Red Cross Programs Prepare New Yorkers for Common Emergencies

By Elizabeth Briand, Director of State Relations for the American Red Cross in New York State

In 2014, the American Red Cross helped more people affected by home fires than all other types of disasters combined. In New York State, volunteers in more than 600 cities and towns responded at all hours of the day and night to provide food, shelter, comfort and hope to people with nowhere else to turn.

The Red Cross provided assistance to more than 13,000 fire victims in New York last year. This assistance included financial support for nearly 4,000 households in the state to help people replace belongings lost to fires. Nationally, the Red Cross responds to a disaster in the community every eight minutes and the vast majority of these are home fires.

Large disasters like floods and hurricanes tend to dominate the headlines, but people may not realize how frequent and how devastating home fires can be. That’s where the Red Cross comes in, but the work doesn’t end after the smoke clears. Every day, local volunteers are helping people recover from emergencies and get better prepared for the future.

Home Fire Preparedness Campaign

Home fires not only cause significant material losses; seven times a day, someone in the United States dies in a fire. In 2014, the Red Cross responded to more than 4,000 disasters and provided assistance to more than 16,000 New Yorkers. In October, the American Red Cross announced a new campaign to reduce deaths and injuries from home fires across the country by as much as 25 percent over the next five years.

The campaign focuses on joining forces with local fire departments and community groups nationwide to install smoke alarms in communities with high numbers of fires.

Through the campaign, the Red Cross is also encouraging families everywhere to check their existing smoke alarms and regularly practice their fire escape plans.

Installing smoke alarms cuts in half the risk of someone dying in a home fire. Across New York, the Red Cross works closely with many local partners to get this message out there, teach people about fire safety and install smoke alarms where there are people who need them.

An American Red Cross volunteer helps install a smoke alarm.
An American Red Cross volunteer helps install a smoke alarm.

Reinforcing the need for the Red Cross Home Fire Preparedness Campaign is a national survey* which shows that many Americans have a false sense of security about surviving a fire. The survey conducted for the Red Cross shows that people mistakenly believe they have more time than they really do to escape a burning home.

Fire experts agree that people may have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home before it’s too late to get out, but most Americans (62 percent) mistakenly believe they have at least five minutes to escape. Nearly one in five (18 percent) believe they have 10 minutes or more. When asked about their confidence levels in actually escaping a burning home, roughly four in 10 of those polled (42 percent) believed they could get out in two minutes.

While 69 percent of parents believe their children would know what to do or how to escape with little help, the survey found that many families had not taken necessary steps to support that level of confidence.

Less than one in five families with children age 3-17 (18 percent) report that they’ve actually practiced home fire drills.

Less than half of parents (48 percent) have talked to their families about fire safety.

Only one third of families with children (30 percent) have identified a safe place to meet outside their home.

In an effort to improve these statistics, Red Cross chapters across New York State launched their home fire preparedness campaign efforts on October 11, 2014. Since then, hundreds of smoke alarms have been installed for people in need, and teams of volunteers have visited dozens of communities recently impacted by devastating fires to help educate families about fire safety and preparedness.

Since the start of the nationwide Home Fire Preparedness Campaign, the Red Cross has visited more than 23,000 homes and installed nearly 40,000 smoke alarms across the country.

Already, seven lives have been saved by smoke alarms installed through the campaign.

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Citizen Preparedness Corps

To further its efforts to prepare individuals and families for disasters of all kinds across the state, the Red Cross has also partnered with Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to offer free Citizen Preparedness Corps training sessions statewide. Recognizing that New York State is at a high risk for man-made, technological and natural disasters, the Citizen Preparedness Corps training program teaches state residents how to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters of all kinds, particularly those that are common in New York.

Citizen Preparedness Corps training is available online at Using a new or existing NY.GOV ID, the training is easily accessible and can be completed in less than 15 minutes! Be sure to select “Referral from the American Red Cross” when asked “Where did you learn about the online Citizen Preparedness Training?” In doing so, your participation will be counted amongst the nearly 20,000 New Yorkers already trained in the Citizen Preparedness Corps program through the Red Cross.

Free, in-person Citizen Preparedness Corps training sessions are also available through local Red Cross chapters across the state. Sessions can be scheduled for public or private groups based on interest and availability.

The American Red Cross’ Citizen Preparedness Corps offers free training sessions in communities across the state.
The American Red Cross’ Citizen Preparedness Corps offers free training sessions in communities across the state.

Through both the Citizen Preparedness Corps training program and the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign, Red Cross staff and volunteers are working to build a safer, more prepared New York. To learn more about how you can get involved with the Red Cross, access Citizen Preparedness Corps training opportunities or participate in the home fire preparedness campaign, contact Elizabeth Briand at

*The national public opinion survey was conducted for the Red Cross July 17-20, 2014 using ORC International’s Online CARAVAN omnibus survey.

The study was conducted among a national sample of 1,130 American adults, including 311 parents of children aged 3-17. The total sample is balanced to be representative of the U.S. adult population in terms of age, sex, geographic region, race and education. The margin of error for the total sample of 1,130 adults is +/- 2.92 percent. The margin of error for the sample of 311 parents is +/- 5.56 percent.