It’s the middle of the night and everyone in your house is fast asleep when suddenly the smoke alarm goes off. In an instant, you find yourself facing what you thought was an impossibility: a fire in your home. In a perfect scenario, you’d rush from room to room gathering your loved ones and heading for the closest exit following the emergency plan you’ve practiced over and over again. Unfortunately, if you’re like most households in the United States, your reality may not be quite so perfect or well thought out.
Many Americans grow up learning the procedures for proper fire safety in their schools, at work, community centers or other areas of public life which, in theory, means at the very least that they have placed smoke alarms in their homes. However, a recent survey conducted by the American Red Cross found that although many Americans are exposed to proper fire safety training, at least 40 percent believe that they are more likely to win the lottery than to suffer a home fire.
The truth is that many American households do not have an evacuation plan nor are people aware of the two-minute window of time that fire experts estimate people have to safely escape a burning home.
Each year, the American Red Cross responds to nearly 64,000 disasters, the majority of which are home fires. That means that roughly every eight minutes, the Red Cross is responding to a disaster somewhere in the United States. These home fires are serious incidents far more common than most Americans believe. Each day, seven people die and 36 people suffer injuries due to home fires and the largest number of deaths and injuries occur in young children and older adults.
In fact, a typical year finds that home fires kill more people than all natural disasters combined in the United States. So, what does that mean and how can we not become a statistic?
First, always be aware of potential fire hazards within your home and check them regularly. Cooking is the leading cause of home fires while heating equipment is a close second. As the weather gets colder, more and more families will be using alternative means to heat their homes. Being aware of what is turned on in your home and making sure that it is turned off before your leave each day is an important part of fire prevention.
Second, create an evacuation plan for your home and then practice it with every member of your family. Never assume that everyone in your home knows what to do. There may be only two minutes to escape, so make every second count.
Lastly, make sure that you have properly installed smoke alarms placed in strategic locations like inside bedrooms, hallways, or living spaces, and test them regularly. A working smoke alarm cuts the risk of death from a fire in half.
Although Americans overwhelmingly believe that smoke alarms can save lives, sadly one out of every 10 people have to sacrifice buying other essentials in order to purchase them. That is why in 2014, the Red Cross launched the Home Fire Campaign to bring together volunteers and community partners to help develop escape plans and provide free smoke alarms to those who need them the most.
This campaign includes signature Sound the Alarm events, home fire safety and smoke alarm installation events through which the Red Cross and partners have already installed more than 1.1 million free smoke alarms nationwide as well as offered training to implement escape plans. Over the last four years, these preventative measures have helped to save more than 470 lives.
On May 4, 2019 the American Red Cross of San Diego/Imperial Counties will hold a large-scale Sound the Alarm home fire safety and smoke alarm installation event in Chula Vista in an effort to save lives and help end home fire tragedies.
In the interim, free in-home smoke alarm installations are done throughout San Diego and Imperial Counties by appointment. If you or someone you know would like to receive a free installation, please fill out this form to make a request.
If you would like to contribute in other ways, you can join the Red Cross by volunteering to install smoke alarms in your community, making a financial contribution, or taking steps to protect your own family from home fires. Together, we can Sound the Alarm about fire safety and help save lives.
For more information about Sound the Alarm, visit soundthealarm.org/sandiego.