As part of National Fire Prevention Week, the local Red Cross is urging families and businesses to learn how to protect themselves and others from fires.
The week runs from Oct. 7-13.
“Fires can spread very quickly, so everyone at home, school and work should know what to do when they hear the sound of a smoke alarm,” said Carol Ann Lentz, executive director for the American Red Cross in Scotland County.
Last year, the Red Cross responded to about 63,000 home fires across the country by providing comfort and basic necessities to more than 82,000 families.
“We respond to about one home fire every nine minutes across the country,” Lentz said. “The best thing you can do to protect your loved ones is to install a smoke alarm and develop and practice a fire escape plan.”
Additional recommendations include:
• Install smoke alarms on every level of the house and inside bedrooms.
• Replace batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year. Test each alarm monthly by pushing the test button.
• Ensure that household members know two ways to escape from every room and designate a place to meet outside of your house in case of a fire. Practice your plan at least twice a year.
• Follow your escape plan in case of fire. Get out, stay out, and call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
• Download the American Red Cross First Aid App to get access to life-saving information on what to do for common, everyday first aid emergencies. The app is available in the Apple App Store and on Google Play for Android.
Visit www.redcross.org/homefires for additional fire safety tips.
Business, too, should be prepared, Lentz said, since fire is the most common of all business disasters. According to the United State Fire Association, non-residential building fires resulted in $2.4 billion in losses in 2010.
Companies, schools and other organizations can learn how to prepare for fires and other emergencies by becoming a member of the Red Cross Ready Rating Program at www.readyrating.org. Complete a free, online assessment of current readiness levels and receive customized feedback with tips to improve preparedness.
In addition to helping families and businesses prepare their homes and facilities for potential fires, the Red Cross is there to help those in need when fires break out.
The Scotland and Robeson county offices responded to 115 local disasters and assisted 365 people with their immediate emergency needs last year.
“Within just the last month, we have responded to nine single-family home fires, one of which occurred on Sept. 11, 2012, in Lumberton,” Lentz said. “The family of five suffered major damage to their home including heavy smoke and water damage. During the fire, the family pet was inside and first responders had to administer breathing treatment on the scene. Thanks to their heroic efforts, the dog is fine.”
Lents added that to continue responding to disasters like fires at homes and businesses, the Red Cross depends on the support of individuals and businesses in the community.
“We receive United Way funding and 100 percent of that allocation goes to direct disaster assistance,” Lentz said. “We encourage the community to support the United Way fall campaign as a way to help the Red Cross continue to provide this critical service to the community.”