‘Tis the night before Christmas, and all through your house, not a creature is stirring—until your downstairs smoke alarm starts shrieking. Fortunately, you and your spouse are able to wake the kids, grab the dog, and flee to safety. In just over two minutes, your home is lost.
Could that really happen? More often than you might think. Every eight minutes the American Red Cross responds to some kind of disaster around the nation—and most of those calls are related to fires in the home. Worst of all are the fires that occur in the middle of the night, when most occupants are least-prepared to escape them.
Just a few extra minutes can mean the difference between safety and disaster. In a recent survey, 62 percent of those questioned said they thought they would have at least five minutes to evacuate their burning home. However, that’s more than double the time you actually have! The real evacuation “window” is only about two minutes.
The potential for home fires burns even hotter during the Christmas holiday season, due to colder temperatures, an increased number of indoor activities, more cooking events, and the heavier electrical demand placed on appliances, home wiring, and heating units, according to Craig Kirkpatrick, ambassador for the Red Cross in Teton County.
Nationally, the Red Cross has launched a Home Fire Campaign aimed at cutting the number of fire-related deaths by 25 percent over the course of five years. Because early warning is critical to people’s ability to safely escape a fire, installing FREE smoke detectors in homes is a key Red Cross strategy for achieving that significant reduction.
Red Cross volunteers in communities all over the country – including Jackson and other Wyoming towns – are visiting homes to check on smoke arlams, change dead batteries in existing smoke alarms, and install up to three new ones—all absolutely free of charge. The volunteers also spend time walking residents through fire safety tips and emergency evacuation plans.
Installations will take place in Jackson on Sunday, Jan. 10, and Sunday, Feb. 7. If you cannot afford smoke alarms or need help from the Red Cross installing smoke alarms or changing the batteries on your existing smoke alarms, you can sign up for a home visit online at http://redcross.setmore.com or by calling 307-439-4167. Sign-up forms are available at several local churches, the Community Resource Center, and the Senior Center.
Several Red Cross volunteers in Jackson are also members of the Teton County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), which has taught more than 500 residents and workers how to use extinguishers. Thanks to this expertise, visits in Jackson will also include information about fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide detectors.
To prepare for January’s installation events in Jackson, local volunteers recently attended a training session in which they practiced installing alarms, reviewed fire safety education details, and made plans for covering a potential distance of nearly 60 miles—from north of Moran to south of Hoback. Because the program covers such a wide geography and has such a lofty goal, the Red Cross is still seeking additional volunteers to help install smoke alarms and educate residents about fire safety. If you are interested in joining the volunteer effort, please contact Craig Kirkpatrcisk at email@example.com
Kirkpatrick said local residents may also want to get in the Christmas giving spirit by making a donation to Red Cross Disaster Relief at redcross.org or by calling 1-800REDCROSS.