Written by: Susan Kumah, volunteerWhile many Americans think Mother Nature is the leading cause of disasters, statistics show that it is in fact homes fires that pose the largest disaster threat. In the US, 1,000 times a day, fire departments are called to home fires. In fact, out of the 70,000 disasters the Red Cross responds every year, home fires make up the majority of cases. Data shows that vulnerable demographics such as low income groups, youth populations, the elderly, and disabled are disproportionately affected by home fires.
How is it possible that there is one fire every 8 minutes in the United States? Don't statistics show that the US possesses the world's leading manufacturers in smoke detection technology? Aren't there many state laws that require working smoke detectors within houses? True and true. While accidents can happen to anybody, accidents do not have to produce devastating outcomes. Prevention takes no more than a couple of minutes every month in order to minimize the risk of home fires. Red Cross recommends installing fire alarms on each level of your home including one outside the kitchen and one outside each bedroom. Even more important to the location of the fire alarm is its efficiency i.e. checking if the device is working. Working smoke detectors can double the chance of someone surviving a fire, so it is important that these devices are checked every month and replaced every ten years. Also everyone should practice their evacuation plan twice a year.
The American Red Cross will continue to increase its effort to decrease disaster threats caused by home fires. The Home Fire Preparedness Campaign for example, was established to educate communities about how to make their households less prone to home fires. Through community level interventions, volunteers go door-to-door teaching residents how to maintain smoke detectors, fire alarms, and install working detectors. You can get involved in a canvassing activity by signing up through Volunteer Connection.
Young people are also participating in the prevention strategies through the American Red Cross's annual Youth Preparedness week. From January 20 – 24 2014, 1,639 youth volunteers canvassed 375 neighborhoods and distributed 144,657 fire safety and “make a plan” door hangers in Spanish and English. The American Red Cross continues to pass the baton by making young people keenly aware of fire safety. The Pillowcase Project, a fire education program for 3rd - 5th graders, has educated children with information about local hazard preparedness. The Red Cross is currently looking for Pillowcase Project presenters also on Volunteer Connection.
Through these various forms of awareness, individuals throughout the country are lessening their risk of home fires. Visit redcross.org to view our Home Fire Safety Checklist, Escape Plan, and see what Training and Preparedness Education options are available to you.