Volunteers install 1,000 smoke alarms in Lincoln residences

2011-03-06T23:55:00Z 2011-03-09T22:55:07Z Volunteers install 1,000 smoke alarms in Lincoln residencesBy PAIGE CORNWELL / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

Greyson Ostrander and Spencer Morris looked up at the ceiling in the apartment complex on South 19th Street and eyed the outdated, non-functioning smoke alarm.

With no working smoke alarm, the resident might not have a way of knowing if there was a fire in the building.

Using a ladder, hammer and screwdriver, they installed a new smoke alarm, one with ionization and photoelectric technology and a 10-year battery.

That alarm might save a life, Lincoln Fire and Rescue officials said Sunday.

About 500 volunteers installed more than 1,000 smoke alarms in Lincoln residences Sunday as part of a smoke alarm rally. The volunteers were assisted by LFR and Safe Kids Lincoln-Lancaster County.

This is the fourth rally in Lincoln but the first year LFR and Safe Kids teamed up with Lincoln area fraternities and sororities to install smoke alarms. About 400 volunteers were members of sororities and fraternities from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Nebraska Wesleyan University.

The smoke alarm rally kicked off UNL's Greek Week.

"This is a way to show that philanthropy is a key thing we do," UNL Interfraternity Council president Matt Wells said. "We get to partner with the community in a more effective way. We get to give back."

Volunteers first met at Lincoln High School, where LFR members showed them how to install the batteries properly and make sure they were working. Anyone speaking had to talk loudly to be heard over the "beeps" of the alarms.

"The class was pretty informative," Ostrander, a UNL freshman marketing major, said. "I wanted to help out the community and continue the Greek tradition of volunteering."

Volunteers were directed to different residences in the area bounded by K Street, D Street, 17th Street and Capitol Parkway.

The area has had a high concentration of fires in the past, Jon Carlson, aide to Mayor Chris Beutler, said. About 80 percent of fires occur in residences that don't have a working smoke alarm, Carlson said.

"It's black and white. Smoke alarms save lives," Carlson said.

A $126,000 FEMA grant allowed LFR to purchase 3,000 smoke alarms, grant coordinator Capt. Jeff Hatcher said. LFR added a "hush" button to each alarm so that residents can turn off the alarm if it goes off from cigarette or burnt food smoke.

The "hush" button is useful for tenants who otherwise would take out the batteries, landlord Mike Wilson said.

Last year, volunteers installed alarms at one of his buildings in another area.

"It's a pretty good program," Wilson said as he watched Ostrander and Morris install an alarm in tenant Eric Keller's bedroom. An alarm was put in each bedroom as well as each hallway of the apartment complex.

Later, Wilson and four volunteers moved on to another apartment complex.

One volunteer pressed a button to confirm that their effort worked.


He took it down, made sure the battery was installed properly. Someone must have put the battery in the wrong way, he said.

He pressed the button again.


Reach Paige Cornwell at 402-473-7126 or pcornwell@journalstar.com

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