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Fire Safety Resolutions for 2016

Want to make a resolution that can help protect your loved ones? Here at the Red Cross, we want to make sure you are prepared for emergencies — especially home fires — in 2016.

Here are two simple steps you can take. The first is to practice your 2-minute drill; can your family safely escape your home in under two minutes? The second is to make sure you have smoke alarms installed in every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Test the batteries every month, and replace the batteries at least once a year.

Additionally, following a few simple guidelines can go a long way towards preventing home fire deaths and injuries.

Resolution #1: Electrical Appliances


Resolution #2: Candles


Resolution #3: Outlets


Resolution #4: Cooking Safety132401-Twitter-Fire-Safety-Resolutions-FINAL-stove

Resolution #5: Space Heaters


With the help of thousands of local partners, our Home Fire Campaign has installed 215,000 smoke alarms for free in homes across America. Fire safety programs have educated 395,000 youth. To date, the campaign has been credited with saving at least 39 lives. Here’s to a safe and happy New Year!

Your Yearly Calendar: Red Cross Tips and Reminders

On one hand, I really enjoy keeping my household updated on safety checks and preparedness items. On the other, I’m admittedly really, really bad at remembering to do everything. I depend on an assortment of online tools to keep most of my life together, so why not add on a nice calendar to remind me about things like checking my smoke alarm and cycling items out of my survival kit?

To stay on track without having to come back to this post, use our public Google Calendar or print this nifty pdf for your own list to stick on the fridge.

Every month

  • Test smoke alarm batteries

Every three months

Every 56 days

  • Donate blood (see redcrossblood.org for additional qualifications and information. Calendar reminder quarterly) Note: Blood (whole blood) can be donated every 56 days. Platelets can be donated every 7 days, up to 24 times per year.

Twice a year

  • Practice your home fire family escape plan.
  • Turn and Test! Test/replace smoke alarm batteries and turn your clocks an hour ahead or behind.
  • Check and restock if needed your emergency kit’s food, water and medicine supply.

Every two years

  • Take a First Aid/CPR/AED course to keep your certification current (calendar reminder yearly)

Every 10 years

  • Replace smoke alarms 

 View the Google Calendar | Download the iCAL file | Printable List

(Click the Google Calendar button  – Google Calendar Icon – at the bottom of the embedded calendar below to open this up in your own Google Calendar list. It should show up in the list of “Other calendars”) 

How Our Preparedness Kit Taught Me to Re-Define Disaster

By Leigh-Anne Dennison, American Red Cross Communicator

After moving into our own first house, I brought to a happy corner of our finished basement my ready-made backpack preparedness kit and a large plastic bin. Over the course of a few weeks, as we moved around and unpacked boxes, I filled the bin with all the things I know you need in a disaster preparedness kit. A new family first aid kit, bottled water, travel-sized toiletries for me and my spouse, a few rolls of extra toilet paper and so on.

As months and years wore on, our new home came together, and situations arose that prompted trips to our basement preparedness kit. Mostly little things…

  • Organizing the boxes in our attic necessitated my use of a dust mask to keep allergies from devastating my sinuses and latex gloves to protect my hands from the dry air and possible splinters.
  • The first aid kit in the bathroom ran out of bandages, but the first aid kit in the basement was full.
  • A pair of feral cats moved into our garage in one of the coldest winters on record – the emergency mylar blanket from our go bag and a couple leftover Styrofoam coolers from summer became a make-shift insulated shelter to help shield them from the cold.
  • A “boil water warning” that followed a storm that had knocked out power had me snatching bottled water from our emergency supply.
  • The can opener at my husband’s office kitchen disappeared, and he needed one to take with him to open his soup for lunch.
  • Then there’s that time I forgot to pick up new toilet tissue during our weekly grocery trip…

The first few times I felt badly about dipping into our “stash” of preparedness supplies, until I realized that not every disaster comes with lightning, thunder and 50-mph winds or is accompanied by sirens or warnings from the Emergency Broadcast System. Sometimes we just need to be ready for the scraped knee that comes from falling while riding a bike or be prepared to offer creature comforts to a stranger (or two) who crosses our path.

That epiphany was followed by another thought – while it’s okay to take from your preparedness kit when faced with life’s little emergencies, you also have to replenish your supplies. You want to be sure they are ready and waiting for you the next time you have a skull-splitting headache and reach into your medicine cabinet only to find the bottle of aspirin is empty.

As I inventoried our disaster supplies, Chewbacca pointed out that our kit seemed seriously lacking in emergency kitten supplies. He's right, of course, so cat food, treats and toys are being added to our replenishment list.
As I inventoried our disaster supplies, Chewbacca pointed out that our kit seemed seriously lacking in emergency kitten supplies. He’s right, of course, so cat food, treats and toys are being added to our replenishment list.

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The Meaning of Volunteering — Wise Words from Red Cross Donut Dollies

Written by Greta Gustafson, Media Relations Intern, American Red Cross

I had the privilege of mingling with some of the Red Cross Donut Dollies at the American Red Cross Overseas Association (ARCOA) award ceremony in October. These amazing women have served members of the U.S. military in WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq, among many other military operations, helping to support soldiers and their families. I didn’t think I would have much in common with them, but the majority had recently graduated college when they chose to serve overseas, and they were looking for something meaningful and exciting. As we poured over old photographs together, they reminisced about their life changing volunteer experiences, and they left me with advice I will always remember.

  1. There is nothing more fulfilling than helping others.
    “It is so satisfying because individual volunteers go out and literally put themselves on the line; put their lives on the line. There’s no finer group of people I’ve ever worked with. My Red Cross experience changed my whole belief system about people, because of the military men I helped provide service for.” -Elaine Bailey, Vietnam
  2. Experience is truly the best way to learn.
    “I think the Red Cross was probably the best graduate school I could have ever attended. I learned more from that one year of volunteer experience both about myself but also about really challenging myself, and stretching what I thought I was capable of doing or was maybe afraid of doing, and Red Cross doesn’t give you a chance to say no. You just get in there and start doing it.” – Carolina Smith Morton, Vietnam
  3. Sometimes you have to take a chance and step out of your comfort zone.
    For many of these women, it was their first time overseas, or even away from home. But Payton Wooldridge, a Donut Dolly in Vietnam, said it best, “Why not?  It will change your life. It’s worth every minute.”

This holiday season, draw some inspiration from the Donut Dollies and consider how you can dedicate time to something meaningful, by helping others. The Red Cross provides numerous opportunities to get involved in your community. To find out how you can help, visit http://www.redcross.org/support/volunteer.

#GiveWithMeaning: 10 Days of Giving Back

We’ll be updating this blog post for the next 10 days leading up to Giving Tuesday. Follow Red Cross on Facebook and Twitter, as well as this post here!

DAY 1 — Providing Emergency Messages to Service Members

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Being separated from family is difficult, especially in times of an emergency. We help deliver urgent messages to service members who may need to return home during a family crisis. The Red Cross is the only organization trusted to provide verified reports of family events, such as births, illnesses or deaths, enabling service members and their commanders to assess the need to return home.

Major Andy Anderson was one service member who was helped by our emergency messaging services while he was deployed to Iraq. Hear him tell his story about how he was able to return home for the birth of his child thanks to this important message.

DAY 2 — Preparing Kids for the Unexpected

123201 Holiday 2015_Social Image_Day 2Inspired by university students carrying their belongings in pillowcases during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, The Pillowcase Project is a free emergency preparedness program developed by the Red Cross for 3rd to 5th graders. Interactive lessons focus on three principles: learn, practice and share. Students are taught about home fire prevention and safety, and other potential hazards such as tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes.  Since the 2013 pilot launched, more than 300,000 young students have participated in the program. Learn more at redcross.org/prepare.

Kids can also learn about disaster preparedness through the Red Cross app Monster Guard, which can be downloaded from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, or by texting “MONSTER” to 90999.


DAY 3 — Helping Families After Typhoon Haiyan

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Two years after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, families and neighborhoods are healthier, safer and better prepared for future storms and emergencies. Ten thousand families are now living in safer shelter, and more than 10,000 households have received cash grants to help them restart businesses or create new income-generating opportunities. To learn more, visit redcross.org/Haiyan.

DAY 4 — Our Young Leaders on #GiveWithMeaning
This month, 10 members of the Red Cross National Youth Council came together at the St. Louis Area Chapter to recap the past year and to plan for 2016. Here, they give 10 reasons why they love the Red Cross. If you’d like to share as well, we’d love to hear from you! Simply use the hashtag #GiveWithMeaning.

DAY 5 — Giving Thanks to Volunteers

123201 Holiday 2015_Social Image_Day 5

It’s been another busy year across the country and around the world for American Red Cross volunteers as they have answered the call to help those in need time and again. Whether providing disaster relief, serving military families, helping at blood drives, providing lifesaving training, or helping communities get disaster prepared, it is the heart and selflessness of volunteers that make it happen and get the work done!

Read a few stories of our volunteers near and far.


DAY 6 — Safe Travels This Thanksgiving
123201 Holiday 2015_Social Image_Day 6
Millions of people will be traveling to visit loved ones for the Thanksgiving holiday. Whether you’re making a quick trip to the mall for holiday shopping or traveling across state lines to share a meal with family, the Red Cross has a list of easy travel tips to help keep you safe: http://rdcrss.org/travelsafe

DAY 7 — Rallying Communities Around Fire Safety
In communities across the country, the Red Cross is spreading the word on fire safety by installing smoke alarms, and helping families create their home escape plans. Learn more about our Home Fire Campaign here: http://www.redcross.org/home-fire

DAY 8 — Give Blood, Get Recipes
Holiday 2015 10 Days Social Image_Day 8

The holidays are a time for families to come together for old traditions, favorite recipes and comfort food. There’s a big act of service in preparing a holiday meal. Serving a favorite meal to someone else shows them how much you care.

There’s also a big act of service in donating blood or platelets. Along with our celebrity chef partners, we would like to say thank you. When you come to donate at a Red Cross blood drive from Nov. 25 to Nov. 29, you’ll receive recipes, courtesy of John Besh, Richard Blais, Rocco DiSpirito, Mike Isabella, Ellie Krieger and Ali Larter, along with a limited-edition holiday serving spoon (while supplies last). Your donation and gift of time means so much to so many this holiday season. Book your appointment by downloading the free Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting http://rcblood.org/thanksgiving or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).


DAY 9 — Pizza Boy Turned Pizza Man
Holiday 2015 10 Days Social Image_Day 9

When 19-year-old Anson Lemmer went on a routine pizza delivery run, his Red Cross babysitter training was far from his mind. But that delivery turned into a chance for Anson to save a stranger’s life using the CPR skills he learned from the Red Cross. His unforgettable quote – “I left a pizza boy and returned a pizza man” leaves us applauding, and wondering: Who is the next Anson? You could end up saving the life of someone you love dearly – or the life of a total stranger. Find Red Cross courses available in your area.


DAY 10 — Join us in Celebration
Welcome! We’re glad you’re here. In the spirit of #GiveWithMeaning, we’re counting down the stories that inspired us, humbled us and make us proud to be Red Crossers. Watch this special video to learn more about the 10 Days of Giving Back.

Giving Thanks to Volunteers

It’s been another busy year across the country and around the world for American Red Cross volunteers as they have answered the call to the help those in need time and time again. Whether providing disaster relief, serving military families, helping at blood drives, providing lifesaving training, or helping communities get disaster prepared, it is the heart and selflessness of volunteers that makes it happen and gets the work done!

The following are but a few stories of some of the volunteers making the work possible. Please share your own story in the comments below.

Susie Mahlstede (left) became a Red Cross volunteer in October when her community in Austin, Texas was struck by flooding. At the local emergency shelter she met Edna Quensel, a Red Cross volunteer of more than 20 years from Ticonderoga, New York. Together they teamed with other volunteers to help neighbors find safe refuge from the storm. Both have persevered through their own personal heartache to bring comfort to those in need. Read more of their heartwarming story here.


In addition to working his full-time job, John McCombs also volunteers for the Lowcountry, South Carolina Chapter of the Red Cross. There he leads Home Fire Campaign efforts to install smoke alarms and make local communities safer and better prepared. In addition he is also a Disaster Action Team member responding to local disasters and, in his “spare time,” also helps out with Public Affairs!


JillJill Hofmann (center) of Santa Cruz, California has been a Red Cross volunteer for 34 years! Her International Services work with the Red Cross has taken her to an earthquake in Turkey, floods in Venezuela, refugee camps in Croatia, and a typhoon in the Philippines. In the United States, she has responded to every type of disaster, including months spent in New York City following 9/11. She is fluent in Spanish, a Disaster Mental Health manager, and an instructor for Disaster Cycle Services and International Services. Truly a talented and invaluable volunteer.


Don Nelson, a Red Cross disaster volunteer from Endicott, New York, replenishes some of the shelter supply boxes at the Wenatchee, Washington, Red Cross chapter. When wildfires hit the State of Washington, Nelson deployed as a specialist in Red Cross care and sheltering, traveling across the country to help. When disaster strikes, volunteers like Don put their own lives back home on hold for several weeks at a time to make sure affected communities get the help that they need. Photo Credit: Robert W. Wallace/American Red Cross


This past spring and fall, the State of Texas was slammed with historic storms, flooding, and destruction. Thousands of volunteers and supporters from around the country came together to assist affected communities by providing more than 350,000 meals, more than 200,000 clean-up items and running nearly 100 shelters. Pictured here is the volunteer team in Wichita Falls during Spring floods, representing so many who came together to help!

On this day and every day, we extend our deepest gratitude to those who give so much of themselves in service to others. Thank you to ALL Red Cross volunteers!

5 Cooking Safety Tips to be Thankful For

Written by Greta Gustafson, Media Relations Intern, American Red Cross


During my last Thanksgiving at home my family’s tiny kitchen was filled with more than 20 people immersed in the chaos of cooking, snacking and catching up. Among the laughter and conversation, there was a loud crash and a profane exclamation from my dad. Everyone stopped their conversations and looked toward the oven. Our massive turkey slipped from the rack onto the heating elements in the oven, resulting in a grease fire. The kitchen quickly filled with smoke. My mom immediately ran to grab a rag to extinguish the fire while my dad grabbed the burning bird. Thankfully together they salvaged the turkey, minus a few crisp appendages, and the celebration continued.

Call it luck or stupidity, but this was the third time this same catastrophe occurred during our Thanksgiving celebrations. We always managed to save the turkey and our home, year after year. However, this is no way to spend Thanksgiving, and I urge you to learn from our mistakes!

Cooking fires are the most common cause of home fires and fire injuries, and Thanksgiving is a time when you are more likely to be distracted while preparing a meal. According to The National Fire Protection Association, 45 percent of all home fires are caused by cooking equipment.

The American Red Cross recommends these tips to make sure all family and food make it safely to the table:

  1. Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.
    My family could have really benefited from remembering to clean the oven prior to roasting the turkey.
  1. Consider purchasing a fire extinguisher to keep in your kitchen. Contact your local fire department for training on the proper use of extinguishers.
    Using a rag to put out a fire is not the best method.
  1. Install a smoke alarm near your kitchen, on each level of your home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms if you sleep with doors closed. Use the test button to check it each month and replace all batteries at least once a year.
    This was one thing my family had going for us. Following the mini-fires we always knew our smoke alarms were working well. But you can easily test your alarms without going through this exercise.
  1. Keep children and pets away from the cooking area. Ensure they stay at least three feet away from the over and stove.
    This is incredibly important. Small cooking fires can happen at any time.
  1. If you’re simmering, baking, roasting or broiling food, check on it regularly.
    I can’t stress this one enough. If my parents weren’t quick enough to put out the flames, we may not have been so lucky.

This Thanksgiving, I recommend being prepared and following the steps above to help avoid cooking fires and to enjoy a safe and festive holiday season.

Helping Veterans Connect With Resources for Recovery

The history of our country is rooted in the courage and sacrifice of brave men and women who have defended our freedoms at all costs. Since the founding of America, it has been the members of our Armed Forces giving selflessly of themselves every day to keep our nation safe.

Veteran’s Day offers an opportunity to thank those who have served, do serve, and will serve.

Every life has been touched by the work of our military veterans, and it is our honor to pay tribute to these heroes – not only today, but throughout the year. In fact, the American Red Cross was founded on providing support to our troops, a duty we are proud to carry on to this day.

This Veteran’s Day, while reflecting and giving thanks, it is important to remember that the need for support often extends beyond a soldier’s military service. For many, the fight for freedom has come at a cost. And while they may have returned home, their battle continues.

Consider Kenny, a U.S. Army veteran who served three tours in Iraq as a combat medic. After returning home from service for the first time, he began having nightmares. In an effort to ease the pain, Kenny began drinking heavily. By the time he finished his final tour, he felt emotionally numb and continued having trouble with alcohol. Eventually he went to the Department of Veterans Affairs for a mental health assessment, which diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and he began receiving therapy.

Talking about his challenges has helped Kenny live a more fulfilling life. He now shares his story through Make the Connection a free, online resource that helps veterans connect with information about mental health — to encourage other veterans to access similar resources for recovery.

“Coping with the unique challenges facing veterans can take a lot of effort,” said Koby Langley, senior vice president of Service to Armed Forces at the Red Cross. “Veterans and their families can gain a better understanding about resources for managing PTSD by watching others tell their real stories of coping and recovery on the Make the Connection website.”

By broadcasting veteran stories of hope and resilience, Red Crossers can strengthen the already powerful movement of veterans who are finding support for mental health challenges and taking major steps toward dismantling the stigma that can prevent other veterans from reaching out.

This Veterans Day, as we honor and thank those who so bravely serve our country, consider giving back to those who have given so much. Help to promote positive dialog about veteran mental health by sharing one of the many veteran stories on MakeTheConnection.

This Veterans Day and every day, we send our utmost gratitude and humble thanks to all who have served, do serve, and will serve!


On the Ground in Nepal and the Philippines

This post was written in September 2015 by Niki Clark, a member of the American Red Cross’s international communications team who was deployed to Nepal following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the country in April.

Niki and her pigletI am boarding a plane to Tacloban—a city on the island of Leyte, in the Philippines. It’s one of those small aircraft that you have to walk out on the runway to embark. When I land, just an hour and a half later, I am overwhelmed by the colors, a setting sun on crystal blue waters. The airport is tiny, and we are welcomed by a band of greeters singing in the local dialect. The airport in Kathmandu, Nepal—from where I just arrived—is also small, filled with local characters. Like Tacloban, it also boasts an amazing view.

I have this unique opportunity to visit two countries that are in very different post-disaster stages: Nepal four months after an earthquake and the Philippines nearly two years after a Category 5 typhoon.

I’ve been gone most of the summer, leaving the hustle and bustle of D.C. for Nepal, where I was working in the aftermath of devastating earthquakes that struck there in April and May. Then, straight to the Philippines to gather stories about how people are recovering from Typhoon Haiyan, which struck nearly two years ago.

It’s a fascinating perspective to have, four months vs. two years. In Nepal, the emergency phase is now transitioning to recovery; long-term staff replacing emergency disaster specialists; Red Cross field hospitals handed over to the community health centers; plans shifting from emergency relief to rebuilding people’s way of earning income and communities’ infrastructure.

In the Philippines, the recovery phase is well underway. Schools have been repaired, many with new water pumps and infrastructure provided by the Red Cross. Many families are now living in transitional shelters, coco lumber and/or concrete structures that can withstand typhoon rains. Others have received cash grants, allowing them to repair or rebuild their homes and reestablish their livelihoods.


One woman I met, Adelina Rosialdas, lost all of her ducks—her sole source of income—during Typhoon Haiyan. Now, nearly two years later, she not only has enough ducks to accumulate savings and put her children through school, but she has been able to purchase a pig, which just the day before my visit, had given birth to six piglets. When asked if she has a message for people in America, she says, “The Red Cross has helped us to restore our livelihoods. Salamat. Thank you to those who have helped us to recover from Typhoon Yolanda [Haiyan].”

Another man we visited, Francisco T. Latoja III, works in the Red Cross warehouse that does prefabrication of shelter materials for those receiving new homes. The earnings he has made in his job have enabled his wife to go back to school and for him to build his family a new home. His wife isn’t far off from reaching her goal of becoming a teacher.

There are challenges in both countries when it comes to the speed of recovery. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will Nepal or Tacloban. In Nepal, monsoon season, which coincides with the annual harvest, means that actual rebuilding won’t get started until the end of the year. A lack of coco timber—a critical building material—on the island of Leyte in the Philippines has delayed a quicker scale up of reconstruction.

In both countries, people have gotten back to their daily lives; even the fiercest disaster can’t temper the resilience of human nature. While Nepal’s destruction is much fresher than the Philippines’, the impact Red Cross volunteers and programs are having on the people most affected is visibly apparent.

There’s another common thread that runs between the people of both Nepal and the Philippines: their resilience. Even in the toughest of times, I can never get over families’ ability to pick themselves up to recover, rebuild, and start anew.

To learn more about American Red Cross’s work with Typhoon Haiyan survivors, visit redcross.org/haiyan.

Hidden Dangers in Fall Decorations (And Other Fall Fire Safety Tips!)

I didn’t make it 30 feet into Jo-Ann Fabric before stopping at a shelf.

“50 percent off decorative pumpkins, and it’s not even November yet?” I said partially to myself, partially to make a case to my begrudging husband who had accompanied me craft shopping earlier this season. That pumpkin, made of twigs and festooned with ribbon, is now a perfect addition to my kitchen island.Aforementioned twig and leaf decor.


Guess what else is on my kitchen island — a candle. A yummy smelling, frequently-lit candle. Even though it may not be the ideal arrangement, that pumpkin now stays three feet from the heat. Just as any item in your home should stay three feet from heat sources, including your stove, a space heater and all candles.

If your expertly carved pumpkin has survived Halloween and you can’t resist using a real candle to make it shine, make sure the candle gets blown out when you can’t monitor it, especially when you leave your home. To light the candle, use something that will keep your appendages safe, such as a long fireplace lighter. Fun fact: My family used to deploy dry spaghetti noodles for our pumpkin-lighting purposes.


Are you the proud household with gigantic spiders on your roof and orange lights illuminating every window? Maybe an inflatable turkey or two in the yard? My apartment has been reduced to one string of lights in our picture window, but even with that we are super careful to unplug them every time we leave the house.

Always remember to turn off any running electric appliances before you leave home, blow out candles and unplug fire hazards such as lights that might get too hot. Especially if they are near those new curtains you spent so much money on…


Toddler Sarah in leaf pile. Photo credit: Sarah's mom.While I may think the piles of leaves in my yard are super festive fall decor on a grandiose scale, I understand some people out there collect leaves from their yards and dispose of them. (So many leaf pile jumping missed opportunities. But I digress). If your household is serious about leaf collection, here’s how you can also be serious about fire hazards when you dispose of them:

  • Use caution when burning leaves – Clear leaves away from the home and other buildings. Burn leaves only when permitted and in accordance with local laws and guidelines. Use extreme caution to ensure safety and control of the fire.
  • Prepare your home – Select building materials and plants that resist fire. Regularly clean your roof and gutters to remove flammable debris. Identify and maintain an adequate water source outside your home.
  • Gather firefighting tools – Set aside household items that can be used as firefighting tools: rake, ax, bucket, shovel, etc. You may need to fight a fire before emergency responders arrive.


Raise your hand if the pumpkins and gourds scattered strategically around your home are soon to be chopped up for roasted fall treats. I didn’t even carve my pumpkin this year, so it’s a perfect candidate for yummy toasted seeds. Knowing the majority of home fires start in the kitchen, I always have the Red Cross cooking safety tips in mind:

  • Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen, even for 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.

Remember, we have plenty of other fire safety tips on redcross.org, as part of the Home Fire Campaign. Stay tuned for more holiday, cooking and heat-related information to keep your family safe this fall and winter!