Disasters take many shapes and forms and often provide little warning. In 2009, U.S. fire departments responded to 377,000 home fires, which claimed the lives of 2,565 residents and injured another 13,050. Most of these fires are preventable with cooking and heating incidents ranked as the number one and two causes, respectively, of residential fires, according to the U.S. Fire Administration's 2009 estimates. Additionally, more than 94 percent of the 67,000 disasters the American Red Cross (ARC) responds to each year are fire related. Because most of these fires are preventable, neighbors have the power to help their neighbors through education and prevention outreach. The nation also mourns more than 500 killed during tornadoes in April and May 2011 and flooding continues to be a major threat across the U.S. Fifty-three federal disasters have already been declared in numerous states in 2011.
Response to the need: Preparation is one tool that can minimize deaths and destruction. In observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service 2012, HOPE worldwide and its partners including the ARC, local fire departments, local emergency management agencies as well as other subgrantees will answer Dr King's urgent question "What are you doing for others?" on the weekend preceding and Monday, January 16, 2012. The "Protecting Our Neighbors" campaign will engage and train 8,500 volunteers and 72 community partners in a national program in at least 10 states to educate their neighbors on how to prevent, prepare for and respond to disasters. We expect to award 36 subgrants ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. The program will occur between mid September 2011 to late March 2012 and will address the Corporation for National and Community Services' strategic area of Disaster Services by increasing the capacity of vulnerable communities to prepare for disasters and respond when they do occur.
One answer to Martin Luther King's question "What are you doing for others?" is to help prepare and protect our vulnerable neighbors from unnecessary deaths and injuries during disasters. Residential home fires are America's biggest disaster threat. On average in the United States in 2009, someone died in a fire every 175 minutes, and someone was injured every 31 minutes, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Residential fires in 2009 claimed the lives of 2,565 residents and injured another 13,050 with older adults and African Americans at increased risk. More die annually from residential fire deaths than from the flooding devastation of Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than 1,800. We do not have to wait for a disaster of Katrina proportion to occur to help our neighbors. Most residential fires are preventable with cooking and heating incidents ranked as the number one and two residential fire causes, respectively, according to the U.S. Fire Administration's 2009 estimates.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration's "A Profile of Fire in the United States 2003-2007," people with limited physical and mental abilities, especially older adults, are at a higher risk of death from fire than other groups. Older adults, those ages 65 and older, account for 32 percent of fire deaths and 12 percent of estimated fire injuries. Additionally, African-Americans account for 22 percent of total fire deaths--nearly twice as high as their share of the overall population (13 percent).
Subgrantees are invited to participate in the "Protecting Our Neighbors" fire prevention education campaign to reach neighbors most at-risk of residential fires. Projects should focus on neighborhoods with recent high incidents of residential fires or statistically at-risk populations. Volunteers should promote practical and simple safety habits; the value of smoke alarms in working condition; and/or the need to create and practice a fire escape plan.