When Vanessa Downing welcomed American Red Cross volunteers and local firefighters into her home to install free smoke alarms, she had no idea that visit in March 2018 would save her life.
Less than two years later, Downing awoke to the sound of one of those smoke alarms alerting her to safely escape a blaze at her home in Trenton, New Jersey.
“If it wasn’t for the alarms the Trenton Fire Department and American Red Cross installed in my house, I wouldn’t be here today,” she said.
Downing is one of at least 916 people whose lives have been saved through the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign. Launched with community partners in October 2014, the national campaign aims to reduce deaths and injuries from home fires — which claim an average of seven lives each day in the U.S.
To help, volunteers and partners share fire safety information, install free smoke alarms and help families create fire escape plans in at-risk communities. Thanks to donations, these services are free for all those in need and have reached more than 2.4 million people so far across the country. As of June 2021, the campaign has:
- Installed more than 2.2 million smoke alarms
- Reached more than 1.6 million children through youth preparedness programs like The Pillowcase Project and Prepare with Pedro.
- Made more than 941,000 households safer
Read more stories about the lives saved through the campaign and the volunteers who have helped them at redcross.org/HomeFireStories.
HOW TO KEEP YOUR FAMILY SAFE
Home fires are the most frequent U.S. disaster, accounting for the vast majority of emergencies that the Red Cross responds to every eight minutes. Follow these steps to help protect you and your family:
- Test your smoke alarms each month and practice your escape plan until everyone can get out in less than two minutes — the amount of time that fire experts say you may have to safely escape.
- In your escape plan, include at least two ways to exit every room in your home. Select a meeting spot at a safe distance away from your home, such as your neighbor’s home or landmark like a specific tree in your front yard, where everyone knows to meet.
- While practicing your escape plan, teach children what a smoke alarm sounds like. Talk about fire safety and what to do in an emergency.
- Place smoke alarms on each level of your home, including inside and outside bedrooms and sleeping areas. Change the batteries at least once a year, if your model requires it.
- Also check the manufacturer’s date of your smoke alarms. If they’re 10 years or older, they likely need to be replaced. Follow your alarm’s manufacturer instructions.
Access free home fire safety information and preparedness resources at redcross.org/fire and on the free Red Cross Emergency app (search “American Red Cross” in mobile app stores). In addition, resources for kids are at redcross.org/YouthPrep.