Pushing one button could save a life – will you do it?

More than 65% of your friends won’t

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

October 5, 2020- It’s National Fire Prevention Week from October 4 – 10, and as a nation, we are woefully underprepared for an emergency. Home fires haven’t stopped since COVID-19 started, and American Red Cross volunteers still answer four fire calls per day on average in Northern Ohio.

A new 2020 national Red Cross survey shows most of us aren’t taking the steps to protect ourselves.

So, what are those things you aren’t doing?

  • Push the button to test your smoke alarms each month helps ensure that they’re working — which can cut the risk of dying in a home fire by half. Still, 65% of us don’t.
  • Practicing your escape plan twice a year also increases the odds of survival. But 70% of us don’t.
  • Escaping in less than two minutes can be the difference between survival and tragedy, according to fire experts. Yet more than half of us think we have more time.

It’s not that difficult, so how about today?

Here’s a quick to do list you might want to print out:

  1. Make sure you have smoke detectors on each level of your home, preferably inside and outside your bedrooms. If they are more than 10 years old, new batteries won’t help, they need to be replaced.
  2. Insure there are two escape paths from every room in your house. If there aren’t, seriously consider your alternatives.
  3. Have a meeting place for your family to rendezvous after a fire so everyone is accounted for.
  4. Practice emergency escape drills to make sure everyone can exit and meet outside in less than two minutes.
  5. Make sure young children recognize the sound of a fire alarm and, just as importantly, what you expect them to do if they hear one.

Many Northern Ohio fires could have been prevented

Being a disaster services responder, I hate to say it, but most of the calls I respond to in our region could have been prevented.

  • A kitchen fire that started while the cook went to watch TV.
  • A candle left in a room unattended, that the dog knocked over.
  • A child with a candle on their bedside table.
  • An electric fryer with a frayed cord.
  • A wheelchair patient smoking while on oxygen.
  • An electric heater placed too near a pile of clothes.
  • An electric heater left in the attic while away at work.

If any of those sound familiar – STOP IT!  Download the Red Cross Emergency app, tap Prepare, and then tap Home Fire.  You’ll find all sorts of helpful hints, which will benefit you and your family. Then help us prevent the tens of thousands of home fires we respond to annually by making a donation. Learn more about our fire prevention efforts and join the Home Fire Campaign.

Smoke alarm sounds to save life of Olmsted Township resident

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

January 21, 2020- For many, a smoke alarm might be viewed as an annoyance that sounds off if we get dinner a little burnt. However, a smoke alarm is more than a random device that hangs out of sight around the house. It is a tool that could help save your life in the event of a home fire.

That was the experience of 86-year-old Olmsted Township resident Barbara Kovolenko.

On June 28, 2019, Barbara was awakened from a deep sleep at 1:23 a.m. to her smoke alarms screaming their alert. Barbara quickly realized this was not a false alarm. Her home was, in fact, on fire.

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Fire Chief Patrick Kelly with Barbara Kovolenko

Barbara, who requires oxygen, quickly remembered the information she received from the American Red Cross, which in partnership with the Olmsted Township Fire Department, installed smoke alarms in her home free of charge as part of a Sound the Alarm installation event. Using her newfound knowledge, Barbara evacuated the home to a safe location, did not enter her home again and waited for first responders to arrive on the scene and extinguish the fire.

In 2014, the Red Cross launched the Home Fire Campaign, a nationwide initiative to reduce the number of fire-related deaths by 25 percent. As of the end of 2019, 699 lives had been saved across the country – among them, Barbara Kovolenko.

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To learn more about the importance of having working smoke alarms on every level of your home, or to ask for a home fire safety inspection and smoke alarm installation, visit soundthealarm.org/neo.

To hear more about Barbara and this incredible story about the lifesaving impact of smoke alarms, listen to our recent episode of the Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region Podcast Be A Hero, featuring Barbara and Olmsted Township Fire Chief Patrick Kelly.

For more content on this incredible story, view this video of Chief Kelly interviewing Barbara, which was posted on the Olmsted Township Fire Department Facebook page.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Resolve to prepare for home fires as Northeast Ohio rings in the new year

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

December 31, 2019- While celebrating the beginning of a new year, many of us make resolutions to change something in our lives. As you think about your 2020 resolutions, consider resolving to keep you and your loved ones safe from home fires year-round.

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Fire preparation safety is critically important in our area. So far in 2019, the American Red Cross’ Northeast Ohio Region has responded to 890 home fires. Winter is an especially prevalent time for home fires, as heating fires are the second leading cause.

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In Northeast Ohio and throughout the nation, home fires are the most frequent disaster, sadly taking an average of seven lives every day in the U.S. But you can help prevent tragedies by taking two simple steps: practice your home fire escape plan until everyone can escape in two minutes or less and test your smoke alarms monthly.

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WHAT YOU SHOULD DO

  1. Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, placing them inside and outside bedrooms and sleeping areas.
  2. Test smoke alarms once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year, if your model requires it. Smoke alarms typically need to be replaced every 10 years. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific model.
  3. Teach children what smoke alarms sound like and what to do when they hear one. Talk to children regularly about fire safety and teach them not to be afraid of firefighters.
  4. Create and practice a home fire escape plan until everyone in your household can escape in two minutes or less — at least twice a year. Ensure that all household members know two ways to escape from every room of your home.
  5. Select a meeting spot at a safe distance away from your home, such as your neighbor’s home or landmark like a specific tree in your front yard, where everyone knows to meet.

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Additional information and free resources are at redcross.org/homefires.

HOME FIRE CAMPAIGN

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For more than five years, the Red Cross has been working to reduce home fire deaths and injuries through its Home Fire Campaign, which grew out of an initiative that began in Cleveland. Through the campaign, Red Cross volunteers and community partners go door to door in high-risk neighborhoods to install smoke alarms and educate families about home fire safety.

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So far, the campaign has saved as many as 14 lives in Northeast Ohio and 682 lives nationally. It has also reached 62,656 people locally and more than 2.2 million across the country by:

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  • Installing more than 2 million free smoke alarms, 62,656 of them in Northeast Ohio.
  • Reaching more than 5 million children through youth preparedness programs, 16,273 of them in our region.
  • Making more than 838,000 households safer from the threat of home fires. 22,308 homes are here in Northeast Ohio.

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For more information on the Home Fire Campaign in Northeast Ohio, to request an alarm or help with the initiative, click here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Home fires keep NEO disaster responders busy

Weekend disaster report, November 1-3, 2019

More than three-dozen people in Northeast Ohio were chased from their homes by fire over the weekend.  They received comfort and care from trained Red Cross disaster responders, volunteers who, in some cases, traveled far from their homes to help those in need.2019 Euclid fire response

“Our volunteers worked long and hard this weekend to make sure people in need received immediate assistance,” said Renee Palagyi, senior regional disaster program manager. “Some drove an hour-and-a-half to get help to the people who needed it.  Some stayed after their shift was scheduled to end; some started before they were scheduled to start.  I can’t say enough about the dedication of our volunteers.”

Disaster Action Team (DAT) members are on-call during scheduled shifts, and when a call comes to the Red Cross from a fire department, a neighbor, or another source, the volunteers on-call respond.  They provide immediate financial assistance, comfort kits filled with toiletries and other necessary supplies, and other help for those affected by fire.

This weekend, Red Cross disaster responders distributed nearly $8,200 to folks affected by home fires in 11 separate cases, impacting residents in Cleveland, Canton, Youngstown, Sandusky, Ashtabula Chesterland, Lisbon and East Liverpool.

There is always a need for trained disaster responders to help people during their darkest hours.  Visit redcross.org/volunteer to learn more, and to apply to become part of the regional Red Cross workforce in Northeast Ohio.

Fire safety: lessons learned from the California wildfires

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

October 7, 2019- It is Fire Prevention Week. Every 24 hours the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio responds to on average three home fires.

During the weekend of October 4-6, 2019, the Red Cross responded to 8 home fires, assisted more than 34 individuals and provided more than $5,800 in immediate financial assistance, highlighting the importance of  fire prevention.

While it is not something that many Northeast Ohio residents think about, wildfires can occur here. Read the following article written by Doug Bardwell, a Red Cross volunteer, about his deployment to assist with last year’s California wildfires and the lessons he learned:

FIRE! One of the most chilling words you never want to hear — whether shouted by a family member, a neighbor or a coworker. Ready or not, it requires immediate action to save yourself or family members.

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In Northeast Ohio, we rarely experience a raging, neighborhood-consuming wildfire like they do in California. But we do experience hundreds of home fires in our community each year. So what lessons can we learn from the fires that happen each year in California?

Plan ahead for your home

One of the first things Californians discovered was that combustible materials should never be kept outside your house. That goes for trash, cardboard boxes and firewood.

Clean out old vegetation. If it isn’t green and growing, those dead trees, plants and grasses can be highly flammable.

Make sure outdoor barbeque grills are safely equipped with current valves and hoses.

Roasting marshmallows?  Build your campfires or bonfires in a pit a safe distance from your home. Afterward, wet down all remaining embers and make sure everything is cool to the touch before leaving the site.

Have fire extinguishers at the ready and hoses hooked up and ready to go.

Make sure your house number is clearly marked so the fire department isn’t wasting time trying to locate your property.

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Plan ahead for your family

If the need occurs for you to evacuate your home or your neighborhood, you’ll be happy if you’ve taken the time to pre-think and practice an evacuation plan. Everyone in the family should be aware of a pre-determined rendezvous point where the family will meet up.

You’ll also want to designate an out-of-town family member or family friend who everyone can reach to keep tabs on who has checked in and who hasn’t.

Make a kit. When you are trying to escape a fire, it’s not the time to be looking for your ID, your important papers, your medicines, your glasses or your wallet. Keeping duplicates of those items near your garage or front door, makes it easy to grab and go. It will make the days immediately following the event much less stressful.

For more tips on being prepared, watch this video.

And always . . .

Make sure your home is equipped with fully functioning smoke alarms. If you don’t have working smoke alarms, call your local Red Cross office and they’ll put you on the list for a free installation.

For even more lifesaving tips, follow the Northeast Ohio Red Cross blog. Just fill in your email address and tap the FOLLOW button in the left margin. (You’ll only get two or three articles a week and you can easily cancel at any time.)

[All photos by Doug Bardwell]

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

The American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign turns five

Campaign credited with saving more than 640 lives nationwide

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

October 6, 2019- October 6th marks the fifth anniversary of the American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, an initiative with roots in Northeast Ohio.  First launched in October 2014 as a nationwide program, the campaign coincides with the National Fire Protection Association’s Fire Prevention Week.

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When the Home Fire Campaign began five years ago, the Red Cross and its partners sought to reduce the number of home fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent over five years, through initiatives which include installing free smoke alarms and providing fire safety education.

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The results are remarkable.  Nationwide, the campaign has directly resulted in saving at least 642 lives, 14 of them here in Northeast Ohio.

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Thus far, 1,915,555 smoke alarms have been installed nationwide, making 793,343 households safer.  More than 62,600 of those alarms have been installed in Northeast Ohio, improving the safety of more than 20,000 homes in the region.  In addition, 1,470,325 children have been reached through fire safety education, more than 16,000 of them in Northeast Ohio.

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The devastation wrought by home fires is tremendous.  On average, each day in the U.S. seven people die and 36 are injured as a result of home fires.  They also account for the vast majority of more than 62,000 disasters the Red Cross responds to annually, and yearly property damage exceeds seven billion dollars.

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The Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross is especially proud of the Home Fire Campaign and its success, as the program grew out of an initiative that began in Cleveland.  In 1992 businessman and philanthropist Sam Miller and other civic leaders partnered with the Red Cross and Cleveland Fire Department to reduce fire fatalities.

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The resulting program lasts throughout the year.  And a nationwide initiative to install 100,000 smoke alarms during a two-week period takes place each spring. It is called Sound the Alarm. Save a Life. Volunteers and partners help the Red Cross install smoke alarms and provide fire safety education in neighborhoods deemed to be at high risk for home fires.33805117198_d0886784c4_c.jpg

For more information on the Home Fire Campaign in Northeast Ohio, including how to request a free smoke alarm, donate, or become involved, please click here.  The site also includes information about our partners.  Additional information regarding the national Home Fire Campaign is available here.  Both sites include fire safety and prevention tips, checklists, and tools.

Meet me at the corner! Plan for your family’s safety

By Beth Bracale, American Red Cross volunteer

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Beth Bracale

If I close my eyes, I can still see the flames shooting out from the windows of the house across the street. I can hear the agonized screams that drew us to our own windows that night to see what had happened. I was five years old, and that was my first experience of sheer terror – both someone else’s and my own.

Believe it or not, no one got hurt that night. Both of the senior sisters who shared the home had escaped the fire, one out the front door, one out the back. Their screams were the agony of each believing the other to still be trapped in the inferno. When neighbors reunited them, they fell sobbing into each other’s arms.

No one is ever fully prepared for disaster, but families can plan together to minimize the suffering. What if the sisters had had a plan? Would that night have gone differently had they designated a meeting spot in case they got separated in an emergency?

As foster parents, it’s required that we have a clear escape plan in case of disaster, one that everyone in the family can understand and remember. Even young children can learn what to do. All the students in the school where I taught, ages four through 14, practiced how to exit the school if there was a fire, how to exit a bus in an emergency, and what to do if a tornado was headed toward our neighborhood.

So I wasn’t prepared for the day my class of four-year-olds sat on the story carpet, listening to my assistant talk about emergencies. They raised their hands eagerly to share what they knew about fire drills. Stay in line. Walk, don’t run. Remain silent. Wait in our class’ spot on the corner until we got the “all clear” to return to our room. They had it all right.

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Photo credit: Eilene Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

“But what if an emergency happened at home?” my assistant asked.

“If a bad man comes in the house, you hide in the closet,” one child announced. Others nodded in agreement.

“What if a tornado is coming?” she asked.

“You run outside,” another child responded. More nods. I made a mental note to teach about tornado safety in the near future.

“What if you smelled smoke in your house or saw that something was on fire?” she quizzed.

“You call 911,” a student said confidently. “Yes, but what do you do before that?” she asked.

“Hide in the closet,” he said. The other children agreed.

Hide in the closet. Images of that house fire from years ago leaped into my head. And I imagined children inside, hiding in the closet.

We did a lot of learning and practicing that day. We sent the students home with information for their parents to use in creating family safety plans.

You can find information about keeping children safe on the American Red Cross website at https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/fire/fire-safety-for-kids.html.

Don’t put it off. Create your own plan today!