New Red Cross survey shows many Americans overconfident and underprepared for home fires

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

According to a new survey by the American Red Cross, many people overestimate their ability to react to a home fire and miss critical steps to keep their loved ones safe.

Forty percent of people believe they are more likely to win the lottery or get struck by lightning than experience a home fire. Yet, home fires are the most common disaster in this country – the majority of the nearly 64,000 disasters the Red Cross responds to every year across the country. Tragically, since January 1st, over 30 individuals have died in home fires across the state of Louisiana.

Here in Louisiana, the Red Cross responded to more than 1,200 home fires in 2017 and has already helped more than 540 people impacted by a fire in their home in 2018.

“Home fires happen unexpectedly, taking an average of seven lives nationwide each day,” says Joshua Joachim, regional chief executive for the Louisiana Red Cross. “However, along with our local partners, the Red Cross’ Home Fire Campaign has saved 11 lives in our state since its inception. Beginning Saturday, April 28, we will Sound the Alarm, installing more than 1,000 free smoke alarms throughout the Capital West area through May 5 in our nationwide effort to end home fires.”


According to the survey:

--More than three-fourths (80 percent) of people surveyed believe everyone in their household knows what to do when a smoke alarm goes off. But less than half have a home fire escape plan in place. And only half of the families that do have a plan have actually practiced it.

--Home fire experts say that people have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home. However, the survey showed nearly 60 percent of people mistakenly believe they have much more time than is realistic.

--Even though many admit to actions that could contribute to a home fire, only one out of four (27 percent) people think that they are likely to experience a home fire in their lifetime.

--About 40 percent of people have forgotten to turn off a stove or oven, even though cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries

--More than one-third (34 percent) of people have used a stove, kerosene lantern or space heater to warm their home. The fact is that heating equipment is involved in one of every five home fire deaths.

--Some progress is being made. More people are replacing batteries (a 9 percent increase vs. 2015) and testing to make sure their smoke alarms are working (an 11 percent increase vs. 2015).

Americans overwhelmingly believe that smoke alarms can save lives, yet one out of ten (12 percent) people have had to give up buying other essentials for their families to purchase a smoke alarm. This highlights just how critical the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign is. Launched in 2014, the Red Cross and campaign partners have already installed more than 1.1 million free smoke alarms and reached 1 million children through preparedness programs. These efforts are already credited with helping to save 381 lives. Learn more.


This spring, the Louisiana Red Cross will Sound the Alarm against home fires in Baton Rouge teaching residents about home fire safety and installing free smoke alarms. The event is part of a nationwide effort to install 100,000 free smoke alarms in just 16 days from April 28 to May 13.

Dates and links to sign up to volunteer and participate in this life saving effort can be found below:

Saturday, April 28 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Meet at the American Red Cross, 4655 Sherwood Common Blvd.

Saturday, May 5 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Meet at Ben Burge Park, 9350 Antigua Dr.

Join the Red Cross today by volunteering to install smoke alarms, making a financial contribution, or taking steps to protect your own family from home fires. Together, we can Sound the Alarm about fire safety and help save lives. Learn more at

This work is made possible thanks to generous financial donations from national partners: Almost Family, Delta Air Lines and International Paper. The Red Cross has also received funding from FEMA through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program.

Supplemental Information about Survey Methodology

The national public opinion survey was conducted for the Red Cross in August 2017 using the research firm Issues & Answers. The study was conducted among a national sample of 604 American adults. The total sample is balanced to be representative of the US adult population in terms of age, sex, geographic region, race and education. The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 4 percent.

Contributed by the American Red Cross