Keddy also addressed the crowd. Keddy said fire damage takes a massive toll nationwide but efforts like this help prevent larger catastrophes.
Keddy said tNew Jersey has benefited from the passing of the Fire Safety Act back in the 1980’s, which cut damages by half.
“That’s a direct result of the type of work we’re doing here today,” Keddy said.
Goetz said a point of pride for her team during the event was the fact that some were pulling double duty. Many were responding to floods around New Jersey that occurred after two major storms blew through the state within days of each other.
Ninety percent of those who work with the Red Cross are volunteers, Goetz said. With extreme weather events becoming more and more common, they are called on to provide greater assistance. That work is paid for by donations, Goetz said.
But for those gathered early in Asbury Park from the various community partners, Goetz knows that the work they accomplished was special.
“It’s a fulfilling day,” she said.