Where to even begin! Last month I flew down to Washington, D.C. to visit the Red Cross headquarters and the Fairfax County Office (to see the Disaster Preparedness and Response team). I thought I had a fairly good grasp of what the Red Cross did– they help with Disaster Relief and blood donations. It turns out that the depth and breadth of their services are far greater than I ever imagined!
Shortly after arriving in D.C., we headed over to the Red Cross Headquarters on 17th Street. This BEAUTIFUL building also serves as a memorial to the women who served in the American Civil War. Throughout the building, you can view the history of the Red Cross and many items that tell the story of the organization, both domestically and internationally.
We then had a morning and afternoon full of presentations about the many ways that the Red Cross helps at home and abroad. Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern talked about the fiscal state of the Red Cross and how funds are allocated. Other Red Cross employees taught us about the Sound the Alarm Campaign and Brian Boyle presented a VERY powerful presentation about the Red Cross and their Blood Donation services (based on his own personal experience as the recipient of 36 blood transfusions!).
I wasn’t familiar with the Sound the Alarm Campaign prior to my trip to the D.C Headquarters, so I want to share a little bit about why I think this home safety program is AMAZING! The Red Cross responds to over 62,000 disasters yearly large and small. Most of these disasters are single-family home fires. Did you know that seven people die daily in home fires in the United States?
In an effort to prevent home fires, the Red Cross started a program to install fire alarms in homes in at-risk neighborhoods. The reality is that some families simply don’t have the means to purchase the number of smoke detectors they need for their living space and must choose between purchasing smoke detectors or purchasing food. Through the Sound the Alarm campaign, volunteers have worked in 15,900 communities installing 1.8 million smoke alarms and educating 1.4 million people and children about fire safety! As a result, there are 627 confirmed lives saved from these efforts! Here are a few fire safety tips you can implement TODAY:
- Plan an escape route for your family in case of fire and practice the plan at least twice a year.
- Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and sleeping areas.
- Test your smoke alarms monthly. If they are not working, make sure you replace the batteries!
- If you have a fire in your home, GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL FOR HELP. Do not go back inside the burning home for anything or anyone– wait until the fire department arrives.
One of the biggest takeaways of the fire prevention presentation is that you should practice getting yourself and your family out of the house within TWO MINUTES. Due to the open floor concepts of more modern homes, there are fewer barriers and more oxygen which cause fires to burn faster. There are also many synthetic chemicals used in household products which burn faster than traditional building materials like wood.
There are so many other wonderful things the Red Cross does at home and abroad, and I will be sharing more of them in Part 2 of this series!
P.S. If you are interested in volunteering with the Red Cross in their Sound the Alarm campaign, you can sign up to volunteer at www.redcross.org.