The first thing Michael Green heard wasn’t a smoke alarm; it was his daughter Jasmine rushing downstairs to tell him her room was full of smoke. Faulty wiring started the fire, which slowly filled the walls with smoke while Jasmine and her friend played with toys.
“I’m still in shock, but I knew I had to keep my cool and do what was best for my family,” said Michael as he wiped away sweat from his forehead with a paper towel.
As soon as Michael realized there was a fire upstairs, he rushed both children outside, where he could now see flames climbing up the walls of his house. Michael called 9-1-1 and cut off the power, but it was too late to save the second floor of his recently-remodeled home.
By the time the American Red Cross arrived, the entire upstairs was in ruins. Toys, videogames and DVDs were covered with ash, and the family’s new puppy wandered around sniffing at the charred remains. Jasmine’s bedroom had holes ripped out of the walls and ceiling; even her Mickey Mouse pillows were smeared with soot.
Michael’s wife Adrianne sat with Jasmine in silence, both of them dripping in sweat from the boiling heat. Adrianne’s face was like stone as she sat in shock, holding her daughter by her side. Adrianne received a call at work and rushed home to find half her home had been scorched by fire. Her hands shook as she accepted a bottle of water from Michelle, a Red Cross disaster relief worker. Michelle explained to Adrianne how the American Red Cross could help her family through this difficult time. Due to the severity of the fire the Red Cross would be able to provide the Green family with financial assistance, shelter, toiletries, clothing, food and water.
Sixty-five percent of fire related deaths happen in homes without working fire alarms. Smoke alarms provide a few minutes of advance warning in the event of a home fire, and that extra time can save lives. It is important for all homeowners to follow these safety tips:
•Install smoke alarms in every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
•Test fire alarms once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year.
•Talk to all family members, especially children, about a fire escape plan.
•Practice the escape plan twice a year, if not more.
Michael and Adrianne were grateful that their family made it out safely, realizing how fortunate they were to only lose possessions. The American Red Cross of the Greater Chicago Region encourages every family to be prepared for fire disasters. More information about how to be prepared, including safety tips, are available on the Chicago Red Cross website http://www.blogger.com/www.chicagoredcross.org.
Written by: Joshua Enright Gleason