As one of the nation’s leading disaster relief organizations, the American Red Cross responds to thousands of disasters each year. While many might associate the organization’s outreach efforts with major catastrophic events such as hurricanes and wildfires, the American Red Cross reports that home fires represent 90 percent of its disaster response efforts. In fact, home fires represent one of the biggest disaster threats to families in the United States, resulting in over $7 billion in property damage each year. On average, seven people die and 36 people are injured a day as a result of a home fire. Given these startling statistics, the American Red Cross launched a Home Fire Prevention campaign in 2014, aimed at reducing deaths and injuries resulting from home fires by 25%. As such, I would like to share some simple steps you can take to protect your family and home in the event of a home fire.

As part of its campaign, American Red Cross has created a simple Two-Step plan to help families escape a home fire in less than two minutes. The first step of the plan is to develop and practice a Home Fire Escape Plan with your family. The American Red Cross recommends taking the following steps in creating your Home Fire Escape Plan:
• Develop two different exit strategies for each room of the home.
• Identify a designated meeting spot for once you get outside.
• Ensure children know what a fire alarm sounds like and what actions should be taken in the event an alarm goes off.
• Establish a family emergency communications plan and ensure that all household members know who to contact if they cannot find one another.
• Practice escaping from your home at least twice a year. Press the smoke alarm test button or yell “Fire“ to alert everyone that they must get out.
• Make sure everyone knows how to dial 9-1-1 for emergency help.
• Teach household members how to ‘Stop, Drop, and Roll’ in the event their clothes catch on fire.
• Because smoke rises, remind household members to stay low when escaping a smoke-filled room.

To help in developing your unique plan, the American Red Cross has made fire escape plan worksheets available on its website Home Fire Preparedness.

The second component of this two-part plan is to check fire alarms every month to make certain they are working properly in the event of a fire and the batteries do not need to be replaced. When smoke alarms fail to operate correctly, it is generally due to missing, disconnected or depleted batteries. It is important to note smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years from the manufacturer’s date listed on the back of the alarm. According to the National Fire Protection Association, three out of five home fire deaths occur in homes where there is no smoke alarm or no working smoke alarm, which is why this second step is so important.

In addition to following the American Red Cross’ Two-Step plan for fire safety, I would encourage you to take the time to read more information about the different ways you can protect your home from a fire. This includes keeping flammable objects a safe distance from items that get hot, such as heaters and stoves, never leaving a candle unattended, and learning about safe cooking methods. To read more about the different ways you can protect your home and family from fires, please visit the American Red Cross website Home Fire Safety. The National Fire Protection Association also has information on fire, electrical and related hazards.

If you have any questions regarding the information mentioned in this week’s article, please don’t hesitate to contact either my Capitol or District office. Please always feel free to contact my office if you have any questions or issues regarding a Texas state agency, or if you would like to contact my office regarding constituent services. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office, 361-949-4603).

– State Representative Todd Hunter, District 32

Rep. Hunter represents Nueces (Part) County.  He can be contacted at todd.hunter@house.texas.gov or at 512-463-0672.