We want you to stay safe from home fires—the nation’s most frequent disaster—by testing your smoke alarms (English, Spanish) and practicing your home fire escape plan. In addition, we have these 10 simple safety tips as you put up lights and ornaments:
Check all holiday light cords to make sure they aren’t frayed or broken. Don’t string too many strands of lights together—no more than three per extension cord.
If you’re buying an artificial tree, look for the fire-resistant label. When putting it up, keep it away from fireplaces, radiators and other sources of heat.
If you’re getting a live tree, make sure it’s fresh and water it to keep it fresh. Bend the needles up and down to make sure no needles fall off.
If you’re using older decorations, check their labels. Some older tinsel is lead-based. If using angel hair, wear gloves to avoid irritation. Avoid breathing in artificial snow.
When decorating outside, make sure decorations are for outdoor use and fasten lights securely to your home or trees. If you’re using hooks or nails outside, make sure they are insulated to avoid an electrocution or fire hazard.
If you’re using a ladder, be extra careful. Make sure to have good, stable placement and wear shoes that allow for good traction.
Don’t use electric lights on metallic trees.
Remember to turn off all holiday lights when going to bed or leaving the house.
Keep children, pets and decorations away from candles.
If you’re hanging stockings on the fireplace mantel, don’t light the fireplace.
Most fire deaths are preventable. One major tool for prevention is a working smoke alarm. Yet, last year in Minnesota seven people died in fires in homes without working smoke alarms. And fire deaths are up 36 percent over this same time last year. To reduce home fire deaths and injuries volunteers and partners with the American Red Cross Minnesota Region will participate in Sound the Alarm.
“We need the public’s help to keep the number of fire deaths from climbing.” Bruce West, Minnesota State Fire Marshal
Between September 23 and October 15, 2017, the American Red Cross will install 100,000 free smoke alarms in more than 100 high-risk neighborhoods nationwide. During this period, the Red Cross will install its one-millionth free smoke alarm. This includes installing 1,525 alarms in the Minnesota Region of the American Red Cross. This surge expands the Home Fire Campaign, which the Red Cross launched in 2014. Since then, the Red Cross and its partners have made 368,000 households safer through smoke alarm installation.
“Having those smoke alarms was a blessing… we probably would have burned to death.” Crystal Parkinson, a home fire survivor thanks to a smoke alarm installed by Red Cross volunteers
Already the smoke alarms have saved 258 lives in the country. In the Minnesota Region, the Red Cross and partners have made 3,283 homes safer through installation of nearly 10,000 free smoke alarms. To further this effort, the Red Cross is asking people in the Minnesota Region to support Sound the Alarm home fire safety events this fall.
“This million-alarm milestone will focus the nation on the importance of having working smoke alarms in homes.” Phil Hansen, CEO of the American Red Cross Minnesota Region
Installation events will happen in 7 locations, including Minneapolis, St. Paul, Melrose, Goodhue, Rochester and McLeod County in Minnesota, and in Superior, Wisconsin. People can volunteer to install free smoke alarms in local communities. They also can raise money, or make a donation to support Sound the Alarm. Learn more today. Watch the new Sound the Alarm video and then visit soundthealarm.org/mn.
Story and photo by Kaylee Beevers/American Red Cross Intern
On April 23, Phil Hansen, the senior executive for the American Red Cross Minnesota Region, had the opportunity to participate in Home Fire Campaign activities in St. Cloud. His experience was mostly what he expected: teams made up of Red Cross volunteers and St. Cloud firefighters installed smoke alarms. But this was his first time actually doing installation outreach in homes. “I was really surprised by the number of homes that had inadequate smoke alarms or didn’t have any at all. It was great for us to come in and help make these installations for people who needed it most.” The reason why Phil made the trip to St. Cloud is because he truly believes in what these installations are doing: saving lives. As of April 2016, Red Cross installed smoke alarms have saved more than 90 lives across the country. For Phil, the best part about making home visits was meeting gracious people and seeing their faces shine with thankfulness after sharing with them a lifesaving gift. “For the future, we plan to see this program grow throughout the country due to the number of lives saved.” One challenge, he says, is the number of volunteers and partners currently participating. “We have great groups going out to serve their communities, but we need more.” And the top reason to get involved: “It’s a great reward knowing you’ve impacted and changed lives within your community.”
Learn more about the American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign.
This past weekend there were two home fire deaths in Minnesota. One was a woman 25 years old and the other was a girl 5 years old. These sad and tragic deaths bring the number of home fire deaths to 46 this year in Minnesota. And like the people closest to these disasters, we feel our heart break each time we learn of a home fire death, and we especially feel the heart ache when Red Cross volunteers are responding to these disasters, helping the survivors rebuild their lives.
We do not know details about how the most recent home fires started. But we encourage everyone to practice home fire safety, especially during the busy holiday season. Here are several resources that will get you started:
One thing we’re passionate about is making sure that every household has working smoke alarms. Please check the alarms in your home to see if they’re working. If not, replace the batteries or the alarms. We can help you do this. Our Home Fire Campaign makes it possible for the Red Cross to install free smoke alarms that will help save lives during home fires.
Remember: if a fire starts in your home get out to safety, and then dial 9-1-1 for emergency assistance.
Story and photos by Richard Underdahl-Peirce, Red Cross Volunteer
On a crisp and sunny Saturday morning, thirty-eight volunteers spread out across Plainview, Minnesota, to install more than 300 smoke alarms in family homes. On the previous Saturday, volunteers had canvassed around 400 homes in the community to identify where new fire detectors should be added or old ones replaced. Now, on September 19, 2015, firefighters, community and American Red Cross volunteers went in teams of three to five to install the new fire alarms and to give home safety materials concerning home fire prevention and escape planning as part of the national Red Cross Home Fire Campaign.
As the volunteers gathered at the Plainview Fire Department, the Sievers family was there to greet and thank them for the Red Cross help they received following a home fire disaster. A year ago Bobbie and Jake, and their young son, escaped from a fire that damaged the front of their house and up into the rafters. Red Cross volunteers responded, providing food and clothing for humanitarian relief after the disaster. Finally, last December, they moved back home with much appreciation for the assistance they had received from local American Red Cross volunteers. The Sievers family was a concrete reminder to the volunteers of the importance of what they were doing this day.
Volunteers came from Plainview and neighboring communities. Some, like Bev Holzheu, from Zumbrota, also had helped in the pre-canvassing in Lake City, where home safety materials and smoke alarms were given out by Red Cross volunteers. Others, like Michael Burgdorf, were long-time residents of Plainview and fire department volunteers as well.
Residents receiving the smoke alarms ranged from young parents to senior citizens. Sarah Hassig, a mother with young children, had three new smoke alarms installed in the home where they have lived for ten years. James Haley, a twenty year home owner and proud grandparent, also had three new smoke alarms installed. His three dogs delighted in being petted by the visitors – one of the side benefits of being a Red Cross Home Fire Campaign volunteer!
The morning passed quickly, and the volunteers enjoyed rolls provided by the local Kwik Trip, plus water and pop on their return to the fire department. But most of all they left with the thanks of dozens of residents, and the satisfaction of improving the safety of the homes of so many men, women and children.
Super awesome: an additional 143 smoke alarms were installed on Sunday and during the following week! To learn more about the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, click here. To get involved, contact your local Red Cross.
It’s Fire Prevention Week! Across the country, people will be checking smoke alarms, reviewing home fire safety plans, and helping others be more prepared for fire emergencies at home. Sponsored by the National Fire Prevention Association, Fire Prevention Week aims to increase public health and safety by reducing home fire hazards and the number of injuries and deaths that home fires cause each year. This year’s theme, “Working smoke alarms save lives. Test yours every month!” touches on an important reality few know about: nearly two-thirds of home fire deaths happen where there’s no working smoke alarm (Source: NFPA.org). And, a working smoke alarm cuts the number of home fire deaths in half!
The American Red Cross knows this reality more than most because every 8 minutes its disaster relief volunteers respond to a fire somewhere across the country. The majority of the 70,000 disasters that the Red Cross responds to each year are home fires. So, we encourage everyone to take steps this week to improve their home fire preparedness. Reach out to vulnerable adults and others in your neighborhoods and help them Be Red Cross Ready, too. In addition to helpful resources from the NFPA, the Red Cross has tools available for personal use and for sharing with others, including this Home_Fire_Safety_Checklist in English and Spanish. Together, we can prevent home fire deaths and make our communities safer.