American Red Cross reps urge Filipinos to prepare for disasters

HOME fires claim 2,500 lives and make up the vast majority of the roughly 70,000 emergencies the American Red Cross responds to each year in the United States. They happen about twice daily in the greater Los Angeles region.

In light of the frequency at which fires wreak havoc, the Los Angeles chapter of the American Red Cross (ARC-LA) is encouraging residents of Historic Filipinotown and surrounding communities to volunteer in efforts to promote fire safety. They have also been offering free smoke alarm installations throughout the city.

Residents of Pico-Union and Westlake neighborhoods, including parts of Historic Filipinotown, can now sign up for a free smoke alarm installation provided by the ARC-LA on Saturday, February 11 next year.

The ARC-LA has installed 8,000 new smoke alarms this year, but many buildings still have faulty units, according to the organization’s Regional Disaster Program Manager, Jeanne Woo.

“We dealt with multiple fatalities over the Thanksgiving weekend,” she told the Asian Journal on Tuesday, December 6.

“There are very positive and easy steps that we can take to make sure that doesn’t happen to our families and loved ones,” she added following a disaster preparedness presentation put on by the nonprofit and hosted by the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles.

On Tuesday, ARC-LA representatives and volunteers said Angelenos need to stay vigilant of the potential hazards around them and outlined strategies for surviving fires and other catastrophes. They encouraged residents to develop and practice emergency plans for a variety of possible emergencies.

In addition, Woo said poorly placed alarms have a tendency to go off when they shouldn’t and become a nuisance. As a consequence, some homeowners significantly increase the likelihood of a serious fire by removing the batteries from improperly mounted units, or neglect to replace them when they run out of power.

The ARC-LA hopes to properly outfit 400 homes in the Pico-Union and Westlake areas during next February’s round of free installations. Funding for the program comes from a combination of donations, grants, and the ARC-LA budget.

The organization is looking for volunteers willing to assist with installations and help reduce the likelihood of fires. They need no advanced knowledge to participate and will receive training at the event.

A smaller percentage of the ARC-LA’s volunteers come out of Pico-Union and Westlake neighborhoods, compared to other parts of the city, according to Woo.

“This is a great opportunity to reach into the Filipino community,” she said on Tuesday. “We could use more volunteers from within the community who will respond to localized disasters.”

Woo said that people from the immediate vicinity of a disaster are especially effective at coordinating relief efforts. In addition to reduced transit times, emergency responders from within the community face fewer language barriers than those from further away. They also tend to possess a deeper understanding of their neighborhood’s specific needs and challenges.

More information for those interested in taking part of any of the ARC-LA’s community events or volunteering on a more regular basis can find more information on its website. There, individuals can also set up an appointment for a smoke alarm installation and learn how to better prepare themselves for a wide variety of potential disasters. (Eric Anthony Licas / AJPress)