By Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer
In January 2018 a family’s life was forever changed. An early morning fire broke out at a Norwalk, Ohio, home. Multiple fire departments responded and battled the blaze. Tragically, the fire took the lives of a husband and wife, their adult son, his certified therapy dog and their family dog.
The event devastated the family, which is still trying to heal. In a matter of minutes, they lost their parents, grandparents, brother and uncle. The case was difficult on the firefighters, too. It was the first multi-fatality fire in the community in nearly 100 years.
Rob Griggs of Sandusky is the oldest son and big brother of the family. A former Marine and self-described multitasker, he feels he can handle having a lot placed on his shoulders.
“My family often looks toward me for answers,” he said. “But I didn’t have them myself.”
“There was never a chance to say goodbye,” Rob said. “There is no closure, and there never will be. It’s been really, really hard for all of us.”
Rob, who is general sales manager at Kasper Buick GMC, is now working to prevent other families from having to experience this hardship—first as an American Red Cross volunteer and soon as a board member with the Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter.
On a Saturday in late April, Rob, his wife Cali, their 11-year-old son Zach and Rob’s sister Tricia Costanzo went door to door in Sandusky installing smoke alarms as volunteers during a Sound the Alarm event. That day, 129 smoke alarms were installed by two dozen volunteers—ultimately making 63 homes safer.
“My son loved it,” he said. “He was there knocking on all the doors. He and his sister lost two grandparents. It was their first loss . . . so it has been a process for them as well. He’s a good kid who wants to be part of helping.”
Rob stated that his family is now a “Red Cross family.” He explained that he and his wife Cali want “to give to any and every part of the Red Cross” and help in any way they can to bring more awareness to its needs.
“Rob informed me that he was incredibly touched by our Red Cross volunteers that night his family’s home caught fire,” said Lara Kiefer, executive director of the Red Cross Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter. “He never realized what the local Red Cross does in our communities every day and said he will forever be a Red Cross volunteer. I look forward to having Rob on our board and helping us advance our mission throughout the communities we serve.”
Rob’s advice: Every six months, check your smoke alarms and replace them after 10 years. He will be vigilantly reaching out to friends and family and advocating on this issue as a family. He believes if he can help people be more secure or protect their homes, it will help him rest more easily at night.
“People don’t realize how important it is,” he explained. “It takes a few minutes of your life to check. It’s a few minutes you may never get back. . . . The time it took could have saved three lives.”
The Red Cross’ Sound the Alarm campaign is designed to reduce the number of home fire fatalities each year. To donate so that smoke alarms can be purchased and installed in local communities, visit redcross.org/donate or call 800-HELP NOW (800-435-7669).