“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.

rco_blog_img_pal

“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.”

Palmetto-2-1440x1080

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.

2

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.

 

rco_blog_img_letter

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.

1

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.

rco_blog_img_thanks
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

Stock Photography of Sandusky Video
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.

rco_blog_img_may31

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.

m39340282_HomeFiresKeyFindings-1

  • “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.

images

MA Red Crosser Sees CA Mudslide Devastation First Hand

Ron Vigue is the Manager for Corporate & Foundation Relations for the American Red Cross of Massachusetts

Story and photos by Ron Vigue

I had an opportunity to tour the affected areas where only groups like the Army Corp of Engineers, the local Police, and the Red Cross (who are helping the affected community) could go through as the “101” (California Highway 101) is closed.

image007

I rode along with my capable ERV driver (and retired San Luis Obispo Police detective) Mark as he drove me through the worst of the worst, toward the mountain in Montecito, taking a right turn near Charlie Chaplin’s famed Montecito Inn. It was devastating to see the destruction, absolutely devastating. I have heard some horrific stories –  people lost in the disaster, disbelief of the sheer force which caused homes to disappear, lives uprooted in an instant.

image012

I’ve seen my fellow Red Crossers in-action. These folks are selfless individuals who come together as one from across the country to help people in need. I’ve met people from Alaska to Connecticut, each one has their own Red Cross story.

image014

For example, my roommate Henry, he’s been a proud member of the Salem, OR Red Cross Disaster Action Team for years. He’s also a Vietnam veteran and has had a long career as an ER nurse. His specialty is casework. Day after day, he’s been stationed at the Local Assistance Center in Santa Barbara comforting those residents affected by the mudslides and recent wildfires. Henry gets them the help they so desperately need. I’m not sure how many days I’d last by doing what Henry does – 8-10 hours a day, for weeks at a time, usually under the most stressful circumstances. He’s special and I’m proud to say he’s a Red Crosser. (Note the picture of Henry below at the LAC, he’s the only man in the picture).

image019

As one would expect, the outpouring of support from the local community has been overwhelming, and stereo typically Californian. From local McDonald’s promotions, to cycling race auctions, and way too many Yoga instructors donating their class fees to the cause. All continue to want to help in some way, big or small.

image017

I’ve come to learn that Santa Barbara is a beautiful place, but not just for its landscape. The communal resilience I’ve experienced here is inspiring. See the picture below of me and four young entrepreneurial girls who brought in $312 from their lemonade stand. Those girls made an enormous difference, as $300 could cover the daily cost to deploy one of our ERVs (Emergency Response Vehicle). That means someone is getting the supplies they need for a day because of their kindness.

rco_blog_img_mudslide

I look forward in sharing more stories upon my return. Thank you so much for your continued support as it’s only with our donors that we are able to help so many. I know first-hand, it’s making an enormous difference in the lives of those affected by disaster.

Finding Purpose: 7-year Red Cross volunteer speaks about her experiences

by Michael de Vulpillieres, American Red Cross

As 2017 comes to the close we are featuring a few our (nearly 3000) Massachusetts Red Cross volunteers who have worked tirelessly these past 12 months to help carry out our mission locally and across the country.

rco_blog_img_contee

Earlier this week, we caught up with Lisa Contee, longtime Red Cross volunteer from Everett, Massachusetts who shared with us a bit about her work and the impact the organization has people’s lives, including her own.

What brought you to the Red Cross?

I joined after the Haiti earthquake. I saw everything on TV and it really touched me. I was at a point in my life where I felt like it was time for me to give back.

Initially, I came to the Red Cross to keep my First Aid and CPR certifications up to date. While I was in that course, we were almost done and someone came into the room and said the Red Cross was holding a class for, I think it was, Intro to Disaster Response, and invited anyone interested to attend. I did not know anything about what the Red Cross did locally so I went to learn and by the time the class was over, I was sold!

What have been some of your roles at the Red Cross?

I started off immediately in Casework. I went to my first fire within a couple of weeks. I knew I wanted to do Disaster Response. Since I joined I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do! I’m the regional lead for CDE [Community Disaster Education]. I love that: events, presentations, parades. I’m a Disaster Volunteer Instructor, which I just adore, and I got a lot of opportunities to do that after these past hurricanes because we did a lot of work getting trained to deploy. I’m also in Logistics.

20170911_

Can you talk more about your work helping people after local disasters?

I’m a DAT [Disaster Action Team] supervisor. I love it. There’s no feeling like arriving at a scene where people have just lost everything and don’t know what to do. There’s no manual for a house fire. Nobody knows what to do when they are put out in the middle of the night, in the middle of a snow storm, with just their pajamas on and they have no idea what to do next. We get to pull up and say, ‘we’ve been through this a number of times, hundreds of times, and we are going to take care of you.’ And they have just such relief on their faces because we get to say, ‘we are going to help you right now with what needs to be done right at this minute.’

How many on-call shifts do you take a week?

I take two, back-to-back shifts Tuesday nights [through Wednesday morning] a week.  6 p.m. to midnight and then midnight to 6 a.m. And then random shifts here and there when needed.

What is it like to get a call in the middle of the night?

It’s just adrenaline. As soon as that phone rings I jump up, get the info, get dressed, brush my teeth and head out. I don’t sleep the same when I’m on call but I’m not tired when I get woken up.

What does the Red Cross represent to you?

The Red Cross really came into my life at very important time for me. I really needed that sense of purpose. To me the Red Cross represents helping, healing and kindness.

FB_IMG_14

Gratitude to our Volunteers and Supporters

American Red Cross trustee head shotsDuring this season of hope and gratitude I want to offer my heartfelt thanks, on behalf of the Massachusetts Red Cross Board of Directors and our dedicated employees, to those who help carry out our mission:

Our volunteers stand ready to help at a moment’s notice to provide care for their neighbors at critical moments, like following Wednesday’s tragic North End fire. And when needed, they travel far from home to support communities devastated by disasters. Since August, 300+ Massachusetts Red Cross volunteers have put their lives on hold to help following hurricanes, wildfires and other national tragedies.

Our partners share with us a common purpose that helps connect more individuals with critical humanitarian support here in Boston and around the country.  One example of this teamwork is our Home Fire Campaign that has allowed for the installation of thousands of free smoke detectors in Massachusetts homes thanks to the collaboration of fire departments, community organizations and corporations.

Our blood donors give the gift of life and our financial supporters allow the Red Cross to prepare for and respond to emergencies 24/7.

To all of them and to anyone committed to making their communities safer and more prepared, THANK YOU!

Sincerely,

John W. Stadtler
Chair, Board of Directors, American Red Cross of Massachusetts
Partner, PwC Financial Services Industry

rco_blog_img_editor