East Hawaii News

Home Fires Generate Most Red Cross Response

December 18, 2014, 1:06 PM HST
* Updated December 18, 2:10 PM
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The Hawai’i American Red Cross announced Thursday that the organization has helped more people affected by home fires than any other everyday disaster.

Throughout the year, the Red Cross volunteers provides food, blankets and comfort to help hundreds of people cope after home fires.

According to the Red Cross, the Hawai’i chapter helped provide financial support to 104 households following home fires. Financial support has helped families to replace belongings and begin to recover from their devastation.

The Red Cross reports statistics that claim the organization responds to a disaster in the community every 8 minutes nationally. Locally, the Red Cross reports attending to a disaster every four days. The majority of disasters responded to are home fires.

“While floods, hurricanes and tsunamis tend to dominate the headlines, people often underestimate the frequency and devastation caused by home fires, and that’s where the Red Cross comes in,” said Coralie Chun Matayoshi, CEO of the Hawai’i Red Cross. “Our work doesn’t end after the smoke clears, every day local volunteers are helping people recover and get better prepared.”

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A nation-wide campaign was launched by the Red Cross this year that aims to reduce the number of home fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent over the course of the next five years.

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As part of the campaign, the organization is asking every household in America to take two simple steps in protecting their homes from devastating fires: check existing smoke alarms and practice fire drills at home.

The campaign launched in November and since then has partnered with fire departments and community groups. Throughout the nation, more than 29,000 people have been reached and 17,000 smoke alarms have been installed, efforts that have saved the life of five families.

Locally, the Hawai’i chapter of the organization has gone door-to-door in high-risk neighborhoods distributing fire safety information and scheduling free smoke alarm installations.

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In addition to response to home fires, the Red Cross organization in Hawai’i has responded to a handful of major disasters in 2014, including Tropical Storm Iselle, Hurricane Ana, and the ongoing Kilauea lava flow threat.

The Red Cross has tips for households to help prevent home fires that are especially prone during the holiday seasons. Some of the tips provided by the Red Cross include:

Not wearing loose clothing or dangling sleeves while cooking.

Never leave cooking food unattended. Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling, or broiling food.

Check food regularly while cooking and remain in the home while cooking.

Use a timer as a reminder that the stove or oven is on.

Keep children away from the cooking area by enforcing a “kid-free zone” and have them stay at least three feet away from the stove.

Keep anything that can catch fire – pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, and towels or curtains – away from the stove, oven, or any other appliance in the kitchen that generates heat.

Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.

Purchase a fire extinguisher to keep in the kitchen.

Always check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving the house to make sure all stoves, ovens, and small appliances are turned off.

Install a smoke alarm near the kitchen, on each level of the home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms. Use the test button to check it each month. Replace all batteries at least once a year.

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