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Red Cross volunteers educate Oklahomans about fire safety

Nearly 30 volunteers in Oklahoma City gathered Monday on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to walk neighborhoods and hand out fire safety tips to residents, in hopes of preventing deadly house fires.
BY TIFFANY GIBSON tgibson@opubco.com Published: January 17, 2012

Martin Luther King Jr. was once quoted as saying, “Life's most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”

American Red Cross volunteers across the country responded to that call to action Monday when they joined together on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to hand out fire safety tips in residential neighborhoods in an attempt to prevent deadly and devastating house fires.

In Oklahoma City, nearly 30 volunteers gathered near NE 23 and Martin Luther King Avenue to walk door-to-door and speak with residents about safety precautions and procedures.

Rusty Surette, spokesman for the American Red Cross of Central Oklahoma, said most house fires occur in the winter because people might be using alternative methods and devices to heat their homes.

“Here in Oklahoma City, we have had several fires in that area,” he said. “That's really why we tried to go into that area and target neighborhoods.”

So far in January, Red Cross volunteers have responded to 15 home fires. The organization responded to 57 house and apartment fires in December.

“Home fires are the No. 1 disasters families can face,” Surette said. “We help thousands of people every year.”

Surette said the Red Cross responds to about 77,000 disasters a year across the country. Of those, he said, the majority are house fires.

Nationally, he said the Red Cross provides food, shelter and comfort to people affected by about 63,000 fires every year.

To help prevent fires, volunteers spoke with residents and handed out door hangers with safety tips. They visited about 1,000 homes Monday and handed out 100 batteries for smoke detectors.

“We like to use Martin Luther King Day to go out to different neighborhoods, where they have a large amount of fires for that year,” said volunteer John McMahan. “If they have any small children, we talk to them about making sure they have an escape route and have a place to meet in the neighborhood.”

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