Friday, October 5, 2012

Fall into Fire Prevention Week

The leaves are changing, it's getting a little chilly outside, there's football on the weekends, and the coffee shops are all serving pumpkin-flavored drinks and donuts. That, of course, can mean only one thing: Fall is here. But along with the beautiful colors and Halloween celebrations comes the renewed use of furnaces and space heaters, which means added danger of house fires. So it's no coincidence that National Fire Prevention Week begins on Sunday. 

Did you know that the American Red Cross responds to about one house fire every nine minutes across the country? Here in Western New York, we provided emergency assistance including food, clothing, temporary shelter and emotional support to over 1,000 people displaced by fires last year. Just two days ago, our volunteers gave hotel and food vouchers to two people after a fire on Leddy Street in Buffalo.

Our Disaster Action Team responds to an average of more than a fire a day in Erie & Niagara Counties, but we would much rather help the community prevent fires than respond to them. We got a head start on Fire Prevention Week with this past weekend's Fire Safety Day event in Buffalo's Schiller Park neighborhood. During that event, NYS's Fire Safety House gave us all a smokey, first-hand look at how difficult it can be to see in a fire and the importance of knowing your escape routes before a fire. Here's some things you can do now that will help keep you and your loved ones safe in case fire:

  • Ensure that household members know two ways to escape from every room and designate a place to meet outside of your house in case of a fire. Practice your plan at least twice a year.
  • Follow your escape plan in case of fire. Get out, stay out, and call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of the house and inside bedrooms.
  • Replace batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year. Test each alarm monthly by pushing the test button.
  • Download the American Red Cross First Aid App to get access to life-saving information on what to do for common, everyday first aid emergencies. The app is available in the Apple App Store and on Google Play for Android.

Visit for additional fire safety tips. 

While this might be the official Fire Prevention Week, fire safety is really a year-round job. To schedule a free disaster preparedness education program at your school, business or organization, call (716) 878-2230. And remember, the Red Cross relies on your generous support to be able to respond to fires and other disasters here in Western New York. To make a donation, click here, call 1-800-REDCROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation (charges will appear on your cell phone bill).

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fire safety lessons-Free!!

As the calendar flips to October, we say goodbye to another National Preparedness Month. Of course, here at the Red Cross, we preach the importance of disaster preparedness all year long, but we wrapped up September with a Fire Safety Day event Saturday to help residents in Buffalo's Schiller Park neighborhood prevent and prepare for the most common disaster--house fires.

Sr. Director of Emergency Services Ken Turner discussing
fire safety with East Side residents 
Senior Director of Emergency Services Ken Turner got the morning underway by telling families enjoying some light refreshments at the Schiller Park Senior Center that almost a quarter of the approximately 400 fires we responded to last year occurred on the east side of the city. Lt. Harris from the Buffalo Fire Department discussed some important fire safety tips such as how to properly use a fire extinguisher. A woman then shared the personal story of how she lost everything when her City of Buffalo home was destroyed by a dryer fire a few years ago.

Then it was lesson time. Louise Porter and Nicole Roma let the children through activities such as a maze demonstrating the difficulty of finding your way around through a fire, while Denise Herkey-Jarosch led the adults through some disaster planning exercises. One of the highlights of the morning was the opportunity to walk the NYS Office of Fire Prevention and Control's "Fire Safety House", a fully functional trailer that, among other things, can fill with "smoke" to give people a realistic demonstration of how difficult it can be to see during a fire and why it's important to have an escape plan mapped out ahead of time.

Area children get an interactive example of smoky
conditions inside "Fire Safety House"
The most important part of the morning came at the event's end, however. Everyone who came to the program enhanced their newly-learned fire safety skills by taking home a free smoke detector, courtesy of the Children's Fire & Burn Fund. This organization has given away hundreds of thousands of smoke detectors in the past 20-plus years, and President Daniel Moran told us how 36 lives have been saved when these free units were the only smoke detectors in the house when a fire started.

The event may be over, but the work continues. Volunteers will soon be following up with event attendees to make sure the smoke detectors have been installed and to see if they have discussed disaster plans with their families or neighbors. And further down the road, numbers will be compared to see whether the program--co sponsored by the American Red Cross, Buffalo Board of Block Clubs, Buffalo CERT, Buffalo Fire Department, Children's Fire & Burn Fund and Schiller Park Community Services--reduced the number of fires in this community.

Next week is National Fire Prevention Week, so there's no time like the present to schedule a free disaster preparedness education program at your school, business or organization by calling Louise at (716) 878-2230, and in the meantime, click here for more information on home fire safety and prevention!