American Red Cross installs smoke alarms in Farragut

Farragut High School FIRST Robotics Flagship Team 3140 partnered with American Red Cross of East Tennessee to install smoke alarms in Farragut and and teach fire safety.

Four teams of American Red Cross and Robotics volunteers went door to door in Farragut Park Sunday, Nov. 6, installing smoke alarms and talking to the residents about creating an evacuation plan in the event of a home fire.

“We canvassed 115 homes in just two short hours,” Jane Skinner, FHS teacher and FIRST Robotics sponsor, said. “We installed 22 alarms, did 35 fire escape plans and left information for the entire community. What a great day.”

“The state fire marshal has a five-year program in which it identifies high-risk areas, and mobile home parks are all high risk,” Gary Dakolios, ARC Disaster Services volunteer, said. “It’s a pretty valuable project, saving hundreds of lives in East Tennessee.”

Having a group, such as FHS’s Robotics Team, volunteer on such projects as installing smoke alarms, gives the volunteer organization more hands, he said.

“The American Red Cross is about 90 percent volunteers,” Dakolios said. “So, the only way we can help the number of people we need to help is with volunteers, and we are always looking for more volunteers.”

“Installing smoke alarms cuts the risk of someone dying from a home fire in half, so we’re joining with groups from across our community to install smoke alarms,” Michelle Hankes, American Red Cross of East Tennessee executive director, said. “We also will be teaching people how to be safe from a home fire.”

Farragut Park has about 120 homes. Dakolios said volunteers helping Nov. 6 went to about 100 of those homes.

Helping ARC install smoke alarms is part of the robotics club’s community service outreach efforts, Skinner, who co-sponsors the Robotics team with Aundrea Mitchell, said.

“This is one of the things we’re doing this year,” Skinner said.

The organization, For Inspira-tion and Recognition of Science and Technology, of which the Robotics Team is a part, encourages members to participate in community service, she said.

“We’re offering a varsity letter [to students] for their participation [in the smoke alarms project]. It’s important these guys do things for other people.

“I’m glad to be able to help out in the community,” Nalin Varma, FHS senior and FIRST Robotics Team member, said. Nalin and his brother, Roshan Varma, a Robotics team member, also are Boy Scouts.

“It’s good to be able to do the same type of things from another club,” Nalin said.

“It’s good to extend the community service to Robotics,” Roshan said.

Cathy Simes, Red Cross volunteer and Robotics team member’s mother, said helping to install smoke alarms fell in line with the Robotics Team’s focus on safety not only in the club’s activities but also in the community.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to give back to the community,” Alexander Peters, FHS junior, Robotics Team member, said. Peters also is a Boy Scout.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Brian Peters, father of Alexander Peters, said. “We always try to get community service in. It’s part of what we do, not only is it an educational experience, it a great chance to help, too.”

Brian Peters said the project also helps participants learn to work as a team.

The smoke alarms volunteers installed in Farragut Park had the battery built in, Jen Walton, Red Cross volunteer said.

“So once you put on the case, it activates,” she said.