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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