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The Red Cross and FEMA: Partnering Up to Save Lives


FEMA assists survivors of the Bastrop, TX fires

Winter is here – that time of year when we’re bundling up, trying to stay warm, and getting ready for the holiday season.  It’s also a time to think about fire safety, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t recognize the amazing progress our partners are making to make our communities safer.     

Here’s one example.  One of our closest partners, the American Red Cross, has embarked on an innovative effort to focus their fire preparedness campaigns - and they’re using data from FEMA to make it happen. 

Here’s how it works:  FEMA’s U.S. Fire Administration hosts the National Fire Incident Reporting system - the world’s largest national, annual database of fire incident information.  This database contains information on over 75 percent of all reported fires in the U.S., serving as a vital resource for all our partners involved in fire safety.

To translate FEMA’s data into safer communities, the Red Cross referenced over 740,000 records from the U.S. Fire Administration’s home fire database and combined it with their own data on fires. As a result, the Red Cross was able to successfully target their Home Fire Preparedness Campaign to neighborhoods that data shows are at higher risk for home fires.  The effort helped Red Cross volunteers and local fire departments educate communities about fire safety in a smarter way.  Here are just a few examples this data driven campaign working at the local level: 

  • In Milwaukee, the Red Cross joined with the Milwaukee fire department’s Firefighters Out Creating Urban Safety program to visit more than 300 homes. They made sure homes had smoke alarms and helped residents talk through their fire escape plan. 
  • In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Red Cross workers and the local Fire Rescue and Health Department canvassed 1,200 homes, installing smoke alarms where needed and educating residents about emergency safety.
  • In Memphis, Tennessee, the city’s firefighters and Red Cross staff knocked on doors and installed smoke alarms. They visited more than 400 homes and installed more than 40 smoke detectors.

The Red Cross Home Fire Preparedness Campaign is underway all across the country, and it’s aiming to reduce the number of home fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent over the next five years.  We’re proud to help support their work, but it takes more than just organizations and government agencies to save lives– you’re part of it, too.  You can play an important role in preventing home fires - especially during the winter months.  Whether it’s taking action or just being more aware, here are three actions you can take:

  1. Be aware of the risk factors – Cooking is the leading cause of all winter home fires. Stay in the kitchen as you cook your holiday meals and know what to do if there’s a fire while you’re cooking.
  2. Practice your family’s fire escape plan - Like this American Red Cross graphic shows, you may have as little as two minutes to escape if your home catches fire.  Practice your family’s fire escape plan today and ensure each room has at least two ways to get out. 

    Red Cross Fire Safety Statistics Infographic
  3. Check your smoke alarms – Tragically, 60 percent of home fire deaths result from fires in properties that did not have working smoke alarms.  If you don’t have a smoke alarm in each room, pick them up when you’re at the store.  If you already have smoke alarms installed, check the batteries.

Reducing the number of home fires requires a team, and it’s a team that FEMA is proud to support.  To learn more about the Red Cross and their work to reduce fires and injuries, visit their page on their Home Fire Preparedness Campaign.  For more fire safety tips throughout the winter months, follow the U.S. Fire Administration on Facebook and Twitter.  And if you’re in the firefighting community, check out the USFA’s website for a host of resources (including their fire datasets).

Last Updated: 
06/02/2017 - 09:21


I just had smoke alarms installed as a part of the Red Cross program. Today after turning my oven on I went to my bedroom and shortly after getting in there I hear this sizzling sound that stopped quickly, thinking nothing of it I carried on, immediately after that thought I hear my new 10 year smoke alarm going off. It's my oven arcing and frying itself to the end of life for this heating element. I may not of known what was going to happen, but my new smoke alarm sounded. I could not smell smoke within my home. The sensitivity of this new smoke alarm alerted me to the problem. Thank goodness for this new Red Cross program. I am also a Red Cross volunteer here in Montana and I am so thankful we just did our install program. This alerted me to the problem.