The last weekend before Christmas was a tough one for several families across Iowa, and a busy one for American Red Cross volunteers. Red Cross Disaster Action Team members responded to seven homes fires, and are helping 34 people move toward recovery. Over the weekend, Red Cross volunteers were called to a second apartment fire in as many months at the same complex in Dubuque, and single family home fires in Lost Nation, Pocahontas, Sioux City and Gowrie. They provided emotional support, and based on the families’ needs, a safe place to stay, food, clothing and replacement medications. The Disaster Action Team is a group of specially trained volunteers who respond to home fires when called upon at any time of the day or night. Red Cross case workers will continue to work with all of the families affected over the coming days to determine if there are other ways the Red Cross can help with their recoveries.
The Red Cross encourages everyone to take extra precautions with cooking and decorating during this holiday week. Christmas Day, Christmas Eve and Thanksgiving are the top three days for cooking fires, according to the National Fire Prevention Association. The Red Cross has some simple steps everyone can follow to prevent home fires around the holidays:
• Test your smoke alarms.
• Check food regularly while cooking and remain in the home while cooking. Use a timer as a reminder that the stove or oven is on.
• Enforce a “kid-free zone” in the cooking area and make children stay at least three feet away from the stove.
• Keep anything that can catch fire away from the stove, oven or any appliance in the kitchen that generates heat.
• Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.
• Purchase a fire extinguisher to keep in the kitchen. Contact the local fire department to receive training on the proper use of extinguishers.
• Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.
• Keep children, pets and decorations away from lit candles.
• Keep matches and lighters up high in a locked cabinet.
• Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini light sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Read manufacturer’s instructions for the number of LED strands to connect. Some strings of lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.
• Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.
• Keep decorations away from windows and doors.
People should also download the free American Red Cross First Aid app, which provides instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies. The apps can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross or by going to redcross.org/mobileapps. People can test their knowledge on how to prevent home fires by taking the Fire Safety Quiz, and can learn more about fire prevention by visiting redcross.org.
HOW YOU CAN HELP The Red Cross responds to nearly 70,000 disasters each year and the vast majority are home fires. 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 redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
VOLUNTEER The Red Cross is looking for diverse volunteers of all ages and skill levels. People can go to redcross.org/ia to learn more about volunteer opportunities and how to submit a volunteer application.