Learn how to keep your family safe in the event of a home fire

 by Mary Brant, Northern New England Regional Communications Manager

American Red Cross Preparedness Manager, Abby Kelly, is focused on keeping individuals and families prepared and safe in the event of a home fire. For this year’s Sound the Alarm campaign she is answering some of the most commonly asked questions regarding fire safety.

When asked if there is a most common mistake that people make around home fire safety, Abby says there are two that she sees repeatedly. First, not having smoke alarms, or having them but not checking to see if they work. Second, not having a home fire escape plan and practicing that plan with all family members, including pets! 

Parents are concerned about how to talk with their children about fire safety without causing either stress or anxiety. Abby recognizes this is a challenge but reassures parents it can be done. Begin that conversation about the dangers of fire. Show children what smoke alarms look and sound like. Finally, explain they are loud because they are supposed to surprise us but they are our “helpers.” Abby also warns parents not to assume children can open doors and windows, practice to make sure! 

Lastly, make sure children know where the family’s safe meeting place is and when to go there. And show children how to call 911 during an emergency. 

When leading Red Cross safety programs Abby emphasizes the need to empower children – to ensure they know how to not only keep themselves safe, but also how to encourage their households and communities to take action.  Keeping them involved in family planning is important. Have them decide when to practice the plan and let them help test smoke alarms. When having a home fire drill, make it a challenge and see if everyone can get out in two minutes or less.  

Families come in all shapes and sizes, what are some of the challenges that need to be
planned for? Abby says if there is someone in a household who is deaf or hard of hearing, there should be a deaf and hard of hearing alarm installed.  These alarms shake the bed. There are also designs that feature strobe lights. Lastly, plan for a fire drill.  Who will need an evacuation assistant?  What kind of assistance will they need?  If it’s a young child, it may just be a matter of grabbing the child and going. Again, the goal is to get everyone out in two minutes or less. Click on the Public Service Announcement (PSA) below illustrating just how important those two minutes are from this year's Sound The Alarm campaign: 

If Abby could share one piece of advice with everyone concerned about home fire safety, what would it be? 

“Have enough smoke alarms in your house, make sure they work, have a home fire escape plan and make sure that everyone in your home practices that plan,” says Abby. “I also encourage everyone to take advantage of our preparedness programs. We have programs geared to families and children of all ages.” 

All Red Cross preparedness programs are available to everyone free of charge. To find out more visit RedCross.org/EndHomeFiresNNE. For programs specific to teaching children visit RedCross.org/PillowcaseProject.  


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