Volunteers, Donors Help Red Cross Serve Residents in 2018

This year, our volunteers and donors helped make sure the Red Cross was ready to respond to the needs of the citizens of Massachusetts, as well as those in need across the country.

Starting in September the American Red Cross launched a wide-ranging relief effort to help people in North and South Carolina devastated by Hurricane Florence. In October, Hurricane Michael severely impacted the Florida Panhandle, followed in November by the Woolsey and Camp Fires in California. With the Camp Fire becoming the most destructive and deadliest wildfire in California history. Our partners also help us make homes safer through our Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, help us to respond to disasters by supporting the purchase of Red Cross vehicles, help military families through our Service to the Armed Forces Programs and help us support our generous volunteer blood donors.

In Fiscal Year 2018, your local Red Cross was hard at work providing comfort and hope right here at home. The American Red Cross in Massachusetts:

  • Responded to 683 local incidents, including fires, power outages, hazardous materials releases, transportation accidents and storms in Massachusetts and provided immediate disaster assistance to nearly 5,000 residents in the form of emergency shelter; food; clothing; children’s items; and other household needs.
  • Installed more than 7,000 smoke alarms as part of the Home Fire Campaign.
  • Taught more than 23,000 Massachusetts residents how to protect themselves and their families or to help others in an emergency through classes in First Aid, CPR, Lifeguard training, Babysitter training, Community Disaster Education programs and more.
  • Provided emergency communications, support services and access to emergency financial assistance to more than 1,300 military families.
  • Collected more than 140,000 units of blood to provide lifesaving blood components, plasma derivatives and transfusion services to hospitals and acute care facilities in Massachusetts.

The Red Cross also runs one of New England’s largest food pantries, serving more than 182,000 people last year.

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About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org/ma or visit us on Twitter at @redcrossma.

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New CEO Hits Ground Running

Is Cooking & Heating Safety on Your To-Do List for Thanksgiving?

As families prepare for the coming holiday and all the trappings that it brings, a rash of recent home fires is a sad reminder that extra care is always a good idea around fire safety.

Since Nov. 15, Red Cross volunteers in Massachusetts responded to seven home fires across our region that displaced 19 families totaling 45 people. These fires displaced families in Amherst, Rockland, Bellingham, Plymouth, Malden and Brockton. Red Cross volunteers in Massachusetts are on call 24/7/365 to respond when the call goes out.

Home fires are more likely to start in the kitchen than any other room in the home. The second leading cause of home fires is heating sources like wood stoves and fireplaces. Fires caused by smoking are the leading cause of deaths.

Home Fires Campaign, Iowa 2014

Residents should also take steps to ensure their home heating system is properly maintained and in good working order as winter quickly approaches. Furnaces and chimneys should be inspected regularly by a professional to ensure dangerous carbon monoxide gas isn’t collecting in utility and living spaces. Carbon monoxide is a silent killer, all homes should have detectors placed near heating sources to ensure safety.

The American Red Cross provides the means for families to get immediate emergency support such as clothing, food and shelter in the first few days after a fire. Volunteer Client Caseworkers then work with the families to help them navigate the days and weeks following to recovery. The American Red Cross is a charitable organization, not a government agency. It depends on volunteers and the generosity of people like you to perform our mission.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

The Red Cross asks everyone to take two simple steps to help prevent injury and death during a fire in their home – check their smoke alarms and practice fire drills at home. Every household should develop a fire escape plan and practice it several times a year and at different times of the day. The plan should include two ways to get out of every room and a place to meet outside. Consider escape ladders for sleeping areas or homes on the second floor or above.

People should also install smoke alarms on every level of the home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. The alarms should be tested every month and the batteries replaced at least once a year.

The Red Cross and community partners around the country are participating in a campaign called the “Home Fire Preparedness Campaign.” If you, or someone you know doesn’t have smoke alarms installed in your home, Red Cross is working with local teams to install them free of charge. If you are in need of someone to install smoke alarms, please contact the American Red Cross to arrange for a free smoke alarm installation or battery check by going to redcross.org/ma or by calling 1-800-564-1234.

In Massachusetts, a family is displaced by a disaster – most usually a home fire – on average every two hours. You can help people affected by disasters like home fires and countless other crises by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit redcross.org/MA, call

1-800-564-1234, or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

About the American Red Cross: The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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“They Saved our Life” A Georgetown Mother and Son Share Their Home Fire Story

by Cuthbert Langley

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.

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“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.”

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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.

A Note of Thanks for a Good Deed

The Red Cross is in communities everyday 3helping people affected by disaster, be it a flood, tornado or fire. Home fires account for much of the disaster work the American Red Cross does every day.

Since 2014, the Home Fire Campaign has been making homes safe across the United States. Four years and one million smoke alarms later, volunteers with the Red Cross have helped save nearly 250 people, people who didn’t have working smoke alarms in their homes and were alerted to danger by one of those million smoke alarms.

Here in Massachusetts volunteers installed more than 7,000 smoke alarms in homes across the Commonwealth. Our most vulnerable communities are densely populated areas with multi-family homes and the elderly. Our volunteers are hard at work finding those in need and making homes safer for residents and their local community.

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Our Central Massachusetts Executive Director Kim Goulette, received the following hand-written thank you note from a resident who benefited from the Home Fire Campaign.

Together we can help make more home safer with fire education and smoke alarms.

 

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Dear Ms. Goulette,                                                                                         May 7, 2018

Thank you for sending two Red Cross men to my home to install the smoke alarms and carbon monoxide devices!

Chief D’Amico of the Marlborough Fire Department came also to assist them in making my home safe and protected from smoke and fumes.

I appreciate the “Lunch & Learn” info workshop very much.

 

Sandra M.

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A Letter of Thanks to Those Who Volunteer

In November, my husband and I and our three children were assisted by Red Cross workers the morning our house burned down in Littleton.

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A Red Cross emergency response vehicle responds to a fire.

It’s been long enough now that I can remember all the good things that happened for my family that morning. My husband was injured in the fire, trying to rescue a few last things as the fire started to move down to the first floor. It funny how daily you remember different things that you don’t have anymore. As St. Patrick’s Day was approaching, I remembered a small leprechaun I put out with the TV every March. It was stored away in the attic. It’s the small things that daily remind me of the loss.

I mention the leprechaun because one the Red Cross workers told me that day in November that I would keep remembering things I lost for at least a year; as I went through holidays, birthdays, and the different seasons. Her advice to me was remember how even though the loss is painful, my family all made it out and are alive.

I want to give a special thanks to all the members of the Red Cross team, especially Trudy and Jeanie. They were so comforting that day. The advice they offered and the follow-up calls with a Red Cross member helped us through our disaster. We still don’t feel quite settled into our new home but we are making new memories here and are thankful we have the chance to make them together as a family.

A. Boroughs

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A Red Cross volunteer assists a family after a house fire.

After a busy day, Red Cross reminds you to be prepared for home fires

May went out like a lion this year, with Red Cross volunteers responding to eight separate fires across Massachusetts May 31 alone, affecting 32 people.

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While there were no fatalities reported, it emphasizes the message the Red Cross stresses year-round, being prepared for a fire can save your life.

“Having a working smoke alarm in the home is the number-one way to keep your family safe,” said David Lewis, regional executive for Massachusetts. “The Red Cross will not only install free smoke alarms in your home, we’ll sit down with residents and go over safety measures every family member can use to get out of a burning home alive.”

These simple safety measures below can prevent fires from happening, and get you out alive if a fire does break out. Most people don’t know, but on average a person has two minutes to exit a home before toxic smoke and flames become fatal.

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  • “Keep an eye on what you fry.” Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or using an open flame.
  • “3 feet from the heat.” Furniture, curtains, dish towels and anything that could catch fire are at least 3 feet from any type of heat source.
  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Large and small appliances are plugged directly into wall outlets.
  • Matches and lighters are locked away
  • Change smoke alarm batteries every year unless it has a long-life battery.
  • Replace smoke alarms every ten years.
  • Test your smoke alarms each month. If they’re not working, they can’t get you out the door.
  • At least twice a year, practice your fire escape plan with all family members.
  • Practice makes perfect! After each fire drill, mark down your escape time.

For more information about keeping your home safe and for free installation of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, call 800-746-3511. An operator will take your information and a Red Cross volunteer will follow up and schedule the installation. This is a free service brought to you by the American Red Cross.

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