Philadelphia homes made safer during ‘Sound the Alarm’ Day of Action

By Marta Rusek and Alana Mauger

Southwest Philadelphia residents Aaron and Mohammed Zoe had their home made safer on May 8 by members of the Philadelphia Fire Department and Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania Regional CEO Guy Triano and volunteer Elizabeth Von Baldes. Photo by Donn Greenberg

Create an escape plan. Practice a two-minute drill. Test your smoke alarms monthly. These are the core messages delivered by American Red Cross volunteers and staff during the 2021 Sound the Alarm Day of Action on May 8.  Adjusting tactics for the pandemic, four small groups of volunteers and Red Cross staff partnered with the Philadelphia Fire Department to help make 135 homes safer through fire safety education.

Three groups met with residents outside their homes in the Elmwood neighborhood of Southwest Philadelphia, while members of the Philadelphia fire department installed smoke alarms – 38 total – for those who requested them. Red Cross volunteers included Board member David Poindexter, Mary Noll and Elizabeth Von Baldes.

At the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the fourth group of Red Crossers introduced home fire safety tips to community members participating in the vaccine clinic there. Volunteers Heidi DampmanDiane Minanno, and Will Dobnak were on-site to provide information, share escape planning tips, and schedule no-cost smoke alarm installations by the Philadelphia Fire Department with community residents. Thanks to the dedication and enthusiasm of our volunteers, 111 people received information to keep their households safe.

Volunteers at the Pennsylvania Convention Center (from left): Heidi Dampman, Diane Minanno, Marta Rusek, and Will Dobnak. Photo by Donn Greenberg

Residents were most shocked to learn that a fire can double in size every 60 seconds (hence the reason the Red Cross encourages homeowners to create and practice escape plans that are no more than two minutes long). In addition to a two-minute escape plan, our volunteers shared the importance of planning and practicing two escape routes.

Though the weather was chilly outside, volunteers radiated excitement for the campaign and a desire to share life-saving information. “Sound the Alarm is so much fun!” said Diane Minanno. “It’s not just for volunteers – [in non-pandemic years] you can bring your family, and some family members eventually become volunteers themselves!”

Check out our full Sound the Alarm Day of Action Flickr album.

The Day of Action built on two months of fire safety education by teams of volunteers at the Convention Center. As of May 19, over 1,000 homes were made safer in Greater Philadelphia, with the Southeastern Pennsylvania region leading the nation. This number will grow as teams of volunteers continue their work at the Convention Center through June 15.

Our Sound the Alarm work is made possible thanks to generous financial donations from regional partners: FMC Corporation, Morgan Properties, The Triumph Group, and The Wawa Foundation. 

To learn more about Sound the Alarm and to take the pledge to be prepared for home fire safety, visit

Red Cross volunteers and staff and members of the Philadelphia Fire Department met at Elmwood Park in Southwest Philadelphia before breaking into groups for May 8’s Day of Action. Photo by Donn Greenberg

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