Red Cross Consistently Shelters Handful of Residents and Their Pets after Chemtool Fire in Rockton

The Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) is parked among other first responders working to help after the Chemtool Inc. fire began in Rockton, IL

“This really put Rockton on the map, though I wish it was for a different reason,” Lori Oostendorp thought aloud in the Roscoe Middle School gym. Seated next to her at a round table was her mother, Kathryn Markley. They both were in the evacuation zone after a fire started at Chemtool Inc. just down the road from their homes on Monday, June 14, 2021.

Mother and daughter Kathryn Markley (R) and Lori Oostendorp (L) embrace in the Red Cross shelter and spend time chatting with other evacuees over meals and snacks provided by volunteers.

The American Red Cross of Illinois has converted the middle school into an evacuation site, first and then a full shelter when local authorities made it clear those who evacuated could not immediately go home. The Red Cross is providing the air-conditioned space, meals, snacks, water, personal hygiene items, cots and blankets and more to the people who left so quickly.

Other family members joined them; Kathryn says in her haste to evacuate she grabbed her two cats first and says she was thankful it wasn’t a problem to bring them to the shelter. They’re kept away from other guests, but she says there’s no way she was leaving her 2 black cats, Ferrari and Neelix, behind.

Kathryn Markley plays with one of her cats in the Red Cross shelter.

“I think a pet is like having a baby, you are responsible for that life,” Kathryn Markley declared, and finds comfort in having her pets nearby during the evacuation.

On Wednesday, more furry friends were in the shelter to provide support to all those experiencing being out of their homes in the form of comfort dogs. Golden retrievers were available for guests of the shelter to meet and pet and relieve some of the stress they may be feeling.

One of five comfort dogs smiles while visiting the Roscoe Middle School Red Cross Shelter in Rockton.

The mother/daughter team isn’t the only set of family members; Patrick Mira-Contreras and his brother are also staying at the middle school during the evacuation order and experiencing national attention for the first time.

“You always hear about this stuff happening and its almost like its not real….I’ve never been in a disaster-type situation like this before but from what I’ve experienced you guys are doing a great job of offering water, food, accommodations and what not,” he said.

Patrick Mira-Contreras maintains a positive attitude for his family and the handful of other people staying in the shelter.

Mira-Contreras is focusing in mindfulness during this time of being uncomfortable and trying to stay positive, an attitude that is rubbing off on others staying in the shelter.

“If you have a good outlook, things will work out,” he said confidently.

A sense of cameraderie is evident throughout the people during their time, and at the age of 94 Mickey Tooley says she’s happy she had a place to go after the shock of the blast and knew some of the other people there.

“The smoke was just pouring out from the fire and I kinda left in a hurry,” she laughed, “and I forgot all my meds but they were so nice,” and she was able to get her medications with the help of the Red Cross and local police.

Ninety-four year old Mickey Tooley rests in the bleachers of the middle school gym after lunch.

Tooley says she’s hoping to go home soon but if the Red Cross shelter is where she has to be in the meantime, she’s grateful.

“The Red Cross has been really wonderful with all the food and snacks! Everyone has been so nice but everyone will be really happy to get home.”

“You guys go above and beyond to try and make it as comfortable under the circumstances as you can,” said Oostendorp.

Sometimes the shelter guest numbers dwindle to just 5 or 6, but as long as people need a place to stay the Red Cross is working to be there for them and provide resources such as this. Executive Director of the American Red Cross of Northwest Illinois, Leslie Luther, explained to local news media how the Red Cross is providing a safe place for anyone who seeks it.

“It doesn’t matter if its one person or one hundred, our volunteers are trained and ready to be a source of comfort during an uncertain time like this,” Luther said. “This was unexpected, but we’re prepared for disasters and to help with easing the big way they affect the people experiencing them.”

Executive Director Leslie Luther speaks with reporters from local Rockford media.

If you are displaced and are looking for support, you can visit the shelter at the Roscoe Middle School on Elevator Road or call 877-597-0747.

Written by Holly Baker, Communications Manager

Red Cross Volunteers Provide Comfort and Assistance to Family After Home Fire

Last summer, the lives of Elizabeth Morales and her family changed in a matter of minutes when a fire destroyed their home in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. “By the time I arrived, I was just watching gallons and gallons of water pouring out of our home. So, at that point, you kind of realize that everything that you have is now destroyed,” recalls Elizabeth.

A fire that began in their neighbor’s home had spread to Elizabeth’s family and in the blink of an eye, the home where Elizabeth grew up and lived for more than 20 years was gone. When the Morales were finally allowed in the house by the fire department, Elizabeth’s husband, Jose, remembers how everything was in disarray, “Everything was pretty much destroyed. Everything was black, pretty much from the smoke. Couches were pushed over; clothes were thrown everywhere.”

Elizabeth and Jose

Elizabeth remembers how overwhelmed the whole family felt after the fire, and how comforting it was to be met by volunteers with the American Red Cross, “they met us at our level of chaos and explained to us what to expect, a list of places to call and things we needed to do next” 

Late that night, Elizabeth recalls, how grateful they were to have the basic items the Red Cross has provided, “They gave us a kit that had all the accessories like shampoo, toothbrush, deodorant, shaving cream. They thought of it all.”  Adding that the Red Cross even provided medications, something she didn’t think of and that members of her family were going to need, “the Red Cross connected us with a nurse and helped us get prescriptions by the next day free of charge.”

Elizabeth and Jose play with their two youngest sons at their temporary home

After living in a hotel for a month, Elizabeth and her family relocated to a temporary home while theirs is being rebuilt, which may take at least a year. As our conversation was coming to an end, Elizabeth reminds us once more about how crucial it was for the family to have the comfort and support of the Red Cross, “they called and checked on us to make sure that emotionally we were still doing ok. How we were settling in, and to let us know all the resources that were available to us.”

You can take two easy steps to protect your home and loved ones from a fire: get a smoke alarm and create a fire escape plan. Having a working smoke alarm cuts the risk of dying in a home fire in half. Find more about home fire preparedness here.

Click here to find out more about volunteering opportunities with the American Red Cross.

Written by Isis Chaverri, Regional Marketing & Communications Manager

Family of 4 Escapes Rockford House Fire Thanks to Red Cross Smoke Alarms

Doreen McCullough and the two volunteers who installed smoke alarms in her home that ultimately saved her family’s lives from a fire

On September 3, 2019 a vacant trailer caught fire on Bildahl Street in Rockford, Illinois and quickly spread to the home next door where the McCullough family were all sound asleep.

As the smoke drifted in an upstairs window of the home, it set off a smoke alarm waking up 12-year-old Makila. She went downstairs and woke up her mother, Doreen, who then woke up her other daughter, 25-year-old Carmen.

“All I could see was this big orange ball of fire, I mean it was huge,” Doreen said. “I froze, I think I was in shock.”

The entire family escaped the house as the flames started to envelope an entire side of the home. Doreen and her husband Lial as well as their two daughters, Makila and Carmen, all sat across the street in the early morning hours and watched the home they had lived in for nearly 12 years go up in a ball of fire. Soon the Rockford Fire Department arrived and put out the fire, but not before the house was damaged to the point of being unlivable.

The McCullough home on Bildahl Street on September 3, 2019. Photo Credit: Rockford Fire Department

A local husband and wife volunteer team, Scott Suma and Kate Rehak, responded to that fire and helped the family figure out what to do in the coming days and navigate the confusing time after a home fire.

Red Cross volunteers and married couple Scott and Kate comfort Doreen in the days following her home fire

On May 11, 2019 two different volunteers with the Red Cross had previously installed multiple smoke alarms in the McCullough home on Bildahl Street during a Red Cross “Sound the Alarm” smoke alarm installation event.

“Sound the Alarm” is part of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign initiative to install free smoke alarms in thousands of homes across the country, teach home fire safety and help families make home fire escape plans. Every day, seven people die in home fires, with most victims in homes that lack working smoke alarms. The Home Fire Campaign is working to improve the odds and save lives, and four lives were saved this September in Rockford thanks to working smoke alarms installed by the Red Cross.

The volunteers from the installation, Sunilkumar Ravindran and Northwest Illinois Chapter board member Steve Gitz, reunited with the family in front of their fire-damaged home in October, where Doreen offered “thanks yous” and hugs to the volunteers.

Volunteer Sunilkumar was one of the volunteers who installed smoke alarms in the McCullough home just months before the fire

Doreen and her family credit the smoke alarms with saving their lives and giving them extra time to escape the fire, which Doreen says was especially important for her daughter, Carmen, who is autistic.

The family pets, two dogs and a cat, also escaped the home safely with help from Rockford firefighters.

“But the smoke alarm upstairs is what saved us because if it wasn’t for that smoke alarm we wouldn’t be sitting here right now,” Doreen said as she sat with Lial on the home’s front porch.

In just five years, our installation events have accomplished so much across the country including the installation of more than 1.8 million smoke alarms and preparing more than 1 million people against home fires. People who don’t have smoke alarms or need them checked can sign up for an appointment by going to www.getasmokealarm.org.

PRACTICE YOUR PLAN AND TEST YOUR ALARMS For free home fire safety resources, visit redcross.org/homefires or download the free Red Cross Emergency App (search “American Red Cross” in app stores).

  • Include at least two ways to get out of each room in your home fire escape plan.
  • Select a meeting spot at a safe distance away from your home, such as your neighbor’s home or landmark like a specific tree in your front yard, where everyone can meet.
  • Practice your escape plan until everyone can get out in two minutes or less.
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, placing them inside and outside bedrooms, and sleeping areas.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly, and change the batteries at least once a year, if your model requires it.

Video produced and article written by Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois Communications Manager, Holly Baker

Tanya Toribio: Delivering Volunteers to Those in Need after a Home Fire

Tanya Toribio is a disaster program specialist with the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago. In that role, Tanya works closely with volunteer services to ensure that the organization has the volunteer workforce to respond to home fires.

Born in Florida and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada by Mexican parents, while attending college in Reno, a friend who was a disaster program manager for the Red Cross encouraged Tanya to become a volunteer with the organization, “I grew up volunteering…so I always enjoyed helping people. And then when I did my first [disaster action team] DAT call…I was hooked. I was like, wow! this is such a great feeling.”

Tanya helps a person to sign up for a free smoke alarm installation

After college, Tanya joined AmeriCorps for a year, helping advance the mission of the Red Cross by teaching disaster preparedness to underserved communities in Grand Rapids, Michigan. During her time with AmeriCorps, Tanya deployed to North Carolina to help with relief efforts after Hurricane Florence. In North Carolina, she worked with displaced residents in the shelters and make sure people were aware of resources available to them. She tells me the story about a family that she met at one of the shelters and that only spoke Spanish and how relieved they were when Tanya was able to let them know about the long-term assistance that was available to them, including resources that they could access through FEMA. Tanya was able to connect them with representative of that organization that spoke Spanish, and that was able to continue assisting them with the recovery process.

Tanya is first generation Mexican American, and she sees Hispanic Heritage Month as an opportunity to highlight the different contributions Latinos have made to the country, particularly the many cultures that they represent, adding to the diversity of the United States.

You can find more information about volunteering with the American Red Cross here. To sign up for an appointment for a free smoke alarm installation at your home, visit www.getasmokealarm.org.

Written by Isis Chaverri, Regional Marketing & Communications Manager

Oak Lawn home fire survivor shares her story

In June of 2019, Barbara Juris was preparing dinner for her husband in their Oak Lawn home. It was a summer evening, and she was planning on making french fries and spare ribs – some of her husband’s favorite things. It was in a crucial few minutes when Barbara left the kitchen that would completely change the course of the evening, and her life.

Barbara stepped outside to tend to the ribs on the grill, when she hears her neighbor yelling. The neighbor had seen what Barbara hadn’t yet- smoke pouring out of her kitchen window. She rushed back into the house to see her kitchen stove on fire and quickly spreading up cabinets and to the floor.

The Oak Lawn Fire Department was called and arrived within minutes- pushing Barbara and her husband Walter out of the house.

Barbara’s friends and neighbors gathered around her outside as she helplessly stood and watched the home she had lived in for 64 years go up in terrible smoke and destroy her kitchen and parts of the roof.

“I was devastated because I had raised 4 children in that home,” Barbara said.

Realizing her home was not going to be suitable to live in for a while, Barbara began feeling an unfamiliar uncertainty of not knowing where she would sleep in the coming days.

“We had no place to go,” she said.

The Oak Lawn Fire Department assured her that she would be OK as Red Cross volunteers also arrived at the fire. The two volunteers, Brian and Donald, talked to Barbara and made sure she and her husband had accommodations and helped them through the next steps to take.

“They were just so supportive and everything, and they told me I’ll get through it and they’ll find a place for me… couldn’t ask for anything kinder,” Barbara said.

At 93-years-old, Barbara says she has been cooking all her life, but this still happened to her. She says she is so grateful to her neighbors, the fire and police departments and the Red Cross for supporting her through the fire.

Her home is now under renovation but she hopes to be back in it by Christmas and have a big party to celebrate.

“I cannot rave enough about the Red Cross. They’ve always been wonderful but they outdo themselves,” Barbara said.

Barbara says she has so much to be grateful for, “but I hope that nobody has to go through that.”

The American Red Cross responds to more than 62,000 disasters a year and most are home fires.

Tips to avoid cooking fires include:

  • Keep young children and pets at least three feet away from the stove.
  • Move items that can burn away from the stove such as dishtowels, bags and boxes.
  • Clean the stove and the area around it before turning on the heat.
  • Don’t leave food on the stove unattended.
  • Turn pot handles to the back of the stove to avoid spills.

IF A COOKING FIRE OCCURS If a pan catches fire, don’t move it. Slide a pan lid or cookie sheet on top of the pan to put out the fire. Turn off the heat. Keep the lid on the pan until it cools. Never try to stop a grease or oil fire with water – it will fuel the fire.

If something catches fire in the oven, keep the door closed. Call 9-1-1 so firefighters can make sure the fire didn’t spread to the walls. If a fire occurs in the microwave, keep the door closed and unplug the microwave if you can. Don’t use it again until a repairman checks it.

If the kitchen catches fire, make sure everyone gets out and call 9-1-1 when outside. Once outside, stay out. Never go back inside a burning building.

The Red Cross has been working to reduce that number through its Home Fire Campaign. Launched in October of 2014, the Red Cross and thousands of campaign partners have helped save numerous lives through the effort, as well as installing more than one million smoke alarms in homes all across the country. The Red Cross is asking people to do two things – create and practice their home fire escape plan and check their smoke alarms.

For more information on home fire safety, click or tap here.

Written and produced by Holly Baker, Regional Communications Manager

Volunteer dedicates “Sound the Alarm” event to brothers lost in Back of the Yards fire

On April 27, 2019 nearly 100 volunteers gathered at Columbus Park in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood for an American Red Cross “Sound the Alarm” event.

Chicago Fire Commissioner Richard C. Ford as well as Alderman Taliaferro and the CEO of the Red Cross, Celena Roldan, spoke to the volunteers and emphasized why what they were about to do was so important.

“Sound the Alarm” is the Red Cross’ life-saving campaign to install free smoke alarms in homes across the country and it takes many community partners, sponsors and enthusiastic volunteers to make it happen.

Denise Daichendt of Norwood Park was one of those volunteers. She has helped out with many other volunteer organizations, but this “Sound the Alarm” event was the first time she was volunteering with the Red Cross.

When she heard of the program through another volunteer, she immediately thought of the two young brothers lost to a terrible fire in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood in January of this year: Abelardo and Pedro Sanchez. They were just 25 and 16 years old. Pedro had sat right next to Denise’s son in chemistry class at Lane Tech High School.

The Chicago Fire Department reports that a fire broke out at their home on W 53rd Street around 8:30AM during Chicago’s “polar vortex” week in January. School was not in session due to the cold weather and the young men became trapped in the home’s attic from the heavy fire. The department also reports that there were no smoke alarms in the attic area.

Denise decided to sign up as a volunteer and dedicated the event to Abelardo and Pedro; writing their names on the back of her volunteer shirt.

“Something in me was just bursting to dedicate this to them,” Denise said. “It didn’t feel right if I didn’t.”

Denise, a mother of 6, along with other local families and Lane Tech’s director of culture and climate also helped organize a balloon memorial for the brothers and helped the family with collecting donations and getting new furniture. She says hopefully they can move back into their home soon.

“It was devastating, I can’t imagine what their mother goes through,” Denise said.

Denise says she wanted to honor the brothers and hopes that by sharing the story, more people will learn about fire safety and make sure their homes are equipped with working smoke alarms. After being a volunteer firefighter in college, she says it’s not enough to teach children about fire safety at school- it has to get to adults as well.

The components of “Sound the Alarm” include installing new smoke alarms with 10-year batteries and also going over fire safety with members of the household. Volunteers also provide families with a home escape plan so families can create and practice their plan to escape from their home in the event of a fire.

During the April 27th event, Denise says she visited a home in the neighborhood that had just had a fire in the basement days earlier and her volunteer team was able to install multiple alarms in the home, thinking of Abelardo and Pedro with each one.

“You see the Red Cross at like, hurricanes and different disasters like tornadoes, but you don’t know all the aspects of what the Red Cross does so this was a great experience.”

The family and the community is deeply mourning the loss of these beloved family members. “They were lives lost too soon.”

For more infomration on how to get involved with “Sound the Alarm,” visit www.soundthealarm.org/chicago. To sign up for an appointment for a free smoke alarm at your home, visit www.getasmokealarm.org.

Written by Red Cross communications manager Holly Baker

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.

IMG_6974

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.

img_6980.jpg

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.

IMG_6981

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.

IMG_6907.PNG

“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.

outside fire.JPG

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

American Red Cross Responds to 25 Fires and Opens 1 Shelter in the Past Week

Disaster responders with the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois responded to 25 fires from Monday, October 15 to this morning across the 21-county region including fires in Naperville, Blue Island, Elmwood Park, Darien, Rockford, Machesney Park and 15 of the fires happening in Chicago.

The fires affected 134 people including 80 adults and 54 children.

The Red Cross provided resources to help address the immediate basic needs of those affected such as temporary housing, food, clothing, comfort kits with toiletry items, information about recovery services, and health and mental health services. Additional information about these incidents, if available, may be obtained from the local first responding agency/fire department.

Responding volunteers are members of the Red Cross Disaster Action Team, a group of specially trained volunteers who respond to the scene of a disaster when called upon any time of the day or night.

Additionally, 18 Red Cross responders were on the scene in Waukegan as a senior living facility was evacuated on Friday evening. Just before 5PM on October 19, the Red Cross was notified by the city of Waukegan that around 250 people would be without a home that night as an expanding sinkhole made their apartment building temporarily unlivable for days and sheltering assistance would be needed.

waukegan.jpg

Red Cross trailer with supplies in Waukegan during sheltering response on October 19, 2018

A shelter was opened at Waukegan High School on Washington Street and the Red Cross provided food, health services, casework, mental health services, and cots for residents for the night and all day on Saturday. The Red Cross worked with the building management and local hotels to provide rooms for the residents and caseworkers will continue to follow up with the people affected by this evacuation.

Hurricane Florence: Hurricane Florence made landfall early on September 14 as a Category 1 storm just south of Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. Florence set tropical storm rainfall records in two states, surpassing 20 inches in South Carolina and 35 inches in North Carolina. Over the course of five days, Hurricane Florence dumped an estimated 10 trillion gallons of water across the Carolinas. More than 60 volunteers and staff were deployed for Hurricane Florence including CEO Celena Roldán and this response is on-going. Sunday night, more than 260 people stayed in 7 Red Cross shelters in North Carolina.

Hurricane Michael: On October 9, the Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois began deploying local volunteers and staff to Hurricane Michael. As of today, 19 people have been deployed for Hurricane Michael and are on the ground or are on the way to the affected area. Last night, more than 1,300 people stayed in as many as 15 Red Cross and community evacuation centers across Florida, Alabama and Georgia.

HOW PEOPLE CAN HELP: After two major hurricanes in less than a month, thousands of people are looking for help. The Red Cross depends on financial donations to fund our relief services. Help people affected by Hurricane Michael by visiting redcross.org, calling 1- 800-RED CROSS or texting the word MICHAEL to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from this disaster.

DONATE BLOOD: The Red Cross also has a critical need for blood and platelet donations to help meet patient needs. This fall, Hurricane Michael and Hurricane Florence have forced the cancellation of about 200 blood drives, causing approximately 7,000 units of blood to go uncollected in the Southeast. The Red Cross asks eligible individuals to make an appointment today by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

The Red Cross responds to 3 to 4 home fires every day in Chicago and northern Illinois. The Red Cross recommends two easy steps to help protect your home and loved ones from a fire: get a smoke alarm and create a fire escape plan. For more Red Cross fire safety and preparedness information visit www.redcross.org/prepare.

Volunteers install free smoke alarms for National Fire Prevention Week

Volunteers install free smoke alarms for National Fire Prevention Week

Today, a group of Red Cross workers gathered at the Greater Chicago Chapter headquarters and reviewed the steps to properly install smoke alarms. They suited up in warm jackets and Red Cross reflective vests before heading to the nearby Little Village neighborhood, where local homeowners would be expecting them.

LV oct 12.jpg

Red Cross workers are ready to install free smoke alarms in local homes on October 12, 2018

 

As part of National Fire Prevention Week, these volunteers installed free smoke alarms in Chicago area homes and are encouraging people to practice their family’s fire drill at home. Having a working smoke alarm in your home can cut the risk of dying in a home fire in half. Fires are the nation’s most frequent and deadliest disaster.

Many residents had appointments with the Red Cross to have the alarms installed. Additionally, volunteers knock on doors to see if other families would like to have a free smoke alarm installed for them.

Resized_20181012_160644_4402

 

One of the volunteers helping today is Myesha Terrell, a new volunteer to the Red Cross. She was inspired to join the Red Cross after a friend had a home fire a few years ago.

“I thought, ‘why keep waiting?’ If I can help I should help. We’re helping people in need,” Myesha said.

Resized952018101295160143955738

New volunteer Myesha installing a smoke alarm

On average, seven people die every day from home fires, which take more lives each year than all other natural disasters combined in the U.S., according to the National Fire Protection Association.

That’s why the Red Cross is working with community partners to install free smoke alarms, help families create home fire escape plans, and provide public fire prevention and safety resources through its Home Fire Campaign, a nationwide effort to reduce fire-related deaths and injuries. Since the campaign began in October 2014, it’s reached more than 1.6 million people and is credited with saving 472 lives nationwide.

Antonio Velez has been volunteering with the Red Cross for nearly 3 years going to fire responses, helping with smoke alarm installations and he is a part of the Red Cross Spiritual Care Team. Antonio retired after working for the CTA for 29 years and wanted to stay involved in his community.

“It’s important for every neighborhood,” he said. “We’re trying to save lives.”

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO

Experts say that today’s home fires burn faster than ever, leaving people with only as little as two minutes to escape a burning residence. But many mistakenly believe they have more time, according to a Red Cross survey last year. During Fire Prevention Week, the Red Cross urges everyone to take these lifesaving steps:

  • Develop a fire escape plan with everyone in your household and practice it at least twice a year. Need help with your plan? Use these free Home Fire Campaign resources.
  • Install smoke alarms in your home, on every level and outside each sleeping area. Test them once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year if required.
  • Teach children what smoke alarms sound like and what they should do if they hear one.
  • Make sure all household members know two ways to escape from every room.
  • Establish a family meeting spot outside.

1.6 MILLION PEOPLE SERVED—AND GROWING

Through the Home Fire Campaign, Red Cross volunteers and community partners continue to mount a nationwide effort across the country to save lives and curb fire-related injuries. Over the past four years, Red Cross volunteers and more than 4,500 partners have gone door-to-door in high-risk neighborhoods to deliver free preparedness resources through the campaign’s Sound the Alarm canvassing events. So far, we have:

  • Reached more than 1.6 million people through home visits in nearly 14,000 cities and towns
  • Installed 1.4 million free smoke alarms
  • Replaced more than 67,550 smoke alarm batteries
  • Helped families make more than 514,200 fire escape plans
  • Reached almost 1.2 million children through youth preparedness programs

Intersted in volunteering with the Red Cross and helping with events like these? Visit www.redcross.org/volunteer to find a volunteer opportunity for you!

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.