Red Cross, HOLA Ohio, and Painesville Fire Department partner for fire safety 

October 2021 Home Fire Campaign kicks off in Painesville and Perry Twp.

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer 

A team comprised of Spanish-language interpreters from HOLA Ohio joined members of the Painesville Fire Department and staff and volunteers from the American Red Cross Northern Ohio region  on Saturday, October 9, to provide fire safety education and install 62 smoke alarms in 25 homes in Painesville and Perry, Ohio.  

This is part of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, the National Fire Protection Association’s Fire Prevention Week, and Hispanic Heritage Month

The Home Fire Campaign launched nationwide in October 2014 and has roots in Northern Ohio. In 1992, businessperson/philanthropist Sam Miller and other civic leaders partnered with the Red Cross and Cleveland Fire Department to find ways to reduce fire fatalities. 

The efforts have been effective. In the past seven years, the campaign has saved 1,048 lives, installed more than 2.2 million smoke alarms, made 948,535 homes safer, and reached 1,698,165 youth. Yet the efforts must continue. According to FEMA, Ohio has had 97 fire fatalities reported in the media so far this year, and on average, seven people die and 36 are injured in the US each day as a result of home fires.  

Tom Revolinsky, Disaster Program Manager of the Red Cross’s Northern Ohio Region said, “As part of Hispanic Heritage Month and Fire Prevention Week, the Red Cross, HOLA, and the Painesville Fire Department have five bilingual teams installing smoke alarms in 25 homes throughout the Painesville/ Perry Area. Fire safety education is the most important part of the installation event, as awareness helps prevent fires. Having bilingual volunteers ensure the message is properly communicated is key to making homes safer.”  

Tom added, “Smoke alarms are the second line of defense in a fire when prevention measures fail. Education, smoke alarms, and an escape plan are all components.” 

Veronica Isabel Dahlberg, Executive Director, HOLA Ohio, said, “We are so grateful for the opportunity to partner with the Painesville Fire Department, the Red Cross, and the volunteers for such an important cause that not only brings our community together, but will also save lives.” 

Chief Thomas C. Hummel Jr. said, “The Painesville City Fire Department is very happy that we are able to partner with the Red Cross and HOLA to provide smoke detectors in our community. We not only installed smoke detectors, we provided valuable fire safety education and offered answers to questions, thanks in a large part to our HOLA volunteers, who assisted with translation. We look forward to continuing this partnership. Any resident who needs a smoke detector installed can contact our office at 440-392-5848 or 5849 during normal business hours to schedule an installation time with our fire department.” 

Participants follow COVID-19 safety protocols. Smoke alarm installations are by appointment and participating Red Cross personnel must be vaccinated, wear masks, practice social distancing, and limit time in homes, among other precautions. Partner organization participants must also adhere to Red Cross guidelines. 

For more information on the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, fire safety tips, or to request a smoke alarm, please visit this site. A Spanish-language version is available here

Visit our photo album for more pictures from the smoke alarm installation event.

Disaster volunteers respond to storm damage, flash flooding

Stormy summer weather prompted calls for assistance from the Northern Ohio Region of the American Red Cross during the weekend of August 13-15.

A family of five received assistance on Friday, after experiencing storm damage at their home in Toledo.

Flash floods in Elyria affected more than two dozen people, who received assistance totaling more than $4,400. The affected residents were able to use the funding to find safe shelter, buy food, clothing, and any other assistance they needed.

March 28, 2021. Ohatchee, Alabama. American Red Cross canvassing the area to provide assistance to all those affected by the devastating spring storms in and around Birmingham, Alabama. Photo by Jaka Vinsek/American Red Cross

Disaster assistance over the weekend was also provided to 10 adults and children who were forced from their homes by fire. Volunteers assisted fire-stricken residents in Cuyahoga, Summit, Portage, Ashtabula, and Monroe County, Michigan.

Andy Garcia – Photo credit: Meg Brinkman, Red Cross volunteer

In an effort to prevent fatal home fires, volunteers in Hancock County helped install smoke alarms and provided home fire safety information to residents in Findlay on Saturday. The effort was organized by Ben Garcia of Findlay, as his Eagle Scout project. Ben is a member of Troop #319 in Findlay. Teams of scouts and volunteers recruited by Ben were joined by local Red Cross volunteers to visit residents in Riverview Terrace and the surrounding neighborhood to install smoke alarms and teach residents about what to do in case a fire breaks out.  

22 homes were made safer, as Ben and the rest of the volunteers installed 49 smoke alarms.

Accompanying Ben were his father, Andy Garcia (pictured here), his mother and his brother.

If your home needs the protection of working smoke alarms, visit our Home Faire Campaign page to request a visit from trained Red Cross volunteers who can provide free smoke alarms, install them, and offer vital home fire safety information.

Another Northern Ohio life saved thanks to volunteers

Arlington, Ohio woman credits fire safety information for helping her escape in April

By Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross

Ramona Martin of Arlington in North Central Ohio safely escaped her home after fire broke out in the early morning hours of April 14, 2021. She was awakened after smoke alarms installed in 2018 by Red Cross volunteers Steve and Valerie Mahler of Findlay sounded.

Ramona Martin, left, with Red Cross volunteers Stephan and Valerie Mahler, standing in front of Ms. Martin’s fire-damaged home in Arlington, Ohio

The installation was part of the American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, which was launched in October 2014.  Since then, more than 1,000 lives have been saved following the efforts of volunteers and partners.

“I never thought it would happen to me,” said Ms. Martin.  She credits the fire safety information she received from Steve and Valerie when they installed her smoke alarms for giving her the knowledge she needed to safely escape.  “You have to have an escape plan.” She said she had only about two minutes to get out.

“When we started installing smoke alarms, I contacted my neighbors, family members, people from church, everyone I know,” said Steve.

See additional photos here. Watch Steve interview Ramona here.

Residents can visit SoundtheAlarm.org/noh to request a virtual education session on home fire safety and to request smoke alarm installations.  While the Red Cross has postponed in-home visits due to COVID-19 concerns, we will contact residents to schedule an appointment when we resume our in-home visits or if we are able to offer in-home installations with local fire departments.

Trying to #EndHomeFires during 2021 Day of Action

Working with partners to deliver home fire safety information, install smoke alarms

By Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross

CLEVELAND, May 10, 2021 – Dozens of homes in the city of Cleveland were made safer on Saturday, when the American Red Cross and the Cleveland Division of Fire partnered to Sound the Alarm during the 2021 Day of Action. 

Red Cross volunteers like Sherri Akers offered residents home fire safety information from outside their homes, observing social distancing and wearing a face covering, while Cleveland firefighters entered the homes to install vital smoke alarms in a coordinated campaign to make homes safer.

“Home fires haven’t stopped during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tim O’Toole, Regional Disaster officer for the Red Cross of Northern Ohio. “Through targeted outreach, we’re working with community partners like the Cleveland Division of Fire to connect with families and make their homes safer by bringing residents fire safety education and new smoke alarms.”

During Saturday’s Day of Action, 44 homes in two Cleveland neighborhoods were made safer.  116 residents live in those homes, including 22 children and 28 senior citizens.  Cleveland firefighters installed 139 smoke alarms in those homes.  The alarms were provided by the Red Cross. 

“I feel much safer now that I have smoke detectors in my house that I never had before,” said Shondo Green of Linwood Avenue.  His neighbors Annie Kemp and Bessie Terrell echoed the same sentiment.

Cleveland residents Brenda Wynn, Annie Kemp and Shondo Green

“It makes me feel safe”

Annie Kemp of cleveland

“It makes me feel safe,” said Ms. Kemp, after two firefighters installed several smoke alarms in her home.  After being told she may have as little as two minutes to escape if a fire starts in her home, Ms. Terrell said, “I didn’t think to put up an escape plan, but I’m going to for the children who still live here.”

See more photos from the 2021 Day of Action here.

Practicing an escape plan and testing smoke alarms monthly are two ways to help protect families from home fires. Smoke alarms should be installed on every floor of a home, Research has shown that working smoke alarms cut the risk of serious injury or death in a home fire in half.

Residents of Northern Ohio can visit SoundtheAlarm.org/noh to schedule a virtual home fire safety visit or to request a smoke alarm.  Since 2014, more than two-million smoke alarms have been installed by the Red Cross and our partners, and more than 860 lives have been saved because of those alarms.

Between April 8 and May 8, More than 800 homes in Northern Ohio were made safer, and more than 700 new smoke alarms were installed by partners working with the Red Cross, impacting nearly 2,200 residents.

Volunteers to share free fire safety resources with residents this spring

Sound the Alarm campaign this year features doorstep visits for home fire safety

This spring, Red Cross volunteers will Sound the Alarm in Northern Ohio neighborhoods as part of a national effort to educate 100,000 people about home fire safety. Volunteers will meet with residents by appointment outside their homes to share fire safety information and help them create an escape plan to practice their two-minute fire drill.

“Home fires remain the most frequent disaster during COVID-19, yet most of us don’t realize we have just two minutes to safely escape,” said Mike Parks, Regional CEO, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio. “As families spend more time at home during the pandemic, it’s critical that we help our vulnerable neighbors protect themselves from these everyday disasters.”

To schedule an appointment for a doorstep visit to learn more about keeping your home and family safe from fire, visit the registration page on our website at soundthealarm.org/noh.  Residents can also ask for a virtual visit from local volunteers to review fire safety for their household. Home fire safety visits are part of a national effort to educate 100,000 people about home fire safety nationwide this spring.

HOW TO KEEP YOUR FAMILY SAFE Help protect your family against home fires by taking two simple steps: Practice your two-minute escape drill and test your smoke alarms monthly. Visit SoundTheAlarm.org for more information and to pledge to prepare your family against home fires.

  • Create an escape plan with at least two ways to exit every room in your home. 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 knows to meet.
  • Practice your escape plan until everyone in your household can get out in less than two minutes.
  • Place smoke alarms on each level of your home, including inside and outside bedrooms and sleeping areas. Change the batteries at least once a year if your model requires it.
  • Check the manufacturer’s date of your smoke alarms. If they’re 10 years or older, they likely need to be replaced. Follow your alarm’s manufacturer instructions.

Help Sound the Alarm across Northern Ohio to save lives

By: Chris Chmura, American Red Cross Volunteer

Could your family escape in 2 minutes in case of a home fire?

48 Ohio civilian home fire fatalities were reported by news media Jan. 1 – April 6, 2021. That is only the first four months of the year. See details from the U.S. Fire Administration here: https://apps.usfa.fema.gov/civilian-fatalities/incident/reportList/Ohio.

Home fires across the United States claim seven lives every day, but you can help change that.

Join our national American Red Cross movement and pledge to keep your family safe by taking 2 simple steps:

1. Practice a 2-minute fire drill 

Use our worksheet to draw your home’s floor plan and plot your escape routes. 

  • Practice your 2-minute drill (from home to a safe meeting place) at least twice a year.
  • Everyone in your household should know two ways to escape from each room in your home. 
  • In a real fire, remember to get out, stay out and call 911. Never go back inside for people, pets or things. 

DOWNLOAD YOUR ESCAPE PLAN WORKSHEET

2. Test your smoke alarms monthly

Test your smoke alarms monthly by pressing the test button. 

  • You should hear three beeps, letting you know the alarm is working. 
  • Don’t hear the beeps? Then it’s time to change the batteries, if your model requires them.
  • If your smoke alarm is 10 years old, it’s time to get a new alarm because the sensor becomes less sensitive over time. 

LEARN MORE ABOUT SMOKE ALARMS

Now is time to commit, Northern Ohio
Take the pledge! We invite you to pledge to prepare by signing the Sound the Alarm pledge: https://www.redcross.org/sound-the-alarm.html.

Are you prepared for a home fire?

A survey conducted for the Red Cross shows that people mistakenly believe they have more time than they really do to escape a burning home. Fire experts agree that people may have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home before it’s too late to get out. But most Americans (62 percent) mistakenly believe they have at least five minutes to escape, more than twice the amount they actually have. Nearly 18 percent mistakenly believe they have 10 minutes or more to get out. 

Due to COVID-19 precautions, the Red Cross is not installing smoke alarms this year. However, we are partnering with some local fire departments which have agreed to install smoke alarms in neighborhoods with high numbers of home fires. The goal is to reduce deaths and injuries from home fires by as much as 25 percent over the next five years. Our Northern Ohio region has set the goal to install 1,000 smoke alarms!

Sound the Alarm is a critical part of the campaign. Through our home visits, we’ve installed more than 2.1 million free smoke alarms and prepared more than 2.3 million people for home fires. 

836 lives saved                                2,179,964 smoke alarms installed

901,170 households made safer               1,628,263 youth reached through campaign

Request a smoke alarm

To learn more about the fire preparedness campaign of Northern Ohio in your area and to request a smoke alarm, see the information in this link for your county: https://www.redcross.org/local/ohio/northern-ohio/about-us/our-work/home-fire-campaign/request-a-smoke-alarm.html.

If you, or your community organization, are interested in participating in the program, please call Volunteer Services at 216-431-3328 or email NEOvolunteer@redcross.org.

Teach kids about preparedness

Our age-appropriate preparedness materials include engaging activities and easy action steps that youth will find both fun and effective.

Learn More About Youth Preparedness

Due to COVID-19, all  in-person youth presentations are currently suspended nationwide. Your local Red Cross may be able to conduct a virtual presentation for your students. Contact your local Red Cross for more information

Volunteer to help others

Join your local Red Cross to help families prepare for, respond to and recover from home fire. 

Learn more about volunteering

Make a donation

Help families prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from home fires.

Donate now

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Edited by: Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

Olmsted Township resident escapes home fire after hearing smoke alarm

Alarm was installed by the Red Cross in 2016

By Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

December 16, 2020- Smoke alarms save lives. Just ask Gail Renfro.

The former resident of Olmsted Township was in her living room on the night of October 24, 2020 when she heard a smoke alarm sound. It was coming from her bedroom. When she opened the bedroom door, she saw fire and knew there was no time to waste; she had to get out.

Gail Renfro, center, is flanked by Tim O’Toole, Regional Disaster Officer, and Ellen Braun, Red Cross volunteer.  They installed the smoke alarm in Renfro’s home in 2016

“I turned around and walked out the front door, with the clothes I had on, socks on my feet, and cell phone in hand,” Gail said in a recent interview.

The smoke alarm had been installed four years earlier by Tim O’Toole, Regional Disaster Officer for the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio, during a day-long installation event in the Columbia Park development. Mrs. Renfro was recently reunited virtually with Tim and Ellen Braun, a Red Cross volunteer who accompanied Tim the day the alarm was installed, and who shared with the residents fire safety information, including how to create an escape plan.

That information – and those alarms – have proven to be lifesavers. Not only was Ms. Renfro alerted to the fire that destroyed her home, but one of her neighbors was alerted in a similar way more than a year earlier. Barbara Kovolenko escaped safely from a fire in her home, after hearing the smoke alarm in her home. It was also installed that same day – November 19, 2016.

Barbara Kovolenko with Olmsted Township Fire Chief Patrick Kelly

“Both of these fires show the importance of having a working smoke alarm,” said Olmsted Township Fire Chief Patrick Kelly. “The alarm went off and alerted (the residents) with enough time to be able to exit. That’s what they’re designed to do.”

Chief Kelly credits his department’s partnership with the Red Cross for helping keep residents in his community safe. And while the in-home visits to install smoke alarms are on hold due to the pandemic, lives are still being saved as a result of the alarms that were installed before the program was paused.  

Ellen Braun

Gail Renfro and Barbara Kovolenko are now among more than 800 people whose lives were saved as a result of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign.

“Our home visits have accomplished so much, including the installation of more than 2 million smoke alarms since the inception of the Home Fire Campaign in 2014,” said Tim O’Toole, regional disaster officer for the Red Cross of Northern Ohio. “Once deemed safe to proceed, the Red Cross will resume all Home Fire Campaign programs.”

Tim O’Toole

The need for home fire safety doesn’t end during a pandemic. We urge everyone to take steps to keep their household safe by installing and maintaining smoke alarms, talking with loved ones about fire safety and creating and practicing a home fire escape plan.

And we’re grateful Gail and Barbara did just that.

Visit redcross.org/homefires for free resources.

Watch the reunion of Gail Renfro, Tim O’Toole, Ellen Braun and Chief Kelly here.

Listen to the audio of the reunion on our podcast here.

Northeast Ohio Region weekend disaster report: February 14-16, 2020

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

February 17, 2020- During Valentine’s Day weekend, with love in the air in Northeast Ohio, the American Red Cross showed compassion and assistance to local residents who experienced a disaster, such as a home fire.

This past weekend, the Red Cross responded to home fires in Bedford, Cleveland, Killbuck, Vermilion and Wellsville, assisting 19 adults, 14 children and provided more than $7,600 in immediate financial assistance to help residents affected by a local disaster get back on their feet.

In 2014, the Red Cross launched the Home Fire Campaign, a nationwide initiative to reduce the number of fire-related deaths by 25 percent. As of the current date, 715 lives had been saved across the country through the Home Fire Campaign, including 15 in Northeast Ohio.

Hurricane Florence 2018

 

Sound the Alarm is a critical part of the campaign. In just six years, our home visits have accomplished so much, including the installation of more than 2 million smoke alarms.

This year, Sound the Alarm will take place from April 18th to May 3rd.

Unfortunately, the lack of working smoke alarms in a home can lead to tragedy. That was the case for Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter board member Rob Griggs and his family. Watch Rob’s story and hear the reason he has worked to prevent other families from going through a similar pain by ensuring working smoke alarms are placed in homes across Northeast Ohio:

For many of us, a smoke alarm is the one item in our homes that we tend to not notice, but for Jackie and her three children, it alerted them to a home fire while they were sleeping, ultimately saving their lives:

For more information on Sound the Alarm and to sign up to volunteer at a smoke alarm installation event near you, visit SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO.

Smoke alarm sounds to save life of Olmsted Township resident

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

January 21, 2020- For many, a smoke alarm might be viewed as an annoyance that sounds off if we get dinner a little burnt. However, a smoke alarm is more than a random device that hangs out of sight around the house. It is a tool that could help save your life in the event of a home fire.

That was the experience of 86-year-old Olmsted Township resident Barbara Kovolenko.

On June 28, 2019, Barbara was awakened from a deep sleep at 1:23 a.m. to her smoke alarms screaming their alert. Barbara quickly realized this was not a false alarm. Her home was, in fact, on fire.

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Fire Chief Patrick Kelly with Barbara Kovolenko

Barbara, who requires oxygen, quickly remembered the information she received from the American Red Cross, which in partnership with the Olmsted Township Fire Department, installed smoke alarms in her home free of charge as part of a Sound the Alarm installation event. Using her newfound knowledge, Barbara evacuated the home to a safe location, did not enter her home again and waited for first responders to arrive on the scene and extinguish the fire.

In 2014, the Red Cross launched the Home Fire Campaign, a nationwide initiative to reduce the number of fire-related deaths by 25 percent. As of the end of 2019, 699 lives had been saved across the country – among them, Barbara Kovolenko.

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To learn more about the importance of having working smoke alarms on every level of your home, or to ask for a home fire safety inspection and smoke alarm installation, visit soundthealarm.org/neo.

To hear more about Barbara and this incredible story about the lifesaving impact of smoke alarms, listen to our recent episode of the Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region Podcast Be A Hero, featuring Barbara and Olmsted Township Fire Chief Patrick Kelly.

For more content on this incredible story, view this video of Chief Kelly interviewing Barbara, which was posted on the Olmsted Township Fire Department Facebook page.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Advice from Mansfield mother after smoke alarm saves her children’s lives

The Red Cross responds, aids in the aftermath of devastating loss

By Jim McIntyre, Regional Communications Manager, American Red Cross

January 8, 2020 – December 6, 2019, was a big day in Mansfield, Ohio. The town was anticipating the big game, the Mansfield High School Tygers taking on Trotwood-Madison in the Division III High School Football Championship game. It would be the first appearance in a state championship game for a team from Richland County.

Classes in the Mansfield schools were cancelled in preparation for the game later that evening.

On Springmill Street, five children were home playing. Their mom, Nancy Hines-Adkins, had an appointment to keep, so she left her 14-year-old in charge. Mom wasn’t gone long before the shrill siren of a smoke alarm alerted the children to a fire.

mfd4 (2)

Nancy Hines-Adkins, with children Samara and Sean standing behind her, and holding Brooklyn in her arms.

All five children escaped unharmed. One remembered mom’s instructions to run to the nearby fire station. But by the time firefighters were able to put water on the flames, everything inside the house was lost.

“The Red Cross has been very supportive,” said Nancy, two weeks after the fire occurred. “People call me from the Red Cross every single day to make sure me and my family are OK.”

The home on Springmill St. was gutted.

The family received immediate financial assistance, which was used to help them find lodging, food and clothing. Continuing care includes connecting the family to resources that can help them find another place to live.

Five days before Christmas, the children visited the Mansfield American Red Cross office on Smith Avenue to choose toys donated by employees of TravelCenters of America and the Red Cross.

Nancy knows that the help she received immediately after the fire was made possible only by the generous donations of the American public. “It’s very important for people who lose everything. In the blink of an eye everything is gone and they (the Red Cross) are there to help, so donate!”

She also has a vital message about smoke alarms: “They’re very important. Make sure you have them. It will save your life.”

Unfortunately for the Mansfield High Tygers, their quest for a state championship ended that night with an overtime loss. But Nancy is grateful that on that day, a smoke alarm alerted her children to the home fire, and that they escaped unharmed. They suffered a devastating loss of their home but no lives were lost.

Visit soundthealarm.org/neo to request smoke alarms for your home and to learn more about home fire safety. To make a donation to help families like Nancy’s, visit redcross.org/donate, or call 1-800-RED CROSS.

Visit our YouTube channel here to see a video featuring Nancy and her family.

Edited By Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer