Georgia Northwestern Technical College students helping to install free fire alarms in Walker County

Staff photo by Sabrina Bodon / From left, Regina Dorsey, Kayla Roerdink and Sarah Yarbrough go over fire safety tips while installing a fire alarm in a Rossville home.

Kimberly McClendon lives with her nine children. The four-bedroom Rossville home they moved into in July didn't come equipped with fire alarms. McClendon had never used gas heating before and was especially worried about that, so she called the Walker County Fire Rescue for help.

She had used the department's free fire alarm service to install smoke detectors in her last house. The service educates Walker County residents on fire safety and also installs fire alarms at no cost to the citizen.

This time when McClendon called, instead of just the county's fire and life safety educator, Regina Dorsey, and her husband, Bill, coming to install the alarms, students enrolled in the social work program at Georgia Northwestern Technical College joined in.

The school has partnered with the county's fire rescue to participate in the third annual First Alert Town/Gown Fire Safety Community Service Project, which selects from a pool of fire departments across the country to receive free smoke alarms. Students are then paired with local fire departments to perform home safety visits to install the First Alert-brand smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

The ongoing project is in line with social work, Regina Dorsey explained, because the home visits get the students out in their communities talking and helping others.

photo Staff photo by Sabrina Bodon / Sarah Yarbrough writes the expiration date on a fire alarm before helping to install it in a Rossville home, free of charge. She volunteers with the Walker County Fire Rescue through her school, Georgia Northwestern Technical College.

Kayla Roerdink and Sarah Yarbrough are both freshmen at Georgia Northwestern and were drawn to social work for similar reasons. They both grew up in the foster care system and said they want to be there for others like they wished someone had been there for them. Volunteering with the fire department is a nice fit, Roerdink said, because they're helping the community face-to-face.

They helped place four fire alarms throughout McClendon's home: one in the living room, one in the middle hall, one in the back room and one in the basement where the furnace, washer and dryer are located.

"This is social work," Regina Dorsey said. "We find resources and work with community organizations to get people the help they need."

When the team arrives at someone's house, Dorsey scouts out the layout, looking for the best spots for the alarms. For example, she said occupants don't want one in the kitchen, but rather just outside of it to avoid it going off while cooking.

To schedule an appointment for the fire department to replace or check a home fire alarm system, county residents may call 706-539-1255, ext. 1.

Email Sabrina Bodon at