Red Cross worker's idea blossoms into community-wide event on home safety

By Abby Morris
Star Staff

   What started as a simple wish for one local American Red Cross worker expanded into a multi-agency event to help area residents learn more about ways to keep their homes safe.
   "It started out because I was looking for a way to give out free smoke alarms to families who couldn't afford them," said Kim Fisk of the Carter County office of the American Red Cross. "One of the disasters I deal with most frequently here in the office is single family fires."
   In her work with the victims of home fires, Fisk found that many of them were not prepared for such an emergency. "In talking with people who have lost their homes, I've found that many of them did not have smoke alarms," she said.
   Thus began the project that has since blossomed into the Home Safety Day event which will be held tomorrow from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Elizabethton Boys and Girls Club, 104 Hudson Drive.
   "It started out and I went to Wal-Mart to see if they would donate some smoke alarms, and they did," Fisk said, adding that as she went to different area agencies, more and more people said that they were willing to help out.
   "I found out there was a lot of interest in doing a home safety day event," Fisk said. "Every agency I spoke with said that even if they wouldn't be able to provide the manpower, they would at least send some information that could be handed out.
   "There has been a very positive response. I was very pleased."
   In addition to the American Red Cross, the Carter County Sheriff's Department, Elizabethton Police Department, Elizabethton Fire Department, Carter County Firefighters Association, Carter County Emergency and Rescue Squad, Carter County Health Department, UT Agricultural Extension, Poison Control Center and the Appalachian RC&D Council will be participating in the event by providing information to those who attend on ways to make their homes safer. "It's all focused on home safety," Fisk said.
   According to Fisk, the area fire departments will be talking to people about fire safety and prevention. The local law enforcement agencies will provide information on ways residents can "burglar proof" their homes and on the neighborhood watch program.
   The UT Agricultural Extension Office will offer information on radon testing in homes and food safety. The Appalachian RC&D Council will talk to those who attend about the proper way to dispose of toxic, hazardous and chemical waste from homes.
   The American Red Cross will have information on hand about preparing for disasters by developing a disaster plan and kit, information on the health and safety classes they sponsor and information on preparing for weather related disasters or acts of terrorism.
   There will also be activities at the event for children to participate in including a room set up where they can watch safety videos geared for children, Fisk said, adding that "little first aid kits for kids" will be given away at the event.
   Fisk said she feels that it is important for area residents to attend the event to learn about home safety. "It's probably one of the few chances people will have to get people from all these agencies together at once so they can ask them questions and get this kind of information," she said.
   There will be some merchandise available for purchase at the event, such as first aid kits and radon testing kits, Fisk said.
   If the event is successful, Fisk hopes it will become a yearly event for the community. "I'm hoping to do this kind of thing fairly frequently," she said.