Burnt home with fireman standing by it

Indianapolis, IN ,
00:00 AM

Saved by the Beep

The Geis family had been in their home only one month, when Michelle heard a knock on the door. Indianapolis firefighters were going door to door in their new neighborhood as part of their annual October smoke detector blitz.

Michelle and her husband Christopher were still unpacking when the firefighters told them they needed new, working smoke alarms. Michelle was thankful for the great service in their neighborhood but didn’t realized just how grateful she would be five months later.

In March 2015, Michelle was home alone with her three youngest children. She heard a beeping sound. She thought it was a truck backing up, but soon realized it was her new smoke alarm. Moments later, her son ran in and said the upstairs was on fire. Michelle got her three year old, two year old and one month old out of the house and called the fire department. The entire back of their home was destroyed.‚Äč


Later that summer, the Geis family thanked firefighters and State Farm volunteers who installed the alarm in their home months before.

Michelle spoke through tears to the volunteers and firefighters. Though their home was severely damaged, her children were unharmed.

During the same smoke detector blitz in October 2014, smoke alarms were installed in Johnie Mae Pannell’s home.

A few short months later, Johnie Mae was sleeping on her couch when the smoke alarm woke her up. She was able to get in her wheelchair and out of her home without any injuries. Firefighters said, due to the amount of smoke in the home, if Johnie Mae hadn’t gotten out when she did, the story could have had a different ending.

“As firefighters, we hope for the best”, said Captain Rita Reith with the Indianapolis Fire Department. “It’s hard on us to see people lose it all. But to know these smoke alarms saved lives - that is the best outcome.”

For 15 years, the Indianapolis Fire Department and State Farm have worked together on fire safety education. Every October, the fire department focuses on one neighborhood to promote awareness.

Through the years, more than 30,000 smoke alarms have been distributed and are in the homes of local residents. The exact number of families and children who have benefited from the program is unknown. But the city has seen a dramatic 75 percent decrease in the number of child fatalities since the program began.

“Unfortunately, these smoke detector blitzes can’t happen in every neighborhood”, said Reith. “Keep your family safe. Check your smoke detectors, replace batteries and get a new smoke alarm every ten years. If you need help contact your local fire station.”