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Red Cross Prepares Communities for MLK Day of Service Project

American Red Cross volunteers will be educating communities on fire safety and emergency planning this weekend as a part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service.

In partnership with HOPE worldwide, Red Cross volunteers in more than 35 cities will canvass neighborhoods, talk with residents and hand out door hangers on fire prevention, the importance of maintaining working smoke alarms and tips for creating an emergency plan.

“The American Red Cross responds to about 70,000 disasters every year—and more than 90 percent are fire-related,” said Jim Starr, vice president of Volunteer Management for the Red Cross. “In the spirit of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, Red Cross volunteers will go door-to-door to personally talk with residents about how they can prevent home fires and create an emergency plan.”

Only 43 percent of American families have an established household emergency plan, according to a recent FEMA report. In addition, while an out-of-town emergency contact person can be vital in helping people reconnect with loved ones or find temporary shelter during an emergency, less than one in three Americans—only 32 percent—have identified an out-of-town emergency contact.

To engage youth in keeping communities safe, the Red Cross MLK Day of Service activities will kick-off Youth Preparedness Week, January 20 – 24. Red Cross chapters and youth volunteers will focus on reaching young people with preparedness tips and information through social media, Red Cross Clubs and training opportunities.

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

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.

In September, FEMA honored the Red Cross and HOPE worldwide with a 2013 FEMA Individual and Community Preparedness Honorable Mention for their efforts to spread fire prevention and preparedness messages over the 2012 and 2013 MLK service days and the National Day of Service and Remembrance on September 11, 2012. Through these three events, 16,000 volunteers reached 349,000 households and held 58,000 conversations about fire safety and prevention.

People seeking additional information on fire safety and creating an emergency plan, should go to

Contact: Public Affairs Desk, Telephone: (202) 303-5551, FOR MEDIA ONLY

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.