“Are you with the fire engine?” a mother asked the Red Cross volunteer. Her young son stood next to her, barely able to contain his excitement. The volunteer was in front of a cherry red fire engine as he waited for his team, a mixture of Red Cross volunteers and firefighters, to exit her neighbor’s home.
The volunteers worked together in Donaldsonville on Saturday, going door-to-door throughout the neighborhood to install free smoke alarms and provide home fire safety information. The canvassing event was the product of Gwendolyn Hilliard, an Ascension Parish resident and Red Cross leadership volunteer.
“During Katrina, my family went through a difficult time with the flooding,” says Hilliard, “and I volunteered with the Red Cross to help out.” She decided to organize Saturday’s effort after hearing from a friend in Donaldsonville of the need due to the high number of home fires there. Hilliard contacted the Donaldsonville Fire Department and her fellow Red Cross volunteers to get to work.
The volunteers and firefighters worked in teams, going house by house checking smoke alarms, changing batteries and installing new devices where needed. They also worked with residents to draft fire escape plans, helping families and individuals map out how they may best escape from their homes in less than two minutes. The Red Cross recommends that every household have a fire escape plan that includes a designated outdoor meeting spot, and that they practice (and time) the plan several times a year.
Home fires are the most common disaster to which the Louisiana Red Cross responds. This event was one of many the Red Cross has organized across the state in recent months as part of its national Home Fire Campaign, an initiative to reduce deaths and injuries caused by home fires by 25% over five years. Of the 215 lives already saved nationwide in the campaign, 11 were in Southeast Louisiana. By the end of Saturday’s event, 53 homes in Donaldsonville were made safer as well.
“We are just having a great time out here meeting people,” said Pastor Anthony Edward, a Baton Rouge resident and one of many volunteers who answered the call to help this past weekend. Joined by his family, the pastor said they were driven by “a need to give back to the community.”
When the volunteer team finally exited the home across the street, a volunteer introduced the fireman to the star struck child. The team then moved on to the next home as the fireman coolly showed off his ride, helping the child step up to the front seat.
Additional information on the Home Fire Campaign
The Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, launched in October 2014, is a multi-year nationwide initiative to reduce deaths and injuries caused by home fires by 25 percent. As of March 31, 2017, the Red Cross and its partners have helped to save at least 215 lives and installed more than 791,000 smoke alarms in 9,930 cities and towns nationwide.
Working with more than 4,000 partners, the campaign has reached more than 897,000 people and made nearly 330,000 households safer, replacing nearly 45,000 smoke alarm batteries and helping create nearly 280,000 home fire escape plans. Through programs like The Pillowcase Project, the campaign also has helped teach nearly 779,000 young people about home fire preparedness and safety.
People can visit redcross.org/firesafety to find out more about how to protect themselves and their loved homes from fire and other emergencies. Contact your local Red Cross to find out about smoke alarm installation events here in south Louisiana.
The Louisiana Red Cross helped more than 1,800 families in the past year, including more than 6,000 residents, after home fires. The state also had 45 home fire-related deaths in 2016, according to the U.S. Fire Administration fire fatality report.
The Red Cross depends on the generous support of the American public to fulfill its crucial mission. If someone would like to help, please consider making a donation today by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 gift.
Home Fire Preparedness Tips
It’s also a good time for everyone to take these steps to make sure their household is prepared for emergencies.
· Install smoke alarms. At a minimum, put one on every level of the home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Check local building codes for additional requirements.
· Practice an escape plan. Make sure everyone in the household knows how to get out of every room and how to get out of the home in less than two minutes.
· Get a kit. Keep disaster supplies in an easy-to-carry bag to use at home or carry in case ordered to evacuate.
· Make a plan. Have all household members plan what steps they should take if an emergency occurs.
· Be informed. Learn what emergencies can occur in the area and how officials notify residents should a disaster occur.
About the American Red Cross:
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 redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.