Planning ahead for National Preparedness Month

By Ryan Lang, Red Cross volunteer

January 17, 2022 (MLK Day): Walking into the office, stomping my feet to get the snow and the slush and the slop off of my boots, I thought to myself, That’s the worst commute to work I’ve ever experienced. What normally takes 25 minutes took roughly an hour and a half through the driving snow and treacherous road conditions. 

February 2, 2022: After spending more than an hour shoveling more than a foot of snow from my driveway at 2 in the morning, I tried to drive to work. Didn’t make it. In fact, I only made it to the end of my driveway before my vehicle became stuck in the street. Thanks to the help of New Franklin Police Officer Shearer, I was safely guided back into my driveway, but there I stayed. There was no way I was making it to the office. 

Two of the largest winter storms I can remember hit Northeast Ohio in a matter of two weeks, and both had me feeling less prepared than I’d ever felt before. 

From that point on I vowed to take preparedness more seriously, and not just for the winter season. After all, I’m a dad now – what better reason?

As we’ve seen countless times in Northern Ohio, across the country, and around the world, storms can affect our lives very quickly and very seriously. That is why the American Red Cross is urging you to prepare for emergencies, right now, during National Preparedness Month all September long.

HOW TO GET READY FOR A DISASTER

It takes just three simple steps to help prepare your household for potential disasters –

1) Get a Kit – First, build your emergency kit with a gallon of water per person, per day, non-perishable food, a flashlight and a battery-powered radio. Also include a first aid kit, medications, supplies for infants or pets, a multi-purpose tool and personal hygiene items. And don’t forget to add copies of important papers, cell phone chargers, blankets, maps of the area and emergency contact information.

2) Make a Plan – Next, plan what to do in case you are separated from your family during an emergency and what to do if you have to evacuate. Make sure to coordinate your plan with your child’s school, your work and your community’s emergency plans. Include your pets in your emergency plans. Remember, if you and your family need to evacuate, so does your pet.

3) Be Informed – Finally, stay informed by finding out what emergency situations may occur where you live, work and go to school, how local officials will contact you during a disaster and how you will get important information, such as evacuation orders.

Depending on the people in your household, there might be additional considerations to take into account as part of your emergency planning. Older adults or people with mobility, hearing, learning or seeing disabilities may need to create a support network of people that can help during an emergency. Create a plan tailored to their capabilities, any help they may need and who can provide it, especially if they need to evacuate or if the power goes out for several days.

Disasters can be scary for children. Take time to talk with your kids about preparing for common emergencies, how to stay safe and what to expect. The Red Cross has free programs and tools to help, visit redcross.org/YouthPrep for more information.

HELP GET YOUR COMMUNITY PREPARED

You can help ensure your community is ready for an emergency by volunteering, donating blood or learning lifesaving skills. Visit redcross.org to learn more.

Red Cross volunteers play critical roles in their local communities, including helping families affected by home fires and other disasters get back on their feet. Join us as a Disaster Action Team volunteer to help make sure that families don’t have to face tough times alone.

Learn lifesaving skills so you can help people in a crisis until medical professionals arrive. Sign up for first aid, CPR or other classes available online or in-person. 

A strong blood supply is key to preparedness for disasters and medical emergencies, and donors can ensure blood is on the shelves the moment it’s needed. As a thank-you, all who come to give Sept. 1-18 will get a limited-edition Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last. Plus, those who race to give Sept. 1-30 will automatically be entered for a chance to win a VIP NASCAR experience, including two tickets to a 2023 race, and will also receive a coupon for a free haircut by email, all thanks to Sport Clips Haircuts.* Donors can schedule an appointment to donate using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, by visiting RedCrossBlood.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). If you are unable to give blood you can volunteer to support blood collections. Visit redcross.org/volunteer to learn more.


Get the most out of your summer with Red Cross safety tips

By Ryan Lang, American Red Cross volunteer 

Summer: a time for family gatherings, swimming, grilling, and many more events that have become staples of the season. Whatever your plans are, the American Red Cross Northern Ohio Region has some resources you can use to help you, and even your four-legged friends, have a safe summer. 

July 30, 2014. City of Myrtle Beach Parks and Recreation, South Carolina. Julieth Martinez, 4, enjoying her swim lesson as part of the Centennial campaign. Photo by Connie Harvey/American Red Cross

WATER SAFETY

Every day, an average of 11 people die in the U.S. from unintentional drowning — and one in five of those are children 14 or younger according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Red Cross wants everyone to know critical safety knowledge and skills that could save your life in and around the water. We encourage families to build confidence in the water by learning to be safe, making good choices, learning to swim and how to handle emergencies.
· Preventing unsupervised access to water, providing constant, active adult supervision and knowing how
to swim are critical layers of protection to help prevent drowning.
· Classes to learn how to swim are available for both children and adults. Check the map for Learn-to-Swim providers in your community. Everyone should learn first aid and CPR too, so they know what to do in an emergency.
· Download the Red Cross Swim app (https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/water-safety/swim-safety.html), sponsored by The ZAC Foundation, for safety tips, kid-friendly videos and activities, and take the free Water Safety for Parents and Caregivers online course in English or in Spanish.
· It’s best to swim in a lifeguarded area. Always designate a “water watcher” whose sole responsibility is to keep a close eye and constant attention on everyone in and around the water until the next water watcher takes over.
· Drowning behavior is typically fast and silent. Unless rescued, a drowning person will last only 20 to 60 seconds before submerging. Reach or throw, don’t go! In the event of an emergency, reach or throw an object to the person in trouble. Don’t go in! You could become a victim yourself.

CAMPING SAFETY

If a camping trip is in your plans, know the level of ability of the people in your group and the environment around you. Plan accordingly.
· Pack a first aid kit to handle insect stings, sprains, cuts and bruises and other injuries that could happen to someone in your group. Take a Red Cross First Aid and CPR course and download the First Aid app so that you will know what to do in case help is delayed. You’ll learn how to treat severe wounds, broken bones, bites and stings and more.
· Sprains and falls are some of the most common misfortunes travelers may face. Falls are the biggest threat, many due to poor decision-making, lack of skill or not being properly prepared. Dehydration is also a danger. Plan ahead for these dangers.
· Share your travel plans and locations with a family member, neighbor or friend.
· Bring nutritious food items and water, light-weight clothing to layer and supplies for any pets.


GRILLING SAFETY

More than three-quarters of U.S. adults have used a grill — yet, grilling sparks more than 10,000 home fires on average each year. To avoid this, the Red Cross offers these grilling safety tips:
· Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use. Don’t add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited.
· Never grill indoors — not in the house, camper, tent or any enclosed area.
· Make sure everyone, including pets, stays away from the grill.
· Keep the grill out in the open, away from the house, deck, tree branches or anything that could catch fire.
· Use the long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill to help keep the chef safe.

PET SAFETY

Summer’s heat can be dangerous for your family pets. Follow these steps to take to help ensure your pet stays safe this summer.
· Don’t leave your pet in a hot vehicle, even for a few minutes. The inside temperature of the car can quickly reach 120 degrees even with the windows cracked open.
· Animals can suffer heat stroke, a common problem for pets in the warmer weather. Dogs with short noses or snouts, like the boxer or bulldog, are especially prone to heat stroke, along with overweight pets, those with extremely thick fur or any pet with upper respiratory problems such as laryngeal paralysis or collapsing trachea.
· Some of the signs of heat stroke in your pet are heavy panting and being unable to calm down, even when lying down, brick red gum color, fast pulse rate and being unable to get up.
· If you suspect your pet has heat stroke, take their temperature rectally. If the temperature is above 105 degrees, cool the animal down. The easiest way to do this is by using the water hose. Stop cooling the animal when the temperature reaches 103 degrees.
· Bring your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible as heat stroke can lead to severe organ dysfunction and damage. Download the Red Cross Pet First Aid app for instant access on how to treat heat stroke, other emergencies and general care for cats and dogs and take the Cat and Dog First Aid Online Training course.

FIREWORKS SAFETY

· Never give fireworks to small children, and never throw or point a firework toward people, animals, vehicles, structures or flammable materials. Always follow the instructions on the packaging. 

· Keep a supply of water close by as a precaution. 

· Make sure the person lighting fireworks always wears eye protection. 

· Light only one firework at a time and never attempt to relight a “dud.” 

· Store fireworks in a cool, dry place away from children and pets. 

It is important to note that fireworks laws have changed in Ohio. As of July 1st this year, Ohio residents can discharge consumer grade fireworks in the state on private property. Click here (https://com.ohio.gov/divisions-and-programs/state-fire-marshal/fireworks/guides-and-resources/fire-service+-faqs-for-ohios-new-fireworks-law#:~:text=Beginning%20July%201%2C%202022%2C%20Ohio,to%20discharge%20consumer%20grade%20fireworks) to see the full list of changes to fireworks laws in the state. 

Storm season in Northeast Ohio: Powerful storm teaches lesson in preparedness

By Ryan Lang, American Red Cross volunteer

“The sky would get this grayish, purplish tint to it… And that’s when I’d go out to the front porch to watch the storm.”

That’s how Meghan Fiorina recalled storm season growing up in Northeast Ohio. That distinct smell that came with a rainstorm. The lingering feeling after the clouds rolled through. Soggy lawns. Downed branches. And sometimes worse.

Ryan Lang and Meghan Lang Fiorina

Full disclosure: Meghan is my sister, and as I started writing this story I called her to see if she remembered that one storm. The storm that took down one of those two massive trees in our backyard that then came crashing down right on top of our back porch. It was an unstoppable force that took out what we thought was an immovable object, and we watched it happen from the back family room of our home.

We were scared, but more in awe than anything else. As young children we hadn’t seen anything quite like it. Our grandfather, who was with us at the time, had some experience with Ohio storms and how quickly they can escalate, and he kept us safe. That day was an important lesson on taking inclement weather seriously, but also a lesson in preparedness.

Now, as an American Red Cross volunteer, I’m even more aware of just how prepared I should be for myself and for my family once storm season rolls around.

Photo credit: Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

First, knowing the difference between a storm watch and a storm warning is key. A watch essentially means that there is a good possibility of a storm near the area the
alert is being broadcast. A warning, however, means that a storm has been spotted, by either radar or storm spotters, and is on the way. In the case of a warning, it’s time to take action to ensure your safety.

With storms often comes the possibility of flooding, especially in low-lying areas or areas near other bodies of water like creeks, rivers and more. Floods are the most frequent and the most costly natural disasters, as there are a number of things that can cause flooding. In terms of warnings, the same standard applies: a watch means the possibility of flooding exists, while a warning means flash flooding is happening nearby and you should proceed with extreme caution.

Power outages are another residual effect of strong storms. Knowing how to navigate through an outage both inside and outside your home, is crucial information. Have a flashlight and extra batteries, extra cell phone chargers that are fully charged, and more. These small steps can come up big in the event your power is out.

Tornadoes are another very real threat in Ohio. While they are less likely to occur in the Buckeye State than in other parts of the country, it is still very important to be prepared in case the threat of a tornado is imminent. The best way to prepare for a tornado is to have a predetermined safe place inside your home, preferably the basement or an interior room with no windows and thick walls.

Again, while they happen less in Ohio (the state typically sees around 19 tornadoes, on average, per year), forecasters with the National Weather Service are actually calling for a busier-than-normal tornado season in Ohio this year.

In the case of any storm or natural disaster event, it is important to have every tool at your disposal to keep you and your family safe. Download the Red Cross Emergency App FREE from your app store today.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Stay safe during the Arctic blast

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

According to Accuweather, the coldest air of the season has arrived, with single digit low temps overnight tonight. Breezy and cold conditions are forecast for tomorrow night, with wind chills in the single digits. The Northern Ohio region of the American Red Cross offers tips and resources to stay safe during this arctic blast.

As we stressed in our winter safety preparedness article, it is helpful to assemble an emergency preparedness kit and create a household evacuation plan that includes your pets.

Keep warm and informed

  • Stay indoors and wear warm clothes as much as possible. Layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing are best.
  • Eat regularly and drink fluids. Food provides the body with energy to produce heat, and fluids prevent dehydration. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, however. Caffeine accelerates symptoms of hypothermia while alcohol slows circulation; both can cause dehydration.
  • Layer clothing when outside, and wear mittens or gloves and a hat. Frequently change wet clothing.
  • Protect your lungs from severely cold air. Cover your mouth, avoid taking deep breaths, and minimize talking.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia and frostbite.
  • Walk carefully on icy ground.
  • Make sure animals are safe and have access to non-frozen water and shelter.
  • Keep informed by listening to local radio, NOAA radio, or TV stations.
  • Check on relatives, neighbors, and friends, particularly if they are elderly or live alone.
  • If you need to evacuate, know your route and destination. You can check here for a Red Cross shelter.
  • Download the free Red Cross Emergency App.

Vehicle safety

  • Have emergency supplies in your vehicle, including blankets, warm broth in a thermos, water, food, and plastic bags for sanitation.
  • Make sure your phone is charged.
  • Let someone know your route, destination, and ETA.
  • If you become stranded, staying in the vehicle awaiting assistance is often best. Trouble signs like a brightly colored cloth or raised hood can help.
  • Running the engine for about 10 minutes each hour can help keep you warm. Keep the exhaust clear of snow.
  • Turn on an overhead light when the vehicle is running to be seen.
  • Light exercises and movement help keep up circulation.

Home safety

  • Take caution with home heaters, fireplaces, and candles. Keep anything that gives off heat at least three feet away from flammable materials, never plug more than one heating appliance into an outlet, and never leave heaters and flames unattended. Heating equipment is involved in one of every six home fires.
  • Also be careful with generators. Keep them outside and away from windows to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and follow safety instructions. More information on generator safety is here.
  • Prevent frozen pipes. Opening cabinet doors lets warm air circulate around plumbing and cold water dripping through a faucet served by exposed pipes can help prevent freezing.

Additional winter storm safety information is here. Stay safe, warm, and when help is needed, we are ready.

Red Cross responds to weekend home fires, works to make homes safer

Volunteers install smoke alarms, assist people during their darkest hours

A dozen weekend fires kept responders busy in Northern Ohio, as firefighters throughout the region worked hard to prevent loss of life and property, while Red Cross volunteers assisted nearly 3-dozen people who were chased from their homes.

In Toledo, fire affected residents living in an eight-unit apartment building on Friday, January 7.  See coverage of the response here.

In all, 35 people were assisted by the Red Cross, which distributed more than $9,200 in immediate financial assistance, to help residents find safe shelter, food, clothing, and other immediate needs.

Red Cross volunteers provide refreshments for Akron firefighters battling a blaze at the former Lawndale School on 01-10-22. Photo credit: Teresa Greenlief, American
Red Cross volunteer.

Red Cross workers also helped about 40 Akron firefighters on Monday morning, as they battled flames in an abandoned school building, providing snacks and hot beverages on a bitterly cold morning.

On Saturday, several Red Cross
volunteers and the Cleveland Fire Department fanned out in the city’s Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood to install free smoke alarms and provide home fire safety information to residents.  This followed a fatal home fire in the area last month.

“People don’t stand a chance if there’s no alarm to warn them about a fire,” said homeowner Juan Ramirez, while Red Cross volunteer Benjamin Cutler installed several new alarms in his Franklin Avenue home.  Volunteer Ellen Braun briefed Mr. Ramirez about keeping him and his family safe, including information about testing smoke alarms every month.

“We walk right under it (smoke alarm) every day. You just don’t think about it,” he said.

Marc Ruckel of West Clinton Avenue said he was grateful that the Red Cross was helping him check smoke alarms off his to-do list.  “It’s something I needed to do,” he said, adding, “I just never got around to it.”

Northern Ohio residents can visit soundthealarm.org/noh to request a home fire safety visit, which includes free smoke alarm installations.  Due to the ongoing pandemic, appointments to fulfill smoke alarm requests may be delayed.

For additional photos, visit our Flickr photo album here.

Tips for decking the halls safely

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

When I was young, I visited the home of an elderly Finnish couple. I remember the heavenly aroma of special cookies baking for the upcoming Christmas holiday.

But my most vivid memory of that visit was of an unfinished wooden frame in the shape of a Christmas tree with delicate straw ornaments and real candles burning!

I asked my dad why we didn’t have real candles on our tree. He immediately dismissed the idea as “too dangerous.” Boy, was he right: According to the National Fire Protection Association, candles cause an average 20 home fires a day in the U.S., and these emergencies peak in December and January.

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com


The American Red Cross suggests that if you’re decorating with candles this holiday season, consider using the battery-operated kind. They’re flameless, many are scented and they come in a variety of styles, from votives and pillars to tapers for windowsills and the dining table. If you must use real candles, keep them away from anything that could burn and out of reach of pets and children. Never leave burning candles unattended.

The Red Cross offers other steps you can take to be sure you and your family enjoy the
holidays safely:
– Check all light cords to ensure they aren’t frayed or broken. Don’t string too many strands of lights together – no more than three per extension cord.
– Turn off all holiday lights – including window candles – when going to bed or leaving the house.
– Be sure outside decorations are labeled for outdoor use and fasten lights securely to your home or trees. If you’re using hooks or nails outside, make sure they’re insulated to avoid an electrocution or fire hazard.
– If you’re buying an artificial tree, look for a fire-resistant label.  When putting it up, keep it away from fireplaces, radiators and other sources of heat. Never use electric lights on metallic trees.
– If you’re getting a live tree, make sure it’s fresh – and keep it watered. To test if the tree is fresh, bend the needles up and down to make sure needles aren’t falling off.
– Clear the mantel of stockings and other dangling decorations before lighting a fireplace.
– Check the labels on older decorations. Some older tinsel is lead-based. If using angel hair, wear gloves to avoid irritation. Avoid breathing in artificial snow.
– If you’re using a ladder to hang the mistletoe or place a tree-topper, be extra careful. Make sure to have good, stable placement and wear shoes that allow for good traction.

The Red Cross responds to more than 60,000 disasters a year – and the majority are home fires. Home fires claim seven lives a day in the U.S., but working smoke alarms can cut the risk of death by half. This is a good time to test your smoke alarms and practice your home fire escape plan until everyone can get out in less than two minutes: That’s how long you may have to leave a burning home before it’s too late.

If you’re looking for a gift for that someone “who has everything,” how about a new smoke alarm, carbon monoxide detector, fire extinguisher or emergency escape ladder?

How about a donation in that person’s name to the American Red Cross, to support activities that help prepare for, prevent and respond to disasters down the street, across the country and around the world? To make a donation, visit here.

Don’t forget to TURN and TEST this weekend

This Sunday marks the end of Daylight Saving Time for 2021, meaning we will “fall back” one hour. As you turn back your clocks this weekend, the American Red Cross asks everyone to also test their smoke alarms.

Home fires are the nation’s most frequent disaster and tragically take seven lives every day in this country. Individuals may have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home before it’s too late. An early warning from a working smoke alarm, plus a fire escape plan that has been practiced regularly, can save lives.

“It’s critical to take action now to be as safe as possible as the threat of home fires increases with the holidays and cooler weather,” said Mike Parks, Regional CEO, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio. “In fiscal year 2021, Red Cross volunteers in our region responded to more than 1,100 home fires. The good news is that you can take a few simple steps this weekend to help protect your loved ones.”

Follow these simple tests to get your home ready:

  1. Test all existing smoke alarms, and make a plan to check them monthly.
  2. Check to make sure you have smoke alarms installed on every level of your home, including inside and outside of bedrooms and sleeping areas.
  3. Replace any smoke alarms that are 10 years old or older. Components such as sensors can become less sensitive over time. Follow your alarm’s manufacturer instructions.
  4. Practice your two-minute home fire escape plan. Make sure everyone in your household can get out in less than two minutes. Include at least two ways to get out of every room and 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 can meet.

Red Cross Home Fire Campaign

Since October 2014, the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign with community partners has saved at least 1,048 lives by educating families about fire safety, helping them create escape plans and installing more than 2.2 million free smoke alarms in high-risk homes across the country. 

For more information, including safety tips and free resources, visit redcross.org/homefires or download the free Red Cross Emergency app by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ in app stores.

No better time to make homes safer

By Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross

James Mays lives alone in a roomy house in Cleveland, and is extra cautious about preventing a home fire.  “I’m pretty spooked out about it,” he said on the morning before Halloween, as American Red Cross volunteers Brittany Tucker and Walter Reddick installed new smoke alarms in his home.

Red Cross volunteers Walter Reddick and Brittany Tucker install a smoke alarm

James said he’s experienced two fires in his life.  “You have to really be watchful,” he said.

James’ home was one of 22 made safer on October 30, 2021, as six Red Cross volunteers, three staff members and two Cleveland firefighters visited homes in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood. All were observing safety measures to protect themselves, each other and the residents they visited by wearing face coverings and being socially distanced when possible.

Red Cross volunteer Brittany Tucker and Cleveland resident James Mays

“I saw it on TV,” said Carolyn Lee, referring to a message urging people to test their alarms when they turn back their clocks to end daylight saving time on November 7.  It prompted Carolyn, who has nine grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren to call the Cleveland Division of Fire, which works closely with the Red Cross to install alarms and share home fire safety information with residents who make an appointment.

Carolyn’s son Treyfus Lee was visiting when the Red Cross arrived.  The U.S. Army veteran grew up in the house and said the alarms hadn’t been changed in “quite a while.”  He was told smoke alarm sensors have a 10-year life span, and that all alarms should be tested monthly.

Treyfus Lee, left and his mother Carolyn Lee

It was a timely message, delivered a week before the time change, and a reminder to all residents: when you turn back your clocks, test your smoke alarms.

To make an appointment for a home fire safety visit and to have free smoke alarms installed in your home, visit our website.  Residents of Cuyahoga, Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula Counties can also call 216-361-5535.  Residents of Summit, Mahoning, Trumbull, Medina, Portage and Columbiana counties can call 330-535-2030.  In Stark, Wayne, Ashland, Carroll, Holmes, Harrison and Tuscarawas Counties, residents can call 330-453-0146. In Erie, Hancock, Huron, Lorain, Putnam, Seneca, and Wyandot Counties, residents can call 419-422-9322. In Lucas, Fulton, Henry, Ottawa, Sandusky, Wood, and Monroe County, Michigan, residents can call 419-329-2900.

Photos by Dave Eadelis, American Red Cross volunteer. For more photos, visit our Flickr album.

Stay warm safely this winter

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

We all have used them at one time or another. Just that added little bit of heat can make a nice difference on a really cold day. But did you know that space heaters account for four out of every five home heating fire deaths?

With the forecast calling for overnight temperatures dipping into the 40’s this week – and into the 30’s next week in Northern Ohio, you may be tempted to break out your space heaters.  And there are some things to keep in mind.

Any time you are using a portable electric heater, it’s important to remember to keep them at least three feet – from EVERYTHING. Look around and anything that’s liable to burn should be well away from those hot elements. Bed linens, blankets, socks, children’s clothes, draperies, newspapers and magazines, cardboard boxes, paper bags . . . they are all able to ignite easily if they contact the heating elements of a space heater.

Also, remember that space heater cords are designed to safety transmit the electricity needed to operate the device itself, but often, household extension cords are not. Many cords have wires that are a smaller gauge than required to transfer all the electrical current required by the space heater. That can cause inexpensive extension cords to literally melt and start a fire just from continued use.

To view a video with tips from the National Fire Protection Association, CLICK HERE.

The ‘three-foot’ rule

Space heaters aren’t the only things that benefit from the three-foot rule. The same goes for fireplaces, wood stoves, candles and your furnace. It’s best to teach young children that it’s a “Kid Free Zone” around anything flammable and that they are not allowed to be any closer than that.

And while half of home heating fires happen in the months of December, January and February, it’s also a good rule all year long. With windows open in the summertime, a breeze could easily blow draperies or loose paper into a burning candle if set too close. We need to be vigilant all year long.

Sweep and service

Other heating appliances also need your attention each year. Your furnace should be routinely serviced each year before heating season. Heating coils should be cleaned professionally. And don’t forget to change filters in your furnace every couple of months at least. With routine cleaning and new filters, your furnace will not only last longer, but you’ll feel warmer and have cleaner air to breathe.

Lastly, don’t forget that fireplace. Chimneys can get coated with creosote, and with as little as 1/8 to 1/4 inch of creosote on the walls of your chimney, when temperatures reach 451 degrees, creosote can catch fire.  A chimney fire has the potential to burn down an entire house, so check your chimneys if you haven’t had them cleaned recently.

Alarms save lives

On top of your home safety checklist should be to make sure that you have installed working smoke and CO2 alarms throughout your home. You need to check regularly that the batteries are fresh and that any alarm manufactured before 2011 is replaced. Even if the batteries are new, the actual detection mechanisms in smoke alarms cease to function after 10 years. Replace them immediately.

If you need alarms and can’t afford them or can’t install them, call the American Red Cross to be put on our complimentary free alarm installation list. Visit this site to learn more or to get on the list.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Red Cross offers home fire preparedness tips during National Fire Prevention Week

By Chris Chmura, American Red Cross volunteer

Next week is National Fire Prevention Week and the American Red Cross wants to ensure everyone is prepared should they experience a home fire. So far in 2021, Ohio has had 95 home fire fatalities vs. 67 in 2020. 

We lost four on-duty firefighters in 2021 and the year is not over. These heroes were willing to give up their lives to help save lives of fellow Ohioans.  

Could your family escape in 2 minutes in case of a home fire?

A survey conducted for the Red Cross, shows that people mistakenly believe they have more time than they really do to escape a burning home. Fire experts agree that people may have as little as two minutes to escape before it’s too late to get out. But most Americans (62%) mistakenly believe they have at least five minutes to escape, more than twice the amount they have. Nearly 18% mistakenly believe they have ten minutes or more to get out. 

The American Red Cross urges everyone prepare by practicing their home fire escape plan and testing their smoke alarms.

1. Practice a 2-Minute Fire Drill 

Use our worksheet to draw your home’s floor plan and plot your escape routes. 

  • Practice your 2-minute drill (from home to a safe meeting place) at least twice a year.
  • Everyone in your household should know two ways to escape from each room in your home. 
  • In a real fire, remember to get out, stay out and call 911. Never go back inside for people, pets or things. 

2. Test Your Smoke Alarms Monthly

Test your smoke alarms monthly by pressing the test button. 

  • You should hear three beeps, letting you know the alarm is working. 
  • Don’t hear the beeps? Then it’s time to change the batteries if your model requires them.
  • If your smoke alarm is 10 years old, it’s time to get a new alarm because the sensor becomes less sensitive over time. 

Teach kids about preparedness

Our age-appropriate preparedness materials include engaging activities and easy action steps that youth will find both fun and effective.

Volunteer to help those affected by home fires

Join your local Red Cross to help families prepare for, respond to, and recover from home fire. The need for volunteers continues amidst a busy disaster season. Disaster action team members from the Red Cross Northern Ohio Region responded to nine local events over the weekend, all of them home fires. Several individuals were affected, including 30 adults and 7 children. The Red Cross provided more than $10,400 in immediate assistance.

Make a donation

Your financial gift allows the Red Cross to provide food, comfort and aid to those who have lost their home to fire. It also helps us install free smoke alarms and educate families on fire safety.

Be prepared before disaster strikes

Be prepared for disasters and other emergencies with a well-stocked emergency kit for your home, workplace and automobile. Choose from a variety of survival kits and emergency preparedness supplies to help you plan ahead for tornadoes, flooding, fire and other disasters.