PITTSTON — It’s a scene out of a Hallmark Channel movie: community members going door to door, helping their neighbors in a time when charity seems reserved for idyllic television towns. However, scenes like this have played out in local cities for the last two years, under the guidance of American Red Cross Northeast Pennsylvania Chapter.
On June 17, it’s Pittston’s turn.
At 9 a.m. that morning, volunteers will meet at Pittston City Fire Headquarters, 20 Kennedy St., and eat a complimentary breakfast while preparing to install free smoke detectors in Pittston households. Anyone 16-and-over (or 13-and-over with accompanying adult) can volunteer to help. Volunteers will be sorted into pairs and joined by either a member of the fire department or Red Cross.
Group members will have specific roles: one will handle necessary documents for alarm instillation, one will install the alarm and one will communicate with the homeowner while the other two are documenting and installing.
American Red Cross Northeast Pennsylvania Chapter Executive Director Bill Goldsworthy said it’s a system that has installed more than 7,000 alarms in area households over the last two years.
“We go door-to-door, literally every single door, and if they have smoke alarms we’ll check them because they’re supposed to be replaced every 10 years,” Goldsworthy said. “If they’re over 10 years old, we’ll replace them for free and, if they don’t have alarms, we’ll install them for free.”
Each team will be equipped with a ladder, drill, container of screws and a bucket of supplies. They’ll also have a supply of smoke alarms outfitted with lithium ion batteries designed to last 10 years. If homeowners are away, teams leave a phone number for telephone access to the service. Teams also leave topical items, including a dry erase board for drawing up an escape plan, as well as fire safety information.
Goldsworthy said local officials decide where the efforts are concentrated during these events. Pittston City Fire Chief Jim Rooney chose Market Street and areas south, in the direction of Columbus Avenue.
“I’ve talked with the code enforcement officer and my fire inspector to try and pick out the best location for it,” Rooney said. “I hope people are receptive in the areas we’re going to. We will be well-identified.”
Rooney said he and two on-duty fire fighters will take part in the effort. They will be joined by volunteers from local organizations, representatives from Knights of Columbus, Loyal Order of Moose, First Baptist Church and more.
“The first word in our oath is charity and that’s what this is,” Knights of Columbus No. 372 Grand Knight Rick Korpusik said. “It’s a great project; this is the first time I’ve heard about it.”
Knights of Columbus and other participating organizations will be forbidden from soliciting during their June 17 charity work. Red Cross representatives are also instructed to refuse donations.
Jeanie Ray, disaster program specialist at American Red Cross Northeast Pennsylvania Chapter, said individuals not involved with local organizations are also encouraged to volunteer.
“Anybody is welcome to come and help,” Ray said. “Even if it’s only one person that says, ‘I want to do this’ and shows up that day, we’ll find a team that needs one person on it.”
Goldsworthy said the day ends at 2 p.m., when volunteers will regroup at Pittston City Fire Headquarters for lunch. That meal will also be complimentary — just like the estimated six smoke alarms per volunteer that will be installed June 17. A former West Pittston Fire Chief, Goldsworthy knows how far each of those alarms will go towards saving local lives.
“People don’t realize they have two minutes to get out of a house when a fire starts,” Goldsworthy said. “The smoke alarm gives you that opportunity to get out the house. It’s not the fire that kills you; it’s the smoke.”