Disasters can strike at any time, and the American Red Cross serving Greater Iowa encourages everyone to take the first step during National Preparedness Month and join America’s PrepareAthon, creating a disaster plan for their household that can help keep people safe in an emergency.
“Having an emergency plan is an important step so everyone in the household knows what they should do if something happens,” said Dan Cataldi, Regional Disaster Program Manager for the Iowa Region. “We believe people should mark National Preparedness Month by creating or updating their plan.”
HOME FIRES The most common threat people face in Iowa and across the country is a fire in their home. National Preparedness Month is a good time to develop a fire escape plan and practice it with everyone in the household. When developing the plan, walk through the home and look at all exits and possible escape routes, including windows. List two ways to get out of every room in case fire blocks one of the paths. Pick a place to meet outside, a safe distance away and – no matter the circumstances – stay out of the home until fire officials say it is okay to go back inside. All households should practice their plan at least twice a year.
People should also install smoke alarms on every level of their home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. They should test the alarms monthly, replace the batteries at least once a year and replace them every ten years.
As part of National Preparedness Month, Red Cross volunteers and will install smoke alarms on Saturday, September 20 in Nevada. Volunteers will canvass neighborhoods designated by Nevada and Story County officials, installing smoke alarms, new batteries and sharing vital fire safety and other preparedness information. The Red Cross in Iowa is committed to making our communities more fire safe and is working with the Iowa State Fire Marshal’s office and fire departments across the state to continue that mission. Recent smoke alarm installation projects include:
- On December 15, 2012, more than 80 volunteers from across Iowa installed smoke alarms throughout the town of Lake City following the deaths of three children and an adult in a November fire. A year later, a family of six was saved when a smoke alarm installed by firefighters and Red Cross volunteers alerted them to a fire.
- On September 11, 2013, volunteers with the Red Cross, the United Way of Wapello County, Ottumwa Fire Department and Wapello County Rural Fire installed 221 smoke alarms and provided disaster preparedness information to more than 500 homes.
- On October 12, 2013, 475 volunteers with the Red Cross and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints partnered with the Des Moines Fire Department and canvassed the Highland Park neighborhood. Volunteers knocked on nearly 3,000 doors and installed more than 2,100 smoke alarms in one day! The Des Moines fire department continues that effort each and every day.
- On May 7, 2014, Red Cross volunteers, Newton High School students and Newton firefighters canvassed “high risk” neighborhoods as part of “Newton Red Pride Day. “ Volunteers knocked on 212 doors, and installed new smoke alarms or replaced batteries in more than 80 homes.
- On July 19, 2014, Volunteers with Red Cross, Arlington Fire and EMS, Fayette County Sheriff’s Department and Fayette County Emergency Management installed 43 new smoke alarms and provided disaster preparedness information to more than 150 homes in Arlington in northeast Iowa.
- On January 24, 2014, a house fire killed five people (three adults and two children) in a home about four miles southwest of Arlington.
MAKE A PLAN Everyone in the household should help put the emergency plan together so they know what they should do if something occurs. Because everyone may not be together at home when a disaster happens, the plan should include ways to contact one another and two places to meet – one near the home in case of a sudden emergency like a fire, and one outside the neighborhood in case circumstances prevent people from returning home. The plan should also identify an emergency contact person from outside the area in case local telephone lines are overloaded or out of service.
Any emergency plan should also include decisions about where to go if ordered to evacuate and what route to take to get there. It’s a good idea to include alternate routes in case roads are closed. Don’t forget family pets. Make sure to include plans for them such as pet-friendly hotels and animal shelters along the evacuation route.
RED CROSS APPS The Red Cross has developed mobile apps that provide information on what to do before, during and after emergencies, including a “Make a Plan” feature on how to develop an emergency plan. The free apps can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross.