After 9 student deaths, Akron Schools mounting aggressive push on fire safety education

AKRON, Ohio - Parents of students in Akron Public Schools should expect to get an automated phone message Monday evening alerting them that their children are bringing home fliers that could save lives.

Starting Monday, the school district began sending home 20-thousand fliers reminding families of a program that allows them to get free smoke detectors and have them installed, also free of charge.

The program has been offered by the Akron Fire Department, along with the American Red Cross, for several years. The recent deaths of nine local children in tragic fires makes the school district want to do something more assertive to get families to take advantage of it.

Two children along with their parents died in a house fire on Talmadge Avenue last December. Five more died in an arson fire this past May.

Jayda Snowden, 12 and her sister Kymeria Cody, 5 died in a fire less than two weeks ago.

The school district believes all of the lives could have been saved had there been working smoke detectors in the homes.

"Every single time we wring our hands and say what are we going to do about this," said Mark Williamson of the Akron Public Schools.

Starting Monday the district began sending fliers home with all 20-thousand students with information that tells their parents how to get the free smoke detectors.

Williamson said some principals are preparing to offer incentives to students whose families sign up trying to make it more fun for them to do so.

The district on Monday evening is sending out automated all-call messages to families asking them to look for the fliers. "For the safety of all of our families please review these materials carefully with your children..." the call urges.

"Please look, look in your child's backpack. See if your child brought it home. Contact the school - all of the school officials have this form, some of the teachers have them but definitely the principals have access to get you this form ," said Lt. Sierjie Lash of the Akron Fire Department.

The fire department also wants families to know that even if they have smoke detectors in their homes, if they are more than ten years old they should consider replacing them.

"If we get a few hundred, if we get a few thousand I mean there's 20-thousand of these things that are going home and we will see how many people respond," said WIlliamson.

The Red Cross tells Fox 8 News that they are prepared to handle as many calls as they can get and urge anyone who needs a smoke detector to not delay in making the call.

"We want you to be safe at home. We want you to be here tomorrow. We want you to grow up and have a family. We actually care," said Williamson.