American Red Cross Helping to Save Lives One Conversation at a Time

By Trevor Riggen, Senior Vice President, Disaster Cycle Services, American Red Cross

Photo Courtesy of AVANGRID

Photo Courtesy of AVANGRID

The past year reminded us that no one is beyond the reach of disasters. Hurricane Florence, Hurricane Michael, the California wildfires and so many other crises brought heart-breaking devastation and turned lives upside down.

As a member of the American Red Cross Disaster Responder Program, Avangrid Foundation’s donation before disasters strike ensures we can be on the scene of an emergency at a moment’s notice, when it’s needed most. It also means that the Red Cross has the strong infrastructure and critical resources to respond quickly and compassionately to emergencies of all sizes when they happen. We simply couldn’t  fulfill our mission without this support.

With Avangrid’s help, the Red Cross is also able to support families following thousands of smaller disasters, like home fires. These emergencies don’t often make news headlines, but are just as devastating and life-changing for those involved. Home fires are the nation’s most frequent disaster, accounting for the vast majority of the 62,000 disasters the Red Cross responds to in the U.S. each year.

Every day seven people are killed as a result of home fires, most in homes that lack working smoke alarms. For decades, we’ve responded to home fires and have been there for families with a hug, hope and care as they watched their homes burn.

Photo Courtesy of AVANGRID

Photo Courtesy of AVANGRID

In 2014, we decided to expand our role and put the full muscle of the Red Cross into preventing these tragedies and launched the Home Fire Campaign, to help save lives along with our community partners.

A critical part of the campaign is Sound the Alarm, a series of home fire safety and free smoke alarm installation events across the country. Together with our partners, we’ve already saved more than 500 lives and installed nearly 1.6 million free smoke alarms.

It’s the one-on-one time that Red Cross volunteers spend with families going  over home fire safety information and creating an escape plan that is making such a huge difference. After these discussions, people better understand the importance of being prepared and how they can help to prevent a deadly home fire.

That’s why the Red Cross is starting local and working to shift perspectives on the importance of preparedness—one conversation at a time.

April 27-May 12, we will Sound the Alarm in more than 100 cities across the U.S., with the goal of installing 100,000 free smoke alarms with the help of some 30,000 volunteers.

During these events, Red Cross volunteers will canvass high-risk neighborhoods, install free smoke alarms, replace batteries in existing alarms, provide home fire safety tips and help families create escape plans.

We are so pleased that Avangrid Foundation is standing shoulder to shoulder with us in support of Sound the Alarm this year with dedicated support in Augusta Maine, Rochester New York and Southern Connectict.

Through our work to Sound the Alarm for home fire safety, we are getting people’s minds focused on making their homes more resilient and helping to keep loved ones safe. People truly see the value in having someone take the time to come to their home, check their smoke alarms, install free smoke alarms and provide fire safety education.

Photo Courtesy of AVANGRID

Photo Courtesy of AVANGRID

I’m truly proud of the work we’re doing to help make communities safer, but I’m even more grateful for the support we get from our generous volunteers, community partners and donors – like Avangrid. The biggest piece to readiness is people. Our volunteer workforce, community partners and donors like Avangrid Foundation bring so much more than a philanthropic investment to the table. They stand alongside us to help solve big problems such as home fires.

American Red Cross Home Fire Safety Tips

In a typical year, home fires kill more people in the United States than all other natural disasters combined. Please take these two steps now to help keep your household safe: Check your smoke alarms every month and practice your home fire escape plan at least twice a year.  

Fire experts agree that people may have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home. Create a home fire escape plan and practice it until everyone in your household can escape in less than two minutes.

  • Escape plans should include at least two ways to escape from every room in your home.

  • Select a meeting spot at a safe distance away from your home.

  • Take time to discuss and practice the plan with everyone in your home at least twice a year.

Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a home fire in half.

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including inside and outside bedrooms and sleeping areas.

  • Test your smoke alarms once a month. Change the batteries at least once a year, if your model requires it.

  • Teach children what the smoke alarm sounds like when you practice your home fire escape plan.

  • Never disable a smoke alarm.

  • A combination of working smoke alarms and fire sprinklers further increases the odds of survival.

 Visit for a home fire escape plan and other free resources. You can also download free Red Cross mobile apps to have safety information at your fingertips.