2007-09-21 / Columnists

Cross Currents

Protect Your Family From Fires And Keep A Safe Eye Out For Little Goblins
Commentary By Joan Foley Director, American Red Cross Of Greater New York - Queens

JOAN A.FOLEY JOAN A.FOLEY Cooler days, colder nights and getting adjusted to different hours of daylight are all part of moving into the fall season. October provides us with two very important safety reminders - fire prevention and watching out for our little goblins who will be running through the streets on Halloween.

We have seen so many fires in Queens this year. As of August, the Red Cross has responded to more than 500 fires in the borough, providing assistance (housing, food, counseling and other services) to more than 1,000 residents.

The largest fire occurred last February, when a fast-moving sixalarm pushed 171 Rockaway residents, of which 62 were children, out of their apartment building (1056 Neilson Street) and into the cold. More than 25 Red Cross volunteers and employees opened a reception center for them at Intermediate School 53 and provided residents with a warm, safe and secure location. Families that required housing were placed in hotels by the Red Cross and then our caseworkers helped them apply for services provided by the city.

Every year, fire kills more people than all natural disasters combined. On average, fire kills more than 3,900 people (850 children) and injures more than 20,000 each year. Also alarming is that more than 75 percent of residences don't have a fire escape plan.

Fire prevention week is October 7-13 and this is the perfect time to learn about how to prevent a fire and how to escape safely. Here are some tips:

Take care of your smoke alarm: Install smoke alarms outside each sleeping area and on each level of your home. Check each smoke alarm once a month and replace dead batteries as soon as possible. Dust your smoke alarms once a month.

Have a fire extinguisher: Know how to use the fire extinguisher. Recharge the extinguisher according to manufacturer's instructions.

Have an escape route: Determine at least two ways to escape from every room of your home, and consider escape ladders for bedrooms on the second floor. Pick a location a safe distance from your home to meet after a fire. Practice your escape plan at least twice a year. Stay in the room with the door closed if smoke, heat or flames block your exit routes. Signal for help using a bright-colored cloth at a window. If there is a phone in the room, call the fire department and tell them where you are.

Escape safely: Once you have exited, stay out of your home. Call the fire department from your neighbor's home. If you must exit through smoke, crawl low beneath the smoke. Use your second way out if fire or smoke is blocking your original escape route. Feel the doorknob of a closed door before opening it. If it is hot, don't open that door. Remember to stop, drop and roll if your clothing catches on fire.


On Halloween, the streets will be crowded with goblins, witches and superheroes. Doorbells will be ringing, goodies will be eaten and maybe even The Great Pumpkin will appear somewhere. Halloween is fun for all ages, but we need to work and think ahead of time to keep ourselves and the children safe.

Tell your children: Only to visit homes where the porch light is on. Accept treats at the door. Never enter homes. Be cautious of animals and strangers. Walk on sidewalks. If you must walk in the road, face traffic. Cross streets only at crosswalks. Never cross in the middle of the road or between parked cars.

Be sure to: Give your child a flashlight. Place reflective material on shoes or costumes and don't permit long or baggy clothing that could cause falls. Keep children away from candles and open flames, as costumes are flammable. Plan a safe route and chaperone young children. Inspect candy prior to eating and discard any candy if packaging has been opened.

If you drive on Halloween: Travel at least five miles under the speed limit in residential neighborhoods. Broaden your visual scanning to sidewalks and yards. Watch carefully, as dark costumes are difficult to see at night. Use caution when entering and exiting driveways and alleys. Turn headlights on even in daylight, to make a vehicle more visible to others.

UPCOMING CLASSES Brush up on your safety and first aid skills this month. Take a look at the classes offered during October at the American Red Cross in Greater New York - Queens at 138-02 Queens Boulevard in Briarwood. The dates and times are subject to change. If you have any questions, or if would like more information on these and other classes, call 718-558-0053, or visit our website www.nyredcross.org. Sunday, October 28, Babysitter's training, 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Cost is $60. Monday, October 29, standard first aid, 2:30 - 6:30 p.m. Cost is $60. Tuesday, October 16, Saturday, October 20 and Monday, October 29: CPR/AED (automated external defibrillator) - Adult, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. Cost is $65.

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