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Red Cross Survey: Misperceptions about Home Fires

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WASHINGTON DC – October 7, 2015 — According to a new American Red Cross survey, most people believe they have five – even ten – minutes to escape from a fire in their home. This false sense of security could be deadly as fire experts agree people may only have as long as two minutes to get out of a burning home before its too late.

 “This survey highlights that many people are still misinformed when it comes to home fire safety,” said Russ Paulsen, executive director, Community Preparedness Programs for the Red Cross. “Seven times a day someone in this country dies in a fire in their home, which is tragic as many of these deaths could be prevented.”

Conducted as part of the nationwide Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, the survey also revealed other misconceptions people have about home fires. The campaign is a multi-year effort by the Red Cross to reduce the number of home fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent.

 “We know smoke alarms cut the risk of death from a fire in half and that’s why the Red Cross is working with fire departments and community groups across the country to install smoke alarms and teach people about home fire safety,” said Paulsen. “We’re asking every household to take two simple steps that can save lives: check their existing smoke alarms and practice fire drills at home.”

 SURVEY RESULTS: Many of those surveyed (41 percent) feel confident they can get out of a burning home in under two minutes. And most parents (64 percent) believe their children would know what to do if a fire occurred.

 However, many of these families admitted they didn’t take key steps to help keep their family safe. Only about half of the parents surveyed (52 percent) talked to their families about fire safety. Only 10 percent of families have actually practiced home fire drills. And only about a quarter of families (24 percent) have identified a safe place where family members can meet outside the home.

 The survey also shows that Americans are engaging in unsafe behaviors that could result in home fires. More than a third of those surveyed (36 percent) admitted using candles when the power goes out instead of flashlights. And despite cooking being the leading cause of home fires, one in five (17 percent) have left cooking food unattended on the stove.

 TWO SIMPLE STEPS: People can take two simple steps that can help save lives: check their existing smoke alarms and practice fire drills at home.

  • Every household should develop a fire escape plan and practice it several times a year and at different times of the day.
    • Include two ways to get out of every room and consider escape ladders for sleeping areas or homes on the second floor or above.
    • Pick a place outside for everyone to meet and make sure everyone knows where it is.
    • Practice that home fire drill until everyone in the household can do it in less than two minutes.
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of the home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Test them every month and replace the batteries when needed.

26 LIVES SAVED IN A YEAR: In its first year, the Home Fire Campaign is credited with saving at least 26 lives in Louisiana, Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, South Dakota and Texas. More than 63,000 families are safer thanks to the smoke alarms and safety education they received in their homes from Red Cross volunteers, firefighters and other community partners. And more than 311,000 children have learned to be safer in emergencies from Red Cross volunteers and apps. The Red Cross and its partners have installed more than 125,000 smoke alarms in nearly 2,400 cities and towns.


Since the Home Fire Campaign began in October 2014 through the first of September 2015, the Red Cross and its partners have achieved the following results here in Colorado and Wyoming:

*           Visited 1,525 homes

*           Installed 2,420 smoke alarms and replaced 517 batteries in existing alarms

*           Helped 1,158 families make emergency plans

Upcoming Fire Campaigns for October 10th:

 *           Colorado Springs

*           City of Engelwood (Denver Area)

WHAT PEOPLE CAN DO: People can visit to find out more about how to protect themselves and their loved homes from fire. To find the location of smoke alarm installation events or to become a volunteer, contact your local Red Cross. People can help by donating to Red Cross Disaster Relief by visiting, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations to Disaster Relief will be used to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. We respond to nearly 70,000 other disasters every year, from home fires to wildfires and more. Learn more about how Disaster Relief donations have helped people affected by previous disasters including home fires.