By Jarrett Barrios, Los Angeles Region CEO

Sadly, in a typical year in the United States, home fires kill more people than all other natural disasters combined. To help save lives, here at the Red Cross Los Angeles Region, we are asking that every household take two simple steps: practice fire drills at home and check smoke alarms monthly.

Practicing your home fire escape plan is important because fire experts agree that people may have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home before it is too late to get out. We urge that every household create a fire escape plan and practice that plan until everyone can easily escape in two minutes or less. Keep in mind that escape plans should include at least two ways to escape from every room. You should also set aside time to discuss your plan with everyone in your household and make a commitment to practice your plan at least twice a year.

Studies show that working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a home fire in half. This is why it is so important to test your smoke alarms once a month, and change the batteries at least once a year—if your model requires it. This is also why, at the Red Cross, we work year-round to help make individuals and families safer from home fires. In fact, in the Los Angeles area, we have more than 30 free smoke alarm installation events every year—in communities like Lancaster, where our volunteers installed free smoke alarms only a few weeks ago! Of course, none of the work we do would be possible without the support of our dedicated partners like, Southern California Edison, The Compton Initiative, ABC7, Dogeared, The Walt Disney Company and Mercy Worldwide.  With their help, we are one step closer to our goal of reducing deaths and injuries related to home fires by 25 percent by the year 2020.

This spring, in our effort to end home fire tragedies, the Red Cross will step up its commitment to saving lives with Sound the Alarm, a series of home fire safety and smoke alarm installation events in more than 100 high-risk communities in the United States. In fact, in just 16 days–from April 28 to May 13–our volunteers and partners will install 100,000 free smoke alarms across the country!

This all-out smoke alarm installation blitz is taking place because the Red Cross responds to nearly 64,000 disasters a year, and the majority of these are home fires. Additionally, home fires represent a significant threat to our communities, killing seven people every day; and unfortunately, most of these deaths occur in homes that lack properly working smoke alarms.

Because of this, in 2014, the Red Cross launched our nationwide Home Fire Campaign and rallied an army of volunteers, donors and partners to canvass statistically higher-risk neighborhoods, install free smoke alarms, replace batteries in existing alarms and help families create fire escape plans. To date, this program has already saved 348 lives nationwide!

For upcoming Sound the Alarm events in Los Angeles, we need volunteers to help install smoke alarms, complete fire safety checklists and create fire escape plans with local families. Event locations and dates include: Compton – April 21, Sylmar/San Fernando – April 28, South Los Angeles – May 5 and East Los Angeles – May 12.

Please join our growing movement by volunteering to install smoke alarms in your community, by making a financial contribution or, by simply taking the steps necessary to protect your own family from home fires. Check out more information about home fire safety and learn how you can get involved, here.

Jarrett Barrios is the Chief Executive Officer at the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region. 

To learn more about Jarrett Barrios or the America Red Cross Los Angeles Region, visit


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