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

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Edited by: Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

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

By Beth Bracale, American Red Cross volunteer

Beth0

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.

Eilene Guy photo

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!

Overconfident and Underprepared

New Red Cross Survey Shows Many Americans Mistaken About Home Fire Safety

According to a new survey by the American Red Cross, many people overestimate their ability to react to a home fire and miss critical steps to keep their loved ones safe.

In fact, 40 percent of people believe they are more likely to win the lottery or get struck by lightning than experience a home fire. Yet, home fires are the most common disaster people face in this country – the majority of the nearly 64,000 disasters the Red Cross responds to every year.

“Every day seven people in this country die in a home fire and another 36 people are hurt,” reports Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern. “To address this crisis, we’re bringing together thousands of community partners and volunteers to Sound the Alarm about home fire safety and help save lives. We’ve already installed more than 1.1 million smoke alarms, but our work will continue across the country, because many families are still underprepared when it comes to home fire safety.”

This spring, the Red Cross will Sound the Alarm through a series of home fire safety and smoke alarm installation events in more than 100 high-risk communities in the United States, including Cleveland and Akron. In just 16 days – from April 28 to May 13 – volunteers and partners will install 100,000 free smoke alarms across the country. Volunteers are needed, learn more by visiting SoundTheAlarm.org/neo.

MANY PEOPLE MISTAKEN ABOUT HOME FIRE FACTS

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The Red Cross survey found that many Americans have a false sense of security about their family’s ability to escape a home fire. More than three-fourths (80 percent) of people surveyed believe everyone in their household knows what to do when a smoke alarm goes off. But less than half of those surveyed have a home fire escape plan in place. And only half of the families that do have a plan have actually practiced it.

Home fire experts say that people have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home. However, the survey showed nearly 60 percent of people mistakenly believe they have much more time than is realistic.

MORE SURVEY RESULTS Even though many Americans admit to actions that could contribute to a home fire, only one out of four (27 percent) think that they are likely to experience a home fire in their lifetime. For example, about 40 percent of people have forgotten to turn off a stove or oven, even though cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries. And, more than one-third (34 percent) of people have used a stove, kerosene lantern or space heater to warm their home. The fact is that heating equipment is involved in one of every five home fire deaths.

The survey does show that some progress is being made. More people are replacing batteries (a 9 percent increase vs. 2015) and testing to make sure their smoke alarms are working (an 11 percent increase vs. 2015). But there is still have a long way to go to make sure everyone is prepared for home fires.

Americans overwhelmingly believe that smoke alarms can save lives, yet one out of ten (12 percent) people have had to give up buying other essentials for their families to purchase one. These findings highlight just how critical the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign is in communities across the country. Launched in 2014 to save lives and help end home fire tragedies, the Red Cross and its partners have already installed more than 1.1 million free smoke alarms and reached 1 million children through preparedness programs. These efforts are already credited with helping to save 381 lives. Learn more.

This work is made possible thanks to generous financial donations from national partners: Almost Family, Delta Air Lines and International Paper. The Red Cross has also received funding from FEMA through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program.

Join the Red Cross today by volunteering to install smoke alarms in your community, making a financial contribution, or taking steps to protect your own family from home fires. Together, we can Sound the Alarm about fire safety and help save lives. Learn more at soundthealarm.org/neo.

Supplemental Information about Survey Methodology

The national public opinion survey was conducted for the Red Cross in August 2017 using the research firm Issues & Answers. The study was conducted among a national sample of 604 American adults. The total sample is balanced to be representative of the US adult population in terms of age, sex, geographic region, race and education. The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 4 percent.