The American Red Cross is helping families and businesses learn how to protect themselves from fires during National Fire Safety Week, Oct. 7 through Oct. 13.
So far this year, the American Red Cross has responded to an average of three house fires a day across 40 counties to provide comfort and basic necessities. Last year, the organization responded to approximately 63,000 fires across the nation, providing assistance to over 82,000 families.
"Locally, we aided approximately 35 individuals during the last week of September," said Chris Harmon, chief emergency services officer for the American Red Cross' Southern Missouri Region. "The best thing people can do to protect themselves and their loved ones is to install smoke alarms and develop and practice a fire escape plan. Fires can spread quickly, so everyone at home, work and school should know what to do when they hear the sound of a fire alarm."
The American Red Cross recommends the installation of smoke alarms on every level of the house and in bedrooms. Alarms should be tested monthly, and batteries replaced at least once a year.
Families should develop an escape plan that includes a designated meeting place outside of the home. Household members should know at least two escape routes from the home. Families should practice the plan at least twice a year.
In the event of a fire, the Red Cross recommends getting out of the building and then calling 911 or the local emergency number.
"It is always sobering to respond to a house fire," Harmon said, "but even more so when there is a death involved. We mourn the loss of each life and urge families to develop and talk about their escape plan.
"As it gets colder and it's time to turn on the furnace or stoke the wood stove, we encourage people to take precautions and make sure things are functioning properly," Harmon said.
Red Cross representatives are available to visit local organizations to talk about safety and preparedness. For more information on American Red Cross programs, call 417-832-9500 or visit www.redcross.org.