Each year, home fires claim more lives that all natural disasters combined, and as the temperatures drop there is an increase in these type of incidents. This past week, from December 20 through today, Red Cross volunteers with the Disaster Action Team responded to 25 home fires across Chicagoland. Volunteers responded to incidents in Bolingbrook, Buffalo Grove, Elwood, Hazel Crest, Lockport, Lyons, Round Lake and more, including 16 home fires in Chicago.
This past week, volunteers with the American Red Cross assisted 80 individuals, including 65 adults and 15 children with a temporary place to stay, emergency financial assistance, food, relief items like toiletries, health and mental health services, and one-on-one support to connect people to available recovery assistance.
If you or someone you know needs assistance after a home fire or local disaster, please call our dispatch line: 1-877-597-0747.
Home fires are the nation’s most frequent disaster. Help keep your family safe by testing your smoke alarms and practicing your two-minute home fire escape drill — the amount of time that experts say you may have to get out before it’s too late. Teach children what a smoke alarm sounds like and talk about fire safety and what to do in an emergency.
For more information about home fire safety, please visit redcross.org/fire. Download our free Emergency app (search “American Red Cross” in app stores or go to redcross.org/apps). Children can also learn what to do during a home fire and other emergencies with free resources at redcross.org/YouthPrep.
Here is a reminder of safety measures that you can take to help keep you and your loved ones safe:
Cold Weather and Heating Safety
- Provide at least three feet of space for all heating equipment. This is critical because most home heating fire tragedies occur when flammable items like furniture, rugs and drapes are too close.
- In addition, never leave space heaters unattended — as they’re involved in most fatal home heating fires.
- If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, such as a ceramic tile floor. Don’t place it on rugs and carpets, or near bedding and drapes. And turn it off every time you leave the room or go to sleep.
- Look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over.
- Plug power cords directly into outlets and never into an extension cord.
- Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Use a glass or metal fire screen to keep fire and embers in the fireplace.
- Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
- Failure to clean heating equipment is also a leading factor of home heating fires. Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces and chimneys inspected annually by a professional – and cleaned if necessary.
- Never leave cooking food unattended. If you need to leave the kitchen, even for a short period of time, turn off the stove.
- Avoid wearing loose clothing while cooking.
- Keep a pan lid or a cookie sheet nearby. Use it to cover the pan if it catches on fire. This will put out the fire. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
- Turn pot handles to the back of the stove, so no one bumps them or pulls them over.
Covid-19 Strains Blood Supply for Patients
Historically low blood supply levels not seen in more than a decade persist. To meet the increasing needs of hospital patients, the Red Cross distributed 250,000 more blood products in 2021 than last year, until the delta variant began to spread in August. The pandemic also resulted in fewer blood drives at schools and colleges, contributing to a 34% drop in new blood donors from last year — one of the largest year-to-year decreases that could threaten essential medical care for patients.
Blood donations are needed now to meet the needs of accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease.
HOW YOU CAN HELP Potential donors are urged to schedule an appointment now by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). If there is not an immediate opportunity available to donate, donors are asked to make an appointment in the days and weeks ahead to ensure the Red Cross can replenish and then maintain a sufficient blood supply.
Blood drive safety
Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including face masks for donors and staff, regardless of vaccination status – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive.
Save time during donation
Donors can also save up to 15 minutes at the blood drive by completing a RapidPass®. With RapidPass®, donors complete the pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of donation, from a mobile device or computer. To complete a RapidPass®, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Red Cross Blood Donor App.
To donate blood, individuals need to bring a blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification that are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also must meet certain height and weight requirements.
Health insights for donors
At a time when health information has never been more important, the Red Cross is screening all blood, platelet and plasma donations from self-identified African American donors for the sickle cell trait. This additional screening will provide Black donors with an additional health insight and help the Red Cross identify compatible blood types more quickly to help patients with sickle cell disease who require trait-negative blood. Blood transfusion is an essential treatment for those with sickle cell disease, and blood donations from individuals of the same race, ethnicity and blood type have a unique ability to help patients fighting sickle cell disease.
Donors can expect to receive sickle cell trait screening results, if applicable, within one to two weeks through the Red Cross Blood Donor App and the online donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org.
About the American Red Cross of Illinois
The American Red Cross of Illinois serves 12.4 million people in 88 counties in Illinois, Iowa and Missouri including Adams, Bond, Boone, Brown, Bureau, Carroll, Cass, Champaign, Christian, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Cook, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, DeKalb, De Witt, Douglas, DuPage, Edgar, Effingham, Fayette, Ford, Franklin, Fulton, Green, Grundy, Hamilton, Hancock, Henderson, Henry, Iroquois, Jasper, Jefferson, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Knox, LaSalle, Lake, Lee, Livingston, Logan, Macon, Macoupin, Marion, Marshall, Mason, McDonough, McHenry, McLean, Menard, Mercer, Montgomery, Morgan, Moultrie, Ogle, Peoria, Perry, Piatt, Pike, Putnam, Richland, Rock Island, Sangamon, Schuyler, Scott, Shelby, Stark, Stephenson, Tazewell, Vermillion, Warren, Washington, Whiteside, Will, Williamson Winnebago, Woodford. Iowa: Lee, Muscatine, Scott and Van Buren. Missouri: Clark, Lewis, Marion and Ralls. The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit us at Redcross.org/Illinois or visit us on Twitter @RedCrossIL.