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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Sound the Alarm a Success

Hundreds of Volunteers Install Thousands of Smoke Alarms in Three Weeks

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Volunteers for the Sound the Alarm event in Slavic Village on May 12, 2018

Residents in more than 900 homes in Northeast Ohio can sleep more soundly knowing they now have working smoke alarms, installed over a three-week period this spring by volunteers with the American Red Cross and dozens of partners.

Nationwide, more than 103,000 alarms were installed in 43,000 homes during the same three weeks, as part of a Red Cross initiative known as Sound the Alarm. Save a Live.  Read more about the national results here.

Locally, nearly 2,500 alarms were installed in neighborhoods of Cleveland, Akron and Maple Heights between April 28 and May 12.  About 350 volunteers went door-to-door, installing free smoke alarms, changing batteries in existing alarms, and helping residents create escape plans.

40277366540_81f2ea6dbd_z“We have over 20 people here from KeyBank, and we think this is a great cause,” said Don Kimble, Chief Financial Officer at KeyBank and a member of the board of directors for the Red Cross Greater Cleveland Chapter. He volunteered to help during the final Sound the Alarm event in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood on Saturday, May 12.  “There aren’t many times you can volunteer and actually help save a life. It really helps out the community.”

More than 400 lives have been saved since the Red Cross began installing alarms nationwide in 2014.

“Anything can happen.  You never know what will cause a fire,” said Richard Demming, as volunteers installed new smoke alarms in his second-story home on East 55th Street in Cleveland. “Smoke alarms alert you to get out of the house.”

 

Another resident of East 55th Street, Stanford Simmons said, “It’s good for the community.  Volunteering is important. The fire department can’t do it all.”

The Cleveland Fire Department has been working with the Red Cross to install smoke alarms in homes since 1992.  Several firefighters accompanied the volunteers in Slavic Village on Saturday.

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Jamie Evans, upper left, and other volunteers from Third Federal Savings and Loan

Jamie Evans is a human resources employee with Third Federal Savings and Loan, which is headquartered in Slavic Village.   He was with a team of volunteers from Third Federal and said, “You could definitely tell people appreciated it.  A couple of residents were outside waiting for us.  We took out lots of old alarms, people who didn’t have the means to replace them.  It’s definitely a good program.”

425 alarms were installed in Slavic Village on Saturday, making 125 homes safer. Click here for more photos from the Sound the Alarm event in Slavic Village.

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FirstEnergy employees were among the volunteers for the Sound the Alarm event in Akron on May 11, 2018.

The day before, dozens of volunteers gathered in East Akron for another Sound the Alarm event. Among them was Murphy Montler, Director of Local External Affairs for FirstEnergy in Ohio and West Virginia.  He was heading a team of more than two dozen FirstEnergy workers.

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Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Board member Charles Brown and Murphy Montler of FirstEnergy

“We have a long-standing partnership with the Red Cross,” Murphy said.  “When they’re out dealing with disasters, we’re also dealing with infrastructure issues affecting our customers.”  Murphy noted that there has been a recent spate of fire fatalities in Akron, and that FirstEnergy workers volunteered to help the Red Cross make homes in Akron safer.

“This organization is so wonderful,” he said.  “It doesn’t operate without volunteers.  It’s a mission that people really connect with.”

Greg Sell, a resident of Eva Avenue in Akron, said he didn’t know the Red Cross offered free smoke alarm installations.  “Thank God for the Red Cross,” he said.  “I’ll be telling everybody.  Continue the good work.”  Click here for more photos from the May 11th Sound the Alarm event in Akron.

Sound the Alarm events WILL continue, year-round. Residents throughout Northeast Ohio can request a free home fire inspection and free smoke alarms by visiting soundthealarm.org/neo.  You can register to become a Red Cross volunteer at redcross.org/neo.

We are grateful for all our partners who helped us Sound the Alarm. Save a Life.

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Akron City Fire Department
Almost Family
ArcelorMittal
Asurint
BCD Travel
Buckingham Doolittle & Burroughs
Case Western Reserve Students
Cleveland Central Catholic
Cleveland City Council
Cleveland Fire Department
Cox Automotive
DOVIA
First Energy Corporation
Franklin Myles State Farm
Huntington Bank
J & M Champions for Change
KeyBank
Louis Stokes VA Medical Center
Manheim Cleveland-Cox Automotive
Maple Heights Fire Department
Metro Health System
Mount Calvary Lodge
NAWIC
NLC LOANS
Ohio’s Choice Home Health
Prince Hall Masons
Red Cross Board, & Associate Board (Young Professionals)
Red Cross Club- CWRU
Robert W Baird
S&T Bank
Signet Jewelers
Stockyard Connection Block Club Metro West CDO/Stockyard Safety Committee
Team RWB
Third Federal Savings & Loan
Torchbearers
Westfield Group

 

More than 90 Homes Made Safer During First Sound the Alarm Event

Cold and rain fail to dampen the spirit of volunteers

More than 90 families on Cleveland’s west side can sleep more soundly, knowing there are now working smoke alarms in their homes.  The alarms were installed by volunteers from various community groups and corporate partners, who worked with the Red Cross and the Cleveland Fire Department on the first Sound the Alarm home fire safety and smoke alarm installation event in Northeast Ohio on Saturday.

The goal of the nationwide program is to save lives.

“Through the combined efforts, we were able to install more than 234 smoke alarms,” said Tim O’Toole, Red Cross Regional Disaster Program Officer. “91 families in the Clark Fulton neighborhood slept safer last night due to the efforts of our combined partnership.”

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Tim O’Toole, Chief Angelo Calvillo, and Councilwoman Jasmin Santana

Chief Angelo Calvillo of the Cleveland Division of Fire and city councilwoman Jasmin Santana, who represents the neighborhood, helped kick-off the event.

“People don’t realize that when a house fire occurs, you only have a couple of minutes to get out,” said Chief Calvillo. “An alarm will actually notify you and your family to get out of the house.”IMG_5726

 

 

More than 30 volunteers dispersed throughout the neighborhood to help residents create escape plans and to install smoke alarms.  Among the groups represented by volunteers were the Metrohealth System, Prince Hall Masons, and the Red Cross Club from Case Western Reserve University.

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CWRU Red Cross Club volunteers Austin Zhang and Tobi Oshomoji

A Tobi Oshomoji, a sophomore from Nashville, Tennesee, and Austin Zhang, a freshman from Houston, Texas were on a team of installers going door-to-door on Trent Avenue.

“It’s about stepping outside University Circle and interacting with the community,” said Austin. “Cleveland has welcomed us, and we’d like to give back.”

You can see more photos from Saturday’s Sound the Alarm event here, in our Flickr photo album.

The city of Cleveland is one of more than 100 cities nationwide where Sound the Alarm events are taking place between April 28 and May 13.  Volunteers and partners will also help install alarms in Akron, Maple Heights, and Slavic Village during the next three weeks.  For more information or to volunteer, visit soundthealarm.org/neo.

 

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.

Sounding the Alarm in Euclid

Partnership with Lincoln Electric and Euclid Fire Department Helps Save Lives

More than 50 employees, trainees and interns from Lincoln Electric fanned out in the shadow of the firm’s giant windmill in Euclid on Saturday to help make residents safer. They were taking part in a home fire safety and smoke alarm installation event, for the third year in a row.

“It’s a way for our company and our employees to give back to the community,” said Chris Mapes, Lincoln Electric CEO. “Our goal is to go out and meet the community and assist them in having a safer home environment, where we can provide them with smoke alarms that have been provided to us by the American Red Cross and make this a safer community.”  IMG_4410

Lincoln Electric has been headquartered in Euclid for more than 122 years.

As in the previous two years, the volunteers were first treated to lunch prepared by Chief Chris Haddock and other members of the Euclid Fire Department,  long-time partners in our free smoke alarm installation program.  The volunteers then received instructions for sharing fire safety information with residents, and for the proper installation of smoke alarms.

Nearly 130 homes were made safer, and almost 370 smoke alarms were installed on several streets in Euclid.IMG_4428

“I’m glad you guys are doing it,” said resident Steve Washington.  As the volunteers installed new alarms with 10-year lithium batteries in his home, he said, “If you got children, even pets, if you sleep heavy you’ll hear that thing.  It’ll wake you up in a minute.  You never know when a fire’s gonna start.”

The home of Denise Miller is once again well protected, as the eight older smoke alarms in her home were replaced with new alarms.  “It’s nice to update them.  I don’t know how long they’ve actually been in our home,”  she said of the old alarms. “My husband had them put up when the kids were little.”IMG_4431

Like many people, Denise wasn’t aware that the sensors that detect smoke from a fire can fail after ten years.  “I had no idea.  I figured as long as the batteries were chirping, and you pressed the button on occasion, you were good.”

Mike Parks, CEO of the Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region, called the partnership with Lincoln Electric, “One of the best corporate partnerships we have.  We have the opportunity to save lives, make homes safer,  and make the community more resilient.”

For more pictures from the event, visit our photo album on Flickr here.

Saturday’s smoke alarm installations in Euclid preceded a nationwide effort this fall to install 100,000 smoke alarms in 40 cities across the country. The initiative is called Sound the Alarm. Save a Life.  You can join the American Red Cross to Sound the Alarm about home fire safety and help save lives by  learning more at soundthealarm.org/neo.

 

 

Highlights from the NEO Region in FY 17

More than 15,000 smoke alarms installed.  More than 31,000 residents enrolled in Preparedness, Health and Safety courses. More than 150,000 units of blood collected. Emergency services provided to more than 1,800 families of service men and women. More than $850,000 in financial assistance provided to more than 4,200 residents of Northeast Ohio since June 1, 2016.

These are some of the highlights of our fiscal year.  They were shared with the Board of Directors of the Greater Cleveland Chapter during the annual meeting on Thursday, June 28, 2017.  Many of the highlights were featured in  a video shown during the meeting.

Laurie Laidlaw, Donna Rae Smith and Lorraine Frankino-Dodero were recognized as Red Cross Visionaries. Lorraine was also honored as Philanthropist of the Year, for the generous gift her family foundation recently made to help us purchase a new Emergency Response Vehicle.

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Board Chairman Shawn Riley, Lorraine Frankino-Dodero and CEO Mike Parks

CEO Mike Parks recounted the response to a recent fire in Cleveland, which affected a family of 12, and introduced Gary Grano and Talib Zayed, the two Red Cross volunteers who provided assistance to the family.

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The meeting ended with a call to action: to help the Red Cross install 100,000 smoke alarms in September and October, during the Sound the Alarm. Save a Life initiative. Everyone is invited to join us, by volunteering to Sound the Alarm, when we will install smoke alarms in the homes of residents in Cleveland and Akron.  Or by providing financial support at redcross.org.

Partners Help Make Parma Homes Safer

Young Professionals Help Protect People in Parma from Home Fires

A new partnership proved to be fruitful for residents in a neighborhood of Parma on Saturday, May 6.  Members of the Cleveland Professional 20/30 Club joined forces with the Red Cross and members of the Parma Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) to install more than two-dozen smoke alarms in homes where needed. The volunteers also performed home fire safety inspections and offered valuable fire prevention and safety education.

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The Cleveland Professional 20/30 Club is the longest-running young professional association in Northeast Ohio. The mission and vision is to enrich the lives of young professionals, to foster the future leaders of Cleveland. The group is independent, open and inclusive, and membership represents a wide range of cultures, backgrounds and professions, and touching the lives of more than 1,000 young professionals through its programs on an annual basis.

“Our volunteers from The Cleveland Professional 20/30 Club enjoyed working together with the American Red Cross of Greater Cleveland and Parma Cert to help install free smoke alarms in people’s homes,” said Melanie Raese, Philanthropy Director of the Cleveland Professional 20/30 Club.  “It was a fun, team building experience and we learned about fire safety.  We are grateful to serve our communities and to work alongside those dedicated to building safer neighborhoods.”

Since 2014, Red Cross volunteers, along with fire departments and other partners, have visited homes installing free smoke alarms, replacing batteries in existing alarms and providing fire prevention and safety education to prevent needless tragedies. More than 26,000 smoke alarms have been installed in homes in Northeast Ohio in the past two years. This fall, the Red Cross will celebrate the program with Sound the Alarm, a series of home fire safety and smoke alarm installation events nationwide. Volunteers will install 100,000 free smoke alarms in high risk neighborhoods in Akron, Cleveland, and more than 100 other cities across the country, culminating in the installation of the one millionth smoke alarm!

If you would like to help us Sound the Alarm about fire safety and help save lives, visit us at redcross.org/neo and click on the Volunteer tab.  More information about Sound the Alarm is located here.

See more photos, taken by Red Cross volunteer George Scherma, on Flickr.