By Barbara Allen and Kim Scott

Members of AmeriCorps - American Red Cross recently participated in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Adding their number to thousands of volunteers that walked door to door, in hundreds of neighborhoods across the country. Adults and youth alike handed out information on fire prevention and safety. Martin Luther King, Jr. advocated the power of service to strengthen communities and achieve common goals.

In honor of his legacy, the Red Cross distributed life-saving fire prevention and safety information. The volunteers went door-to-door handing out informational flyers, speaking with the residents of Calhoun County about smoke alarms, creating an escape plan in case of fire, and how to cook and heat a home safely this winter. The focus of the American Red Cross was to increase awareness of fire prevention strategies through one-on-one conversations.

Informational fliers containing the Be Red Cross Ready Fire Prevention & Safety Checklist were hung on doorknobs at residents of people who were unavailable to speak with the volunteers. According t the National Fire Protection Association, 74% of fire related deaths in the home occur where either there were no smoke alarms present or where the alarms were not working. The National Fire Protection Association also reports that smoking is the leading cause of home fire deaths, while cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fires related injuries. Additionally, over 200 people die each year from carbon monoxide produced by fuel burning appliance In the home such as furnaces, ranges, water and room heaters.

The American Red Cross reports that out of the 70,000 disasters in the communities across the United States every year, 90% of these are fire related. Statistically, only 26% of families have developed and practice a home fire escape plan. The most effective way to protect yourself and your home from fire is to identify and remove fire hazards. Develop an escape plan and practice it until all the members of your household are comfortable with what to do in case of fire. Install and maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home, especially inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Keep the area around space heaters or anything that gets hot, clear of items that catch fire by, at least three feet.

Turn off portable heaters when you leave the room or go to sleep. Talk to your children about the dangers of playing with fire and keep all lighters and matches out of reach. Do not ever smoke in bed. Practice safety when cooking to avoid burns and fires. Turn off the stove if you leave the Kitchen for even a short period of time. Keep anything that can catch fire away from the stove. Have a fire extinguisher in a handy location land become familiar with its proper usage. Through careful planning and awareness of potential fire hazards, you and your family can maintain a safer home environment and respond appropriately during a fire emergency.

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