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Volunteers Educate Thousands to Be Prepared

MLK Day of Service

Boy Scouts from New York Troop 50 participate in fire safety canvassing with the Red Cross of Northeastern New York.

Volunteers were surprised to find that several households did not have working smoke alarms and they really felt like they made a difference.

Hundreds of American Red Cross volunteers are spending this week distributing fire safety and disaster preparedness information to thousands across the country as a part of Youth Preparedness Week and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service.

Both projects aim to better prepare communities and people for an emergency situation. The Red Cross responds to about 70,000 disasters each year and more than 90 percent of them are fire-related.

“People are eager to have this information, and they are sharing it,” said Linda Henderson, a volunteer for the Red Cross Alabama Gulf Coast Chapter. “I gave one to a lady at CVS, and she wanted more for her daughter and neighbors.”

Youth Preparedness Week

January 20 – 24 is Youth Preparedness Week. Red Cross chapters and youth volunteers are focused on reaching young people with preparedness tips and information through social media, Red Cross Clubs and training opportunities.

Earlier this week, the Red Cross Western Washington Region educated about 70 elementary-aged children in disaster preparedness and first aid skills while engaging about 240 adults in building more than 200 emergency supply kits.

“Fires and other disasters ruin lives in America every day, but it doesn't have to be that way,” said Russ Paulsen, executive director of Community Preparedness and Resilience Services for the Red Cross. “Young people can show all of us how we can be better prepared.”

MLK Day of Service

The Red Cross and HOPE worldwide joined forces to mark the MLK Day of Service.

In more than 35 cities, Red Cross and HOPE worldwide volunteers, along with hundreds of partners from fire departments, emergency management offices and other community organizations, canvassed neighborhoods over the weekend and handed out information on fire safety and creating an emergency plan.

To reach at-risk communities, many chapters used data from local fire departments to identify neighborhoods with high rates of home fires.

Volunteers from the Greater St. Louis Chapter canvassed two neighborhoods in Mehlville, Missouri, where five home-fire related fatalities occurred last year. Approximately 30 volunteers went door-to-door to more than 300 homes encouraging residents to test their smoke alarms, establish a meeting place and determine an escape route.

“Volunteers returned surprised to find that several households did not have working smoke alarms and they really felt like they made a difference,” said Natalie Gemberling, who works in youth preparedness for the Greater St. Louis Chapter as an AmeriCorps National Preparedness and Response Corps member.

This is the seventh year the Red Cross and HOPE worldwide have joined forces to mark the MLK holiday with a disaster preparedness service project.

Get Prepared

To be prepared for a disaster situation, people should review the Red Cross information on creating an emergency kit and emergency plan.

The Red Cross and Disney also offer Disney’s Mickey & Friends Disaster Preparedness Activity Books in English and Spanish. Targeted to children in grades 2 – 4, they teach children and their families what to expect before, during, and after a disaster in a fun and interactive way.

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, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.