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Red Cross & VFD install smoke alarms, teach fire safety in Medina

Special to the Courier

Personnel with the American Red Cross and the Medina Volunteer Fire Department have teamed up to save lives in Medina by installing free smoke alarms and teaching fire safety techniques.
Beginning at 10:30 am, Saturday, Feb. 20, Red Cross volunteers will conduct door-to-door outreach in Medina. They will meet with local citizens and teach families how to be better prepared for a home fire by following a few simple safety steps. Then, on Saturday, March 5, Red Cross workers and Medina volunteer firefighters will work together to install smoke alarms in homes that need them.
This effort is a part of the American Red Cross home fire campaign, which aims to reduce deaths and injuries from home fires by as much as 25 percent over the next five years nationwide.
Seven times a day someone in this country dies in a fire. The Red Cross campaign focuses on joining fire departments and community groups nationwide to install smoke alarms in communities with high numbers of fires and encouraging everyone to practice their fire escape plans.
“Installing smoke alarms cuts the risk of someone dying from a home fire in half, so we’re joining with groups from across our community to install them for free,” said Phillip Howard, disaster preparedness manager for the American Red Cross, Central & South Texas Region. “We will also help families make and practice an escape plan so they can get out in time if the unthinkable happens.”
Even as the Red Cross and the Medina VFD install smoke alarms in the local community, they are also calling on everyone to take two simple steps that can save lives – check existing smoke alarms and practice fire drills at home,
Steps that families and individuals can do to increase their chances of surviving a fire include:
• For those without smoke alarms, install them. At a minimum, put one on every level of the home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Local building codes vary and there may be additional requirements where someone lives.
• For those with alarms, test them today. If the alarms don’t work, replace them.
• Make sure that everyone in the family knows how to get out of every room and how to get out of the home in less than two minutes.
• Practice that plan and determine the household escape time.
According to a 2015 survey, 41 percent of those surveyed feel confident they can get out of a burning home in less than two minutes. And most parents – 64 percent – believe their children would know what to do if a fire occurred.
However, many of these families admitted they didn’t take key steps to help keep their family safe. Only about half of the parents surveyed talked to their families about fire safety. Only 10 percent of families have actually practiced home fire drills. And only about a quarter of families have identified a safe place where family members can meet outside the home.
The survey also showed that Americans are engaging in unsafe behaviors that could result in home fires. More than a third of those surveyed – 36 percent – admitted using candles when the power goes out instead of flashlights. And, despite cooking being the leading cause of home fires, one in five or 17 percent have left cooking food unattended on the stove.
To find out more about how to protect themselves and their loved homes from fire, people can visit redcross.org/homefires. To find the location of smoke alarm installation events or to become a volunteer, contact Howard at 830-399-2974.