Stay safe this winter with these tips to keep warm

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

November 14, 2019- Did you know that heating fires are the second leading cause of home fires, and fixed and portable space heaters, including wood stoves, are involved in 74 percent of fire-related deaths?

As the cold weather continues to creep into Northeast Ohio, residents continue to take efforts to keep their homes warm from the freezing temperatures. Unfortunately, some of those efforts can lead to tragic consequences.

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Over the past two winter-like days, the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio responded to 8 home fires, several related to alternative home heating sources, resulting in 23 residents being assisted and $3,695 in immediate financial assistance.

Nearly half of American families use alternative heating sources such as space heaters, fireplaces or wood/coal stoves to stay warm. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, every year, more than 200 people die from carbon monoxide produced by fuel burning appliances in the home.

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If you and your family use alternative heating sources to stay warm, here are some prevention tips to help keep you safe this winter:

  • Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves or fireplaces.
  • Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended.
  • Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.
  • Place space heaters on a level, hard, nonflammable surface, like a ceramic tile floor, and away from bedding and drapes.
  • Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
  • When buying a space heater, look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over.
  • NEVER use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
  • Use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
  • Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys and furnaces professionally inspected and cleaned once a year.

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How to keep family and friends safe from carbon monoxide?

  • Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness and confusion. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, move quickly to a fresh air location and then call 9-1-1.
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas. Test the alarm every month.
  • Treat the alarm signal as a real emergency each time. If alarm sounds and you are not experiencing any symptoms, press the reset button. If the alarm continues to sound, call the fire department.

Visit redcross.org/homefires for more information on how to prevent heating fires.

Be prepared for the snow and cold

By Renee Palagyi, Senior Disaster Program ManagerPalagyi, Renee

Editor’s note: Renee sends a message to the Northeast Ohio regional staff every day, to accompany the daily report on disaster responses.  Here, we are sharing today’s message.

 

Not really a surprise but it appears we may be moving in to the winter season. Watch out for the “s” word in the forecast in the next few days and follow our tips to stay safe.

Beforehand:

  • Talk with your family about what to do if a winter storm watch or warning is issued. Discussing winter storms ahead of time helps reduce fear, particularly for young children.
  • Have your vehicle winterized before the winter storm season to decrease your chance of being stranded in cold weather.
  • Have a mechanic check your battery, antifreeze, wipers and windshield washer fluid, ignition system, thermostat, lights, flashing hazard lights, exhaust system, heater, brakes, defroster, and oil.
  • Install good winter tires with adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate but some jurisdictions require vehicles to be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.
  • Keep in your vehicle: – A windshield scraper and small broom – A small sack of sand for generating traction under wheels and a set of tire chains or traction mats – Matches in a waterproof container – A brightly colored (preferably red) cloth to tie to the antenna – An emergency supply kit, including warm clothing.
  • Keep your vehicle’s gas tank full so you can leave right away in an emergency and to keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Keep a supply of non-clumping kitty litter to make walkways and steps less slippery.
  • Service snow removal equipment before the winter storm season and maintain it in good working order.
  • Keep handy a warm coat, gloves or mittens, hat, water-resistant boots, and extra blankets and warm clothing for each member of the household.

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There’s lots more to be found at:    https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/winter-storm.html

 

Smoke alarm helps save lives in Wooster

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross Volunteer

October 25, 2019- Did you know that if a fire starts in your home, you might have as little as two minutes to escape? Something as simple as a smoke alarm can alert those inside of a fire in its early stages, providing critical time to vacate the home and call for help. Unfortunately, there are many who don’t have working smoke alarms, or don’t have enough devices within their home.

One American Red Cross volunteer, Barbara Buchwalter, experienced first-hand how powerful a simple device like a smoke alarm can be.

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Joe Kiefer

“I was given a business card at a senior event,” said Barbara. “We knew we didn’t have enough smoke alarms for the size of our home. A fireman came and installed several alarms. Within the same week, our stove caught fire and the smoke alarm went off.  The fireman that installed the alarms also responded to the fire that afternoon. I believe my husband and I were saved, because we had our old alarms replaced.”

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Lieutenant Joe Kiefer was the Wooster firefighter who provided the services that saved the lives of Barbara and her husband. He said that the smoke alarm not only saved lives that day, but it minimized the damage the fire caused. With the fast actions of the homeowners, Joe and his fellow firefighters were able to quickly respond and put out the fire before it spread to other areas of the home.

Joe was recently named Wooster firefighter of the year, and his work with the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign was mentioned as one of the reasons for his nomination.

The Buchwalters are among the 642 people whose lives have been saved after smoke alarms installed by the Red Cross and its partners alerted them to the danger in their homes. In Northeast Ohio, the Red Cross and its partners have installed over 42,000 smoke alarms through its Home Fire Campaign.

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Joe Kiefer with his wife Lara Kiefer, executive director of the Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter

Smoke alarm installations are available to any community member through their local chapter of the Red Cross. Many fire departments, like the Wooster Fire Department partner with the Red Cross to install smoke alarms the Red Cross provides. Fifteen to 30 minutes is all it takes to install smoke alarms in a home. Joe said that it also provides the firefighters an opportunity to answer any questions the homeowners may have, and to point out any potential fire hazards within the home.

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Joe Kiefer with Ashland mayor Matt Miller

“It’s a great way to get [firefighters] face-to-face with their community members,” Joe said.

“It’s a simple thing people can do—there’s no reason not to have smoke alarms,” according to Joe. To learn more about how you can prepare your home in case of a fire, visit the Red Cross Home Fire Safety page.

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

 

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

Connect with neighbors to plan ahead

By Beth Bracale, American Red Cross Volunteer

September 16, 2019- Last year, our friends watched their barn burn to the ground in the middle of the night. They were unable to save their animals, the horror of which they are unable to forget. This summer, another friend went to get gas for his mower and came home to find it floating down the road, along with his shed. Eric Alves, regional communications specialist for the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio, reports that this past July, flash flooding in Apple Creek, Ohio, caused residents to have to shelter overnight at Grace Church. That same weekend, a road washed out in Kinsman. Residents who were trapped in their homes had to be rescued by boat.

Eilene Guy photo

We have no idea when disaster will strike or how quickly we’ll need to respond. We’ve all been alerted numerous times to have a plan in case our families need to escape and to have supplies ready to grab on the way out the door. Many residents in Northeast Ohio live near the Perry nuclear power plant, where evacuation plans are printed in the local telephone books. People often say they’ll worry about it when the time comes. But in the panicked moment when you have to act, will you be thinking clearly enough to protect your family and get them to safety?

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Part of preparing your family for an emergency includes preparing as a community. Who in your neighborhood would need help in an emergency? An older couple, perhaps? A single mom or a neighbor confined to a wheelchair? What about your animals – is there a safe place in the area to take them if you have to leave your home? What resources are nearby in case there is no power, no water and/or limited lines of communication?

Sound the Alarm Event in Capitol Heights, Maryland 2019

In the farming community where I live, families talk together about how they might support each other during a disaster. When the rising waters of Lake Erie threatened to shut down the public water system, we knew which farms had natural springs that could be relied on for ourselves and our animals. If an ice storm leaves us in a blackout, Anna and Joe who heat their house with electricity know they can take their small children to Jill and Trevor’s farm a mile down the road and stay warm near the wood stove. We know to call Jim and Matt when a tree comes down, for example. Or that Patti will drop everything to watch our children if we’re rushed to the hospital.

We all need help sometimes, and we are each able to help, even in small ways. Talk to your neighbors about how you might support each other in times of need. Community building can be fun. Have a potluck or a block party and get to know each other!

The Pillowcase Project, New York 2013

The Red Cross website provides a wealth of information to help you prepare for emergencies: https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies.html. Don’t wait until it’s too late!

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer