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Red Cross Kicks Off New Campaign To Reduce Home Fire Deaths and Injuries

Volunteers for the American Red Cross fire preparedness program, Team Firestopper, are conducting a community safety event for the Roseland and West Pullman communities Saturday, Oct. 11 at 11:00 a.m. at St. Anthony’s Church, 11533 S. Prairie Avenue, Chicago. Free fire safety equipment, including smoke alarms, will be given to 70 families who pre-registered. The safety fair is part of a nationwide effort to reduce deaths and injuries from home fires by as much as 25 percent over the next five years.

The Red Cross fire preparedness campaign focuses on increasing the use of smoke alarms in neighborhoods with high numbers of home fires and encouraging everyone to practice their fire escape plans.

“Seven times a day someone in this country dies in a home fire and we have witnessed that tragedy right here our community,” said Martha Carlos, Chief Communications Officer, American Red Cross, Greater Chicago Region. “Volunteers respond to three to four home fires every day in the Chicago area – that’s more than 1,200 incidents every year. We believe many lives can be saved by taking simple steps such as installing smoke alarms in homes.”

The Roseland/West Pullman community is one of the highest response zones in the city of Chicago where volunteers are called to help. The Red Cross last month assisted families following an early morning, fatal blaze Sept. 8 on the 11000 block of S. Vernon Avenue. Four children died and dozens of families were displaced. The Red Cross provided means for food, shelter, infant supplies and clothing. Disaster relief workers also opened a resource center with other community agencies near the scene to determine long-term recovery plans for the affected families.

The Team Firestopper program works to prevent home fires as part of the Red Cross’ effort to build disaster-resistant communities. Volunteers host safety fairs to teach preparedness techniques and arm people with equipment such as smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers and surge protectors. They also canvass neighborhoods walking door-to-door with fire prevention information.

Two Simple Steps to Save Lives 

There are simple steps every household can take right now to prevent home fires and save lives. The Red Cross is calling on everyone to take two simple steps that can save lives: check their existing smoke alarms and practice fire drills at home. 

There are several other things families and individuals can do to increase their chances of surviving a fire: 

  • If someone doesn’t have smoke alarms, install them. At a minimum, put one on every level of the home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Local building codes vary and there may be additional requirements where someone lives. 
  • If someone does have alarms, test them today. If they don’t work, replace them. 
  • Make sure that everyone in the family knows how to get out of every room and how to get out of the home in less than two minutes. 
  • Practice that plan. What’s the household’s escape time? 
  • New Poll Shows Many People Have False Sense of Security about Fire Safety 

    The Red Cross fire prevention campaign comes at a time when a new national survey shows many Americans have a false sense of security about surviving a fire. The survey, conducted for the Red Cross, shows that people mistakenly believe they have more time than they really do to escape a burning home. 

    Fire experts agree that people may have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home before it’s too late to get out. But most Americans (62 percent) mistakenly believe they have at least five minutes to escape. Nearly one in five (18 percent) believe they have 10 minutes or more. 

    When asked about their confidence levels in actually escaping a burning home, roughly four in 10 of those polled (42 percent) believed they could get out in two minutes. While 69 percent of parents believe their children would know what to do or how to escape with little help, the survey found that many families had not taken necessary steps to support that level of confidence. 

  • Less than one in five of families with children age 3-17 (18 percent) report that they’ve actually practiced home fire drills. 
  • Less than half of parents (48 percent) have talked to their families about fire safety. 
  • Only one third of families with children (30 percent) have identified a safe place to meet outside their home. 
  • The Red Cross responds to nearly 70,000 disasters each year in the United States and the vast majority of those are home fires. In the Greater Chicago Region, the Red Cross responded to more than 1,200 home fires last year. You can help people affected by disasters like home fires and countless other crises by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. 

    These local safety events are made possible due to the generous support of Presenting Sponsor Motorola Solutions Foundation as well as support from Pivotal Home Solutions, UL, First Alert and Ace. Visit or call (312) 729-6265 for more information or to learn about volunteer opportunities with the Team Firestopper program. 

    The national public opinion survey was conducted for the Red Cross July 17-20, 2014 using ORC International’s Online CARAVAN omnibus survey. The study was conducted among a national sample of 1,130 American adults, including 311 parents of children aged 3-17. 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 of 1,130 adults is +/- 2.92 percent. The margin of error for the sample of 311 parents is +/- 5.56 percent. 

    About the American Red Cross: The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or visit us on Twitter at @ChicagoRedCross and @RedCross.