by Megan Hageman, communications volunteer
We all hear about fires and are aware of their severity, but most tend to think, “It will never happen to me,” until it does. The American Red Cross responds to more than 62,000 disasters every year, and while most people’s minds tend to immediately jump to major storms and national disasters, a vast majority of the calls are local home fires.
For Sandra Batiste, this statistic quickly became reality when her apartment neighbor’s car caught fire this past winter. “I was here about 10 minutes when the neighbor came banging on my door to inform me his vehicle was smoking,” said Sandra. “Shortly, I was advised to leave my apartment, so I came in for a coat and boots, then stood across the street as the smoke turned into flames.”
Sandra was able to see the organization in action following her fire encounter. “I had never been involved in a fire, so I was able to see what the Red Cross does in these circumstances,” said Sandra. While Sandra didn’t need the financial assistance the Red Cross can provide, she appreciated the care package of useful items she received.
Luckily, the fire department arrived in time to contain the fire, so despite the harm to her neighbor’s apartment, Sandra’s was unaffected, with the exception of a faint, lingering smell of smoke. However, Sandra had only been at her apartment for a couple of months and realized how the situation could have taken a turn for the worse if the fire had not been contained in time.
“I am thankful the fire did not occur during the night, as the outcome could have been tragic. It only occurred to me after the fire that the only way out is either the front or garage door, which are side by side. Breaking a window may have been the only way out if these doorways had been blocked,” said Sandra.
It is extremely important to have a plan and be prepared in case of a fire emergency. The Red Cross offers materials and checklists to prevent fires, including installing the proper number of working smoke alarms; creating and practicing a fire escape plan; and developing fire-safe habits like cooking cautiously and checking electrical wiring around your home.
The Red Cross provides guidelines on returning to your home after a fire and recovering from it once you and your family are physically safe. For people directly affected, the Red Cross works together with community leaders and government and relief agencies to provide care packages. In addition, we can provide emergency financial assistance immediately following the disaster and in the long term.
For more information on how to prepare for a fire emergency or on steps to recovery, visit The American Red Cross Home Fire Safety