A fire can destroy everything that makes four walls a home in just two minutes — but working smoke alarms can help prevent it from taking your life.
That’s why the American Red Cross is working with community partners to install free smoke alarms and share fire safety information with families through our Home Fire Campaign — which has now helped to save more than 1,500 lives since launching in 2014. Roughly one-third of those who survived were children.
Here are some of their stories:
‘THEY CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE’ Cherise Coleman and her family escaped a fire unharmed last fall at their Nevada home, thanks to free smoke alarms installed a few years earlier through the Home Fire Campaign.
The fire started in the garage late at night, setting off a smoke alarm that alerted Cherise and her family to get out. As they watched firefighters put out the blaze, Red Cross volunteers arrived to help, giving her daughters teddy bears for comfort, helping the family secure a hotel stay and talking with Cherise about her next steps.
“I appreciate them,” Cherise said. “They put smiles on my kids' face. They made me feel comfort in the time of need and adversity, and they were understanding.”
Cherise credits the smoke alarms with saving her and her family’s lives — and encourages others to request a home visit through the Home Fire Campaign.
“You must be proactive not reactive,” she added. “Having the Red Cross come over and install smoke alarms is proactive. If you are just reactive, you can lose your life. You have got to make time for the Red Cross. They can save your life.”
WITHOUT SMOKE ALARM, ‘I WOULD BE GONE’ A fire in your home is a terrible experience. But imagine suffering through it while battling the coronavirus.
That’s what happened to Carlyn Floyd. The Georgia resident was sick in bed with COVID-19 when a fire started and quickly spread from the other part of her duplex. Upon hearing her smoke alarm, Carlyn and her 1-year-old dog LaLa escaped immediately.
The fire destroyed her home, but the smoke alarm — installed just three months earlier through the campaign by local firefighters— saved her and her furry friend’s lives.
“If it hadn’t been for that smoke detector, I would be gone,” she said. “Due to that smoke alarm, I’m able to talk to you.”
FAMILY ESCAPES BLAZE Last spring, Clarence Weber and his family stood outside the Illinois home he lived in for 41 years and watched as firefighters fought a fire raging from the basement.
Weber had heard a small explosion in the basement followed by the high-pitched tone of two smoke alarms going off. He got himself and his wife, daughter and granddaughter out of the home safely. The family’s four pets — two dogs, a cat and a lizard — also escaped with the help of the firefighters.
Just eight days earlier, Red Cross volunteers had installed new free smoke alarms at the home to replace older ones that the family estimated were at least 20 years old.
“It makes a difference,” Clarence said. “It could have been my entire house without them and possibly the loss of a life or a pet.”
HOW TO STAY SAFE Help protect you and your family by testing your smoke alarms monthly and practicing your two-minute home fire escape drill. Follow these safety tips, which can also be downloaded on the free Red Cross Emergency app (search “American Red Cross” in mobile app stores):
- 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.
- Check the manufacturer’s date of your smoke alarms to see if they’re 10 years old or older. If so, they likely need to be replaced. Follow your alarm’s manufacturer instructions.
- 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.
- Teach children what a smoke alarm sounds like while practicing your escape plan. Talk about fire safety and what to do in an emergency.
Resources are also available in American Sign Language.
GET INVOLVED WITH THE CAMPAIGN Help save lives by becoming a volunteer or making a financial donation to prepare, respond and help families recover from home fires. Learn more at redcross.org/homefires.