Safety concerns spark smoke alarm effort

American Red Cross volunteer Ray Henderson installs a smoke detector in a Berkeley Electric Cooperative member’s home. According to the Red Cross, smoke detectors should be in every bedroom and in the common living areas of the house.

Berkeley Electric Cooperative wants its customers to plug in — to smoke alarms.

The Moncks Corner-based utility is partnering with the American Red Cross to install smoke detectors for free in the homes of all members who request them in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties. The lithium-battery devices are good for 10 years.

The co-op is targeting the elderly, disabled and low-income members for installation, but the service is available to any member of the utility, which has about 92,000 members. The agency’s Energy Experts also will install smoke alarms when they are conducting an energy audit of a member’s home.

Berkeley Electric is spending about $2,500 per quarter on the devices while installation is being handled by the American Red Cross. The program runs through the end of the year.

“Because we are an electric cooperative, we are concerned with more than just delivering electricity,” CEO Dwayne Cartwright said. “We also care about the safety and well-being of our member-owners.”

Families have as little as two minutes to escape lethal smoke and fire when a home blaze breaks out, and they are encouraged to have an escape plan in place ahead of time, according to the co-op.

Local electrician and utility member Carlton Wilson recently sat down with a Red Cross volunteer to map out his escape routes while four smoke detectors were being installed in his Pineville home in Berkeley County.

“As an electrician, I have always been very safety conscious,” Wilson said. “I think that this is a great thing that Berkeley Electric is doing to help keep its members safe ... and it’s something that they didn’t even have to do. The smoke detectors, along with all of the information that the Red Cross provided, make me feel even safer in my own home.”

Reach Warren L. Wise at 843-937-5524 or