American Red Cross

Minimizing the Risk of Home Fires

By Krista Farley Raines, Regional Communications Officer, American Red Cross West Virginia Region

Note: This week, Oct. 9-15, is National Fire Prevention Week, and our friends at the American Red Cross West Virginia Region are here with a guest post about how to minimize the risk of fire in your home and how you can receive a FREE smoke alarm.

Last year in West Virginia, the Red Cross responded to almost 700 home fires. Such fires all too often end in tragedy. Seven times a day, someone in this country dies in a home fire. The Red Cross has been working to reduce that number through the Home Fire Campaign, a multi-year effort to reduce the number of home fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent. Launched in October 2014, the Red Cross and thousands of campaign partners have helped save numerous lives through the effort, as well as installing more than a quarter million free smoke alarms in homes all across the country.

Everyone should take three steps to help minimize their risk:

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of the home, and check them monthly by pressing the test button.
  • Create a fire escape plan identifying two escape routes from every room of the home and a place a short distance outside of the home where family members can meet after escaping.
  • Practice the escape plan at least twice a year, paying particular attention to children or older adults who may require extra time and care.

The Red Cross wants to help you get prepared. Learn how to help prevent a home fire and what to do if one occurs by downloading the Red Cross Emergency App.

Visit redcross.org/homefires to find out more about how to protect yourself and your beloved home from fire.

To have a free smoke alarm installed in your home, find the location of smoke alarm installation events or to become a volunteer, contact the American Red Cross West Virginia Region at (304) 340-3650 or visit www.redcrosswv.org.

Preparing Your Vehicle for Winter

By Krista Farley Raines, Regional Communications & Marketing Director, American Red Cross – West Virginia Region

Winter weather has finally arrived in the Mountain State, blanketing the region in beautiful – but potentially hazardous – snow. To help you better prepare yourself for winter emergencies, our friends from the American Red Cross West Virginia Region are guest blogging a two-part series about winter weather safety procedures for your home and your car.

Winter storms and cold temperatures can be hazardous, but if you plan ahead, you can keep your family safe. Minimize travel outdoors, but if you have to go out dress in several layers of lightweight clothing, wear mittens and a hat that covers your ears. Don’t forget to leave water running to help prevent pipes from freezing when you leave your house.

If you have to travel, having a preparedness kit in your vehicle at all times is essential. A Vehicle Winter Preparedness Kit should include:

  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Cell phone car charger
  • Blanket and/or emergency mylar blanket
  • Fleece hat, gloves, scarf
  • Flares
  • Folding shovel
  • Sand or cat Litter
  • Ice scraper and snow brush
  • First-aid kit
  • Small battery-operated radio
  • Emergency contact card with names and phone numbers
  • Extra prescription medications
  • Bottled water
  • High protein snacks
  • Maps
  • Whistle

If driving is unavoidable, safety should be your number one priority. Make sure your vehicle has plenty of gas, and pay attention to the weather forecast for your travel route and destination. Buckle up, be alert and drive slowly with caution. In the event your vehicle becomes disabled, keep the car running, make sure the exhaust pipe is clear and leave the window open a crack until help arrives. Additionally, know the differences between winter storm outlooks, advisories, watches and warnings.

To learn more about to prepare for, respond to and recover from a disaster, visit redcross.orgAnd don’t miss our first post on winter safety for your home.

Keeping Safe in the Winter Months

By Krista Farley Raines, Regional Communications & Marketing Director, American Red Cross – West Virginia Region

Winter weather has finally arrived in the Mountain State, blanketing the region in beautiful – but potentially hazardous – snow. To help you better prepare yourself for winter emergencies, our friends from the American Red Cross West Virginia Region are guest blogging a two-part series about winter weather safety procedures for your home and your car. (Part two will post later this week.)

The American Red Cross responds to nearly 70,000 disasters every year in this country. No one hears about the vast majority of these emergencies — the home fires that affect a single family, many of whom escape with only the clothes on their backs. Heating sources are the second leading cause of home fire deaths, and fatal home fires increase during the winter months. In addition, the National Fire Protection Association states that half of all home heating fires occur in December, January and February.

Here are some ways you can stay safe during this winter season:

  1. Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
  2. Test the batteries in your smoke alarms once a month, and change them if they’re not working.
  3. Create an escape plan that includes two exits from each room and practice it until everyone in your household can get out in less than two minutes.
  4. Follow the “three feet” rule and keep children, pets and flammable items at least three feet from heating equipment. Turn off portable space heaters when you leave the room and when you go to sleep.
  5. Use gas wisely and never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home. Four percent of Americans admit to having used a gas stove to heat their home.
  6. If using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
  7. Never use a generator indoors, even in a garage, carport, basement or crawlspace. Fumes from the generator can be deadly.

If you would like the Red Cross to install free smoke alarms in your home and assist in developing a fire escape plan please call 1-844-216-8286 to schedule an appointment. To learn more about winter safety, visit redcross.org.

Creating an Emergency Food Pantry

Written by Krista Farley & Susan Shew, American Red Cross – West Virginia Region

If a winter storm, derecho, thunderstorm or other disaster strikes your community, you might not have access to food, water or electricity for days or even weeks. One way to prepare for such disasters is to purchase and store emergency food and water supplies to ensure you can provide for your family.

Store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food for each person in your household. You can use the canned goods and other staples in your pantry or cupboard. Make sure to check the expiration dates and rotate items to ensure you are using the oldest ones first. The best types of food require no refrigeration, water, special preparation or cooking. Don’t forget a manual can opener and disposable utensils.

If the electricity goes off, first use perishable food from the refrigerator, pantry or garden. The refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if it is unopened. Then use the foods from the freezer. Remember to limit the number of times you open the freezer door. In a well-filled, well-insulated freezer, foods will usually still have ice crystals in their centers, meaning the foods are safe to eat for at least two days. Finally, begin using non-perishable foods. Bacteria in food grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140° F, so if these foods are consumed, people can become very sick. It is important to have a food thermometer in your disaster kit to ensure your safety.

Suggested Emergency Food Supplies

•  Ready to eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables
•  Protein or fruit bars
•  Dry cereal or granola
•  Peanut butter
•  Jelly
•  Instant potatoes
•  Nuts
•  Crackers
•  Foods for infants if needed

Storage Tips

•  Keep food in a dry, cool, dark spot if possible.
•  Wrap perishable foods, such as cookies and crackers, in plastic bags and keep them in sealed containers.
•  Inspect all food for signs of spoilage before use.
•  Throw out canned goods that become swollen, dented or corroded.
•  Place new items at the back of the storage area and older ones in the front.

Staying Hydrated

If supplies run low, never ration water. Drink the amount you need today, and try to find more for tomorrow. You can minimize the amount of water your body needs by reducing activity and staying cool. To prepare the safest and most reliable emergency supply of water, it is recommended that you purchase commercially bottled water. Keep bottled water in its original container, and do not open it until you need to use it.

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