Friday, January 9, 2015

Preparing for and Responding to Home Fires

A Red Cross team assess the damage to a fire following
fire on Christmas Eve in Jackson Heights (credit: M. Kokic).
The article in yesterday's NY Times, “Learn, Baby, Learn” by Steven Kurutz, provides an important reminder of the lasting impact that home fires can have one people’s lives. Not only are fires one of the leading causes of death in America – 7 fatalities per day in the United States on average – but they also devastate a household’s emotional and financial stability.

The NYC-area sees more home fires than anywhere else in the nation, and these numbers spike when temperatures drop. At fire scenes every day and night, after heroic firefighters extinguish a blaze, our Red Cross volunteers provide assistance and comfort to our devastated fellow New Yorkers who have just experienced a shocking life event. All too often, these life-claiming, soul-crushing events are entirely preventable.

Amid the recent arctic weather, I want to reiterate the importance of being mindful of the risks of using space heaters, fireplaces, candles and even stoves when heating your homes. A functioning smoke alarm is also invaluable in keeping your household safe—60% of fire deaths occur in households without a working fire alarm.

While fires can occur in any neighborhood, the majority of them occur in the most vulnerable communities in and around our City. Every day and night, thousands of times per year, trained Red Cross volunteers are aiding stunned families who have just fled for their lives, and who can least afford a catastrophic life event.

At the Red Cross we’re proud of our volunteers for serving our neighbors in need. But we would rather our fellow New Yorkers take basic steps to prevent a horrific fire from ever occurring: install and test your smoke alarms regularly, and heat your home safely.  A few minutes of preparation could save you and your family years of heartache.


Josh Lockwood
Regional CEO
American Red Cross in Greater New York

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