Archive

Tag Archives: Fire Safety

2014FPW575x200

-submitted by Sarah Peterson, communications volunteer

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin was responsible for setting up the first fire company in Philadelphia? On a visit to see his family Boston, he observed that Bostonians were much better equipped to fight fires and save lives than the people of Philadelphia. According to the website, ushistory.org, after consulting with civic leaders in Philadelphia, he gathered 30 young men together to form the Union Fire Company on December 7, 1736. These men had special equipment provided by the community, and they began meeting regularly to practice their techniques and discuss successful firefighting procedures.

In order to raise public awareness, Franklin began writing about fire safety in his newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette. In one article, written in 1735, he cautions his fellow citizens against moving hot coals from room to room on an open shovel, in case one ember is lost under the stairs and results in a middle-of-the-night,“when your Stairs being in Flames, you may be forced, (as I once was) to leap out of your Windows, and hazard your Necks to avoid being oven-roasted.”

rco_blog_img_BenFranklinFire safety awareness has improved since the 1700s. No doubt Franklin would have been thrilled by the efficacy of smoke detectors, but we still struggle to make sure fire safety measures are protecting everyone.  On October 3rd, 2014, the White House released a proclamation by President Obama to mark Fire Prevention Week and to remind all Americans of the danger of fire. He urged all of us to practice evacuations plans from our homes, schools and places of business. He urged Americans who live near woodlands to practice caution and clear flammable vegetation from around buildings. He reminded all of us that, “During Fire Prevention Week, we recognize our duty to be vigilant and take action to avert fires, and we remember the sacrifices of those who gave their lives so others might live.”

That’s why the Pennsylvania State House also took some time this week to recognize National Fire Prevention Week. According to State Senator Rob Teplitz, the week commemorates the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and was first designated in 1920. It is still unclear how the devastating fire in Chicago got started, but it burned for two days, destroyed 3.3 square miles of the city’s central business district, killed up to 300 people and left more than 100,000 residents homeless. In 1920, officials decided that such a massive disaster deserved the be remembered in a way that could help everyone learn more about fire safety and prevention and President Woodrow Wilson released the first National Fire Prevention Week Proclamation.

Appropriately, this year’s theme is “Smoke alarms save lives: Test yours every month.” As Franklin surely knew when warning about embers in an open shovel, home fire deaths are preventable but require residents to take care. We no longer worry about lost embers, but we must test our smoke alarms regularly and change the batteries twice a year.

As Franklin writes in 1735, “In the first Place, as an Ounce of Prevention is worth a Pound of Cure” we must all be vigilant against the dangers of fire. We remember terrible disasters like the Chicago fire by taking the time to remind ourselves of this basic truth. Check your batteries, everyone! Take the time to practice an escape route from your home. And don’t carry those embers in an open shovel.

rco_blog_img_firesafteywalkthroughYAROS

Although I’ve only been interning with the Red Cross Communications team for several weeks, I have already gained an entirely new perspective on both this community and providing assistance to those in need. The future of the Red Cross is dependent on volunteers who recognize the importance of this organization and then donate their efforts towards fulfilling its mission.

firesafetywalkthrough2

During my time at the Red Cross, I have had the opportunity to assist outside of the office. One day, I hope to be part of the Disaster Action team and respond to local disasters. So far, the closest that I have come to disaster response is participating in Red Cross Fire Safety Walkthroughs. During Fire Safety Walkthroughs, Red Cross workers distribute fire safety materials, such as educational materials as well as a 9-volt battery for smoke detectors. The educational material comes in multiple languages and provides individuals with information on how to prevent a fire, making an escape plan and pet fire safety.  In the past several weeks, I’ve participated in Fire Safety Walkthroughs in the two communities surrounding the fatal fires at Gesner Street and North Sixth Street. When fire suddenly destroys homes and claims the lives of community members, the scene is always very sensitive.  It has been difficult to see the tremendous toll these disasters have on communities. As we made our way up and down the streets, I did my best to be respectful to people’s properties, especially the homes where the fires occurred.

Gesner St Fire picture of Laurel

When I am in the office, I work with both internal and external means of communication to keep the general public as well as Red Cross employees and volunteers informed about what is going on in the community and the office. I really value working beside and learning from my manager, Sara, and the rest of the Communications department. Our many responsibilities have so much purpose, which causes me to constantly look forward to my time here. This branch of the Red Cross employs many friendly and intelligent people. I’ve received nothing but a warm welcome to this team. The Red Cross never stops responding, so as long as I’m here I’m sure I will be kept busy by providing the community with the information they need to stay informed and safe.

~submitted by Laurel, a high school intern for the communications department

If you are interested in volunteering with the American Red Cross, click here.

The current spring cold snap is proving to be far more than just a nuisance. It’s proving to be downright dangerous. The cold temperatures reinforces the direct correlation between cold temperatures and the rate of home fires.

north philly fire

All that’s left of a fire on April 15th in the 2400 block or Arlington Street in North Philadelphia that displaced a family of seven. Credit: Bob Schmidt/Red Cross volunteer

After a record setting winter that saw the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania respond to more than 450 fires, those who work and volunteer for the Red Cross had hoped and expected the number of fires to decrease significantly. And after a few days of warmer weather, that is exactly what happened. But sadly, it didn’t last, in part to Mother Nature.

Over the last 72 hours (since 4/15/14), as temperatures dropped to winter like levels again, the number of fires once again rose. In those 72 hours, the Red Cross responded to 12 fires, more than triple the 24  hour average. In all, the Red Cross assisted 21 families, 52 people displaced by those fires. Nine of those families are now at Red Cross House – The Center for Disaster Recovery. The American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania is on pace to exceed 750 fire responses this year, the most in more than four years.

In addition to being financially devastating to the families affected by the fires, the ongoing cold temperatures have had a huge impact on Red Cross resources, human and financial. Since the Red Cross is made up of 90% volunteers, it is mostly volunteers responding to the fires. And while the volunteers are dedicated and committed to serving the public, the relentlessness of the fires can take its toll on even the most seasoned volunteer. So if you’ve ever thought about being a Red Cross volunteer, now would be a great time to let us know. (click HERE for more information.)

 

N. 12th street fire

This early morning fire on April 17th on north 12th Street in Philadelphia, displaced five families, 16 people, and multiple pets. CREDIT: Jen Leary/Red Paw Emergency Relief

Because the Red Cross provides disaster survivors money for things like food, clothing, lodging, and other emergency needs, the ongoing cold and increase in fires has had a dramatic impact on our financial resources. We are significantly over our disaster response budget. Since the Red Cross will ALWAYS respond and provide the highest level of care, no matter the cost, the money must be found elsewhere. So if you’ve ever considered making a financial donation to the Red Cross, now would be a great time to do so. (click HERE for more information.)

But even if you don’t make a financial donation or volunteer, you can still help the Red Cross and more importantly the greater community. Even as the Red Cross is hopeful warmer temperatures will eventually arrive and the number of fires will decrease, the Red Cross urges residents to remain vigilant about fire safety. Residents should limit having more than two things plugged into one outlet and make sure dryer lint screens and heating system filters are cleaned regularly. Residents should also ensure they have working smoke alarms and have and practice at least twice a year a fire escape plan that includes pets.

For more fire safety information, including how to create a fire escape plan, visit redcross.org/homefires.

Does your home have a working fire alarm?  Do you have an escape plan in the event of a fire?  Did you remember to turn off the stove?

Growing up in the suburbs near Trenton, New Jersey, I found questions like this a nuisance because fires in my area were a rare event.   It was not until I began school at Temple University that I started to appreciate why my school engraved fire safety tips into our minds.  During my years at Temple, I would often hear a sound unfamiliar to me when I lived in the suburbs; the sound of a fire truck siren.  To my surprise, it was not uncommon to see a fire truck racing down Broad Street three, four times a week.  Now, working at the Red Cross as an AmeriCorps NPRC member, I’ve seen first-hand the effects of fires on the people of Philadelphia and the importance of fire safety.

Firefighters and damage 3

 

September was National Preparedness Month, and one of the things we all need to prepare for is fires.  Fire is an unforgiving chemical process that will continue to spread and be fatal if not accounted for.  Of the 74,000 disasters Red Cross responded to this past year, 93 percent of them were fire related.  In fact, fire kills more Americans each year then all the natural disasters combined.  As National Fire Safety Month begins, it is essential for everyone to take steps to help protect their homes and the people they care about.

Common house hold items are often a source of fire; anything from the stove in the kitchen to the space heater used to warm up the house during those cold winter nights are all potential fire hazards.  Even things we cannot see like the wiring behind the wall can cause fires.  It is important to learn more about these items in order to prevent fires from occurring.

The most important way to help save lives in the event of a fire is that first alert to a problem.  This is why it is essential to install and maintain all smoke alarms throughout the house.  Smoke alarms can help notify people a fire is occurring and help them escape before the fire spreads to all available exits in the house. The next thing you must do is have and practice your escape plan. In fact, the Red Cross recommends having at least two ways out of every room in your house.  At Temple, that meant investing in a fire ladder for myself. My second way out was through a third story window, so I had a ladder ready, just in case.

Preparing and planning for fires can protect what you love most.  Please take the time to visit http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/home-fire to learn more about fires in order to prevent them and prepare for them in the event that a fire does occur in your home.

photoMy 12 year old son is currently obsessed with Mythbusters, the show on the Discovery Channel where two crazy special effects guys blow stuff up in the name of scientific analysis. The other day, we were watching a show from the second or maybe third season about combustible Christmas trees.  We learned that when a spark from an overloaded wall socket hits a dry tree Christmas tree, the ensuing blaze is incredibly cool to watch – on television.  As a homeowner about to set up our own tree for the season, I was appalled. According to my son, I shouted something at the TV that wasn’t very parentally responsible. I maintain I said “Holy Cow!”  Never mind, I’m here to tell you that a Christmas tree fire is a potential four alarm affair. No kidding.

Luckily, the Red Cross has some great advice about setting up Christmas trees while taking fire safety into account. Please consider the following suggestions:

  • Purchase flame retardant metallic or artificial trees.
  • Give a live Christmas tree plenty of water to keep it moist and fresh.
  • Keep trees at least three feet away from heat sources like fireplaces or radiators.
  • Never put a candle on a Christmas tree.
  • Make sure lights are in good condition.
  • Safely dispose of trees as they become dry and needles begin to drop.
  • Don’t let old dried out trees hang around! Dispose of trees through recycling centers or community pick-up services.
  • Always unplug tree and holiday lights before leaving home or going to bed.
  • Avoid overloading electrical outlets by not linking more than three light strands.
  • Use decorations that are flame-resistant or flame-retardant

I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to embrace the “metallic” Christmas tree, but I’m a firm believer in keeping the tree away from heat, not overloading the lights and turning it off for bedtimes and departures. The idea of Christmas lights getting hotter and hotter on my tree as I’m sleeping holds no appeal whatsoever.

Don’t believe us? Here’s a recent tweet from the Philadelphia fire department with some of the same ideas attached.

Of course, it’s not only the tree. We have a tendency to burn more things this time of year!

images

We open up our fireplaces and wood stoves. We get out our candles and oil lamps. It is our natural and human instinct to bring light to these darkest days near the winter solstice. And there is no more beautiful light than firelight. The Red Cross has a whole list of safety tips regarding these activities. Please follow this link to learn more.

We give you joy of the season. Please be so, so, so careful with your lights and flames.

— Posted by Communications Volunteer Sarah Peterson

Although October may be the month of haunted houses and horror movies, there is one “scare” we never want: fire. The combination of Halloween décor and dry autumn weather makes October the perfect time for Fire Safety Month. Here are some tips to keep your home and family safe this season:

  • Keep the Halloween jack-o-lantern tradition alive, but forgo any actual flames. Using candles in jack-o-lanterns is a huge hazard, and easily avoided by using flashlights or battery operated lights.
  • Also, be cautious in your placement of jack-o-lanterns or other luminaries. Having a well lit pathway is nice, but the close proximity of flames to high-traffic areas is not.
  • Corn stalks or hay bales should be placed far from any flames or heat sources, as they are highly flammable. Remember, light bulbs give off heat and should never be draped with fabric, etc.
  • Whether your trick-or-treater wants to be Thor or a kitty cat, be sure the costume is flame-retardant. Rayon, acrylic and cotton/polyester blends are the most flammable fabrics.
  • How are your smoke detectors? Change Your Clocks, Change Your Batteries is right around the corner (November 4), but it never hurts to double check the batteries in your home.
  • It’s getting colder out there. If you’re digging out space heaters or opening up the chimney, be sure to take preventative measures. Sweep your chimney, install a fire guard and keep heaters away from flammable materials.
  • Not only are there precautions for inside your home, but outside, too. Clear your roof and gutters of debris buildup, such as pine needles and leaves, and learn the outdoor burning regulations in your area. Burning leaves and other outdoor debris (illegal or not) can be very risky.