How Fire Agencies Can Support the ARC ‘Home Fire Campaign’

ESO Staff

The American Red Cross (ARC) is currently conducting its annual Home Fire Campaign, a nationwide program launched in 2014 aimed at reducing death and injury from home fires by 25%. Promoted every year at the beginning of May, the campaign has already made good traction so far, documenting 582 lives saved, more than 1,651 smoke alarms installed, and more than 1 million students educated.

Work Still to Be Done

Still, organizers highlight the fact that there is still a need for increased community outreach and action, citing statistics that 7 people die every day from home fires, most impacting children, the elderly, and those in lower-income housing. ARC also notes that 3 out of every 5 deaths occur where there were no smoke alarms, or where the alarms were not working, and that less than 1/3 of Americans have an escape plan set for their homes and families.

The Home Fire Campaign is a perfect opportunity for fire agencies across the nation to ramp up their community outreach programs and make the most of the specialized knowledge and data in their possession. No one knows the ins and outs of a community better than a fire agency, whose members have driven the streets, inspected the buildings, and responded to the calls that come in on a regular basis. So what can a fire agency do to support the efforts to reduce home fires?

Volunteer with the Sound the Alarm Program

A major element of the ARC’s efforts is its Sound the Alarm program aimed specifically at helping install free smoke alarms. To date, they have installed more than 1,650,000 free alarms in homes across the U.S. Additionally, volunteers have assisted families with developing more than 580,000 escape plans, helping ensure families can get out of their home in two minutes or less in case of a fire.

These types of volunteer opportunities make the perfect team-building opportunity for your fire crews, whether you participate in a formal capacity or as a team of individuals. Your unique perspective and experience make you the perfect volunteers to help families prevent injury, death, and property damage. This year’s campaign lasts until May 12 and has a goal of installing 100,000 free smoke alarms.

Beef Up Your CCR Program

The Home Fire Campaign is also a great inspiration to spend some time focusing on your agency’s community outreach program. A part of the Vision 20/20 Project, a Community Risk Reduction (CCR) program is a process to identify and prioritize local risks, followed by an “integrated and strategic investment of resources” (emergency response and prevention), to reduce their occurrence and impact.

According to a recent article in Fire Rescue Magazine, step one in the process is a risk assessment of your community, looking at your incident data to see what kind of events are happening most frequently and where. This helps you make informed decisions about deployment models, including how many stations, what type of equipment, and staffing levels to manage call loads. You want to not only look at when and where you have responded to calls, but also at the overall preparation in your community, including the number of smoke alarms and/or sprinklers installed, their effectiveness, and other incident data as well.

Today, gathering and analyzing this information is easier than ever, thanks to fire-specific software that can not only easily store detailed information on incidents, but integrate that information with your community property inspection data and information from other municipalities. Together, this information offers a full, detailed picture of your community and helps you best direct your efforts on community education, incentives, and interventions.

A Win-Win Situation

Firefighters are a visible and trusted resource in the communities they serve. By collaborating with the ARC for the Home Fire Campaign – whether its by offering insight into areas with the highest need for free smoke alarms or increased education programs, or by physically hitting the streets to help install the alarms themselves – the efforts of prevention serve the goals of both organizations: safer and more informed communities.

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