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

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