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Area groups and business work together on fire safety boxes

Area groups and business work together on fire safety boxes
By Bob Steenson,

Eighty area families should be a little more secure as a result of efforts by several local groups and businesses to promote fire safety.

“It all started with Community Partnerships,” said Melissa Clough, the P4C, FMC Decat, and CPPC seven-county community coordinator.

“CPPC stands for Community Partnerships Protecting Children,” Clough said. “In each year we get a certain allocation from the state, and with those funds we really work on initiatives, training and different ideas in the community to keep kids and families safe.

Clough said that Erica Chick, an AmeriCorps member who Clough works with, brought up the idea of creating safety boxes centered on house fires.

“It’s a common thing in the Midwest in the winter months,” Clough said. Many families don’t have the funds — especially during the COVID-19 pandemic — to pay their utility bill, so to heat their homes they use space heaters or turn the oven on and leave the door open or use other less-safe ways to stay warm.

“We wanted to put on an initiative to help keep families safe, centered around that,” Clough said. “In conjunction with many community businesses and agencies and the school districts, we have put together these safety boxes.”

Each safety box will include a smoke detector, flashlight, batteries, hand sanitizer and a blanket and a stuffed animal.

“Service Master by Rice really helped us out and donated 80 smoke detectors, which is huge,” Clough said. “We’ve never received a donation like that ever before. We really want to thank them.”

Ace Hardware in Charles City donated $350 worth of batteries for the smoke detectors and flashlights, and Theisen’s  came up with 80 mini flashlights. Hand sanitizer was donated by Christy Teslow of Cresco, who runs Mobile Mama, a non-profit tech and online safety program.

“We shopped local,” Clough said. “And then we also used some of the items DHS (the Department of Human Services) has in storage — blankets and the stuffed animals, and backpacks and the bags we will be using.”

The safety boxes will be distributed through the Charles City, Osage, St. Ansgar, New Hampton and Summer school districts and Head Start programs, and perhaps others.

“Some of the school counselors and school staff are identifying kids and families,” Clough said. “They’re not telling us who they’re giving them to, but as long as they’re going to families who actually will use the smoke detector and need them — the Head Start families, many of them are in need of these boxes.

“We’re trying to work with school districts in all three of those counties, Floyd, Mitchell and Chickasaw,” she said.

She said the safety boxes will go mostly to families or households that are not renting, because in a rental unit smoke detectors should already be provided by the landlord.

Clough assembled the boxes this week and they will be distributed the end of this week and next week.

They are also coordinating with area fire departments to support the effort. Some of the departments are providing information on smoke detectors and fire safety, how and when to check smoke detector batteries, etc. That information will also be included with the boxes.