In the first three months of 2021, Americans faced 16% more home fires than they did during the same period in 2020.
As the nation’s most frequent disaster, home fires have remained a constant threat during the COVID-19 pandemic as people have spent more time at home. From this past January to March, the Red Cross responded to nearly 17,000 home fires affecting more than 70,000 people across the country — an increase of 2,300 fires affecting nearly 9,000 more people than the same time last year.
“Home fires can happen anytime, anywhere, and it’s critical for all of us to protect ourselves,” said Trevor Riggen, senior vice president of Disaster Cycle Services for the American Red Cross. “Help keep your family safe by taking two simple steps: Practice your two-minute home fire escape drill and test your smoke alarms monthly.”
‘YOU CAN REPLACE THINGS; YOU CANNOT REPLACE PEOPLE’ CNN Entertainment Reporter Chloe Melas learned first-hand about the importance of preparing for home fires when a faulty fireplace sparked a devastating blaze. It spread behind the walls, filling her toddler’s bedroom with smoke and consuming much of her home — thankfully the entire family, including her two young sons, were able to escape safely wearing only the clothes on their backs.
“Something I’ll always remember, that the fire chief told me the night of our fire, is that, ‘You can replace things; you cannot replace people,’” she said. “That has always stuck with me…We were just so grateful just to have each other. That’s what mattered.”
Watch Melas share her story and why she urges people to prepare for home fires: https://vimeo.com/528634903
TWO MINUTES TO ESCAPE Most of us don’t realize we have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home before it’s too late, according to a 2020 Red Cross survey. Follow these steps to help protect your family:
- Create an escape plan with at least two ways to exit every room in your home.
- Practice your plan until everyone in your household can get out in less than two minutes.
- 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. If they’re 10 years or older, they likely need to be replaced. Follow your alarm’s manufacturer instructions.
SOUND THE ALARM TO SAVE LIVES This spring, Red Cross volunteers and community partners are working together through a national Sound the Alarm effort to educate 100,000 people in at-risk communities about home fire safety. On May 8, across more than 50 cities nationwide, the Red Cross is hosting a day of action, where volunteers will meet with families by appointment outside their homes to review a home fire safety checklist and create an escape plan to practice their two-minute drill.
This annual Sound the Alarm initiative is a key part of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, which has saved at least 864 lives since launching in 2014. To learn more and to pledge to prepare your family against home fires, visit SoundTheAlarm.org.
This work is made possible thanks to generous financial donations from national partners: Delta Air Lines.
MORE HOME FIRE SAFETY ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS Parents can enable the Pedro’s Fire Challenge skill on Alexa-enabled devices to have “Pedro the Penguin,” a Red Cross youth program character, guide children through engaging activities and games to earn virtual fire safety badges. The Red Cross created the skill to help children learn core home fire and preparedness skills, such as identifying smoke alarm locations, crawling under smoke in a fire and ways to cope after a fire. Learn more in this video: https://vimeo.com/543341112/b66beda7f8