By Josie Rabbitt Bingham
AURORA—It happened in a matter of two minutes. Rosie Smith heard the smoke detector in the dining room going off. Her daughter, Cheyenne, was upstairs. Flames were everywhere, licking the walls, covering the rooms in thick, black smoke.
“I put my hands above my head, and my eyes were open wide so I could see through the smoke,” said Cheyenne. “I remember thinking, ‘Is this it? Am I going to die?’”
Cheyenne’s dad ran up what was left of the steps, threw a curtain over part of the fire and got her out just in time. The temperature from a fire can be 100 degrees at floor level and over 600 degrees at eye level, scorching lungs and melting clothes to skin.
“Everything I had, everything I had worked hard for, was gone,” said Rosie. “But then I looked at my daughter and let out a sigh of relief. ‘She’s still here,’ I thought. It could have been worse.”
Just two weeks before, the American Red Cross (ARC) had installed smoke alarms in Rosie’s kitchen and basement. Fourteen days later, those smoke alarms saved her and her family’s lives.
The Smiths are not the only ones effected by home fires.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, homes fires cause an annual average of 2,510 deaths and 12,300 injuries. Fire damage causes approximately 6.7 billion dollars in repair in the United States every year, and seven people die in home fires every day.
“If you don’t think it can happen to you, it can,” Rosie said. “It happened to me.”
Three out of five home fires, which resulted in deaths, had no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. This is why Send Relief partners with the American Red Cross (ARC) and local fire departments to reduce deaths through home fires by installing smoke alarms.
You and your church can partner with Send Relief to demonstrate Jesus’ love and concern in a door-to-door campaign. If you find that providing a home fire campaign is a need in your community, Send Relief has practical steps to help you get started.
- Pray to see if there’s a desire within the congregation to meet this need. Ask questions to see if the ministry is sustainable over time and take time to reflect and assess if you feel God is leading you as a congregation in this direction.
- Develop an initial plan for your Home Fire Campaign. Meet with church leadership the local chapter of the ARC and your local fire department with initial information. If you’ve recruited other partners (civic organizations, other churches), include them in these meetings. Define specific goals for each partner.
- Enlist volunteers. Eight weeks prior to the Home Fire Campaign, volunteers need to be signed up and committed to the campaign. One person for each team will need to be background checked at this stage. Send Relief has a Simple Start Guide for the number of volunteers you’ll need for the number of home you plan to cover.
- Promote the Home Fire Campaign to your community. There are several possible ways to inform residents of the dates of your campaign including: newspapers, TV community service announcements, radio, church and associational newsletters, posters and handouts.
- Create team assignments six weeks prior. Take this time to figure out each teams’ two installers, one educator and one data entry keeper. You can host pre-event meetings to assess team members desired areas of service within their teams.
- Order supplies including smoke alarms, volunteer t-shirts, door hangers and other supplies needed through Send Relief.
- Prepare for a pre-canvas event two weeks prior to your Home Fire Campaign and conduct a pre-canvas event one week prior. Print “street sheets” which outline the areas and homes you and your teams will be serving. The fire department can help. Determine where you’ll set-up your meeting space and meals and refreshments tables.
Send Relief’s Home Fire Campaign Ministry Guide will guide you along these seven pre-steps to your Home Fire Campaign event and share testimonials of those who’ve received smoke alarms through Home Fire Campaign and the ARC’s efforts.
Pastor of Springbrook Community Church, Matt Woodford invited his congregation to participate in a Home Fire Campaign this past June in Aurora, Colorado.
“I was so grateful for the church giving up a Sunday morning to serve the community,” Woodford said. “There was so much passion. We had 114 volunteers install 113 smoke detectors in 56 homes.”
Thanks to a Sunday morning of service, 188 people in Aurora are now sleeping safely under smoke detectors that could one day save their lives.
Teams of four were instructed to knock on doors in their specified areas and ask home owners if they would like to receive a free smoke detector. Each team had two installers, one fire safety planner and one person able to converse with and listen to members of the household being served.
“It was an honor to be part of the service project,” said Brian Nestler, Springbrook Community Church attendee. “Springbrook did such a great job, and I was glad to be involved.”
To learn more about the Home Fire Campaign, visit https://www.sendrelief.org/poverty/home-fire-campaign/.
Josie Rabbitt Bingham is a writer for the North American Mission Board.