What happens after a home fire?

by Krystal Smith, staff contributor, American Red Cross North Texas Region

On average, the American Red Cross responds to a disaster every eight minutes, most of which are home fires. In fact, home fires are so dangerous that they claim more lives in a typical year than all natural disasters combined! Like other disasters, families impacted by a home fire are devastated by the loss of their home, cherished mementos and, sometimes, the loss of life.

While the causes of home fires vary, there are some steps people can take to help keep their families safe. The American Red Cross is dedicated to helping reduce deaths caused by home fires by providing home fire safety education and free smoke alarm installations in at-risk communities across the nation. To date, more than 860 people have been saved through this ongoing campaign.

Having working smoke alarms can cut the risk of dying in a home fire by half! Smoke alarms should be placed on each level of your home, including inside and outside bedrooms and sleeping areas.

Despite these precautions, home and apartment fires may still take place. So what happens when a home fire occurs?

Home or Apartment Fire

When a fire occurs and someone calls 9-1-1, the local fire department is dispatched to the address. Once there, the fire department works to put out the flames and determines if the residence is still livable. If not, the fire department will ask the resident if they would like the Red Cross assistance. Either the resident or the fire department can contact the Red Cross by calling 1-800-RED CROSS to request assistance.

At apartment fires, if the fire department knows some units will not be livable, they will typically contact the Red Cross before knowing the full extent of the damage so that caseworkers can start to make arrangements for the large number of people displaced.

Red Cross Disaster Teams Work to Meet Immediate Needs

Once contacted by a resident or the fire department, the Red Cross will either physically or virtually deploy a team of volunteers to assist those affected. Red Cross provides assistance whether it’s an individual who lives alone, a large apartment fire affecting hundreds, or anything in-between.

Red Cross response teams help meet immediate needs including lodging, food, water, health and mental health support. If a large number of people are displaced, a shelter may be opened to help provide temporary accommodations for those who are unable to return home. During the pandemic, when possible, these shelters consist of a hotel room to help keep people safe and socially distanced. If prescription medications or medical equipment were lost to the fire, Red Cross volunteers can help make arrangements to have the equipment replaced or prescription refilled.

Road to Recovery

After immediate needs are met, each family is assigned a Red Cross caseworker who helps identify any other needs and connected individuals with other community partners to help meet these needs. Through the help of community partners, those affected by the fire may receive assistance with alternate accommodations, veteran resources, furniture, clothing and much more.

Trusted World is one of these community partners who help those affected by disasters like home fires. Red Cross caseworkers identify clothing needs and sizes and provide Trusted World with a list of those needs. Trusted World workers then gather those items and deliver them to those impacted. Over the past year, Trusted World has delivered nearly 10,000 items including pants, shirts, socks, underwear and more.

We are grateful for the support of Trusted World and all of our community partners who help us serve those affected by disasters big and small.

For more information about the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, visit redcross.org/homefire.

Want to help? Learn how to become a Red Cross volunteer and assist those affected by disasters by visiting redcross.org/volunteer.

Special thanks to the American Red Cross North Texas Region Home Fire Campaign supporters including Alcon Foundation, Apartment Association of Greater Dallas, City Electric Supply, Lehigh Hanson and State Farm.

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