The child seemed so proud talking about lighting the cigarette lighter, says Bob Zwier. That flame had started a home fire. Bob heard the story while he was doing smoke alarm installations in the Hilltop.
“One of the take-aways is that whenever we see houses with little kids we talk to the residents to make sure lighters and matches aren’t where little kids can get them,” he says.
Bob has been working on the American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign for about two years. The Home Fire Campaign is a nationwide campaign to reduce the number of home fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent. As part of the campaign, the Red Cross is asking every household in American to take two easy steps to help protect their home and to increase their chances of surviving a fire: create and practice a fire escape plan, and install and maintain smoke alarms.
- You may only have two minutes to escape when a fire occurs, but most people mistakenly believe they have more than twice as long to get out.
- Home fire plans should include at least two ways to escape from every room of your home.
- Select a meeting spot at a safe distance from your home where family members can meet after a fire.
- Discuss the plan with everyone in the household and practice it at least twice a year. Make sure that you practice that plan until every member of your household can escape in less than two minutes.
- Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a home fire in half.
- Place smoke alarms on every level of your home, including inside and outside bedrooms.
- Test smoke alarms once a month. Change the batteries at least once a year – if your model requires it.
- Teach children what the smoke alarm sounds like and practice escaping your home in two minutes or less.
- Never disable a smoke alarm.
Bob works in conjunction with the Prairie Township Fire Department, which has statistics on which neighborhoods have had the most home fires. Another factor they consider is whether residents in a particular neighborhood are likely to have smoke alarms.
An average of twice a month, he and a team of 10-12 people canvass the selected neighborhood to install smoke alarms, test and change batteries, and offer fire safety information. He also goes out on Thursdays to do installations by appointment.
Bob’s first installation in a Prairie Township duplex probably saved lives. A few months later, during the middle of the night, there was a fire in half of the duplex. Because of the smoke alarm, 6 people were able to get out safely; another 5 people next door also evacuated their home.
“I’m really proud of the Central Ohio Chapter and the way they’ve engaged with the Home Fire Campaign,” Bob says. “I’m so proud that we’re making a difference in Franklin County.”