More than 90 percent of the disasters the American Red Cross responds to in the United States are house fires. So, on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, the Newark Red Cross chapter teamed up with HOPE worldwide, Camden Street Elementary School, the Newark Fire Department and other organizations to improve fire safety in the city.
Red Cross volunteers took children through the “Smoke House,” a trailer designed to help kids identify fire dangers and teach them what to do in the event of a blaze. “This is an essential tool in fire prevention,” said firefighter Antonio Padilla. “It shows the kids what you should and shouldn’t do in a fire.”
In the Smoke House children learn to pay attention to smoke detectors, crawl under the smoke during a fire and call 9-1-1 from outside of the house instead of inside a burning building. They are shown to not overload electrical sockets, not leave flammable items around a fire place, and ensure that electrical cords are not underneath rugs. Children are also taught to pick a safe spot where they can meet their family in the event they have to evacuate the home.
Volunteers and firefighters also taught children how to climb outside of a window in the event of a fire. And they recommended children wave garments or throw toys outside of their window to gain the attention of firefighters. Jaliyl Norman, 39, of Newark brought his children to the event. His nine-year-old son Joshua saw the fire safety demonstration in the smoke house and, shortly after climbing out of a window to simulate a fire rescue, said fire safety is “important.”
Volunteers also took to the streets to increase fire safety awareness and distributed 700 fire safety tips door hangers to homes within a one-mile radius of the school. Leland Gill, a Rutherford resident and volunteer for HOPE worldwide, sported a Red Cross vest for the day and led a team of six volunteers that went door to door talking with residents who were at home about fire safety and leaving fire safety door hangers when no one was at home. “A lot of lives can be saved if people know what they need, so it’s great we’re going to these homes and making sure people have what they need to be safe,” he said.
Gill said he found one house in which a woman didn’t have a smoke detector. In other houses where no one was at home, he could hear the detectors “chirping,” an indication that a smoke detector needs new batteries. “Hanging the door hanger will help remind them, I know,” he said.
Sam Garrison, Camden Street Elementary School principal, declared the day, which included sixth graders making presentations on fire safety prevention, a success. “We were able to bring the vision of Dr. King’s to the community,” he said. “It came together well.”