Friday, January 16, 2015

My View of Fire Preparedness

I can sit here and give you statistics on why we should be prepared in the event of a home fire; 2,500 people are killed each year from home fires and 13,000 people are injured. I can sit here and tell you home fires are the biggest emergency in the United States; the American Red Cross answers a home fire every 8 minutes in the U.S. But will that convince you to prepare your family for a home fire?

You may say “yes” at the moment, but life gets busy and sometimes we put emergency preparedness at the bottom of our “to-do” list. I know I might put it on the bottom of my list and I did. Actually, it wasn’t even a thought before I was a part of Red Cross. To even try to get me to listen or even do something, I would have wanted for someone to make it real, tell me a story or an experience. That may seem silly, but tugging at the heart strings works for me.

Many times we don’t want to think “What if?” We don’t want to think about the bad things that may happen, but going into a home after something bad happens really hits hard. Some of our DAT members have answered calls where there have been fatalities, but some have been lucky enough to answer calls where it was only one room of the house that was damaged.

Last month I went on a call where the back room of the house had been set on fire; what had alerted them to the fire was the one smoke detector that worked in the home. I had a chance to speak to the woman of the house, and she said they had disconnected the main smoke detector in their home because it went off every time they cooked. I explained to them they can always move the smoke detector to another location in the home. I showed her that had it not been for the smoke detector in the back room, they could have lost the whole house.

I am always giving my friends and family tips on how they can be fire safe. I tell them to check their smoke alarms every month, make an emergency plan, and to invest in a fire extinguisher. I’m sure they must think I’m a crazy nag, but then it makes me think about all the people I meet who mention they don’t have a smoke alarm. Many of us don’t think about not having one, because it’s so normal for us to have one in our home. I guess it’s another one of those things we just don’t think about; especially when you think that a piece of plastic can save your life.

The other AmeriCorps members and I give Be Red Cross Ready presentations, and teach children emergency preparedness with The Pillowcase Project. We teach members and participants of an organization how they prepare, not just for home fires, but prepare for any emergency. We are also lead instructors during our Team Firestopper seminars; these seminars give us a chance to go into a community and teach them how to prepare their homes and families before a fire starts. We teach 6 different areas of fire prevention; get a kit, make a plan, prepare all family members, be informed, Hands Only CPR, and how to use a fire extinguisher, and at the end we give the participant a smoke and CO detector, fire extinguisher, and a surge protector. We give them what they need to be fire safe, but then what?

This month we are stepping up our fire prevention efforts. This month we have already had our Team Firestopper Fire Safety seminar in Selma, but tomorrow we will also host the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign. Southeast Fresno and Tulare teams will install smoke detectors for the residents of these communities. This will be our first of many in hopes to reduce home fire fatalities and injuries by 25% in 5 years. We are preparing three communities on fire prevention and preparedness all in the month of January.

Other fire preparedness events are taking place in the coming weeks. Visit our website for more details on how you can help empower families in your community to make smart decisions when it comes to fire safety.

Veronica Lases
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Latino Community Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central California Region

Friday, January 2, 2015

Giving Hope: A Local Disaster Response

One of the many goals of the American Red Cross during disasters services is to address our clients’ most serious human need. In most of the fire call cases I have been to the Red Cross provides: temporary housing, water, food, transportation, comfort kits, and referrals for food and clothing. The service that we provide to our clients addresses all serious human needs, and our clients are very appreciative for the comfort and hope that we’re able to provide.

Recently, the Kern Chapter was dispatch to respond to a house fire near downtown Bakersfield. Disaster Action Team (DAT) responders were able to gather comfort kits to meet the needs of the whole family.  As we loaded the Emergency Response Vehicle with water and comfort kits, our lead on call remembered to bring toys to comfort the children from the disaster their family had recently experienced.

Red Cross DAT responders assist a family after a home fire

My first contact with the client was via phone.  I was able to communicate with the father of the family, and I told him the Red Cross was on the way to help them out. Arriving at the scene I was able to meet the father and I gave each family member a hug and introduced my self to the family. I told them I was here to help them out. The client was stressed because he was at a loss; his bedroom was burnt to the ground. All of the clients clothes including the clothes of his children were located the bedroom that was affected due to the house fire.  The kitchen was completely affected and none of the food was saved. After completing the damage assessment, the client joined me and in the Emergency Response Vehicle and I completed the intake interview.

The next day, I was able to contact the client and do a follow up. The client communicated that they were going to live with extended family until his house got renovated. The client was able to purchase food and clothes with money that was provided. Within 24 hours, the Red Cross was able to provide all the basic needs of the family and then some. The client had a place to stay, water to drink, clothes for their kids to go to school the next day, and food. The following day, I was able to set goals with the client and also set a time frame of three weeks for his recovery plan.  The client has been very impressed with the service we provide, the client did not know ARC provided all these services and was very impressed.

Red Cross DAT volunteers respond to disasters like this every day in the Central Valley. Now you have a chance to help prevent home fires and save lives in your community.

The HFPC seeks to increase the use of smoke alarms in
neighborhoods with higher numbers of home fires.

The Home Fire Preparedness Campaign is a new initiative to install free smoke alarms in homes throughout the Valley. Join us on January 17, 2015 in Tulare or Fresno as we work to decrease death and injuries from home fires by as much as 25%.

CLICK HERE to sign up today!

Daniel Avina
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central California Region