Thursday, December 18, 2014

The First Line of Defense

Household smoke alarms are often considered the first line of defense with regard to a family’s safety during a home fire.  Families generally only have 2 minutes to escape their homes before the fire becomes life threatening.  It is for this reason, that functioning household smoke alarms are paramount in providing for the safety of one’s family.  On average, thirty-six people suffer from a home fire every day.  Tragically, seven of those thirty-six perish during these daily occurrences. Therefore, having properly maintained smoke alarms installed in a household can mean the difference between being one of the thirty-six or being one of the seven.

In a survey conducted by the National Fire Protection Association, researchers discovered that about 97% of the total U.S. population had at least one smoke alarm in their household.  However, 37% of all home fire related deaths from 2007-2011 were in homes where no smoke alarm was present.

Furthermore, an additional 23% of casualties were in homes where smoke alarms were present but had been improperly tested or maintained.  This translates to a casualty rate in households with malfunctioning or no smoke alarms that is twice as high as a household with one functioning smoke alarm.

The Red Cross recognizes the importance of having this first line of defense and has launched a Home Fire Preparedness Campaign that involves, among other aspects, free smoke alarm installations in homes without proper protection.  This month, Red Cross volunteers traveled to the community of Weldon, California to install smoke alarms for 200 at-risk homes.  In addition, these volunteers educated families on proper smoke alarm maintenance and the importance of making and practicing a family emergency plan.

If you would like to learn more or you would like to get involved in the prevention of home fire related suffering, please contact the Red Cross Central Valley Region by visiting

Andrew Basham
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central Valley Chapter

Friday, December 12, 2014

'Tis the Season to be Selfless!

Ah! The holiday season is here! Shopping malls are covered with poinsettias and raging with sales, the smell of peppermint lattes is filling the air, and Christmas music can be heard almost anywhere you go. Talk shows and media outlets are filling peoples' minds with the hottest must have items to stock under Christmas trees.

As we all put time and thoughts into our holiday parties and gift ideas, we sometimes forget about the true meaning of the holidays. Bob Hope once said, “My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?” The American Red Cross truly gives back all year around and is a selfless organization.

Bob Hope performing at Lackland Air Force Base, 1990
This time of the year can be devastating for those that have lost their home and most of their belongings to fires and mudslides. On Thanksgiving, I was called out to my first disaster response call. The home, where a family of five lived, was completely destroyed. The fire was caused by a candle that was left burning during the night. All the members of the family made it out of the fire unharmed; however they lost their beloved pet Pit Bull. As we spoke to the father of the family, he was overwhelmed with grief. Once we finished taking his down his information and arranged hotel accommodations and issued him a cash assistance card for him and his family, he broke down in tears of gratitude. This experience made me see how the Red Cross makes a difference in people’s lives.

The American Red Cross of the Central California Region doesn’t only respond to disaster calls. With help from volunteers and employees, our Team Firestopper campaign has canvassed more than 6,000 homes with home fire safety information since I started my service in September 2014.  We taught more than 100 families on how they can help prevent home fires and keep their families safe in the case of a disaster.

During the holiday season, the American Red Cross supports our nation’s military forces with Holiday Mail for Heroes. The Merced chapter recently had their Holiday Mail for Heroes event at their local shopping mall where many locals came to create and send cards of thanks to the armed forces.
Volunteers sorting Holiday Mail for Hero Cards
You can make a difference this holiday season - or any time of the year - by signing up as a volunteer and find opportunities in which you can help the American Red Cross make your community a safer place!

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Power to Save a Life is in Your Hands

Did you know that there is a course designed to simplify CPR? Hands-only CPR helps everyday citizens feel more confident to provide care.

Less than 1/3 of adults who suffer from sudden cardiac arrest get the help they need because people are too afraid that they are going to do something wrong. It is important to know what to do in an emergency and equally as important to have the confidence to act. Hands-only CPR takes minutes to learn and is easy to remember!

Here is a short video to help explain hands-only CPR step by step:

Step 1: Check the scene for safety and see if the person responds to you by tapping them on the shoulder and shouting ‘Are you ok?’

Step 2: Briefly look for signs of breathing.

Step 3: If they don’t respond, call or send someone to call 911.

Step 4: If the person is not breathing or is gasping prepare to give chest compressions.

  • Kneel beside them
  • Place the heel of one hand in the center of the chest
  • Place your other hand over that hand, lacing your fingers together
  • Position your shoulders directly over your hands, keeping your arms straight with your fingers off the chest

Step 5: Push hard and fast at least 2 inches then let the chest rise completely before pressing down again.

Step 6: Keep going until:

  • Person shows an obvious sign of life, like breathing
  • Scene becomes unsafe
  • An Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is ready
  • Too exhausted to continue
  • A trained responder takes over

Step 7: Get more training and encourage others to do so!

I would encourage everyone to further their knowledge by taking a First Aid and CPR course. It is recommended that every household has at least one member trained in these skills. Hands only CPR is a great place to start, doing something as simple as chest compressions can help. Compressions keep the blood flowing carrying oxygen which is vital in helping someone stay alive.

‘Be Red Cross Ready’ with hands-only CPR course are available at no cost through your local Red Cross Chapter. Contact us today to schedule a presentation!

Want to know more? Sign up for a First Aid/CPR course in your area and download our free First Aid mobile app!

Korri Faria
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central California Region