Thursday, April 2, 2015

Saving Lives by #GivingWhatFireTakes

by Suzanne Wiley, volunteer contributor

A Red Cross volunteer installs a smoke detector in Arlington, TX
as part of the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign.
To those of you who have never been affected by a home fire, it is incredibly difficult to describe how devastating it is to assess the damage left behind. Sometimes all that is left behind is the clothes on your back and a smoldering charred pile of wood and shingles. I will never forget the first time I saw a home damaged by fire. In a matter of seconds, the entire living room was a complete loss. Black, and dark and damp. Puddles from the firefighters’ hoses stood like it had just rained. And it might as well could have—there was no roof left.

For many, there is little hope of ever replacing everything that was lost. I have witnessed that on top of the shock, adrenaline, stress and the frightening realization of “what’s next?”  there is a profound hope seen in the faces of families who just experienced a home fire—relief that everyone and the pet made it out safely.

Every eight minutes, the American Red Cross responds to a home fire. Michaela Curtis Tweeted, “When a fire takes a home, it’s a disaster” and that is why when a home burns, the Red Cross is there.

Unless you have been a victim of a house fire yourself, you may not be aware this service exists. All over the United States, at any given time, hundreds of Red Cross volunteers are on call to bring relief to families affected by fire. Because of generous donations from people just like you, the Red Cross provides lodging, comfort care kits and replacement clothing to those who have lost everything in a fire.

Volunteers headed to Arlington to educate North Texans about
fire safety as part of the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign.
On February 4, 2015, the Red Cross launched a new nationwide campaign to help prevent home fires. All over the country, volunteers and Red Cross team members are going door to door installing free smoke detectors to families that need them. On March 28, 2015, the Dallas Fort Worth area chapter stepped out along with members of the Arlington fire department and volunteers from FEMA Corp to canvass a neighborhood in Arlington particularly at risk for fatal home fires. The target? 1,000 homes in six hours.

This same campaign has already saved 11 lives. I am proud to say that I witnessed at least eight smoke detector installations that day—potentially saving at least an additional 15 more people.

With so many willing volunteers and community involvement, The Red Cross is well on its way to meeting its goal of reducing the number of deaths and injuries due to home fires by 25 percent in the next five years with this home fire safety campaign. Besides providing free smoke detectors, teams all across the country are also providing pamphlets and discussing fire safety and prevention while visiting with families.

Stressing the importance of a fire escape plan, everyone we met was receptive to the important fire safety information we were handing out. Arlington Battalion Chief, Mike Shoemaker, who joined my team, said, “Take this seriously.”

Though home fires is a somber topic, I am happy to say that judging by all the smiles on my team members’ faces, as well as the smiles on the faces of the folks we were helping, we were all glad we were in it together, making a difference—#GivingWhatFireTakes

To prepare your own family, develop a fire escape plan, make sure you have working smoke alarms and practice a family fire drill at least once a year.

For more on fire safety, click here.

How are you and your family prepared for a fire? Share your story with us in the comment section below.

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