The last few days should show how important it is to be ready for a disaster

March 10 – With the water main breaks the last few days causing all kinds of delays and closings in the Keys, disaster preparedness is a really important topic.

Jim Hagen, Disaster Preparedness Manager for the Red Cross, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning.

With the hurricane season coming up, preparedness is critical.

Hagen said, “That’s something we concentrate on year-round.”

Home fires are also another focus for disaster preparedness.

Additionally, Daylight Savings Time is coming up this Sunday where we spring forward and move our clocks ahead one hour.

Hagen said, “That, we hope, will remind people that they should be testing their smoke alarms.”

The American Red Cross has sent people into more than one million homes across the country and installed more than 2.5 million smoke alarms – and they did it for free.

In South Florida alone, the Red Cross has installed more than 40,000 smoke alarms alone – and that affected more than 52,000 people.

Hagen said, “Our number one most frequent disaster response is a house fire. How do we prevent that? We do a lot of education for the kids. We go to houses and people can just email me and I will work with the chapter in their area to set up an appointment.”

The Red Cross has helped a number of families in Key West that were victims of house fires – that’s why smoke alarms are so important.

Hagen said, “Having a smoke alarm that’s functioning in your home is a huge factor. I believe it reduces the chance of death from a home fire by 20 times, which is massive. A smoke alarm is easy to install.”

Remember to test it, too.

Hagen said, “Alarms go bad. They become less sensitive over time. By the time the alarm is 10 years old, regardless of the battery, you should be throwing it away and putting in a fresh one.”

It’s also a good idea to think about how you would get out of your house if the worst would happen. It should be a two-minute window.

Hagen said, “The fumes are so deadly that we’re training people to have a plan, have everyone out of the house in under two minutes. That seems pretty simple until you start thinking about a few things. Most house fires get out of hand during the night when people are asleep. So you have to be awakened by the alarm and in the dark, you have to get up and get everybody out of the house. Two minutes is not necessarily a gimme.”

Remember to have a meeting spot, so everyone knows where to be.

Hagen said, “Tell the kids about this. You just assume that a kid knows what a smoke alarm is, what that noise means and how they’re supposed to respond. They might, but chances are they don’t.”

The Red Cross has educational programs in churches and schools where they teach children about home fires.  

It’s also important that senior citizens understand the importance of fire safety.

Hagen said, “A lot of times they may not be able to install an alarm, so they can just give us a holler. You’re supposed to have one in every level of your home. You definitely should have one in every area that people are sleeping. We try to make it as easy as we can to make sure people stay safe.”

A first aid kit is also something homeowners should have on hand.

Hagen said, “First aid, CPR, AED training is something that really everyone should think about. At least one person in every household should be trained. That way you’re not just a victim. You can actually anticipate, take care of some things while you’re waiting for professional help.”

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