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

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

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

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

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

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WHAT YOU SHOULD DO

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

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

HOME FIRE CAMPAIGN

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

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

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

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

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Happy first day of winter!

Helpful tips to keep you safe during the longest season in NEO

By Sue Wilson, American Red Cross volunteer

December 21, 2019- Although December 21st is the first official day of winter, Northeast Ohio has already experienced enough frigid days and nights to let us know this is just the beginning of the long winter ahead. Here are some safety tips to help you prepare, and some of these you may not have thought about!

The Hands Have It 

  • Don’t put your hands in your pockets: It’s a natural instinct to put your hands in your pockets when you go outside, but don’t do it! If you slip and fall you can’t react to balance or catch yourself on the ice.
  • Mittens are warmer:  Gloves may be more fashionable, but mittens are warmer. When your fingers are touching one other they generate more body heat and keep your hands warmer.

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Before You Shovel 

  • Warm up your muscles by stretching and marching in place for a few minutes before you head out to shovel. You will work more efficiently and reduce the risk of injuring yourself if your muscles are warmed up.
  • Avoid caffeine and cigarettes. They increase your heart rate and cause your blood vessels to constrict, which is not good for your heart.
  • Use rock salt and kitty litter for safer walkways. The salt helps melt the ice and kitty litter adds traction.

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Car Safety Kit

It can happen to all of us, a car breakdown, a flat tire, a big snowstorm. It’s always good to be prepared before going on the road in cold weather.

  • Have your vehicle winterized before the winter storm season to decrease your chance of being stranded in cold weather
  • 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 a safety kit in the car that includes: An emergency drinking water prep kit: a tin can, matches, candle, and paper cup in the car in case you would ever get stuck. Just melt some snow with these supplies if you run short on water.
  • A small shovel, a blanket, a flare and jumper cables.

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Protect Your Pets

  • Bring your companion animals indoors.
  • Ensure that you have supplies for cleanup for your companion animals, particularly if they are used to eliminating outdoors (large plastic bags, paper towels, and extra cat litter).
  • Create a place where outside animals can be comfortable in severe winter weather:  Horses and livestock should have a shelter where they can be protected from wind, snow, ice, and rain. Grazing animals should have access to a protected supply of food and non-frozen water.
  • Provide a feral cat shelter, food and water.
  • Report to the humane society or other local authorities if you see a pet chained outside with no protection from the elements

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Additional tips from the American Red Cross: 

  • Listen to local area radio, NOAA radio or TV stations for the latest information and updates.
  • Check your emergency kit and replenish any items missing or in short supply, especially medications and medical supplies. Keep it nearby.
  • Be sure you have ample heating fuel.
  • If you have alternative heating sources, such as fireplaces, wood- or coal-burning stoves, or space heaters, be sure they are clean and in working order. Never leave electrical devices or live flames unattended.
  • After a winter storm, immediately report any downed power lines or broken gas lines in your area or workplace.
  • Be a good neighbor. Winter weather can be tough on all of us, but especially the elderly, children, and people with chronic illnesses or disabilities. Check on an elderly neighbor, or anyone you know that may live alone and have special needs.

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Find more winter safety tips from The American Red Cross HERE.

Trim Your Home with Care this Holiday Season

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross Volunteer

December 4, 2019- As we enter the holiday season here in Northeast Ohio, many will be trimming trees and putting up decorations. As you hang your stockings with care, make sure to keep in mind these holiday decorating safety tips from the American Red Cross.

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  1. Candles: Use battery-operated candles whenever you can. If you do use candles, never leave them unattended, keep them away from anything that could burn, and place them out of reach from children and pets.
  2. Lights:
    1. Check all holiday light cords to make sure they aren’t frayed or broken.
    2. Don’t string too many strands of lights together—no more than three per extension cord.
    3. Turn off all holiday lights when going to bed or leaving the house.
    4. Don’t use electric lights on metallic trees.
  3. Outside Decorations: Make sure all decorations hung outside are marked for outdoor use. If using hooks or nails outside, make sure they are insulated to avoid an electrocution or a fire hazard.
  4. Trees: If buying an artificial tree, look for the fire-resistant label. If getting a live tree, make sure it’s fresh and water it often to keep it from drying out. Bend the needles up and down to make sure no needles fall off. Keep the tree away from fireplaces, radiators and other sources of heat.
  5. Indoor Decorations:
    1. If using older decorations, check their labels. Some older tinsel is lead-based.
    2. If using angel hair, wear gloves to avoid irritation. Avoid breathing in artificial snow.
    3. If hanging stockings on the fireplace mantel, don’t light the fireplace.
  6. Ladders: Make sure to have a good, stable placement of the ladder before use. Wear shoes that allow for good traction.

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Home Fire Campaigns Saves Lives

Home fires take seven lives each day in the U.S. To prevent fire tragedies, the Red Cross works with community partners to install free smoke alarms and help families create escape plans through its Home Fire Campaign — which has saved at least 658 lives nationwide since launching in October 2014. In Northeast Ohio, Red Cross volunteers and partners have:

  • Installed 62,656 smoke alarms.
  • Reached 16,273 youth through preparedness programs.
  • Made 22,308 households safer from the threat of home fires.

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You can help save lives by making a financial donation to support our mission, registering to become a volunteer or by taking steps to protect your family from home fires. Visit redcross.org to learn more.

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.

Safety advice for Halloween

Trick-or-treaters will be out tonight in some communities

Halloween is just days away! Masses of kids will be out in our neighborhoods, dressed as super heroes, cartoon and television characters for trick or treat fun. The American Red Cross has complied a list tips parents can follow to help keep the kids safe while enjoying the festivities.

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  1. Trick-or-treaters need to see and be seen.
    – Use face makeup instead of masks which make seeing difficult.
    – Give trick-or-treaters a flashlight to light their way.
    – Add reflective tape to costumes and trick-or-treat bags.
    – Have everyone wear light-colored clothing.
  2. Use flame-resistant costumes.
  3. Make sure adults know where the kids are going. A parent or responsible adult should accompany young children door-to-door.
  4. Be cautious around animals, especially dogs.
  5. Walk, don’t run.
  6. Only visit homes that have a porch light on. Accept treats at the door – never go Superstorm Sandy 2012inside.
  7. Walk only on the sidewalks, not in the street.
    – If no sidewalk is available, walk at the edge of the roadway, facing traffic.
    – Look both ways before crossing the street, and cross only at the corner.
    – Don’t cut across yards or use alleys.
    – Don’t cross between parked cars.
    – Drivers – use extra caution. The youngsters may forget to look both ways before crossing.
  8. A grown-up should check the goodies before eating.
    – Make sure to remove loose candy, open packages and choking hazards.
    – Discard any items with brand names that you are not familiar with.

If you are planning to welcome trick-or-treaters to your home, follow these safety steps:

  1. Light the area well so young visitors can see.
  1. Sweep leaves from your sidewalks and steps. Clear your porch or front yard of obstacles someone could trip over. If your steps or walkways are ice covered, make sure to lay down salt- this is Northeast Ohio after all!

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Trick or treat times vary; many communities have established tonight as the night for trick or treating, including Akron, Cuyahoga Falls and Ravenna. Visit your city’s website for exact dates and times, or visit this for a pretty extensive list.

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Download the free Red Cross First Aid App for instant access to expert first aid advice right at your fingertips. Use the free app Emergency for weather alerts and to let others know you are safe if severe weather occurs. Find these and all of the Red Cross apps in smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.

Despite warm weather, it is time to prepare home heating for winter

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

September 30, 2019- Do not let the unseasonably warm temperatures confuse you, winter is indeed coming to Northeast Ohio and the cooler weather will be here in no time.

heating-enAs the leaves begin to change and the air gets crisp, it is time to inspect and get your home heating ready to safely warm your home.

HEAT YOUR HOMES SAFELY 

Home heating is the second leading cause of fires in the U.S. Each year over 200 people die from carbon monoxide produced by fuel burning appliances in the home including furnaces, ranges, water heaters and room heaters.

To reduce the risk of heating related fires, the Red Cross recommends you follow these steps:

  • Have furnaces, chimneys, fireplaces, wood and coal stoves professionally inspected Kentucky Ice Stormand cleaned.
  • Test batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Insulate your home by installing storm windows or covering the inside of windows with plastic to keep cold air out.
  • Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended and use a glass or metal fire screen to keep fire and embers in the fireplace.
  • Make sure the area around the fireplace is clear of anything that is potentially flammable (furniture, drapes, newspapers, books, etc.). If these items get too close to the fireplace, they could catch fire.
  • Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.

SPACE HEATER SAFETY

With heating costs on the rise, many Northeast Ohio residents use alternative heating  sources, such as portable space heaters, to help minimize winter heating bills. This equipment is so common that it’s involved in roughly two of every five home heating fires.

The Red Cross recommends using a space heater that automatically shuts off. Other portable space heater safety tips include:

  • Place space heaters on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, such as a ceramic title floor.
  • All heaters need space. Keep children, pets and things that can burn (paper, matches, bedding, furniture, clothing, carpets, and rugs) at least three feet away from heating equipment.
  • Turn off portable space heaters every time you leave the room or go to sleep.

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You can also help your family stay safe by testing your smoke alarms monthly and practicing your home fire escape plan until everyone can escape in two minutes or less.

For more home fire safety information, visit the Red Cross home fire safety campaign page.

Safety tips to help you enjoy the end of summer fun this Labor Day Weekend

August 28, 2019- Labor Day is considered the unofficial end of the summer in Northeast Ohio, and with that comes a lot of traveling and social gatherings.

Whether you are planning to host family and friends for a cookout, enjoy a day ofCentennial Campaign 2015 swimming at Edgewater Park Beach or driving to attend the Cleveland National Air Show, the American Red Cross has offered the following tips on how to safely enjoy the holiday.

Driving safety: When driving, make sure you are well rested and alert, wear your seat belts, follow the speed limit and rules of the road, make frequent stops, and don’t let your gas tank get low.

  • Pack a first aid kit and emergency preparedness kit in each vehicle.
  • If you plan on drinking alcohol, designate a driver who won’t drink.
  • Give your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions such as cell phones.
  • Use caution in work zones. Don’t follow other vehicles too closely.
  • If you have car trouble, pull as far as possible off the highway.

Water safety: Be water smart. Make sure to have swimming skills and know how to help others.

  • Pay close and constant attention to children you are supervising in or near water.Aquatics Centennial Campaign 2014
  • Prevent unsupervised access to water with adequate barriers for pools and spas.
  • Learn swimming and water survival skills.
  • Children, inexperienced swimmers and all boaters should wear properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets.
  • Always swim with a buddy in a life-guarded area.

Barbecue safety: Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use. You can also follow these steps:

  • Don’t add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited.
  • Never grill indoors — not in your 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, the deck, tree branches or anything that could catch fire.
  • Use the long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill to keep the chef safe.

Here are a few other suggested steps to take ahead of Labor Day:

  • Learn First Aid and CPR/AED skills so you’ll have the knowledge and skills to act in an emergency until help arrives. Take a class (redcross.org/takeaclass), download the free Red Cross First Aid app and open the Red Cross First Aid Skill for Amazon Alexa-enabled devices.
  • Go to redcross.org/watersafety for a variety of water safety resources and courses. Download the free Red Cross Swim app.App Icon
  • Give blood. The number of people donating blood often drops during the summer when people are on vacation and schools are closed. Visit redcrossblood.org, download the Red Cross Blood app, or enable the Red Cross Blood Skill for more information or to schedule your donation.App Icon

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer