This originally appeared on the Red Cross Palmetto Post blog. Photo and video by the American Red Cross, SC Region.
Janette Washington and her son were in church on Sunday when a message stuck with them. Not just a message of faith, but one of preparedness. Firefighters from the Georgetown County Fire Department spoke to the congregation about the importance of having working smoke alarms in their homes. The firefighters said they had free alarms to install from the Palmetto SC Region of the American Red Cross.
“I noticed there was just one in my house, so I decided we needed more,” Janette said.
Educating Georgetown residents about home fire safety is a goal of the Georgetown County Fire Department.
“Anytime we can get to a community event and talk about fire safety and smoke detectors, we’re there,” said Chief Mack Reed.Educating Georgetown residents about home fire safety is a goal of the Georgetown County Fire Department.
A few days later, the firefighters installed several alarms and discussed with Janette ways to escape from her home should a fire break out. She remembered filing away that conversation, never thinking she’d need to use it.
However, in April, as she was falling back asleep after severe weather woke her up, she heard the screeching sound coming from one of the newly installed smoke alarms.
“When I looked down the hall, all I could was the fire coming from the ceiling,” she remembered.
The mother quickly jumped into action to save herself and her 28-year-old son.
“She calls me, and she bangs on the wall: Timothy, wake up! The house is on fire,” said Timothy.
Within just a few minutes, the mother and son said the smoke began choking them. In that moment, however, Janette remembered: two ways to escape from every room in the house. She remembered they could escape from the back door.
The mother and son are alive today, thanks to the smoke alarms and knowing what to do when a fire occurs.
“It was very scary, but I know for a fact, if it hadn’t been for those fire alarms, I was going back to sleep,” Janette said. “They saved our life. We would have been gone, honestly.”
In the days following the fire, the Red Cross helped in another way. Volunteers helped the family by providing financial assistance for their immediate needs, replacing necessary medications that burned and providing referrals for other agencies that could help in their recovery.
“For me and my son, [the assistance] was a blessing because we didn’t have nothing at the time,” said the thankful mother.
Janette and Timothy are the 52nd and 53rd lives saved in South Carolina since the Red Cross’ home fire campaign launched in 2014. Together with its partners, the Red Cross has installed more than 57,000 free smoke alarms throughout the state over the last several years.
While much of her home is destroyed, what was not damaged was Janette’s sense of gratitude for the Georgetown County Fire Department, the Red Cross and the working smoke alarms.
“I’ve told a lot of people, if you don’t have one, don’t let a day go by because it’s true: they will save your life,” Janette said.
The Red Cross wants to thank all of the local fire departments, Fire Safe SC and Red Cross volunteers for helping save lives throughout South Carolina.