Dino Ingram is a Red Cross volunteer and contributing writer.
It's January 20th at 9:00 a.m. At this moment, teams of Red Cross volunteers in Manhattan, Topeka and Emporia are gathering and planning, with the single goal of raising their neighbors' awareness of the dangers of fires and provide them with safety tips and suggestions, designed to keep them safe. The teams will be canvassing their respective cities, talking to neighbors and passing out information about general fire safety, fire emergency planning, and recommendations on safe cooking and heating practices.
Fire awareness is something that people too often take for granted. That is a big mistake. Last year alone the Red Cross responded to almost 63,000 fire related calls. That makes up 90% of all the disaster responses by the Red Cross for the year.
The Kansas Capital Area Chapter of the Red Cross has been extremely active in fire response calls. Since July 1st, 2013, there have been more than 80 calls to the chapter for fire assistance. Those incidents alone have impacted more than 200 people. I spoke briefly with the Community Chapter Executive, Jo Ann Long. Jo Ann is entering her 8th year with the Red Cross and has been involved with non-profit organizations for almost twenty years. She understands the importance of raising fire awareness. She added," We want to raise every individual's awareness of fire dangers and get them thinking about fire safety and encouraging them to be extremely careful."
I also took the opportunity to find out more about one of the volunteers taking part in today's canvassing event. Doug Meyers is in his mid-twenties and the youngest of the 12 local volunteers who came out to “walk the community" today. He's the weekend meteorologist for WIBW here in Topeka and has been a Red Cross volunteer since the summer of 2013. WIBW has a strong emphasis on volunteerism, and it was through that initiative, that he became a volunteer. He likes getting out in the community and feels that his job as a meteorologist made him a good fit with the Red Cross since both endeavors focus on disasters related to the weather.
Raising awareness of the dangers and risk of fires has been an annual, national event for the Red Cross. The timing is appropriate, given the fact that January is Fire Awareness Month. Here in Topeka, they've been coordinating this effort for the last six years. Material resources for these events are always sparse. Annually the Kansas Capital Area Chapter provides Topeka, Manhattan and Emporia with about 2,000 door hangers that they divided accordingly. That's not a lot to go around. However, early last year, the Red Cross partnered with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, here in Topeka. Through that partnership, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas generously provided 6,000 door hangers to the Red Cross, to be divided between the three areas being canvassed on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Caring.
As a reminder, always exercise care and think about fire risks. I'm certain that things would have turned out quite differently for Mrs. O'Leary, her shed and the cow if the Red Cross had been doing fire awareness canvassing in 1871.