(ASHEVILLE, N.C. – June 8, 2017) – Seven times a day someone in this country dies in a home fire. In fact, home fires kill more people than natural disasters, most in homes that lack working smoke alarms.
Last fall, the American Red Cross partnered with many Haywood County emergency agencies, all Haywood County Fire Departments, and various churches in an ongoing effort to reduce death and injury from home fires. More than 200 hours of planning went into the one day event in which representatives from these agencies went door-to-door to check and install smoke alarms and help families create home fire escape plans. That day, more than 350 homes were made safer by installing 1,080 smoke alarms and helping families create escape plans. This spring, the effort resulted in 4 lives being saved.
On April 17, at about 9:15 p.m., a Canton resident was alerted to a fire in her laundry area by a smoke alarm. The resident quickly evacuated herself and three other household members from the home. Four new smoke alarms were installed, a home fire safety checklist was reviewed and a fire escape plan was created during an in-home visit that was completed on November 5, 2016, in collaboration with the Center Pigeon Fire Department and volunteers from Crestview Baptist Church.
“Having a working smoke alarm nearly doubles your chances of surviving a home fire,” said Alli Trask, executive director of the American Red Cross Asheville – Mountain Area Chapter. “Four lives in Haywood County being saved because of the Home Fire Campaign really makes me realize the impact of the campaign and the importance of working smoke alarms. The Red Cross is committed to continuing to mobilize volunteers and local partners to help people protect and prepare both their families and communities.”
“In emergency management, our goal is to save lives, not by responding to calls but through public education and preparedness,” said Zack Koonce, Haywood County Assistant Emergency Management Coordinator. “When an Incident like this occurs, it is a reminder of how important community outreach projects like this county wide smoke detector campaign are. If it had not been for great collaboration and team work of all agencies in Haywood County, we would not have been able to have held such successful campaign.”
The Red Cross launched its nationwide Home Fire Campaign in 2014 to reduce the number of deaths and injuries due to home fires by 25 percent by the end of 2019. To date, the campaign has saved at least 235 lives and installed more than more than 840,000 smoke alarms across the United States.
As part of the Home Fire Campaign, the Asheville – Mountain Area Chapter is well on its way to surpassing its goal of 1,750 this year with 1,689 already installed. So far this fiscal year, the Western North Carolina Region, which serves the 47 westernmost counties in North Carolina and of which the Asheville – Mountain Area Chapter is part, has helped make nearly 1,800 homes safer and has installed nearly 5,000 alarms.
“Home fires are the most prevalent disaster facing families in western North Carolina, and are tragic and devastating to those who experience them”, said Angela A. Broome, regional executive, American Red Cross Western North Carolina Region. “The smoke alarms installed through this initiative today and in the days to come will be out there protecting families every day for years to come, thanks to the dedication of our volunteers and partners going door-to-door in their communities. We are grateful to them for their hard work in achieving this milestone.”
“The most common problems that we see when inspecting smoke detectors are that the batteries have been removed, the detector life has expired, or they are just not present,” said Johnny Pless, Center Pigeon Fire Chief. “With the help of the Red Cross, Crestview Baptist Church, Dutch Cove Baptist Church, Morning Star Methodist Church, and Canton First Baptist Church, we installed more than 200 smoke alarms in our community in a single day. The smoke detectors that were installed during this drive are maintenance free with a sealed 10-year battery. They will provide 10 years of protection with the occupants only having to do a periodic test.”
To make homes and families safer, the Red Cross asks everyone to take two simple steps to help prevent injury and death during a fire – check their smoke alarms and practice fire drills at home. Every household should develop a fire escape plan and practice it several times a year and at different times of the day. The plan should include two ways to get out of every room and a place to meet outside. Consider escape ladders for sleeping areas or homes on the second floor or above.
Install smoke alarms on every level of the home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. The alarms should be tested every month and the batteries replaced at least once a year.
To volunteer and be a part of the Home Fire Campaign, or if you are in need of smoke alarms for your home, please visit redcross.org/local/north-carolina/western-north-carolina/home-fire-safety.
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.
The Western North Carolina Region proudly serves the 47 counties in the western half of the state, 53% of the state’s population. For more information, visit redcross.org/nc or follow us at https://www.facebook.com/NCWesternREDCROSS.