Thursday, April 6, 2017

A Day Experiencing The Home Fire Preparedness Campaign

As a communications intern with the American Red Cross, I have been able to experience this organization in ways that I could not have guessed when originally applying for the position. If you had asked me last year what the American Red Cross does for the community, my answer would have been limited and honestly wrong. Through this experience I have been able to understand the vast array of services that the organization has to offer. One of them being the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign.

Chairman Andy March assisting board member
Luke Fagan with the installation of
their first fire alarm of the day.
The Home Fire Preparedness Campaign is the American  Red Cross’ way of trying to install fire alarms into every home that does not already have them. It has been proven that, from the time that the fire ignites, you only have about two minutes to get out of the house before someone gets injured or worse. While in training for this program, I learned that nationally, 19 percent of homes do not have working smoke alarms and four percent do not have them at all. However, out of all the fire fatalities, 37 percent happen in homes that have no alarm and 23 percent happen in homes without a working alarm. These numbers are sobering when you think of how many people could have been saved by having working smoke alarms. This is why it is so important to have an alarm that gives you the most time to make your escape.

This campaign really touched me as fire related incidents was a big part of my growing up. My grandmother, whom I was named after, passed away when my mother was very young in a house fire. While I never got to meet her, she has influenced my life in many ways. My mother has always been very proactive when it came to fire preparedness, and yet, I still did not know half of the information that this campaign has to offer.

Not only does this campaign install potential lifesaving alarms that alert you when there is a fire, it is our mission to also educate you on what to do when a fire happens and how to be fully prepared in a time of crisis. While one of our members installs up to three free fire alarms, another member educates the resident in what to do in case of an emergency. To me this is the most important part of the program.

Our educator goes through not only how to use the fire alarm and how to maintain it, but they also teach you about how to create a family fire plan in order to best be prepared if something does happen. This includes things like coming up with a meeting place so you can know if everyone is out of the house, and other lifesaving tips that are more than necessary. While these plans do not take a long time to come up with, they are so crucial to the well-being of your family.

Board member Renae Rokicki educating the home owner
on how to create a fire plan for her family.
They also teach you important lessons on ways to prevent a fire, like their catchy saying “Three feet from the heat” informing you that if you have any space heaters in the colder months, that there should be absolutely nothing within three feet of the it. Another tip I saw being talked about is to avoid using more than one extension cord to gain access to electric in a part of the house that does not have any. These tips are crucial and potentially lifesaving.

On March 25, 2017 I was given the opportunity to be a part of this campaign, and help install fire alarms in homes in the Central New York area.

I worked alongside Chairman of the Board, Andy March and board members Luke Fagan and Renae Rokicki. The first house we went to was an elderly woman who lived alone. While she was funny and quick as a whip, unfortunately without a fire alarm, if something were to happen it would be very hard to get out of her house that contains many steps. The fire alarms would give her more time to make her escape to safety. It was so nice talking to her and realizing how important the work we are doing is.

Going around installing fire alarms into homes that needed them, really helped to open my eyes to the importance of home fire preparedness. Not only was I able to learn a lot myself, but I also was able to be a small part in an organization that does so much for the community. I was able to be a small part in helping people to realize the severity of a house fire and hopefully not only help them in a time of crisis, but also prevent these issues in the first place. Overall, this was an experience that I would have never expected, and that I am forever grateful for.

If you are currently living in a home that does not have working fire alarms, or just think you could use a few extra in order to keep your family safe, please visit the Home Fire Preparedness Campaigns website to schedule an appointment to install alarms in your place of residence. 

-Gayle Landry, Communications Intern
M.A. Public Relations at Syracuse University 

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