Neighborhood smoke alarm sweep: An effort to save lives

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Volunteers are going door-to-door at hundreds of Milwaukee homes this weekend, in an effort to save lives.

When you think of the American Red Cross, you likely picture the teams of responders that show up on disaster scenes as families try to piece their lives back together.

But on this fall weekend, they're joining forces with the Milwaukee Fire Department -- in hopes they can prevent a tragedy before it happens.

"It makes you feel good when you're making a difference in somebody's life, really saving a life," said Red Cross volunteer, Kathie Walker.

The volunteers and fire cadets are targeting specific neighborhoods where fire has been particularly deadly.

"In the Thurston Wood neighborhood they have had eight injuries or deaths in the last four years," said Barbara Behling, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross.

It's all part of a five year effort to cut deaths by 25%.

"Today's goal is 321 homes and so that's the entire 53209 zip code," said Behling.

They're making sure homes have working smoke detectors, and installing new ones in those that need them. They're also helping residents plot an escape route -- should the unthinkable happen to them.

"Firefighters who are trained and even have special equipment have difficulties making their way around these environments as well, so you have no special training, you have no equipment so it becomes that much more impossible for you to get out safely unless you have those working smoke detectors -- as well as having that escape plan," said Gerard Washington, Assistant Fire Chief.

Milwaukee's already had 9 fire fatalities so far in 2014. Volunteer Kathie Walker knows what it's like to respond to those scenes, and it's part of what motivates her to spend her Saturday doing this.

"You get that up and down feeling when somebody dies when you find out there wasn't no smoke alarm in their house and if they had had a smoke alarm they could have been alive," said Walker.

FOX6 News is told teams were also going to neighborhoods in Stevens Point on Saturday, October 11th.

Additionally, they plan to hit Beloit on November 3rd.