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Volunteers Bring Fire Safety Tips to Families across the U.S.


A stack of fire safety door hangers and a determination to serve.

That’s what thousands of volunteers carried with them during the past three Martin Luther King, Jr. Days of Service as they went door-to-door in neighborhoods across America. Their message: how to heat and cook safely, the value of smoke alarms and the need to create and practice a fire escape plan.

Brett Kreider was one of those volunteers. Brett, his wife Beth, and their children, Logan, Noah and Elena, are HOPE worldwide volunteers in Northern Virginia. The entire Kreider family spent the 2010 King Day of Service distributing fire safety materials. “It’s a great opportunity for the whole family to get involved,” Brett says.

Volunteers also included the Reverend Chip Mitchell, his wife Ruby, and their young son and daughter. The first year the Mitchells volunteered, they were worried that their daughter would be exhausted. It didn’t take long to realize she was having a lot of fun and didn’t want the project to end. The next year the Mitchells again spent their Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday helping families learn to prevent home fires.

The Mitchells and the Kreiders joined HOPE worldwide, American Red Cross and other volunteers in talking to residents in neighborhoods where fires have recently occurred. When no one was at home they left fire safety and prevention door hangers printed in both English and Spanish.

Nationwide Fire Safety Effort

Scenes of volunteers canvassing vulnerable neighborhoods with their fire safety message were repeated in dozens of cities.

Volunteers provided fire safety tips in six Chicago neighborhoods where recently there have been high numbers of catastrophic residential and commercial fires. About 200 volunteers reached 7,500 people.

When visiting one family, a volunteer smelled gas. After a call, the fire department arrived at the home and found a major gas leak. In another Chicago neighborhood, canvassing volunteers happened upon a resident busily cleaning up after a home fire of her own.

Seventy volunteers canvassed Sun Valley, Nevada, spreading the word about fire safety. Miss Teen Nevada, dressed in her crown and sash, went door-to-door with the group. Because of their community spirit, 1,100 people now have the information they need to help prevent fires and know what to do should a fire occur.

More than 1,000 HOPE worldwide and American Red Cross volunteers provided fire safety information to 32,000 households in the Boston area during the 2010 King Day of Service. Volunteers canvassed in six neighborhoods that had a high incidence of home fires in the past year.

Among the volunteers were a woman and her mother who decided to participate when they learned the effort focused on fire safety. The women had been displaced from their home after a kitchen fire, and are still living with relatives. They wanted to help so others would not experience what they were going through.

Three Years—20,000 Satisfied Volunteers

Participation in the Red Cross/HOPE worldwide fire safety program has grown significantly over the last three years: 10 cities in 2008; 26 cities in 2009; and in 2010, the final year of the pilot program, 44 cities.

The number of involved volunteers also skyrocketed, from just over 2,000 in 2008 to more than 12,000 in 2010. Overall, a total of more than 20,000 volunteers helped get out the message about ways to prevent home fires and how to protect yourself and your family should a fire occur.

People liked the program; 93 percent said the event was successful. Another 93 percent of HOPE worldwide and Red Cross volunteers want to work with each other on future events and activities.

Canvassing focused on neighborhoods vulnerable to fire and where the Red Cross had responded to fires. Getting prevention information to households in these areas goes a long way toward reducing home fires.

Home fires are America’s biggest disaster threat. Every day the Red Cross helps people affected by more than 170 home fires (that’s one every eight minutes), providing clothing, food and lodging. More than 94 percent of the 67,000 disasters the Red Cross responds to each year are fire related.

Learn how to prevent fires in your own home and what to do should a fire occur on the American Red Cross Web site. A Fire Prevention & Safety Checklist is available in both English and Spanish.