Saving Lives in Real Time

by Visvajit Sriramrajan, American Red Cross Volunteer

Swift, dedicated, and tireless: theserco_blog_img_hfcare what the Red Cross workers are in a nutshell, and a recent incident in Lawrence proved that their training and quick decision-making skills were enough to save lives. On April 20th, Disaster Program Manager, Deb Duxbury and volunteer Justin O’Mahoney arrived at a home on Howard street for an appointment to install smoke alarms and CO detectors. When they arrived the two began to do a safety check, walking through the home looking for fire hazards and other potential risks.

“The normal process is for the resident to guide us around their house or apartment,” explained Justin. “We check existing smoke alarms to see if they are installed correctly and functioning properly. We then also determine the needs of the residence, install the detectors accordingly, show the residents how to change batteries, and give a preventive brief along with additional Red Cross fire educational leaflets,” he added.

But this time was a bit different.

After completing their work on the first floor, Deb and Justin headed down into the basement. And that’s when they noticed the distinct odor of gas.

The landlord, who was with them, explained that she had smelled gas for a few weeks, but hadn’t bothered to do anything about it. “No smoke or carbon dioxide detectors were installed in the basement of the home,” noted Deb. “Justin and I saw this as an immediate red flag.”

Smelling gas in a home is never something to take lightly. Some clients don’t quite grasp the seriousness of it. “What could go wrong?”, they ask, without realizing that it could mean the difference between life and death. Deb, however, immediately recognized the risk, phoning the fire department and asking the client to evacuate the building. The children and two adults waited in the driveway of the home with Deb and Justin until emergency personnel arrived. The children’s eyes lit up as fire engines pulled into the driveway in almost no time.

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After inspecting the home, Captain Jim Flynn of the Lawrence Fire Department determined there was a notable gas leak, which was subsequently fixed by a local gas company contractor. The resident who lives in the home thanked Deb and Justin for saving the lives of the family that lives there, while the fire department and the gas company both thanked them for the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign that put them in the right place just in the nick of time.

From April 1 to May 3, 2017 the American Red Cross has made more than 240 homes safer in Lawrence through smoke and carbon dioxide detector installations.

  • Note – At a Home Fire Campaign installation in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston May 6, Red Cross volunteers and a member of the Boston Fire Department noted a stove leaking unburned natural gas into a home. The two elderly residents were not aware of the toxic leak. The Boston Fire Department official was able to stop the leak and through the home fire prevention training given during the visit, the homeowner was made aware of silent danger carbon monoxide can be.

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