Pau Gasol is MySafe:LA’s children’s safety ambassador. “Drop, Cover, and Hold On,” Pau says to children across Los Angeles. “These three words could save your life when the ground begins moving beneath you.”
“Do you know how to get low and Go?” Pau asks students at an elementary school visit. MySafe:LA collaborates with Pau and gives him a chance to speak directly to students at lower income Title 1 schools within the LAUSD. We also invite the Los Angeles Fire Department, and collectively, the presentation is filled with important messages, while also being tremendous fun for the kids and firefighters.
Pau’s commitment to children is just one example of how this unique humanitarian gives back to the LA community. His schedule is incredibly hectic, as continues to play professional basketball, run his own business operations and collaborate with his brother Marc on their new foundation. Still, even with daily practices, team meetings, and other requirements, he makes time for not only MySafe:LA and our kids, but those in need of medical care at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, as well as supporting UNICEF and St. Judes.
In the event of a wildfire or disaster, people need to be prepared to evacuate quickly. The Ready, Set, Go initiative helps families prepare for evacuation.
“Recent studies have shown that most homes being destroyed by wildland fires aren’t being lost to the fire itself, but to embers being blown far ahead of the advancing fire,” said Chief Jeff Johnson, IAFC president and chairman of the board. “Ready, Set, Go! teaches property owners how to protect their property in that very dangerous ember environment.”
The program was initially developed and tested in Southern California using a model from Australia. For the past 18 months, a number of fire departments—most notably the Ventura County Fire Department and the Orange County (Calif.) Fire Authority—have run trial Ready, Set, Go! programs. Those efforts were used to refine the elements of the program, which the IAFC is now taking to the next level.
The Safe Community Project and MySafe:LA have been partners with the IAFC Ready, Set, Go initiative since it was pushed out nationwide 18 months ago. In the greater Los Angeles area (and across the state in 2015 via MySafe:California), MySafe:LA is producing informational cards, online awareness, video, and planning guides. Family escape plans specifically for Ready, Set, Go will be available as a free download from the website. “We’re completely behind the mission of Ready, Set, Go,” MySafe:LA Executive Officer David Barrett said. “If people will spend just a few minutes to consider how they’ll take direction and evacuate when instructed, lives will be saved.”
People are dying in Los Angeles. In just the first six weeks of the year, 11 people have died in house fires in the city. The fatalities have included older adults, a young man, and a family of four, including two elementary school age children. The one thing each of these deadly fires had in common was not one of these incidents involved a single working smoke alarm.
Fire safety has been a core objective for The Safe Community Project and our subsidiary programs, including MySafe:LA. Still, there are literally hundreds of thousands of homes in the greater Los Angeles area that are without a working smoke alarm. MySafe:LA leadership believes its time to change that metric – and we’re working to take steps to create easier access to smoke alarms and to ensure people use them properly.
Even as recently as a few years ago, people considered smoke alarms a nuisance. When the batteries would get low, they’d chirp and people would not take the time to replace the batteries. Worse, there were false alarms, and people would yank the batteries out of the devices, rendering them into useless pieces of plastic.
MySafe:LA, along with its fire safety partner First Alert is taking action to ensure Smoke Alarms are available to those people who are unable to afford them. Even though an alarm is very inexpensive, for some families, fifteen dollars is a meal, or a partial tank of gas.
MySafe:LA has been delivering smoke alarms at no charge to LA residents for more than a year. The organization’s Junior Fire Inspector program teaches 4th and 5th grade students to inspect their homes and if a smoke alarm is missing, they may request one at no charge. Free batteries are also provided to any student who requests one. Now, the non-profit public benefit unit of The Safe Community Project is launching a new campaign: Fire Burns. Smoke Kills.™
The Los Angeles City Council has sent a letter to the Mayor indicating the council’s desire to see a working smoke alarm and CO detector in every home in the city. While that’s a tall order, saving even one life will be an important step forward.
When the motion in City Council was passed, the LAFD had approximately 2,800 smoke alarms “in stock” and ready for distribution. MySafe:LA donated an initial quantity of 3,500 additional alarms to assist the LAFD with immediate outreach and delivery of alarms. In addition, multiple studies have shown that fire departments handing out alarms is highly ineffective, and as such, MySafe:LA is also providing the LAFD with “pledge cards.” These cards do not include a name or address, but do ask important demographic questions and ask the homeowner to “pledge to use the alarm.” To support proper use, MySafe:LA is training an expanded “bucket brigade” – MySafe:LA fire alarm installers. Their buckets include everything needed to install an alarm. Installation in most homes (if there is a financial need) will be performed at no charge.
Fire Burns. Smoke Kills is a trademark of The Safe Community Project dba MySafe:LA and may only be used with permission. All rights reserved.
Nearly everyone involved with The Safe Community Project owns a pet or two or three – and we love them, just like you love your pets. One of our Directors is Margaret Stewart, a Los Angeles Firefighter and the woman in charge of the K9 Search and Rescue Dogs of FEMA’s California Taskforce 1 (CA-TF1). That means she doesn’t just have pets…Margaret has partners!
She has Bo, a Search and Rescue Dog. And she has Veya, a Human Remains Detection Dog. Margaret, Bo and Veya are called on to help find missing people in the midst of disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes. She’s also called on to help find people who have gone missing and are feared dead. Margaret and her dogs must be ready to go at a moment’s notice, gathering their gear and reporting to either a staging area or an airport. They may be deployed for a few hours, or for a few months. It all depends on the need.
Margaret’s story – that of working with FEMA search dogs – is the story of all the brave handlers and their dogs who respond in the worst of times, to search and rescue. That story is now a video web series called Before the Barks.