Free smoke detectors installed in Nassau homes by Red Cross, Assemb. Solages

The American Red Cross and the Nassau County state legislature have teamed up to help fireproof homes, while raising fire safety awareness, and installing free smoke detectors in a dozen homes.

Holiday lights, heaters and candles can all increase the risk of house fires during the cold winter months, so volunteers from the Long Island and Assemblies Red Cross are working to help residents sleep at night. Michael Solages (D-Elmont) showed up with rescue alarms at several Elmont and Valley Stream homes.

“We understand that home fires are preventable and unfortunately we see more people and children dying from these fires. So the best thing you can do to prevent these deaths is to get a free smoke alarm.” said. This is his second year working with the organization.

Equipped with ladders, drills and a $50 smoke detector box, a small crew got to work Saturday morning, setting up tools in several key areas, including bedrooms, dining rooms and hallways. Expected to last 10 years, it is not recommended for use in the kitchen or near cooking appliances, as these appliances may turn off at will and cause inconvenience.

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“It’s amazing how sensitive they are,” said Jose Dominguez, executive director of the Long Island Red Cross. “That’s when people decide to release it.”

Olga Sarabia, 64, of Newburgh Street in Elmont, installed seven detectors in her home. Sarabia said her husband was responsible for maintenance and that no one had monitored fire safety since his death in 2004.

“She was in charge of all the maintenance of the house and I didn’t follow it,” said Sarabia, who approached Solaj’s office after receiving the notice. “I really needed them. I bought them but didn’t know where to put them, so it’s amazing.”

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According to the Red Cross, home fires kill an average of seven people per day nationwide, more than all other natural disasters combined. Most of the fatalities occur in homes that do not have working fire alarms. Since 2014, the organization has installed more than 13,000 alarms, helping to protect more than 4,000 Long Island homes.

Laurie Pizzarelli, chief of the Red Cross Long Island Home Fire Squad, offered a few tips, emphasizing plugging appliances directly into wall outlets and keeping heaters and fireplaces three feet away from combustibles. He also warned people to stay away from dollar store extension cords and power cords and buy underwriters lab (UL) approved cords.

Other recommendations include purchasing an ABC-standard fire extinguisher that extinguishes grease, electrical, paper, and fabric fires. Important features include carbon monoxide detectors, fire escapes, and reflective stickers displaying house numbers in second-floor rooms. The Red Cross also recommends implementing a two-minute fire escape plan.

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Myrta Robin, 64, who lives with her 92-year-old mother in Valley Stream, said she didn’t know if her alarm was working when she signed up for the free service.

“I want him to be safe,” Robin said. “There have been a lot of fires in the surrounding area.”

“Sometimes they get old and I’m a single woman so my son has to run them,” she said. “If a professional comes and sets me up, I know it’s safe.”

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