It's a sound that gets your attention and can save your life. The persistent, piercing blare of a smoke detector alerts people something bad is happening and action needs to be taken.

The Dodge City Retired and Senior Volunteer Program decided to get involved with the Red Cross in installing smoke detectors several years ago and they got involved in a big way. Volunteers went to work and put so many detectors in homes, the American Red Cross honored the Ford County RSVP with their Community Disaster and Preparedness Award on June 8 in Topeka.

The Red Cross Chapter covers 60 counties in central and western Kansas. Their entire chapter goal for that year was 1,000 detectors. Ford County RSVP volunteers installed over 300 by themselves. Since July 2018, they have installed 203 smoke detectors in 72 homes.

"I just keep them equipped and they keep putting them in," said Deb Tucker, Disaster Program manager for the Red Cross who nominated the RSVP organization. "It's really been a great partnership. The people of Ford County should be proud of what they are doing."

"We could not do this without our great volunteers," said Lisa O'Neal, interim RSVP director. "It's also a great collaboration with Dodge City."

The detectors are free, have 10-year batteries and three can be placed in one home. There is minimal paper work to fill out, O'Neal said.

The volunteers had to go through a short training program before installing the detectors. If more volunteers want to get involved, RSVP will train them, too.

If someone wants a detector or knows someone who needs one, they should contact RSVP and they will arrange to get the detector installed. Right now, RSVP has a two-page list of homes that need detectors.

To find more homes that need smoke detectors, RSVP is collaborating with Dodge City Code Enforcement Officer Vicki Williamson. Williamson has notified people in mobile home parks that the detectors are available. Off-duty firefighters and paramedics have also been helping install detectors, O'Neal said.

The program is not limited to Dodge City. Detectors have been installed in Spearville, Wright and Bucklin.

There have been some additional positive impacts from the program. At one mobile home with a mother and small child, a carbon monoxide leak was detected. In another home, a gas leak was detected. The residents were evacuated and the problems were handled without incident, O'Neal said.

"They took care of a situation that could have been fatal," O'Neal said.

The volunteers have even found people who didn't know what a smoke detector is so the educational component is very important.

"We talked with one little girl, about 7 years old," O'Neal said. "When we asked her what she would do if there were a fire, she said she would go hide in the closet. So it's very important that we educate everyone in addition to the installations."

Besides new detectors, the program is also reminding people that if they have a smoke detector that is over 10 years old, it should be replaced. People also need to replace batteries regularly. A worn-out battery will cause a detector to chirp and that's a signal to replace the battery. It's important to replace the battery and not just take the battery out when it starts chirping and not replace it, O'Neal said.

Besides smoke detectors, RSVP also help residents work out fire escape plans and advise them on preparing for other emergency situations such as tornadoes and floods.