Don’t be a statistic: It’s National Fire Prevention Week

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross Volunteer

A home can be rebuilt. Human lives, pets and mementos can’t.

For those with insurance, a home fire a major disruption. For those without insurance, it’s devastating. The good news is that most home fires are preventable.

As a member of the American Red Cross Disaster Action Team, I’ve seen numerous fires that didn’t have to happen:

  • A kitchen fire was caused by unattended grease left in a pan on the burner; another was caused by loose papers left too close to the gas burner; and a third by a plastic highchair overhanging an electrical element.
  • Overloaded electrical outlets and faulty wiring contributed to the loss of a beautiful century home.
  • An unattended burning candle and a young child playing alone in the home displaced two families.

I could go on, but the good news is that no lives were lost. However, with a modicum of prevention, they could have all been avoided.

Here are 10 simple tips to share with members of your family during National Fire Prevention Week:

  1. Make sure to have working smoke alarms and replace the entire unit if it’s more than 10 years old. Even with a good battery, the sensor in an old alarm wears out in 10 years.
  2. Create an escape plan and make sure every child and adult knows that they must be outside within two minutes of hearing the alarm. Practice the plan with your children so they know the official meeting place outside.
  3. Never smoke in bed or when extremely tired or intoxicated.
  4. Keep matches and lighters away from children.
  5. Keep lit candles away from flammables, children and pets.
  6. Take care that nothing can blow over or into your kitchen gas burners.
  7. Keep frying pan handles turned away from the front edge of the stove so they aren’t tipped by children or pets.
  8. Electric space heaters can easily start fires if clothes or newspapers are tossed on top of them.
  9. Keep a working fire extinguisher handy and know how to use it.
  10. Keep gas cans outside if possible; but, never in a basement or near a furnace or water heater.

Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of the United States, recognized the huge loss caused by fires, both to property and human life. To address the problem, he proclaimed the first Fire Prevention Week in 1926, with the hope it would become an annual event.

He wrote:

“While efforts should be made constantly to reduce fire destruction to a minimum, in pursuance of a well-established precedent, one week is set aside each year during which the urgent need of preventing fires is forcibly stressed.

“If every individual will adopt and practice the simple precautionary measures advocated as fire prevention safeguards, fire hazards and their consequences will be materially reduced.”

Make Calvin proud, and use caution to avoid unnecessary fires.

For more resources, visit the American Red Cross Home Fire Safety page for videos, tips and mobile apps to help you safeguard your family.

On October 6, volunteers from the Red Cross, Parma CERT, Hope World Wide Ministries and the Parma Fire Department held a Sound the Alarm home fire safety and smoke alarm installation event. The volunteers installed 171 smoke alarms making 61 home safer.

To view photos from the Parma Sound the Alarm event, visit our Flickr page. Furthermore, to learn more about home fire safety and to request a smoke alarm, visit the American Red Cross Northeast Ohio Home Fire Campaign page.

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Youngstown-area Volunteers Head into Smoke and Fire of California

Three American Red Cross volunteers from the Northeast Ohio Region are being deployed to California, where a wildfire has forced the evacuation of thousands of residents.

Randy Liang of Cuyahoga Falls will help support the technology needs of the Red Cross disaster relief operation in Mariposa County, California.

Mark Strausser and Jason Mitman (in video, above) of Youngstown will work with residents who are staying in shelters as a result of the wildfire.

Red Cross workers and partners helping to provide a safe place to stay and three meals a day for hundreds of displaced residents.

“We help people here, at home, every day,” said Mitman, referring to the help Red Cross workers offer to Northeast Ohio residents who experience home fires and other disasters.  “Now I get to help people in California.  This is why I volunteer for the Red Cross.”

Other volunteers from Northeast Ohio may also be deployed to help in the days to come.

For information on volunteer opportunities, visit redcross.org/neo, and click on the Volunteer tab.

Preventing the Spread of Diseases

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has provided vaccination to more than 1.1 billion children in the fight against measles and rubella.

The American Red Cross, United Nations foundation, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and World Health Organization started the Measles and Rubella Initiative in 2001. Since then, Red Cross and its partners have vaccinated children in more than 80 developing countries.

Measles Vaccination Campaign

Measles Vaccination Campaign

In 2011, measles claimed an estimated 158,000 lives. This makes it a leading cause of death and disability among young children worldwide. This disease is highly contagious and includes the risk of developing other health complications, including pneumonia, blindness, diarrhea, and encephalitis. Measles are most common in younger children from the age of five to adults over 20. 95% of measles deaths occur in low income countries with poor health systems.

Rubella, also known as German measles, is a mild disease but can be serious for pregnant women and their children. If affected, women will give birth to a child with congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). More than 1000 children globally are born with CRS each year. In many developing countries, parents do not have access to medical service that can protect their children from this fate.

Measles and rubella and CRS are preventable. The Measles and Rubella Initiative is making great strides to bring vaccines that are safe and effective to dense populations where the virus will stop circulating. Vaccinations in these areas can lead to the elimination of measles and rubella.

The American Red Cross is providing technical and financial support to 12 African countries through measles and rubella vaccination campaigns. Red Cross volunteers go door-to-door in communities to educate parents, encourage participation in the campaign, and help with registration or comforting a child.

With less than $1, you can vaccinate one child and support this effort. With help from your friends, classmates or coworkers, you can vaccinate an entire village. To donate, click here or visit redcross.org for more information.