Take a few moments and potentially save the lives of your family

Sunday marks the start of National Fire Prevention Week

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross Volunteer

October 9 – 15 is National Fire Prevention Week and is a perfect time to ensure your family’s safety this coming winter. In Northern Ohio, we see a 23% increase in home fires each winter. Unfortunately, during fiscal year 2022, the Northern Ohio Region of the American Red Cross needed to respond to 1,150 home fires. 

First, teach your children what a smoke alarm sounds like and what they should do when it goes off. The most chilling story I read recently was about a grade-schooler who was asked what he would do when he heard the sound of a smoke alarm. His answer was authentic but frightening, “Go hide in the attic!”

I’ll be asking my grandchildren that question this week for sure. It shows that we can’t take anything for granted when it comes to children.

After they realize that was the wrong answer, it’s a perfect time to practice the correct response, which the family should do together. Luckily, the Red Cross has created a Two-Minute Drill to follow:

Studies have shown you will probably only have two minutes to escape a fast-burning fire safely. Practice your plan with everyone in your household. Visit redcross.org/fire for more information, including a printable escape plan and safety tips for cooking and home heating — the leading causes of home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association, which is sponsoring Fire Prevention Week with the theme, “Fire Won’t Wait. Plan Your Escape.”

  • Include at least two ways to exit every room in your home in your escape plan.
  • Select a meeting spot at a safe distance away from your home, such as your neighbor’s home or a landmark like a specific tree in your front yard, where everyone knows to meet.
  • Tailor your escape plan to everyone’s needs in your household. If you or a loved one is deaf or hard of hearing, install strobe lights and bed-shaker alarms to help alert you to a fire.

Check your smoke alarms:

  • Place smoke alarms on each level of your home, including inside and outside bedrooms and sleeping areas. Test alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year if your model requires it.
  • Check the manufacturer’s date of your smoke alarms. Ten years or older, they likely need to be replaced because components such as the smoke detection sensor can become less reliable. Follow your alarm’s manufacturer’s instructions.

If you need and can’t afford smoke alarms:

Contact your local Red Cross office and they’ll arrange to get them installed for you at no cost. During the previous 12 months, the Northern Ohio Region of the Red Cross installed more than 8,300 smoke alarms, making more than 3,200 homes safer through our fire safety visits.

Since 2014, nearly 1,400 lives have been saved thanks to the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, which includes Sound the Alarm events. During these events, local fire departments partner with the Red Cross and spend the day installing alarms for those who need them but don’t have them. Thousands of other families received new alarms when they discovered that theirs were so old they probably wouldn’t have worked in the case of a real fire.

Learn more about our Home Fire Campaign here, and/or request a smoke alarm, volunteer to help with installations or donate to help provide more free smoke alarms. 

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