Trying to #EndHomeFires during 2021 Day of Action

Working with partners to deliver home fire safety information, install smoke alarms

By Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross

Dozens of homes in the city of Cleveland were made safer on Saturday, when the American Red Cross and the Cleveland Division of Fire partnered to Sound the Alarm during the 2021 Day of Action. 

Red Cross volunteers like Sherri Akers offered residents home fire safety information from outside their homes, observing social distancing and wearing a face covering, while Cleveland firefighters entered the homes to install vital smoke alarms in a coordinated campaign to make homes safer.

“Home fires haven’t stopped during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tim O’Toole, Regional Disaster officer for the Red Cross of Northern Ohio. “Through targeted outreach, we’re working with community partners like the Cleveland Division of Fire to connect with families and make their homes safer by bringing residents fire safety education and new smoke alarms.”

During Saturday’s Day of Action, 44 homes in two Cleveland neighborhoods were made safer.  116 residents live in those homes, including 22 children and 28 senior citizens.  Cleveland firefighters installed 139 smoke alarms in those homes.  The alarms were provided by the Red Cross. 

“I feel much safer now that I have smoke detectors in my house that I never had before,” said Shondo Green of Linwood Avenue.  His neighbors Annie Kemp and Bessie Terrell echoed the same sentiment.

Cleveland residents Brenda Wynn, Annie Kemp and Shondo Green

“It makes me feel safe”

Annie Kemp of cleveland

“It makes me feel safe,” said Ms. Kemp, after two firefighters installed several smoke alarms in her home.  After being told she may have as little as two minutes to escape if a fire starts in her home, Ms. Terrell said, “I didn’t think to put up an escape plan, but I’m going to for the children who still live here.”

See more photos from the 2021 Day of Action here.

Practicing an escape plan and testing smoke alarms monthly are two ways to help protect families from home fires. Smoke alarms should be installed on every floor of a home, Research has shown that working smoke alarms cut the risk of serious injury or death in a home fire in half.

Residents of Northern Ohio can visit SoundtheAlarm.org/noh to schedule a virtual home fire safety visit or to request a smoke alarm.  Since 2014, more than two-million smoke alarms have been installed by the Red Cross and our partners, and more than 860 lives have been saved because of those alarms.

Between April 8 and May 8, More than 800 homes in Northern Ohio were made safer, and more than 700 new smoke alarms were installed by partners working with the Red Cross, impacting nearly 2,200 residents.

Volunteers to share free fire safety resources with residents this spring

Sound the Alarm campaign this year features doorstep visits for home fire safety

This spring, Red Cross volunteers will Sound the Alarm in Northern Ohio neighborhoods as part of a national effort to educate 100,000 people about home fire safety. Volunteers will meet with residents by appointment outside their homes to share fire safety information and help them create an escape plan to practice their two-minute fire drill.

“Home fires remain the most frequent disaster during COVID-19, yet most of us don’t realize we have just two minutes to safely escape,” said Mike Parks, Regional CEO, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio. “As families spend more time at home during the pandemic, it’s critical that we help our vulnerable neighbors protect themselves from these everyday disasters.”

To schedule an appointment for a doorstep visit to learn more about keeping your home and family safe from fire, visit the registration page on our website at soundthealarm.org/noh.  Residents can also ask for a virtual visit from local volunteers to review fire safety for their household. Home fire safety visits are part of a national effort to educate 100,000 people about home fire safety nationwide this spring.

HOW TO KEEP YOUR FAMILY SAFE Help protect your family against home fires by taking two simple steps: Practice your two-minute escape drill and test your smoke alarms monthly. Visit SoundTheAlarm.org for more information and to pledge to prepare your family against home fires.

  • Create an escape plan with at least two ways to exit every room in your home. 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.
  • Practice your escape plan until everyone in your household can get out in less than two minutes.
  • Place smoke alarms on each level of your home, including inside and outside bedrooms and sleeping areas. Change the batteries at least once a year if your model requires it.
  • Check the manufacturer’s date of your smoke alarms. If they’re 10 years or older, they likely need to be replaced. Follow your alarm’s manufacturer instructions.

Help Sound the Alarm across Northern Ohio to save lives

By: Chris Chmura, American Red Cross Volunteer

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

48 Ohio civilian home fire fatalities were reported by news media Jan. 1 – April 6, 2021. That is only the first four months of the year. See details from the U.S. Fire Administration here: https://apps.usfa.fema.gov/civilian-fatalities/incident/reportList/Ohio.

Home fires across the United States claim seven lives every day, but you can help change that.

Join our national American Red Cross movement and pledge to keep your family safe by taking 2 simple steps:

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. 

DOWNLOAD YOUR ESCAPE PLAN WORKSHEET

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. 

LEARN MORE ABOUT SMOKE ALARMS

Now is time to commit, Northern Ohio
Take the pledge! We invite you to pledge to prepare by signing the Sound the Alarm pledge: https://www.redcross.org/sound-the-alarm.html.

Are you prepared for 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 a burning home before it’s too late to get out. But most Americans (62 percent) mistakenly believe they have at least five minutes to escape, more than twice the amount they actually have. Nearly 18 percent mistakenly believe they have 10 minutes or more to get out. 

Due to COVID-19 precautions, the Red Cross is not installing smoke alarms this year. However, we are partnering with some local fire departments which have agreed to install smoke alarms in neighborhoods with high numbers of home fires. The goal is to reduce deaths and injuries from home fires by as much as 25 percent over the next five years. Our Northern Ohio region has set the goal to install 1,000 smoke alarms!

Sound the Alarm is a critical part of the campaign. Through our home visits, we’ve installed more than 2.1 million free smoke alarms and prepared more than 2.3 million people for home fires. 

836 lives saved                                2,179,964 smoke alarms installed

901,170 households made safer               1,628,263 youth reached through campaign

Request a smoke alarm

To learn more about the fire preparedness campaign of Northern Ohio in your area and to request a smoke alarm, see the information in this link for your county: https://www.redcross.org/local/ohio/northern-ohio/about-us/our-work/home-fire-campaign/request-a-smoke-alarm.html.

If you, or your community organization, are interested in participating in the program, please call Volunteer Services at 216-431-3328 or email NEOvolunteer@redcross.org.

Teach kids about preparedness

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

Learn More About Youth Preparedness

Due to COVID-19, all  in-person youth presentations are currently suspended nationwide. Your local Red Cross may be able to conduct a virtual presentation for your students. Contact your local Red Cross for more information

Volunteer to help others

Join your local Red Cross to help families prepare for, respond to and recover from home fire. 

Learn more about volunteering

Make a donation

Help families prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from home fires.

Donate now

Take a class

Red Cross Training + Certification: Simple, Fast and Easy

Take a class

Edited by: Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

Olmsted Township resident escapes home fire after hearing smoke alarm

Alarm was installed by the Red Cross in 2016

By Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

December 16, 2020- Smoke alarms save lives. Just ask Gail Renfro.

The former resident of Olmsted Township was in her living room on the night of October 24, 2020 when she heard a smoke alarm sound. It was coming from her bedroom. When she opened the bedroom door, she saw fire and knew there was no time to waste; she had to get out.

Gail Renfro, center, is flanked by Tim O’Toole, Regional Disaster Officer, and Ellen Braun, Red Cross volunteer.  They installed the smoke alarm in Renfro’s home in 2016

“I turned around and walked out the front door, with the clothes I had on, socks on my feet, and cell phone in hand,” Gail said in a recent interview.

The smoke alarm had been installed four years earlier by Tim O’Toole, Regional Disaster Officer for the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio, during a day-long installation event in the Columbia Park development. Mrs. Renfro was recently reunited virtually with Tim and Ellen Braun, a Red Cross volunteer who accompanied Tim the day the alarm was installed, and who shared with the residents fire safety information, including how to create an escape plan.

That information – and those alarms – have proven to be lifesavers. Not only was Ms. Renfro alerted to the fire that destroyed her home, but one of her neighbors was alerted in a similar way more than a year earlier. Barbara Kovolenko escaped safely from a fire in her home, after hearing the smoke alarm in her home. It was also installed that same day – November 19, 2016.

Barbara Kovolenko with Olmsted Township Fire Chief Patrick Kelly

“Both of these fires show the importance of having a working smoke alarm,” said Olmsted Township Fire Chief Patrick Kelly. “The alarm went off and alerted (the residents) with enough time to be able to exit. That’s what they’re designed to do.”

Chief Kelly credits his department’s partnership with the Red Cross for helping keep residents in his community safe. And while the in-home visits to install smoke alarms are on hold due to the pandemic, lives are still being saved as a result of the alarms that were installed before the program was paused.  

Ellen Braun

Gail Renfro and Barbara Kovolenko are now among more than 800 people whose lives were saved as a result of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign.

“Our home visits have accomplished so much, including the installation of more than 2 million smoke alarms since the inception of the Home Fire Campaign in 2014,” said Tim O’Toole, regional disaster officer for the Red Cross of Northern Ohio. “Once deemed safe to proceed, the Red Cross will resume all Home Fire Campaign programs.”

Tim O’Toole

The need for home fire safety doesn’t end during a pandemic. We urge everyone to take steps to keep their household safe by installing and maintaining smoke alarms, talking with loved ones about fire safety and creating and practicing a home fire escape plan.

And we’re grateful Gail and Barbara did just that.

Visit redcross.org/homefires for free resources.

Watch the reunion of Gail Renfro, Tim O’Toole, Ellen Braun and Chief Kelly here.

Listen to the audio of the reunion on our podcast here.

Northeast Ohio Region weekend disaster report: February 14-16, 2020

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

February 17, 2020- During Valentine’s Day weekend, with love in the air in Northeast Ohio, the American Red Cross showed compassion and assistance to local residents who experienced a disaster, such as a home fire.

This past weekend, the Red Cross responded to home fires in Bedford, Cleveland, Killbuck, Vermilion and Wellsville, assisting 19 adults, 14 children and provided more than $7,600 in immediate financial assistance to help residents affected by a local disaster get back on their feet.

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 current date, 715 lives had been saved across the country through the Home Fire Campaign, including 15 in Northeast Ohio.

Hurricane Florence 2018

 

Sound the Alarm is a critical part of the campaign. In just six years, our home visits have accomplished so much, including the installation of more than 2 million smoke alarms.

This year, Sound the Alarm will take place from April 18th to May 3rd.

Unfortunately, the lack of working smoke alarms in a home can lead to tragedy. That was the case for Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter board member Rob Griggs and his family. Watch Rob’s story and hear the reason he has worked to prevent other families from going through a similar pain by ensuring working smoke alarms are placed in homes across Northeast Ohio:

For many of us, a smoke alarm is the one item in our homes that we tend to not notice, but for Jackie and her three children, it alerted them to a home fire while they were sleeping, ultimately saving their lives:

For more information on Sound the Alarm and to sign up to volunteer at a smoke alarm installation event near you, visit SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO.

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

Advice from Mansfield mother after smoke alarm saves her children’s lives

The Red Cross responds, aids in the aftermath of devastating loss

By Jim McIntyre, Regional Communications Manager, American Red Cross

January 8, 2020 – December 6, 2019, was a big day in Mansfield, Ohio. The town was anticipating the big game, the Mansfield High School Tygers taking on Trotwood-Madison in the Division III High School Football Championship game. It would be the first appearance in a state championship game for a team from Richland County.

Classes in the Mansfield schools were cancelled in preparation for the game later that evening.

On Springmill Street, five children were home playing. Their mom, Nancy Hines-Adkins, had an appointment to keep, so she left her 14-year-old in charge. Mom wasn’t gone long before the shrill siren of a smoke alarm alerted the children to a fire.

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Nancy Hines-Adkins, with children Samara and Sean standing behind her, and holding Brooklyn in her arms.

All five children escaped unharmed. One remembered mom’s instructions to run to the nearby fire station. But by the time firefighters were able to put water on the flames, everything inside the house was lost.

“The Red Cross has been very supportive,” said Nancy, two weeks after the fire occurred. “People call me from the Red Cross every single day to make sure me and my family are OK.”

The home on Springmill St. was gutted.

The family received immediate financial assistance, which was used to help them find lodging, food and clothing. Continuing care includes connecting the family to resources that can help them find another place to live.

Five days before Christmas, the children visited the Mansfield American Red Cross office on Smith Avenue to choose toys donated by employees of TravelCenters of America and the Red Cross.

Nancy knows that the help she received immediately after the fire was made possible only by the generous donations of the American public. “It’s very important for people who lose everything. In the blink of an eye everything is gone and they (the Red Cross) are there to help, so donate!”

She also has a vital message about smoke alarms: “They’re very important. Make sure you have them. It will save your life.”

Unfortunately for the Mansfield High Tygers, their quest for a state championship ended that night with an overtime loss. But Nancy is grateful that on that day, a smoke alarm alerted her children to the home fire, and that they escaped unharmed. They suffered a devastating loss of their home but no lives were lost.

Visit soundthealarm.org/neo to request smoke alarms for your home and to learn more about home fire safety. To make a donation to help families like Nancy’s, visit redcross.org/donate, or call 1-800-RED CROSS.

Visit our YouTube channel here to see a video featuring Nancy and her family.

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

Sound the Alarm -  Minnesota 2018

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

Red Cross helps prevent home fires as part of Ashland Day of Caring

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

October 18, 2019- Support for neighbors and the community was in full swing on October 17, 2019, as part of the 25th annual Kay Conrad Ashland Day of Caring.

Organizations from all across Ashland County dedicated the day to volunteer their time to assist residents who are elderly, disabled and disadvantaged with tasks, such as light yard work, to help improve local communities.

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The American Red Cross was one of the organizations that took part in the day of caring.

Volunteers from the Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter and partners visited homes across the county to help prevent home fires and make communities safer.

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As part of the Home Fire Campaign, the Red Cross installed free smoke alarms in homes that had no or nonworking smoke alarms.

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Along with installing smoke alarms, volunteers provided residents with important fire safety tips and information on how to develop an escape plan, to ensure their family is prepared and safe in the event of a home fire.

For more information on the Home Fire Campaign in Northeast Ohio, including how to request a free smoke alarm, donate or how to become involved, visit SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO. The site also includes fire safety and prevention tips, checklists and more fire prevention and preparedness tools.

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To view more photos from the Kay Conrad Ashland Day of Caring, visit our Flickr page.

Red Cross and partners Sound the Alarm in Richmond Heights

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

October 14, 2019- During the weekend of October 11-13, 2019, the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio responded to 7 home fires, assisted 34 individuals, including 14 children and provided more than $7,300 in immediate financial assistance.

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The Red Cross is committed to helping to put an end to home fires in Northeast Ohio through the Home Fire Campaign.

As part of the campaign, the Red Cross holds Sound the Alarm events throughout the region to install free smoke alarms, such as the event held in Richmond Heights on October 12.

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Forty volunteers from partners Selman & Company, HOPE worldwide and the Richmond Heights CERT community response team installed 222 smoke alarms and made 83 homes safer.

“Thank you to the volunteers from Selman & Company, HOPE worldwide and the Richmond Heights CERT for helping make another Sound the Alarm installation event a success. With their assistance, we were able to ensure more homes in Northeast Ohio will be prepared in case of a home fire,” said Tim O’Toole, Red Cross regional disaster officer. “A special thank you to our partners with the Richmond Heights Fire Department, who will continue to install free smoke alarms in homes throughout their community.”

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“Saturday’s Sound the Alarm was a wonderful event. Everyone at Selman & Company who participated has said that it was the best volunteer event the company have ever done,” stated Brinton Lincoln, Greater Cleveland Chapter board member. “Thank you so very much for everyone’s efforts to make Saturday a success.”

Holly Tackett, Human Resources Generalist for Selman and Company, said, “The SelmanCo volunteer team has not stopped talking about their experience this past Saturday and they are even educating their peers and family on home safety. This was truly an impactful event that has changed lives – both the residents of the homes we installed in and SelmanCo team members.”

For more information on the Home Fire Campaign in Northeast Ohio, including how to request a free smoke alarm, donate, or help make homes safer, please click here.  Additional information regarding the national Home Fire Campaign is available here. Both sites include fire safety and prevention tips, checklists, and tools.

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To see more photos from the Richmond Heights installation event, please visit our Flickr page.

Photo credit: Cal Pusateri, American Red Cross volunteer