“Sound the Alarm. Save a Life”

A Story to Learn From

Less than a year ago, some family members of mine woke up in the middle of the night. Outside, their dog barked over and over again, and for a moment, they tried to ignore the dog and go back to sleep. But he kept barking, until finally one of them got up and looked out of their window. In their backyard, a huge pile of wood had caught fire.

The two of them rushed outside and they threw bucket after bucket of water onto the fire, narrowly avoiding the rusty nails sticking out of the wood. They kept the flames at bay until the fire department arrived. The next day, the fire extinguished, they learned that it had been started by some ashes and embers that were thrown on the wood. Their young child had assumed that the ashes had cooled down enough to be safely disposed of, but they were not.

In this instance, everyone was fine, and nothing besides some old wood was damaged. Still, the story is a reminder that fires start and spread quickly, and nobody can fully insulate themselves from the risk of such a tragedy.

Misunderstanding House Fires

Still, people often don’t accurately predict their own safety from fires. House fires constitute the majority of disasters that the American Red Cross responds to. The danger of house fires is heightened by the knowledge that forty percent of people admit to having forgotten to turn off a stone or oven, which are the leading cause of fires. And more than a third of people use stoves, kerosene lanterns, or space heaters, and heating equipment is involved in a fifth of all home fire deaths.

To add to this, the majority of people overestimate how much time they will have to flee a burning home. According to experts, some people will have as little as two minutes to safely exit. When a house is burning, every second matters, especially when babies, children, or the elderly are involved. Every day, seven people die in the United States as a result from a home fire. Tragically, many of these happen in homes without working smoke alarms.

Many of these deaths would have be preventable if victims had working smoke alarms in their house.  The sound of a smoke alarm can make the difference when warning people within moments if a fire had started in their house. Smoke alarms give people time to gather their children and ensure that everyone leaves the house quickly. Property may be damaged, but people will survive.

How You Can Help

The Red Cross is teaming up with local fire departments and other agencies to Sound the Alarm, installing free smoke alarms across the country in homes that need them. It is part of the larger Home Fire Campaign, which since beginning in 2014, has installed over one million alarms nationwide. And it has been credited with helping to save over 400 lives.

This Spring, you can help be a part of this. Sound the Alarm is only made possible by volunteers. It is our volunteers who installed one million smoke alarms, and our volunteers who have helped save over 400 lives. We are so thankful to anyone who signs up to volunteer to help Sound the Alarm.

The event kicks off on April 28 in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, and volunteers will be installing smoke alarms for the next five Saturdays. For more information on how to volunteer for Sound the Alarm, you can contact visit www.soundthealarm.org/northernIL.

Thank you for serving and saving lives with us.

Written by Gordon White, Communications Intern for the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

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7 People Die in Home Fires Every Day — You Can Help Save Lives in Chicago

7 People Die in Home Fires Every Day — You Can Help Save Lives in Chicago

Click here to read the article that originally appeared on Make it Better.

In December 2016, a Chicago resident and her adult grandson were asleep in their second floor apartment. A loud booming noise from the lower level woke them up in the middle of the night. The grandmother opened her apartment door and found the hallway fully engulfed in smoke. “I remember the smoke alarms going off,” she told the Red Cross during a check-in call after the fire. Her grandson ran down the front stairway to help the neighbors. Despite health issues, the grandmother knew she had to urgently get out of the building and managed to escape on her own out the back of the complex with her cat under her arm. Everyone in the building was able to escape unharmed. The Red Cross provided her and her grandson with assistance to stay in a hotel after the fire, where she stayed for about 12 days until they moved in with her sister.

The resident recalled the April 2016 day when the Red Cross installed three smoke alarms in her home. The volunteers helped her create a home fire escape plan and left a dry erase board and pen with her to hang on her refrigerator.

Every day, seven people die in home fires, most in homes that lack working smoke alarms. Sadly, children and the elderly disproportionately lose their lives. That’s why the Red Cross rallied an army of volunteers and launched our Home Fire Campaign in 2014. This fall, Red Cross volunteers and our partners will install 100,000 free smoke alarms in high risk neighborhoods nationwide.

Sound the Alarm installation and fire safety events will take place in more than 100 communities across the country, providing a lifesaving service in our quest to reduce death and injury from home fires. Thank you to our local partners, the Chicago Fire Department and the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC), for making this campaign possible in Chicago and northern Illinois. Learn more about Sound the Alarm.

There are several ways you can get involved with Sound the Alarm!

Volunteer to help Sound the Alarm. Save a Life.

  • Visit SoundTheAlarm.org to find events in your local community and join neighbors in going door-to-door to install free smoke alarms, replace batteries in existing alarms, and help families create escape plans.
  • Make this life-saving campaign a group activity. Invite friends and family to register.

Donate to help Sound the Alarm. Save a Life.

  • Visit SoundTheAlarm.org to help families prepare, respond and recover from home fires.
  • Your donation will help educate families on fire safety; install free smoke alarms in high-risk neighborhoods nationwide; and provide food, comfort and aid to those who have been affected by a home fire.

Together, we can Sound the Alarm about fire safety and help save lives.

American Red Cross: Sound the Alarm infographic