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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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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Making Lowell homes safer with Sound the Alarm

A devastating fire brought Dionisio Quadros to the Red Cross in 2007. His apartment, along with those of three other families, burned on a cool November night in the Highlands section of Lowell, Mass.

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“I remember being woken by the smoke alarms on the floor above me,” said Quadros. “I thought maybe someone had burned something in their kitchen, it didn’t cross my mind that it was an actual fire.”

When Quadros fully woke up he could hear more than one smoke alarm sounding in the three-story house. The upper portion of the 60-year old wooden structure was fully ablaze when Quadros made it safely to the sidewalk.

“I remember grabbing my keys and nothing else.”

Quardros and the three other families spent the next few hours with Red Cross volunteers at a near-by restaurant, the manager keeping the lights on late so that Red Cross case workers could assist those affected by the fire.

“I found a new apartment about 10 days later. Between the money from the Red Cross, friends and family, I was luckier than some in the house.”

Flash forward to May 5, 2018. The American Red Cross Sound the Alarm event drew more than 50 volunteers in Lowell to make homes safer. Volunteers were wrapping up a training session and rally at the Lowell Senior Center that morning before hitting the streets for STA appointments when Quardros walked into the recreation area at the center.

“Dionisio was noticed when he walked in, he wasn’t your average senior citizen with his leather vest and bandanna,” said Deb Duxbury, disaster program manager for the Northeast Massachusetts Chapter of the Red Cross. Duxbury said Red Cross volunteers asked him if he’d like a home safety check and for volunteers to test his smoke alarms. He gave his address and phone number to a group of volunteers and was added to the afternoon appointments.

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Volunteers replaced and installed seven smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in the three-unit home where Dionisio lives, making an apartment safer where three young children lived with their mother and grandmother.

Dionisio went on to say how glad he was to stumble onto the program that morning at the senior center on his morning coffee run.

“The Red Cross helped me in my hour of need many years ago. I’m glad they’re with me now. I feel safer with the carbon monoxide detector in the basement,” said Quardros.

Lowell volunteers went on to install 703 smoke and carbon monoxide alarms during the 12-day Sound the Alarm event in Massachusetts’ third largest city.

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Red Cross & NBC Boston Partner to Make Boston Homes Safer

by Jeff Hall, American Red Cross of Massachusetts

NBC Boston and the American Red Cross of Massachusetts have partnered to make Boston homes safer through the Home Fire Campaign.

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Over the next several months, Red Cross volunteers and members of the Boston Fire Department will install smoke detectors donated by NBC Boston in homes across city neighborhoods. The winter months especially pose a troublesome time for home fires as temperatures dip and people look for alternative heating methods in their homes.

“As temperatures dip, space heaters become one of the leading causes of home fires across the nation,” said Edward Blanchard, interim disaster program manager for the Red Cross in the Boston metropolitan area. “Heaters can overload an electrical outlet or one placed too close to curtains or drapes become an instant fire hazard,” said Blanchard.

NBC Boston received a donation of 500 combination smoke and carbon monoxide detectors from First Alert, a manufacturer of home fire safety products, and contacted the Red Cross of Massachusetts to identify residents who could use the new safety equipment.

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“As part of our commitment to the community, NBC Boston, Telemundo Boston and necn couldn’t be more proud of our month-long fire safety campaign with the American Red Cross, First Alert and the Boston Fire Department. We hope through our messaging of the generous First Alert donations, and installations in homes across the city, we were able to make at least one home, safer.”-  Maggie Baxter, Vice President of Programming, NBC Boston, Telemundo Boston & necn.

“The partnership is a great fit for the Red Cross,” said Blanchard. “With the detectors donated by NBC Boston, our Home Fire Campaign can continue to identify families who need smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make their homes safer.”

Boston Fire Department officials stress that best way to keep your home or residence safe is to have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every floor and near every bedroom. An existing partnership with the Boston Fire Department has already allowed more than 1,000 smoke detectors to be installed across Boston.

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“Fires today are much more dangerous than they were 30 years ago. They reach flash over more quickly,” said Joseph Finn, Boston Fire Commissioner. “When people get an early warning from a smoke detector, they are out of the building before the fire reaches a deadly stage. That early warning is vital for survivability,” said Finn.

This continuing outreach is part of the ongoing Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, in which Red Cross volunteers and partners canvass high-risk neighborhoods to install free smoke alarms, replace batteries in existing alarms and help families create escape plans. Through another program called the Pillowcase Project, Red Cross volunteers are educating children in elementary schools on how to be ready for a home fire or other dangerous natural disasters. This work is made possible thanks to generous financial donations from national partners: Almost Family and Delta Air Lines. The Red Cross has also received funding from FEMA through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program.

In early November, Red Cross volunteers installed the one millionth free smoke detector in the United States as part of the Home Fire Campaign.  To date, the campaign has saved the lives of 285 people who were alerted to smoke or carbon monoxide in their residence.

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Fire Safety Education – A proven life saver

by Martine Costello, American Red Cross of Massachusetts

Three Questions on Fire Safety with Adam Lavoie, Fire Chief with the Warren, Mass. Fire Department

Fire safety starts with properly rco_blog_img_warreninstalled smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. We recently spoke with Adam Lavoie, the Warren Fire Chief, about his department’s participation in an inaugural program with the Central Massachusetts Chapter of the American Red Cross to distribute free smoke detectors to residents in need.

Can you talk about the importance of fire safety and the need for working fire detectors?   

It is a proven fact that people have a much greater chance of escaping a fire or carbon monoxide emergency with early notification from working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Unfortunately, it is an all too common occurrence to find no working detector in fatal fires across the country every year. I believe this is often due to a lack of fire safety education, or a lack of resources to keep the units installed and running. Far too many times we find missing or disabled smoke and carbon monoxide alarms during routine safety inspection.

Why are programs like this one so important?

We find that the elderly population is at greater risk due to mobility and financial reasons. These issues contribute to their inability to properly maintain detectors. We also see an increase in hoarding situations in all populations that we serve, which is making it very difficult for people to get out of their residences and for the fire department to get to them in an emergency. Again, this is another reason why early notification is so important.

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How did the program work alongside Red Cross staff and volunteers?

We advertised ahead of time and got a great response. A majority of those who signed up were elderly. I really wanted to target that population the most due to their increased risk. We went door to door and my team installed the units while the Red Cross team presented some tips and guidelines on fire safety and preparedness, the care and maintenance of the units and how to prepare an escape plan.  Mary Nathan, Disaster Program Manager for the Western Chapter of the Red Cross, led the efforts alongside volunteers James Street, Nick Street, Debbie Schaier and Roger Parent. It was a great team effort and we were able to install units in more than 20 homes.

The residents were very appreciative and in many cases the homes didn’t have any working detectors. The next day we had plates of cookies and donuts dropped off as a thank you – people were so appreciative. Best of all, within the next couple of days we had five-to-six people contact the fire station asking if we were going to do the program again. We are hoping to make this an annual event.

Do you have any additional thoughts to add?

Educating the public is our most important job. By providing education, replacing smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and being proactive with safety inspections, we can hopefully prevent a tragedy before it happens. Once a month we visit the elementary school to deliver fire safety education and target third and fourth graders. During Fire Prevention Week, a national program, we target all grades. We also work with the Council on Aging to provide education to the elderly residents of the community.

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Pictured (left to right) – Chief Adam Lavoie, Eric Allard, James Street, Merrill Thompson, Christina Acerra, Nick Street, Debbie Schaier, Matt Bonneau, Seth Beall, Roger Parent, Scott Duncan, Jr.

When disasters inspire volunteerism

by Susan Gilbert, American Red Cross of Massachusetts volunteer

Before joining the American Red Cross,rco_blog_img_contee Lisa Contee had never been a volunteer. Volunteerism was brought forward in her mind when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010.

Lisa had what she calls her “Haiti baby” that January, watching on television as members of the Red Cross assisted those most in need in what was one of the worst disasters in in recent history.

Lisa subsequently went to the Red Cross, got her CPR certification and attended a free disaster services class. The introductory class showed potential volunteers how the missions of the Red Cross help people here in Massachusetts during both small and large disasters.

Lisa was hooked. The work the Red Cross does locally was eye opening and exactly what she was interested in doing – lending that helping hand. Immediately after the training, Lisa went to the Cambridge office determined to get a position at the American Red Cross of Massachusetts. Lisa recalls that she “wouldn’t leave until they were down and ready to have me.”

To start, Lisa joined a Disaster Action Team. These teams are made up of volunteers who go out, boots on the ground, and help the clients of disasters – fires, floods, storms – anything that leaves people displaced.

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In 2014 when the Home Fire Campaign was announced, Lisa was one of the first volunteers to receive training to help install free smoke alarms in people’s homes.  She was quickly promoted to supervisor, and today is the lead and mentor to other volunteers interested in both DAT and the Home Fire Campaign.

Aside from DAT and Home Fire Campaign work, Lisa trained and was certified to drive and operate relief operations from Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles. Commonly known as ERVs, these mobile disaster relief and food trucks serve those in need in the hardest hit areas.

Lisa was deployed to the New York City area to support relief operations during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. She enjoyed the hard work and long hours doing and said “it was the hardest physical work” she has ever done.

In March 2017, Lisa went to an early morning fire where a building had collapsed. The collapse displace more than 45 people. The fire started in one unit and spread to several other units, affecting the entire building with either fire or smoke damage. The Red Cross took care of 11 families and worked with the management company to find hotel space for the displaced residents.

Lisa says that moments like these are why she stays with the Red Cross. “People helping out people is all we need.”

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Retirement and a whole new beginning

When a life is spent serving and protectingrco_blog_img_kmca your fellow citizens, retirement can leave a void that was once filled up with the simple idea of helping people.

After a 25-year career as a Massachusetts State trooper, Keith McAuliffe was finally home to shovel snow instead of out patrolling slippery roads across the state. When hurricanes stormed into coastal cities across the Northeast, he no longer had to answer the call for volunteers to deploy for weeks away from home.

It didn’t take long for Keith to realize helping people wasn’t just part of his job, it was his true self.

“I always looked at my law enforcement career as more helping people, and the Red Cross gave me a way to continue that on a local level. It’s exactly what I was looking for,” said Keith.

With his new-found free time, Keith signed up as a volunteer with the Mass Bay Chapter of the American Red Cross. As Keith worked his way through the different trainings required to become a member of a Disaster Action Team (DAT), he started to gain a better understanding of Red Cross mission and the different activities designed to achieve that mission.

“I always thought of the Red Cross as blood donation and big disasters around the country and around the world,” said Keith. Having just retired from a position that had him often away from home in the worst conditions, he wasn’t looking to go all over the country on deployments. “I was surprised when I started going to the trainings and they talked about the local stuff they do.”

Keith began responding to home fires as part of a Boston Metro DAT team, finding that staying local and helping his neighbors piqued his interest. “This is what I’m looking for. It’ll keep me busy and I can continue helping people, and do it on my terms, on my time without being overwhelmed with it every day,” said Keith. He later added, “Once you get into the work, you want to do it every day.”

It’s been nearly three years since Keith joined the American Red Cross. Now he works primarily behind the scenes, updating documentation and building and distributing the Disaster Morning Report. He works with Red Cross paid staff to make sure home fire response documentation is entered correctly, ensuring the smooth delivery of services to those affected by local disasters such as home fires.

Keith also takes pride in training new volunteers, helping them understand how they fit into the Red Cross and can achieve fulfillment from their work.

“The feeling you get when you’re out helping people who are at one of the lowest points in their lives, that feeling of good that you get makes your feel better as a volunteer. Knowing that you’re helping people who are at the point of taking those first steps after a home fire, it renews the good feeling you get as a volunteer.”

Keith knows everyone comes to the Red Cross for his/her own reasons. But the humanitarian spirit lives within every mission of the Red Cross, and it’s that spirit that draws in so many volunteers who are there, night and day, to bring comfort to those in need.hfc quincy