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Red Cross announces initiative to install 100,000 smoke alarms nationwide

Sound the Alarm kicks off this Saturday in Charleston and continues May 5 in Beckley and Clarksburg. (WCHS/WVAH)

From the time a smoke alarm goes off, you only have about two minutes to get out of a home that's on fire, according to the American Red Cross, proving every second is precious. That is why it’s committed to a brand new initiative to save as many lives as possible.

Charles Clegg, a three-year volunteer with the American Red Cross, is a man on a mission.

"I’ve been everywhere from Weirton, clear down to Point Pleasant, to Sutton, installing smoke alarms,” Clegg said.

But earlier this year, his mission hit close to home after he installed those smoke alarms at his daughter's house. One day, a maintenance man accidentally left the furnace running, which overheated and caught fire.

“The smoke alarms went off, alerting my daughter,” Clegg said.

Erica Mani, regional chief executive officer of the American Red Cross West Virginia Region, said the family was "among those 21 lives saved in West Virginia because of these smoke alarm installations.”

It’s stories like Clegg's that lit a fire at the American Red Cross. On Wednesday, officials introduced the Sound the Alarm initiative to install 100,000 smoke alarms in the next few weeks, 1,600 of which will be right here in West Virginia.

“We would go on a fire, where the alarm was still in the package, in the drawer, or on a cabinet. They had a smoke alarm, but it didn't get installed," said Chief Deputy Bob Sharp of the West Virginia Fire Marshal’s Office.

The statistics are alarming. Sharp said West Virginia leads the nation in fire deaths per capita.

“In fiscal year 2017, we had 70 fire deaths. Of those 70 deaths - those were 60 fires - half of them did not have working smoke alarms,” Sharp said.

What many people may not know is that their smoke alarms have an expiration date.

“We’re trying to keep track of the location, so we know 10 years from now, they need a new alarm,” Sharp said.

Clegg said it really shows me "this is a good thing because it saved my family."

Sound the Alarm kicks off this Saturday in Charleston and continues May 5 in Beckley and Clarksburg. If you would like to volunteer, or if you are in need of a smoke alarm, call 1-800-REDCROSS.

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