New Red Cross Survey Shows Many Americans Overconfident and Underprepared for Home Fires

American Red Cross
New Red Cross Survey Shows Many Americans Overconfident and Underprepared for Home Fires
A Home Fire Campaign installation event. (Photo by Melissa Nyman for the American Red Cross)

Washington, D.C. — According to a new survey by the American Red Cross, many people overestimate their ability to react to a home fire and miss critical steps to keep their loved ones safe. 

In fact, 40 percent of people believe they are more likely to win the lottery or get struck by lightning than experience a home fire. Yet, home fires are the most common disaster people face in this country – the majority of the nearly 64,000 disasters the Red Cross responds to every year. 

“Every day seven people in this country die in a home fire and another 36 people are hurt,” reports Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern. “To address this crisis, we’re bringing together thousands of community partners and volunteers to Sound the Alarm about home fire safety and help save lives. We’ve already installed more than 1.1 million smoke alarms, but our work will continue across the country, because many families are still underprepared when it comes to home fire safety.”

This spring, the Red Cross will Sound the Alarm through a series of home fire safety and smoke alarm installation events in more than 100 high-risk communities in the United States. In just 16 days – from April 28 to May 13 – volunteers and partners will install 100,000 free smoke alarms across the country. Volunteers are needed, learn more by visiting SoundTheAlarm.org.

MANY PEOPLE MISTAKEN ABOUT HOME FIRE FACTS

The Red Cross survey found that many Americans have a false sense of security about their family’s ability to escape a home fire. More than three-fourths (80 percent) of people surveyed believe everyone in their household knows what to do when a smoke alarm goes off. But less than half of those surveyed have a home fire escape plan in place. And only half of the families that do have a plan have actually practiced it.

Home fire experts say that people have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home. However, the survey showed nearly 60 percent of people mistakenly believe they have much more time than is realistic.  

MORE SURVEY RESULTS

Even though many Americans admit to actions that could contribute to a home fire, only one out of four (27 percent) think that they are likely to experience a home fire in their lifetime. For example, about 40 percent of people have forgotten to turn off a stove or oven, even though cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries. And, more than one-third (34 percent) of people have used a stove, kerosene lantern or space heater to warm their home. The fact is that heating equipment is involved in one of every five home fire deaths. 

The survey does show that some progress is being made. More people are replacing batteries (a 9 percent increase vs. 2015) and testing to make sure their smoke alarms are working (an 11 percent increase vs. 2015). But there is still have a long way to go to make sure everyone is prepared for home fires.

Americans overwhelmingly believe that smoke alarms can save lives, yet one out of ten (12 percent) people have had to give up buying other essentials for their families to purchase one. These findings highlight just how critical the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign is in communities across the country. Launched in 2014 to save lives and help end home fire tragedies, the Red Cross and its partners have already installed more than 1.1 million free smoke alarms and reached 1 million children through preparedness programs. These efforts are already credited with helping to save 381 lives. Learn more

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This work is made possible thanks to generous financial donations from national partners: Almost Family, Delta Air Lines and International Paper. The Red Cross has also received funding from FEMA through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. 

Join the Red Cross today by volunteering to install smoke alarms in your community, making a financial contribution, or taking steps to protect your own family from home fires. Together, we can Sound the Alarm about fire safety and help save lives. Learn more at soundthealarm.org

 

Supplemental Information about Survey Methodology

The national public opinion survey was conducted for the Red Cross in August 2017 using the research firm Issues & Answers. The study was conducted among a national sample of 604 American adults. The total sample is balanced to be representative of the US adult population in terms of age, sex, geographic region, race and education. The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 4 percent. 

 

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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