Number of Local Home Fire Responses Increase in Rocky Mount Area

The Frederick E. Turnage Chapter of the American Red Cross provided assistance to local residents after being called to 7 home fire incidents over the last 2 weeks.  Home fires account for more than 90% of disasters throughout the country. Since the beginning of the year, the Turnage Chapter has responded to more than 100 home fires in Edgecombe, Halifax, Nash, Northampton and Wilson counties.

Disaster volunteer James Tilley joined the Red Cross last year and has already seen his fair share of disasters, responding to upwards of a hundred home fires in the greater Rocky Mount area.  He knows all too well how devastating a home fire can be.

Tilley is ready to respond at all hours of the day or night.  Once he receives a call, he meets with the families that have been affected and offers them assistance in the form of temporary shelter, food, clothing, supplies and emotional support.

“I know what people feel like after a fire,” said Tilley. “In 2002 I lost my house to a fire, that’s why I’m dedicated to what I do.”

Tilley’s dedication goes beyond providing immediate assistance to those in need; he is also a strong advocate for prevention and preparedness.

“I tell people about renter’s insurance to protect your family, it’s not that much expense,” said Tilley. “Most I see don’t have home or renter’s insurance; maybe one out of five people have it.”

Not only is it important for families to be covered after a disaster occurs, they need to take steps to prevent them from happening.  Tilley says the types of fires he sees most often are easily preventable by paying attention and being aware of situations that pose a fire risk.

“Many home fires are caused by carelessness in the kitchen or overloading of circuits,” remarks Tilley.  “I see it a lot in older homes where someone will plug something in that hasn’t been checked and it overheats the outlet, you should never overload the circuits.”

Cooking fires are in fact the number one cause of most house fires.  The Red Cross recommends the following tips for fire prevention and cooking safely:

  • Keep items that can catch on fire at least three feet away from anything that gets hot, such as space heaters.
  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Talk to children regularly about the dangers of fire, matches and lighters and keep them out of reach.
  • Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • Stay in the home while simmering, baking, roasting or boiling food. Check it regularly and use a timer to remind you that food is cooking.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire—like pot holders, towels, plastic and clothing— away from the stove.
  • Keep pets off cooking surfaces and countertops to prevent them from knocking things onto the burner.

Other important fire prevention and safety recommendations include installing smoke alarms throughout your home and checking the batteries on a regular basis, and having a fire escape plan that you practice with every member of the household.

Disasters of all kinds can strike quickly and often without warning. During National Preparedness Month, the local Red Cross encourages all households to get ready for the next emergency or disaster whether it is a home fire or a hurricane.

Having a game plan in place is essential for all households so everyone knows what they should do when an emergency occurs,” said Lynwood Robeson, CEO for the Frederick E. Turnage Chapter of the American Red Cross “National Preparedness Month is a perfect time for Rocky Mount area residents to create or update their plan.”

MAKE A PLAN It is important that everyone in the household helps put the emergency plan together and knows what they should do if something occurs. Household members may not be together when a disaster happens – during the day many people are at work and school. The plan should include ways to contact one another and two predetermined places to meet – one near the home in case of a sudden emergency like a fire, and one outside the neighborhood in case circumstances prevent people from returning home. People should also identify an emergency contact person from outside the area in case local telephone lines are overloaded or out of service.

Any emergency plan should also include decisions about where family members will go if ordered to evacuate and what route they will take to get there. It’s a good idea to include alternate routes in case roads are closed. If pets are part of the household, make sure to include plans for them such as pet-friendly hotels and animal shelters along the evacuation route.

RED CROSS APPS The Red Cross has free mobile apps that provide information on what to do before, during and after emergencies including developing an emergency plan. “People can use the ‘Make a Plan’ feature in the apps to create their plan and then share it with their loved ones,” Robeson said. “The preloaded content in the apps gives people access to vital information to use during emergencies, even if they can’t connect to the internet.” The apps can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross.

OTHER WAYS TO GET READY Another step to get one’s household ready is to build an emergency kit in a container that is easy to carry so the family can use it at home or take it with them if asked to evacuate. It should contain a three-day supply of water (one gallon, per person, per day), nonperishable food, a flashlight, battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra batteries, a first aid kit, a 7-day supply of medications, a multi-purpose tool, sanitation and personal hygiene items and copies of important personal documents. The Red Cross also recommends having at least two weeks worth of emergency supplies at home.

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