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News Release

Contact: Mark Tauscheck                                                                                                                    Northeast Iowa Chapter

Cell: (515) 664-6326                                                                                                                               Dubuque, Iowa                                                                                                        


New Red Cross Survey Shows Many Americans Overconfident and Underprepared for Home Fires

Smoke Alarm Installation Event Set for this Saturday, April 28 in Dubuque

[Dubuque, IA] Monday, April 23, 2018 — 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.

Here in the Northeast Iowa Chapter of the American Red Cross we helped 82 families after home fires in 2017 and have already helped 28 families recover from fires so far in 2018.

“Home fires happen without warning and are responsible for killing seven people every day,” said Nicole Breitbach, Executive Director of the Northeast Iowa Chapter of the Red Cross.  “Through our nationwide Home Fire Campaign we are working hard to teach people about home fire safety and install free smoke alarms. So far here in the Iowa Region we we have installed more than 9,000 smoke alarms through the campaign and will eclipse the 10,000 alarm mark by the end of the month. Closer to home, the Northeast Iowa Chapter of the American Red Cross has installed 2,251 free smoke alarms in this area through the Home Fire Campaign. We will keep going to teach as many people as possible about how to keep their loved ones safe.”


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 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 can be. Launched in 2014, the American 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 416 lives, including eight in Iowa. Learn more.

SOUND THE ALARM This spring, the Northeast Iowa Chapter will Sound the Alarm against home fires on Saturday, April 28th in Key West, south of Dubuque, 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.

Workers will be meeting at 9:30am at the Key West Fire Department and will begin installing in the Table Mound Mobile Home Park at 10am.

Special thanks to our community partners in this project including: Key West Fire Department, Mormon Helping Hands, Big Apple Bagels, and Table Mound Trailer Park.

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.

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.