American Red Cross volunteers with the Disaster Action Team responded to 28 home fires in Chicagoland from January 4 through today. These incidents impacted 86 people in Blue Island, Harvey, Joliet, Robbins and more, including Chicago where 17 of these home fires occurred. The Red Cross provided temporary housing, health and mental health services, financial assistance and information about recovery planning to 58 adults and 28 children impacted by these incidents.
In the past week, our volunteers also responded to three home fires that sadly resulted in the loss of lives.
Annually, home fires claim more lives than all natural disasters combined. As the weather gets colder, we see an increase in home fires. Every second counts when there is a home fire. A fire can take a home in as little as two minutes. Therefore, escaping in less than two minutes can be the difference between survival and tragedy. The Red Cross encourages everyone to talk to their children about fire safety to help families stay safe. We want to ensure families and children are prepared.
TWO STEPS TO PREVENT FIRE TRAGEDIES To help protect your family year-round, test your smoke alarms monthly and practice your home fire escape plan until everyone can escape in less than two minutes.
Nearly all of us have engaged in ordinary activities that can cause home fires – from walking out of the kitchen while cooking to leaving burning candles unattended. The Red Cross urges everyone to be cautious while heating their homes. A 2020 national Red Cross survey showed than more than half of us have used a space heater – which is involved in most fatal home heating fires. Provide at least three feet of space for all heating equipment, and never leave space heaters unattended.
Follow these additional tips on HOW TO HEAT YOUR HOME:
- 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; keep away children and pets.
- Plug space heater power cords directly into outlets – never into an extension cord. Turn it off every time you leave the room or go to sleep.
- Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
- Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Use a glass or metal fire screen to keep fire and embers in the fireplace.
- Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces and chimneys inspected annually by a professional and cleaned if necessary.
In addition, if you live in an apartment building, it’s also important that you have an escape plan and working smoke alarms in your unit.
HOW TO STAY SAFE Residents can follow these tips to help stay safe:
- Learn the building’s fire safety features, including fire alarms, sprinklers and evacuation plans.
- Make sure all exits are clearly marked and not blocked.
- Know locations of all available exit stairwells, as one or more of the exits might be blocked by fire.
- Individuals with access or functional needs, including a disability, should learn where the closest area of safe refuge is.
- Identify a meeting place for members of your household that is outside and away from the building.
- Talk to your apartment management if you have concerns about alarms or sprinklers in your unit.
- If smoke of fire enters your unit and you cannot immediately escape, call 9-1-1 to report your location. Open a window slightly; wave a bright cloth or a light at night to identify your location. If smoke enters the unit, stay low to the floor to breathe the best air.
For free home fire safety resources, including an escape plan, visit redcross.org/fire or download the free Red Cross Emergency App. In addition, the free Monster Guard app reaches children how to prepare for emergencies by playing an engaging game. Download the apps by searching “American Red Cross” in app stores or going to redcross.org/apps.
If you need assistance after a home fire or disaster, please call our dispatch line: 1-877-597-0747.
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.