Texas

American Red Cross to provide free smoke alarms for homes without systems as part of Fire Prevention Week

The American Red Cross is encouraging residents to practice a two-minute fire escape plan and to test their smoke alarms to stay safe. 

Civilians who take the CERT course learn about topics such as fire safety and how to put out small fires.
Photo provided by Harris County Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management
Civilians who take the CERT course learn about topics such as fire safety and how to put out small fires.

October 9-15 is Fire Prevention Week, and the Texas Gulf Coast Region American Red Cross is warning residents of the danger of home fires.

With temperatures starting to fall, the American Red Cross said they respond to more fires than any other disaster and home fire responses are 30% higher in the colder months.

The American Red Cross is encouraging residents to practice a two-minute fire escape plan and to test their smoke alarms to stay safe.

"For Fire Prevention Week, the American Red Cross makes an effort to educate our communities, specifically diverse communities, about the importance of preventing a fire in households," said Regional Disaster Preparedness Manager for the Texas Gulf Coast American Red Cross, Ann Balthazar.

She said in order to take precautions and prevent a fire from happening, residents should make sure they have working smoke detectors and a fire escape plan. The American Red Cross launched its Sound the Alarm Campaign back in 2014 to help residents living in high fire risk areas and prevent fatalities.

"This program specifically targets high fire risk neighborhoods where we install smoke alarms," said Balthazar. "What we found in these high fire risk neighborhoods, we found that sometimes these homes do not have working smoke alarms," she said.

Many neighborhoods that are considered high risk mostly serve people of color who live in older homes, and do not have working smoke alarms, or any at all. Balthazar said the American Red Cross is ensuring everyone has the proper fire education.

“We want to make sure that every group in Houston, every background, every culture that they are aware of what fires can do and how they can prevent them in their own households," she said.

The American Red Cross will host Sound the Alarm events where they go to residents homes and install free smoking alarms while providing fire education and training for families.

The American Red Cross will help families identify at least two exits out of every room in the household so residents are able to escape a fire within two minutes – which is the amount of times residents have to get out of their home before a fire gets worse.

Across the Texas Gulf Coast Region, the American Red Cross has installed 762 smoke alarms for residents.

As it gets cold through the Houston Region, Balthazar said a lack of knowledge on heat sources is what causes many fires in Houston.

"People are looking for heat sources they not may not use all the time, whereas people up north, they use those heat sources more frequently than we do," said Balthazar.

She recommends taking proper precautions when using things like space heaters to heat your home and making sure they are 3 ft. away from any objects like furniture.

The American Red Cross recommends residents to test their smoke alarms once a month by using the fire escape plan as a drill.

Through the Sound the Alarm campaign, the American Red Cross has served 2,299 individuals throughout households and saved over 1,200 lives.

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