Red Cross installs 739 smoke alarms in 243 Austin neighborhood homes this weekend as part of “Sound the Alarm”

On Saturday morning, April 27, 2019 local volunteers, firefighters, and Red Cross staff began to gather at Columbus Park in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood to kick off another successful Sound the Alarm event. Among many of the volunteers and firefighters in attendance at the event were many supporting partners including Chicago Fire Commissioner Richard C. Ford, Alderman Chris Taliaferro of the 29th Ward, and volunteer teams from local organizations like AllState.

“We’re here because this is something we truly care about… Because I can’t say it enough, smoke alarms save lives” said Fire Commissioner Ford. The Red Cross Sound the Alarm series is part of the larger Home Fire Campaign initiative to mitigate the risk of fatalities in home fires. On average, 7 lives are lost every day to home fires. Most of these fatalities include small children and the elderly.

Commissioner Ford addresses the volunteers before “Sound the Alarm” installations begin.

Many people believe that they have at least 5 minutes to escape their home in the event of a fire. In reality, that time is only about 2 minutes. Commissioner Ford says that “Thanks to the efforts of the Red Cross, hundreds of people will have that extra time if a fire does break out. That extra time is provided by a working smoke alarm.”

Red Cross CEO Celena Roldán described how Sound The Alarm had a direct impact on the lives of a grandmother and her grandson in the Austin neighborhood just a few short years ago in December 2016. “I am proud to say they received a free Red Cross smoke alarm installation, coupled with Home Fire safety education. They experienced a home fire and escaped safely, ” says Roldán.

Volunteers for Sound the Alarm started the day with a quick training on how to install fire alarms in local homes around the Austin neighborhood. As the morning rain started to freeze and turn to snow, the Red Cross organized teams of volunteers to go out and start the installations. Hundreds of appointments had been collected in the previous weeks of local residents asking for a smoke alarm. “It may seem simple to knock on someone’s door. It may seem simple to go out and install a smoke alarm in someone’s home… But that’s nearly 5,500 residents [in the Austin neighborhood] that are affected [by Sound the Alarm].” said Alderman Taliaferro.

Thank you to all of our volunteers who helped out on Saturday with installing nearly 1,000 smoke alarms!

At the end of the day, there were 739 smoke alarms installed and 243 homes were made safer in Chicago this Saturday. This adds to the 684,260  households made safer by the Home Fire Campaign since it began in 2014.

Volunteer Morrie Bowie installs a smoke alarm in a local home

There are many ways to get involved with the Red Cross Sound the Alarm campaign in your neighborhood. Visit www.redcross.org/chicago to learn more about how to prepare your home to prevent, respond to, and recover after a home fire. You can also make a donation or join the Red Cross volunteers to Sound the Alarm and save a life!

Written by Red Cross communications volunteer Lexi Wyrick.

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For the Second Time Mother Nature Forces a Mother and Daughter from Puerto Rico out of their Home

For the Second Time Mother Nature Forces a Mother and Daughter from Puerto Rico out of their Home

Nine months ago, María Elena Báez left her beloved Puerto Rico and moved to Freeport, Illinois with her daughter. María Elena, who is from San Juan, enjoyed the small town feel of Freeport when she first came there to stay with relatives, two weeks after Hurricane María in 2017.

After returning home, she still felt uneasy seeing the devastation brought by María and decided to leave the life that she has known until then to move to a safer place, far away from the threat of hurricanes.

However, on March 16, María Elena and her daughter were forced to leave their apartment in Freeport after the rising waters of the Pecatonica River threatened to flood their new-found home. “I was doing laundry when I noticed the water was getting to our carport, and I told my daughter to gather a few clothes and we left,” said María Elena.

For two nights, she and her daughter slept in their vehicle before seeking refuge in the American Red Cross shelter in Highland Community College. The Red Cross provided María Elena and her daughter with a place to stay and warm meals. Red Cross volunteers also worked closely with her to secure a refrigerated location where she could store her insulin.

However, throughout her stay in the shelter María Elena couldn’t stop worrying about water getting in their apartment and ruining their belongings, “We are starting from zero and with a lot of effort have bought a few things for our apartment and now this. We are afraid our things are going to get damaged,” expressed María Elena.

After spending five days in the Shelter, mother and daughter were able to return home on March 22. Thankfully their worst fear didn’t come true, the Pecatonica River had spared their apartment. María Elena was relieved and very grateful to the American Red Cross, “the volunteers took very good care of us and we thank the Red Cross for helping people like us in time of need.”

Written by Regional Marketing & Communications Manager Isis Chaverri

Streator family on path to recovery after home fire

It was mid-December of 2018 around 4PM when a house caught fire in Streator, IL.

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Firefighers with the Streator Fire Department were arriving at the single-family home within minutes and shortly after them, two volunteers with the American Red Cross of the Illinois River Valley were there.

The home was unlivable, and everything changed for that Streator family that night. Everyone was able to get out of the home, but all of their pet hamsters and fish were lost. The three children who lived there and their parents lost all their belongings from the fire or the heavy smell of smoke that had seeped into everything.

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Standing outside of their home, Red Cross volunteers wrapped each family member in a Red Cross blanket and gave everyone a comfort kit containing basic items like a toothbrush, toothpaste and shampoo. The volunteers made sure the family had a place to go for the next few days and connected them with resources that would become the bridge to their next home, as they could not return to the burnt out house.

The Streator family was able to find a new place to live and was able to get new clothes for the everyone with assistance from the Red Cross. “That really helped us out a lot,” the children’s mother said.

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She says although they had to start over completely, the Red Cross was there to help her family during those difficult days following the fire and now they are together in a new home in Streator.

Written by communications manager Holly Baker.

 

“I’ll never forget that night.” A home fire victim remembers the Red Cross helping in the chaos

It was a warm summer night on June 4, 2017 and Sandra Gary was still awake in her home on West 111th Street in the Morgan Park-Beverly neighborhood. Midnight had just passed, and that’s when Sandra noticed the smell of smoke permeating the air.

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“It was an odd smell, like maybe rubber or a tire burning,” Sandra said.

She looked out her bedroom window multiple times, and that’s when she saw the flames start to come up the side of her home. She says everyone who lived in the complex was able to get out safely, either from smelling the smoke or because of the neighbor who spotted the flames and made sure to wake people up and get them out.

“Just to see our house go up in flames…just devastating. Never thought I’d have to go through anything like this.”

The fire had started in unit A of the complex and made it all the way over to Sandra’s house, unit E, destroying much of the property in the process.

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Sandra says her home was covered in soot and the lingering smell of smoke made it difficult to breathe. She was able to salvage a few things from her home but lost most of her belongings, especially anything in the basement.

“Everything down there was destroyed,” she said. “It was terrible.”

A Red Cross van had pulled up and two volunteers began taking down information of the residents affected by the fire. Eight units were affected and nearly everyone had been displaced.

The neighbors say they bonded that night as they stood outside for hours together, watching flames pour through the roof of their homes until 3 or 4 AM. The Red Cross provided assistance in the form of gift cards to make sure everyone had a place to go that night and was able to get food and clothes.

Sandra went to stay at her son’s in Hyde Park. Within days, she receieved another call from a Red Cross volunteer asking if she needed any new medications since any medications that had been through a fire were no longer safe to take. Sandra hadn’t even thought about that, and hadn’t realized her medications were damaged. The Red Cross helped her expedite new prescriptions at no cost to her.

Sandra says she is so thankful to the Red Cross for “just showing up” and helping that night. The damage was so bad, it took over a year and a half for her home to be livable again. She recently moved back and has since made several donations to the organization as a way of paying it forward.

“For people to just come out like that and help you, and that’s when you really need that. My hat’s off to them,” she said. “If you do this then you must be good.”

Hear more from Sandra in this video.

Does your home need a smoke alarm? The Red Cross will come and install one for free if you sign up online for an appointment as part of our “Sound the Alarm” campaign. Make your appointment here for a free smoke alarm.

Interested in volunteering? Sign up to help do the installing here.

Written by Chicago & Northern Illinois Communications Manager Holly Baker

Governor Pritzker attends Red Cross and Rockford Fire Department Smoke Alarm Installation Event

Dozens of volunteers from around the American Red Cross of Northwest Illinois chapter area gathered on Saturday, January 12 along with Governor Prtizker to help make the Rockford area safer as part of the Sound the Alarm. Save a Life. campaign. Click here to see a video from the day.

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Governor-elect JB Pritzker supported the event as part of his “Day of Service,” featuring service opportunities in cities across Illinois ahead of his inauguration on January 14.

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Volunteers gathered at the chapter office for the American Red Cross of Northwest Illinois.

Sound the Alarm is part of the larger Home Fire Campaign, an initiative to help make homes across the country more prepared for the event of a fire by having volunteers install free smoke alarms and provide fire safety education. Having a working smoke alarm in your home cuts your risk of dying in a home fire by nearly 50%.

The temperature hovered around 30 degrees as volunteer teams of 3 from the Red Cross, the Rockford Fire Department and Hinshaw Law trekked into Rockford’s Signal Hill neighborhood to begin installations.

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Governor Pritzker and the first lady joined an install team and met with a local family to go over fire safety preparednesss and ensure the home had working smoke alarms before greeting volunteers at the Red Cross chapter office.

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First Lady MK Pritzker, Governor Pritzker and Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois CEO Celena Roldan speak with Rockford homeowner Mapleine Mayweather about home fire safety

 

Overall, 41 homes were made safer with the installation of 134 new smoke alarms!

The Red Cross responds to nearly 64,000 disasters a year, the majority of which are home fires. Working smoke alarms in a home cut the risk of death by half, and having an escape plan further improves the odds of survival. The Red Cross wants to end these tragedies and save lives, the reason why the organization launched the Home Fire Campaign in 2014.

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Red Cross volunteer Scott Otto drills a new smoke alarm into the wall of a Rockford home.

To learn more about the Home Fire Campaign, visit redcross.org. Please help us Sound the Alarm by volunteering to install smoke alarms, making a financial contribution, or taking steps to protect your own family from home fires.

This Spring, the Red Cross will continue to Sound the Alarm with upcoming installation events in neighborhoods and cities across the country and right here in the Chicago & Northern Illinois 21-county region including Austin, Freeport, Bolingbrook, Rockford, North Lawndale, Joliet and more!

Do you or someone you know need a working smoke alarm? Sign up to get one and have volunteers install it for free by filling out the online form at www.getasmokealarm.org.

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About the American Red Cross of Northwest Illinois:

The American Red Cross of Northwest Illinois serves 700,000 people in 10 counties including Boone, Bureau, Carroll, DeKalb, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Stephenson, Whiteside and Winnebago. 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 us at www.redcross.org/Il/Rockford or visit us on Twitter @ChicagoRedCross

Red Cross staff member reflects on Hurricane Michael deployment

It has been a few months since Hurricane Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach on the Florida Panhandle as a Category 4 storm in early October.

The deadly storm was considered one of the top four strongest hurricanes to hit the United States and it left behind devastation across communities.

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People completely lost their homes and many were left living without power, food, running water and other basic necessities.

Soon after Hurricane Michael hit, American Red Cross disaster workers got to work to help people in shelters, kitchens, and many distributed relief items to those in need.

Isamar Montezuma, Senior Recruitment Specialist for the American Red Cross, was one of hundreds of Red Cross disaster workers deployed to help those impacted by the deadly storm.

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Montezuma was deployed to District 1, Panama City in Florida. She traveled to different shelters and kitchens in Washington County and Day County.

“It’s been very impactful to see damage created by Hurricane Michael, but I’ve been really impressed by volunteers and community members,” Montezuma said.

Throughout her deployment, Montezuma went to different shelters to identify and find volunteers locally. She also helped with background check screenings for volunteers willing to assist.

Montezuma also volunteered for three different kitchens while deployed in Florida.

According to Montezuma, everyone in District 1, Panama City was working hard to rebuild and empower their community.

Even though people completely lost their homes and everything in them, they were grateful for their safety.

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A photo inside a the staff shelter where Red Cross volunteers were staying at a school in Florida

“The fact that I’ve had someone tell me that even though they lost everything, at the end of the day they are thankful they have their family,” Montezuma said. “These families will go back home, but they’ve lost it and lost memories, but the most important thing is that they are together.”

American Red Cross volunteers respond to nearly 64,000 disasters every year. Deployment is something American Red Cross volunteers do to reach disaster-affected areas like Hurricane Michael.

This was Montezuma’s first deployment to respond to a disaster and it was an eye-opening experience.

“I wanted to be deployed,” Montezuma said. “It’s something that we do to assist during a disaster. I wanted to get that experience to learn from it and to be able to speak about it to other volunteers.”

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Isamar with a Chicago Red Cross volunteer, Shelley who also deployed to Hurricane Michael

Interested in being a disaster volunteer? Head over to the site to look at the different volunteer positions under Volunteer Management, Disaster Services, Public Affairs and more!

Written by Jasminne Hernandez, Communications & Marketing Volunteer for the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

‘Give Something That Means Something’ with American Red Cross on Giving Tuesday

During the holidays, bring comfort and hope to people in need

ILLINOIS – In a year when disasters upended the lives of thousands of people, the American Red Cross is asking everyone to Give Something that Means Something for families in need through its 2018 Holiday Giving Campaign.

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“Every day, home fires and other everyday crises turn people’s lives upside down,” said Celena Roldan, chief executive officer of the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois. “Families are counting on your support to remember them during this special time of year. On Giving Tuesday, please consider making a financial donation or a blood donation, or volunteering your time.”

GIVING TUESDAY Beginning on Giving Tuesday—November 27—please #GiveWithMeaning here to support people in need with a symbolic gift, which you can make in honor of the special people in your life:

  • Help disaster victims. Your gift of $250 can deliver hot meals for 25 people who need nourishment after a disaster. A donation of $100 can provide a family of two with a full day’s worth of emergency shelter with meals, snacks, blankets, a cot and hygiene supplies. Help provide warmth with a gift of $50, which can provide blankets for 10 people.
  • Help our veterans. A donation of $125 can help veterans transition back to civilian life by connecting them and their families to critical services such as food, housing, counseling and rehabilitation.
  • Help internationally. Your gift of $100 can help provide lifesaving vaccinations for 100 children who face an increased risk of measles and rubella around the world.

 

In addition, you can also:

 

GIVING HOPE EVERY DAY Every 8 minutes, someone affected by disaster is helped by donations to the Red Cross. The generosity of Red Cross donors helps provide people with necessities like shelter, food, relief supplies, emotional support, recovery planning and other assistance.

The need is constant—and this year was no different. In Chicago & Northern Illinois, the Red Cross helped 10,766 people affected by 1,430 local disasters including floods and home fires. Home fires—the nation’s most frequent disaster—account for the vast majority of our responses.

In addition to helping families recover from these events, we also help save lives by installing free smoke alarms and helping residents create escape plans through our Home Fire Campaign.

About the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois:

The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois serves 9.5 million people in 21 counties including Boone, Bureau, Carroll, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Jo Daviess, LaSalle, Lake, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Putnam, Stephenson, Whiteside, Will and Winnebago. 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 us at redcross.org/il/chicago or visit us on Twitter @ChicagoRedCross.