Home fires are this country’s deadliest and most frequent type of disaster. Seven people in this country lose their lives to a fire in their home every day.
Because of these tragic statistics, the American Red Cross launched its Home Fire Campaign to reduce home fire-related deaths and injuries. Since its start in 2014, the campaign is credited with helping save more than 2,000 lives. Roughly one-third of those who survived were children.
As part of the Home Fire Campaign, the Red Cross works with local partners to install free smoke alarms and share fire safety information with families. Through the support of our community partners and dedicated volunteers, the campaign has installed 2.7 million smoke alarms and helped to make 1.1 million homes safer.
Bettye was at home with her family last December when her newly installed smoke alarms sounded. “Everybody automatically ran downstairs to check and see where it was coming from,” she said. “There was black soot, smoke inside the home, but we didn't see any fire. So we thought it was the Christmas tree.”
“My grandson was standing over here, and he opened the garage door, and that's what it was,” Bettye added. “The flames were already high. My husband, he jumped over to the door and he said, ‘Everybody get out, get out!’ And so we all just left out through the front door.”
Standing across the street, Bettye was surrounded by neighbors who rallied around to help and call 911. “The Red Cross came out the same night,” Bettye recalled. “The same two guys that came and put my smoke alarms in were the same two guys that came out the same night. And they truly helped us a lot, because at that time we didn't know where we was going to go.”
The smoke alarms that helped save Bettye and her family’s lives were installed just two months earlier by Robert and Mike during a Sound the Alarm event through the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign. After the fire, the volunteers also provided immediate relief, including emergency financial assistance.
“I didn't know what I was going to do that night,” Bettye said. “But they came out, and they gave me a hug and everything, and told me it's going to be okay. And they took me onto the next step.”
In the days following the fire, they continued to check on Bettye to ensure she had what she needed to navigate her recovery. “They called me, which made me feel like somebody cared,” Bettye said. “These guys are awesome.”
HOW TO STAY SAFE
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. 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):
Install 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.
Home fire safety resources are also available in American Sign Language. If you are deaf or hard of hearing and require assistive fire safety equipment, complete this form to request an in-home visit.
HOW YOU CAN HELP After a home fire, Red Cross volunteers work with fire departments to connect with families for needs like emergency lodging, financial assistance and emotional support. Our services are free and available for all those in need. Visit redcross.org and make a donation to support our lifesaving work. There is also a need for volunteers to help families affected by home fires and other disasters. Visit redcross.org/volunteertoday to become a volunteer.