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 to help make the Rockford area safer as part of the Sound the Alarm. Save a Life. campaign.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

American Red Cross Seeking AmeriCorps Team Members

The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois is currently seeking individuals to serve as full-time AmeriCorps team members.  There are currently 21 full-time positions available at offices across the state of Illinois. Anyone looking for an opportunity to make a difference in the community while gaining new skills and experiences is encouraged to apply.

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Safe Families AmeriCorps member Jessica Chencinski says joining AmeriCorps was a great opportunity for professional development as well as her own personal growth. People who have an interest in public health and helping others will thrive here gaining experience serving local communities.

“There is no greater feeling than knowing you can help someone even in the slightest of ways. My service with Safe Families allows me to work with the whole population including children and the elderly,” Chencinski said. AmeriCorps members say the work is rewarding because they have daily interaction with community members regarding safety and emergency preparedness while also serving people of all ages through teaching lifesaving skills.

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Safe Families AmeriCorps members will serve to organize community members across Illinois in making their cities, schools, organizations and households more resilient to emergencies. The member’s primary responsibility will be to present free American Red Cross courses on emergency preparedness, disaster-specific safety, and basic first aid and CPR to both youth and adults in Illinois’ most vulnerable and under-served communities. Safe Families members will also work with local disaster clients to deliver Red Cross services to impacted individuals.

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Illinois’ Disaster Corps

Disaster Corps members will support impacted communities with spontaneous volunteer management and donation coordination in the event of a local or state disaster. Members will work hand-in-hand with local and state government entities, non-profit organizations, and other community organizations to provide timely and meaningful service opportunities to those seeking to assist their own communities after a disaster strikes. Though these positions will be based out the Chicago American Red Cross office, members will have the opportunity to train for and respond to disasters across the state of Illinois. Members will also be involved in local or statewide disaster response activities, community preparedness education, and may be deployed for up to two weeks at a time in the case of a disaster.

There are currently up to 6 full-time positions available, served as 1700 hours in an 11-month period.

BENEFITS:

  • Invaluable experience from a nationally and internationally-respected organization for school, a future job or new career
  • Educational grant of $5920 at completion of service (or max yearly Pell grant, subject to change)
  • Living stipend paid bi-weekly ($15,500 total over 11 months)
  • Basic Health Insurance for AmeriCorps member
  • Subsidized childcare
  • Student loan forbearance (on qualifying loans)

REQUIREMENTS:

  • Successfully serve in the position, serve 35-40 hours a week and meet the 1700 minimum requirement for a full term of service
  • Be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
  • Must be 18 years of age at the start date of service
  • Have a valid Driver’s License & clean driving record
  • Pass required criminal background checks
  • Members should also be comfortable working with a wide variety of people from all walks of life and backgrounds, and respect the American Red Cross fundamental principles.

TO APPLY: Applicants will be accepted on a rolling basis. Please apply at https://rdcrss.org/2PMar9y

“Sound the Alarm. Save a Life”

A Story to Learn From

Less than a year ago, some family members of mine woke up in the middle of the night. Outside, their dog barked over and over again, and for a moment, they tried to ignore the dog and go back to sleep. But he kept barking, until finally one of them got up and looked out of their window. In their backyard, a huge pile of wood had caught fire.

The two of them rushed outside and they threw bucket after bucket of water onto the fire, narrowly avoiding the rusty nails sticking out of the wood. They kept the flames at bay until the fire department arrived. The next day, the fire extinguished, they learned that it had been started by some ashes and embers that were thrown on the wood. Their young child had assumed that the ashes had cooled down enough to be safely disposed of, but they were not.

In this instance, everyone was fine, and nothing besides some old wood was damaged. Still, the story is a reminder that fires start and spread quickly, and nobody can fully insulate themselves from the risk of such a tragedy.

Misunderstanding House Fires

Still, people often don’t accurately predict their own safety from fires. House fires constitute the majority of disasters that the American Red Cross responds to. The danger of house fires is heightened by the knowledge that forty percent of people admit to having forgotten to turn off a stone or oven, which are the leading cause of fires. And more than a third of people use stoves, kerosene lanterns, or space heaters, and heating equipment is involved in a fifth of all home fire deaths.

To add to this, the majority of people overestimate how much time they will have to flee a burning home. According to experts, some people will have as little as two minutes to safely exit. When a house is burning, every second matters, especially when babies, children, or the elderly are involved. Every day, seven people die in the United States as a result from a home fire. Tragically, many of these happen in homes without working smoke alarms.

Many of these deaths would have be preventable if victims had working smoke alarms in their house.  The sound of a smoke alarm can make the difference when warning people within moments if a fire had started in their house. Smoke alarms give people time to gather their children and ensure that everyone leaves the house quickly. Property may be damaged, but people will survive.

How You Can Help

The Red Cross is teaming up with local fire departments and other agencies to Sound the Alarm, installing free smoke alarms across the country in homes that need them. It is part of the larger Home Fire Campaign, which since beginning in 2014, has installed over one million alarms nationwide. And it has been credited with helping to save over 400 lives.

This Spring, you can help be a part of this. Sound the Alarm is only made possible by volunteers. It is our volunteers who installed one million smoke alarms, and our volunteers who have helped save over 400 lives. We are so thankful to anyone who signs up to volunteer to help Sound the Alarm.

The event kicks off on April 28 in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, and volunteers will be installing smoke alarms for the next five Saturdays. For more information on how to volunteer for Sound the Alarm, you can contact visit www.soundthealarm.org/northernIL.

Thank you for serving and saving lives with us.

Written by Gordon White, Communications Intern for the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

Red Cross Thanksgiving cooking safety tips

With winter holidays coming up, millions of people will gather for Thanksgiving to enjoy time with loved ones and a delicious holiday dinner. However, cooking fires tend to be the primary causes of home fires and home fire injuries. These fires are often caused by leaving cooking food unattended or unintentionally turning on or not turning off the equipment.In order to keep your family and home safe,The American Red Cross has provided some safety steps that everyone can follow.

First and foremost, it is very important to install a smoke alarm near your kitchen, on each level of your home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms if you sleep with doors closed. Use the test button to check it each month. Be sure to replace all batteries at least once a year if you smoke alarm requires it. Other safety steps include:

  • Don’t wear loose clothing or sleeves that dangle while cooking.
  • If you are frying, grilling or broiling food, never leave it unattended – stay in the kitchen. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • If you’re simmering, baking, roasting or broiling food, check it regularly.
  • Use a timer to remind yourself that the stove or oven is on.
  • Keep kids and pets away from the cooking area. Make them stay at least three feet away from the stove.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire – pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels or curtains – away from your stove, oven or any other appliance in the kitchen that generates heat.
  • Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.
  • Always check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving the home to make sure all stoves, ovens, and small appliances are turned off.
  • Consider purchasing a fire extinguisher to keep in your kitchen. Contact your local fire department to take training on the proper use of extinguishers.

Another helpful step is to download the Red Cross First Aid app which provides expert advice for common mishaps or emergencies including cuts, burns and what to do if someone is choking. Download the app for free in your app store or test GETFIRST to 90999.

 

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Written by: Laila Orazova & Kelly McCasland, American Red Cross Communications Interns

Chicago Winters Bring Home Fires

Chicago Winters Bring Home Fires

Every year, Chicago winters bring frigid temperatures and an increase in home fires. The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois responds to 3-4 home fires daily. So far in December, that response has already reached 71 home fires.

On average, 7 people die every day from a home fire, 36 people suffer injuries as a result of home fires every day, and over $7 billion in property damage occurs every year.

Photos by Carlo Heathcote.

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Can your family escape in just 2 minutes? You can keep your family safe with 2 simple steps.

Step 1. Practice your 2-minute drill. Make sure your family can safely escape a home fire in under 2 minutes. Use our worksheets to plan and prepare your 2-minute drill today.

Step 2. Test your smoke alarms monthly. Make sure you and your family are alerted as soon as a fire is detected. If the smoke alarm isn’t working, change the batteries.

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You can also download the free Red Cross Emergency App for instant access to safety tips for winter weather and power outages. The app also contains weather alerts, life-saving information and ways to contact family and friends in one free, easy-to-use app for mobile devices. The app can be found in the app store for someone’s mobile device by searching for “American Red Cross” or by going to redcross.org/apps.

 

American Red Cross Reflects on Beloved Volunteer

American Red Cross Reflects on Beloved Volunteer

One of our long-time friends and volunteers, Robert Wahlgren, passed away on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016. Upon receiving the news, the Red Cross family spent time reflecting on our wonderful shared memories of Bob. We were trained by him, we watched him respond to disasters with kindness and care, and we learned from his determination.

Bob was always modest about his accomplishments, positive in his outlook, and made everyone feel welcome in his presence,” says Peg Gramas, who volunteered with Bob as part of the Disaster Action Team (the volunteers that respond to home fires, for example).

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Bob and his family volunteering together.

Bob was integral to the work at the Red Cross in his role as the County Volunteer Lead for our team in DuPage and Kane counties. He was also a highly active volunteer leader in our Disaster Action Team, mass care, and casework programs.

Betsy Johnson, who has worked in Disaster Services at various locations for 22 years, shadowed Bob on her first home fire response. She says there couldn’t have been a better way to begin.

Despite the chaos of the fire, Bob presented the face of Red Cross with a countenance of confidence and care.  Each family felt respected and listened to and helped,” recalls Betsy. “I remember Bob asking each family, ‘What do you need right now?’ He waited for each person to tell him what was most important at the moment, a technique that takes patience and gentle guidance, but gives each person the respect and dignity they need to start their own recovery.”

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Bob meets Governor Bruce Rauner while volunteering at a telethon.

Howard Goldstein, another long-time Red Cross volunteer and friend of Bob’s says, “If not for Bob’s stories about his Red Cross experiences I don’t think I would have gotten involved in the first place.”

Bob was also the co-founder of Bridge Communities, a visionary non-profit providing housing and mentoring to homeless families.

“His knowledge of the housing market and his concern for the long term welfare of not only Red Cross clients, but everyone in need, was helpful in putting together a Long Term Recovery program,” says Howard.

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Bob and Geoff volunteering together.

Geoff Fishwick met Bob while responding to his first home fire. “I was in a hurry to interview my first client. Bob told me to be patient and take a seat,” remembers Geoff.

“Every 15 minutes I would say, ‘lets go see if we can talk to the client.’ After two hours of this, Bob took me aside and said, ‘You have to show more patience. You have to remember the trauma our clients go through. This man just lost his wife and his son, and his daughter is in the burn unit at Loyola. You need to show more compassion.’ Until that time I saw the Red Cross more as a job then a compassionate mission.”

Geoff recalls taking the next few hours to think about what Bob had said and reflecting on how his words of advice could make him a better person. “He changed my life,” says Geoff.

It is with a heavy heart that we reflect on all of the times he responded to a fire in the middle of the night, guided a family who lost everything through their long-term recovery, managed a shelter, worked the phones at a telethon, handed out food during a canteen response, and so much more.

“I’m so glad I learned from Bob first, and that our paths continued to cross over the next couple of years,” says Betsy. “Just three weeks ago we were discussing how Bob could lend a hand with onboarding new volunteers. I feel sad for the new volunteers who weren’t as lucky as I.”

Bob will be greatly missed by his Red Cross family.

To read more about Bob, please click here. A memorial celebration will be held on Saturday, November 12 at 4:30pm at MacAninch Arts Center at College of DuPage.