Northern Ohio volunteer delivered supplies and hope in the wake of Hurricane Ian

By Michael deVulpillieres, American Red Cross

Destruction was everywhere as a large truck with an American Red Cross logo taped to its side made its way slowly through Coastal Estates, a small Fort Myers neighborhood lined with single family homes, most either wiped out entirely or badly damaged by Hurricane Ian.

On one side of the street, a stray cat wandered inside a blown-out manufactured home. A few doors down, the driver paused at the sight of a metal roof wrapped around a palm tree.

“Within 30 minutes, we had five feet of water here,” Reba Fennessy told Red Cross volunteers Lisa Mize and David Tolander. “It was so scary.”

American Red Cross volunteers David Tolander of Iowa and Lisa Mize of Huron, Ohio deliver relief supplies to a small neighborhood in Fort Myers, Florida, hit hard by Hurricane Ian. Photo credit: Michael deVulpillieres, American Red Cross

Mize, who is from Huron, Ohio, and Tolander, from Waterloo, Iowa, first met a week earlier after arriving in Southwest Florida to be part of the hurricane relief efforts. They were assigned to deliver supplies together in some of the hardest hit parts of the state.

Their presence meant more than the much-needed free relief items like tarps, bins, brooms, rakes, batteries, bleach and trash bags that filled their truck. Mize and Tolander also represented the reassurance that help would continue to be available as long as needed.

“We’re here where the Gulf (of Mexico) meets the Bay (of the Caloosahatchee River), so we got a double whammy,” Catherine Casby said. The storm surge, pushed by 160-mile-an-hour winds, destroyed so many of the homes around hers. Though damaged, her small house is still standing.

Catherine Casby, a resident of Fort Myers, Fla., hit hard by Hurricane Ian, speaks with Red Cross volunteer Lisa Mize. Photo Credit: Michael deVulpillieres, American Red Cross

Casby spends her days clearing debris, cleaning up inside, and keeping an eye on her neighbors. “We look after each other,” she said of her tight-knit community. In fact, the night Ian made landfall, Casby braved the winds and flood waters to check on residents next door, injuring her leg in the process.

While Mize, who works as a nurse back home, was handing out supplies, she asked Casby about her noticeable limp. Casby said she spent a few days in the hospital after the storm and is slowly recovering.

“That’s the hardest part, the stories,” Mize said of the physical and emotional scars left by Ian. Yet during her Red Cross deployment, Mize has learned how to “laugh and smile, even in the worst of it.” Her positive disposition and sense of humor lifted the spirits of those around her.

“The people are so appreciative of seeing anyone here,” Tolander said. “Many told us the Red Cross was the first and only people they’ve seen (helping).”

Fennessy recalled how, a week after landfall, the Red Cross was in Coastal Estates providing warm meals. “It made us feel that someone cared,” she said, her voice breaking up with emotion.

Before accepting some cleanup supplies from the truck, Fennessy looked up at Mize in the back of the vehicle and said, “If I could come up there, I’d give you a hug.” Mize promptly climbed down to share an embrace.

Despite having just met a week earlier, Mize and Tolander talked and joked as if they’d known each other for years. There was a seamlessness about the way they worked together.

“We’ve clicked really well,” said Mize, who recently joined the Red Cross. “This is my first deployment. But Dave has been on a lot, so he’s taught me quite a bit.” She paused. “He taught me that it’s OK to cry sometimes.”

American Red Cross relief is free to anyone with disaster-caused needs, thanks to the generosity of the American people. To become a trained disaster volunteer, like Mize and Tolander, go to redcross.org/volunteer or call 1-800-REDCROSS.

If you would like to support the Hurricane Ian response financially, visit redcross.org or CruzRojaAmericana.org, text the words IAN to 90999 to make a $10 donation, or call 1-800-HELP NOW.

Edited by Eilene Guy, American Red Cross volunteer
Posted by Ryan Lang, American Red Cross board member and volunteer

Northern Ohio volunteer helps reunite families separated by Hurricane Ian

By Diane Weber, American Red Cross volunteer

“Hello. Red Cross? I can’t reach my parents!” 

The call comes in, and Monica Bunner of Medina and the American Red Cross Reunification Team get to work. They begin with an interview of the missing person’s family. Where do the missing persons live? When did you last hear from them? More questions follow:  Do they know their neighbors?  Do they attend a house of worship? Are they part of an organization such as Knights of Columbus? Are there places they like to frequent?  

Monica Bunner, Red Cross volunteer, Reunification Regional Program Lead

In this case, the parents had recently bought a home in Rotonda West, a golf community on the coast in central Florida. The son did not know the neighbors’ names, and a call to the golf clubhouse did not yield a connection. But Monica and her colleague, Tammy Miner of Maysville, Washington spotted a lead in their interview – the missing couple had just bought a home. A search of public records yielded the name of the realtor. On a hunch that the realtor lived in the area or perhaps remained in contact with the couple, Monica called the realtor. The realtor not only lived within driving distance, but he was also willing to drive to the couple’s home.  

The realtor reported that the couple were doing well but had no electricity or cell service to contact the family. The couple drove to a nearby town and reconnected with a very relieved son. 

Such is the daily experience for reunification workers Monica. Most of these requests are resolved with just a few phone calls.  

She explained the process: 

  • Calls for reunification assistance are typically initiated through the 1-800-RED CROSS portal, although some requests come from people who see the reunification team working in the field and tell them of their own missing persons. 
     
  • The requests are then vetted according to urgency, with priority going to people with medical issues or physical or mental disabilities or veterans. Unaccompanied minors are given immediate priority, as are requests from immediate family members. Friends searching for friends or work acquaintances are coached with suggestions for their own searches.  
     
October 7, 2022. Punta Gorda, Florida. Red Cross disaster relief worker Lynette Nyman gets a hug from darling Ava who evacuated to her grandmother’s home to be safe from Hurricane Ian. Photo by Marko Kokic/American Red Cross
  • If the reunification team decides to open a case for the missing person, more information is gathered, such as the physical appearance of the person and why that person decided to remain in the area and not evacuate. 

    “That information helps us to understand the missing person more fully,” explained Monica. “We find out if the person is afraid to venture out into crowds or if they refused to leave their pets, for example. That will help us in our search for them.” 
  • The reunification team then presses for more information. Is the missing person part of an organization such as Knights of Columbus or American Legion? Does he/she have a favorite site to visit, such as a library or museum or even a favorite store or restaurant? Is he active on social media?  
     
  • If none of the telephone detective work yields the whereabouts of the missing person, the Reunification Field Team heads out to the neighborhood, first to the address of the missing person and then canvasing the neighbors, churches, organizations, and local shelters.  
October 11, 2022. Ft. Myers Beach, Florida. Red Cross volunteers drive through some of the areas in Fort Myers Beach, FL, that were hit hardest by Hurricane Ian’s devastating winds and storm surge. They took their emergency response vehicle into the community to deliver hot meals to residents who have only just begun their cleanup efforts since being let back on the island on Sunday. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

Last week, a missing grandmother was located in a Florida shelter. 

“I’m well and happy as a clam,” she told her family when she was found. “I’m sitting in a shelter. I’m well fed, and I’m watching TV with my friends.”  

Another successful case for the reunification team. 

“It is addictive,” cautioned Monica. “When you’re able to tell the family that you have found their family member safe and sound and see the relief on their faces, it is worth all the effort to find them.” 

Edited by: Jim McIntyre, Red Cross Regional Communications Director

Buckeye native shines light on humanitarian needs worldwide

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

When there’s a humanitarian crisis somewhere around the world, the American Red Cross sends Jenelle Eli to bear witness.

In the spring, Jenelle – who hails from Trumbull County, in the Mahoning Valley of northeast Ohio – spent a month aboard the Ocean Viking in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. She was reporting on the rescue of hundreds of desperate migrants trying to reach safety in flimsy boats.

Ivan Jimenez Garra, Mexican Red Cross and Jenelle Eli, American Red Cross survey damage in Jojutla, a small Mexican city that suffered massive damage when a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck in September 2017. Photo credit: Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

Then she spent July in Warsaw, reporting to the world on the arrival in Poland of hundreds of thousands of refugees from warfare in Ukraine.

With more than a dozen years in disaster and refugee communications, Jenelle has become a highly skilled and widely respected voice.

In May, she spoke at the United Nations about the importance of humanitarian aid, drawing on her first-hand experiences with Red Cross relief efforts around the world.

Recently, the professional organization PRNews recognized her as one of the 2022 Top Women in its Industry Innovators category.

“It’s not easy to get attention from audiences about humanitarian crises – especially because there are just so many taking place at one time,” Jenelle said. “People get disaster fatigue and start tuning out all the hurt that’s happening in the US and around the world. Yet, harnessing people’s attention for good is the only way that things are going to change.

“I’m really pleased that the professional world of PR recognizes the importance of humanitarian communication – and that communicating in a way that ensures dignity for refugees is key.”

Jenelle Eli delivers humanitarian aid to Ines (right) and her neighbors in Morelos, in the wake of a 7.1 earthquake in 2017.  Photo credit: Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

This is how Jenelle describes her mission: “Right now, there are more people displaced from their homes than at any other point in history. I studied refugee issues in school and have devoted my career to raising awareness about people’s needs on migratory routes and even once they’ve reached safety. I raise my hand for international missions because I know that getting refugees’ stories out and elevating their voices is the only way to truly create space for empathy.

“Humanitarians’ work speaks for itself; I simply pull out the megaphone.”

“For nearly two decades, Jenelle has vowed to amplify the stories of displaced survivors through a lens of empathy and empowerment rather than victimization and pity,” said Emily Osment, Red Cross senior media relations manager.

“Through her work, Jenelle has helped secure ports of safety for stranded migrants at sea, enforced the importance of upholding the Geneva Conventions as a neutral, impartial aid actor in the midst of war, protected the identities of vulnerable families fleeing violence and ensuring lifesaving blood reaches patients during national shortages here at home.”

Now, Jenelle has moved from senior director of media relations at American Red Cross national headquarters in Washington, D.C., to a six-month stint as head of media relations and advocacy at the headquarters of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) Societies in Geneva, Switzerland.

In this role, she’s directing efforts to focus attention in 192 IFRC member countries on the needs of the world’s most vulnerable people.

“I do want people to know that they don’t have to deploy to crisis zones to make a huge difference! EVERYONE can have a humanitarian impact in their own way – whether that’s volunteering in their own community, donating money, raising awareness, or choosing a career responding to crises.

June 30, 2019. Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Kids make ‘heart’ symbols alongside American Red Cross team member, Jenelle Eli, in Kutupalong—a displacement camp in Cox’s Bazar, Myanmar.  Photo credit: Brad Zerivitz, American Red Cross

“In the US, if you want to help refugees, volunteer for an organization helping to reconnect them with separated family members (like the Red Cross!) or a group that welcomes newly- arrived refugees in small cities and helps them navigate their new lives here. There are loads of ways to be a humanitarian.”

To learn more about American Red Cross activities worldwide, powered by the generosity of volunteers and donors, click here.

Helping those in need after a disaster is challenging but rewarding

By Mike Arthur, Regional Mass Care & Logistics Manager, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

I’m grateful to live in northern Ohio, one of the safest areas of the country from a weather-related disaster standpoint. We don’t have to worry about a hurricane coming and wiping our homes away. We are unlikely to walk out our front doors and have trouble breathing due to smoke from a nearby wildfire.

I have never worried about the fate of my family and myself, where we would live and work after a disaster destroyed my home and place of work. I have never had to make a decision about which of my hard-earned belongings I need to take with me when I evacuate. I have never had my community devastated. Every year thousands of families have their lives changed drastically when their homes and communities are affected by disasters large and small.

Mike Arthur, during the Red Cross response to hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas in 2017
 

I’m also grateful that I get the opportunity to help people in need. As a Regional Mass Care & Logistics Manager, I get to put the skills and talents learned over the course of my life to good use leading and supporting the American Red Cross workforce in meeting the needs of our clients locally and nationally.

I get to deploy for a few weeks each year making an immediate difference in someone’s life. Deployments to large disasters are tough but incredibly rewarding. The hours can be long. The food is not always five star. I sometimes sleep on a cot in a staff shelter with my fellow workers. It can be stressful. Compassion fatigue is a risk.

Residents wait to receive clean up supplies from the Red Cross after hurricane Harvey in 2017.

I look forward to each deployment and go as often as I can. I feel like I make a difference. I have made incredible friends across the country. I have great stories to tell. I get to bring hope to those in need. I help provide a safe place to sleep and food in bellies, and sometimes, most importantly I can provide a warm hug, bright smile and a sympathetic ear. My life is fuller because of my deployment experiences. I hope you will take to opportunity to join me out in the field this year and experience the magic of helping.

Help those in need when they need it most by becoming a volunteer with the Red Cross. To find a volunteer opportunity that’s right for you, visit redcross.org/volunteer.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, Red Cross volunteer

March 23rd is Giving Day, and the need for Red Cross services is critical

By Tim Poe, Red Cross volunteer

March 23rd is the eighth annual American Red Cross Giving Day, when communities come together to raise awareness about our critical disaster relief mission and fund our lifesaving work across the country. As recent events show, the Red Cross mission and services are critically needed, as #HelpCantWait.

As I reported earlier this month, Disaster Action Team (DAT) responses in our region increased by over 30% in February, mainly due to home fires, and March has continued to be exceptionally busy. Nationally, the Red Cross responded to more than 15,900 home fires since January 1, providing help to almost 60,000.

Please see this video for a behind-the-scenes look at the work Giving Day makes possible.

The blood supply is vulnerable, and help is greatly needed, from blood donors, volunteers, and those providing financial support.

In addition, climate change, global instability, and the effects of the pandemic will continue to pose challenges for all humanitarian services. Challenges that, with your help, the Red Cross will rise to meet. 

On a personal note, as a disaster responder I have seen the benefits of Red Cross services. I often saw the relief on people’s faces when we arrived after a home fire, knowing they would have help recovering. And, as assistance was provided, I also frequently saw human resiliency and signs of hope returning. Such moments occur, on average, more than three times a day in Northern Ohio and are made possible by donors and volunteers.

Here are some examples of what a financial gift can provide:

  • $3: one comfort kit containing hygiene items.
  • $15: one smoke alarm installation with fire safety education.
  • $50: a full day of food and shelter for one person.
  • $135: one smoke alarm and fire safety education for a hearing-impaired person.
  • $150: travel, meals, and shelter for one day for a deployed Red Cross disaster relief, health, or mental health worker.
  • $200: a full day of food and shelter to a family of four. Includes the cost of Red Cross workers to provide this service.
  • $350: the daily cost to deploy an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV).
  • $605: financial assistance for a family impacted by a local disaster, like a home fire. This helps the family purchase food, lodging, clothing, and other critical needs.
  • $4,000: a Sound the Alarm event. Includes installing smoke alarms and providing a fire safety package, deploying an ERV for the day, and lunch for volunteers. Average events install around 200 alarms.

To participate in Giving Day, please visit redcross.org/GivingDay. A gift of any size makes a difference.

For Northern Ohio volunteer opportunities, please visit this link..

To donate blood, visit RedCrossBlood.org.

To learn lifesaving skills like CPR and First Aid, consider taking a class at redcross.org/TakeAClass.

Video streamers can also help. See here if interested.

Red Cross celebrates community heroes during Red Cross Month in March

Please help celebrate the month and Red Cross Giving Day, March 23, by volunteering, donating blood or providing financial support, as #HelpCantWait

By Tim Poe, Red Cross volunteer

As busy and challenging as 2021 was for the American Red Cross’ Northern Ohio region, 2022 may be even more so. Disaster Action Team (DAT) responses in our region increased by over 30% in February, and we continue to face a national blood crisis.

Red Cross volunteer Ben Weisbrod responds to a hotel fire in Parma

As always, volunteers, staff and donors have been stepping up, but we could use your help. Throughout March, the Red Cross honors those who make its mission possible during the annual Red Cross Month celebration—a national tradition started nearly 80 years ago when Franklin D. Roosevelt issued the first national Red Cross Month proclamation. Each U.S. president since has also issued a proclamation.

“When emergencies strike, our community rallies together to help families and individuals when it matters most,” said Tim O’Toole, the Regional Disaster Officer for the Northern Ohio Region. “We honor this dedication during our Red Cross Month celebration, and we invite everyone to join us by turning their compassion into action by joining our response teams. We need help both here locally and to also send teams across the nation to major disasters.”

Help can’t wait during emergencies. Over the last 12 months—between 2/23/2021 and 2/23/2022—Northern Ohio Disaster Action Teams responded over 1,100 times to help families in need in our region, the vast majority of them victims of home fires. Just this past week our teams were in Harrison County assisting victims of flooding as shown in this video.

Nationally, the Red Cross has responded to more than 10,000 home fires, helping more than 37,000 people, since January 1, 2022.

My experience as a Red Cross volunteer has been exceptionally rewarding, whether in communications, disaster response or assisting in another capacity. It is an honor to work alongside so many compassionate, capable people, helping those in need and seeing the appreciation and relief of those we assist.

Please consider joining the Red Cross Month celebration by volunteering. You can also provide financial support on Giving Day or any time.

Jessica Voorheis donates blood at the Emerald Event Center in Avon

Blood donors are needed. The American Red Cross blood supply remains incredibly vulnerable – especially as doctors begin to resume elective surgeries previously delayed by the Omicron variant. It’s critical that individuals schedule a blood or platelet donation immediately to help ensure patients get the care they need as soon as possible.

To make an appointment to give blood, visit RedCrossBlood.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS or download the Red Cross Blood Donor App. As a thank you, all who give in March will receive a $10 e-gift card, thanks to Fanatics. March blood donors will also have a chance to win a trip for two to the 2022 MLB® All-Star Game® in Los Angeles (terms apply; visit rcblood.org/team for details).

Edited by Glenda Bogar, Red Cross volunteer

Northern Ohio Red Cross Disaster Response Teams assisted over 500 people this Holiday Season

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross Volunteer

In Northern Ohio and nationwide, the American Red Cross was exceptionally active this holiday season, as it was for the entire year.

Between November 22, when this year-to-date post was published, and January 2, 2022, Northern Ohio Disaster Action Teams (DAT) responded to 181 incidents, assisting 542 people.

 34 of these incidents, assisting 100, were over the Christmas weekend.
 Another 34 incidents, assisting 110, were during Thanksgiving week.
 Nine incidents occurred over the New Year holiday weekend, with 41 people assisted.

Canton Shelter

Responses included:
 Fatal fires in Toledo, Cleveland, and Akron.
 A home explosion in Toledo, and large multi-family fires in Maple Heights and Toledo.
 A parking garage collapse in Lakewood, which led to the evacuation of a large
apartment building. The Red Cross provided meals and snacks to residents and first responders following the collapse.
 A shelter opening in Canton, where for two days, the Red Cross helped provide meals and a place to stay to families who were temporarily displaced.
 Eight Northern Red Cross staff members and volunteers deployed to Kentucky following deadly tornadoes.
 Installation of 50 free smoke alarms.

To illustrate DAT’s effectiveness, Tom Revolinsky, Disaster Program Manager for the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio said, “Dave Huey (volunteer) and I went on a multi-family late night fire where one family’s apartment was destroyed and another was heavily damaged, and an 11-year-old girl had critical injuries. When Dave and I spoke with family members, the appreciation and relief in their voices that the Red Cross was there to help brought back into focus the importance of our mission.

Tom also spoke of the importance of fire safety and ongoing efforts.

Maple Heights fire 12/21

“Responding to fatal fires is the most difficult thing we do,” Tom said. “To help prevent these tragedies, the Red Cross installs free smoke alarms. During installation, families are educated on fire prevention and assisted in developing an escape plan. In early December we installed 50 smoke alarms, making 16 homes safer, in the Aetna Road area of Cleveland where a fatal fire occurred in early November. On January 8th, we are installing smoke alarms with the Cleveland Fire Department in the W. 54th street area of Cleveland where twins tragically perished in a fire in early December. Smoke alarms save lives.”

Jani Memorich, a volunteer Disaster Action Team (DAT) leader, spoke very highly of fellow DAT members and their dedication.

“Awesome work done by awesome people,” Jani said. “We are truly blessed in Northern Ohio to have such a dedicated team working with DAT. As a DAT responder and someone who has deployed to other states for disasters, I get to tell the Red Cross story from my perspective as a volunteer. This brings awareness to people who may never have needed the services of the Red Cross and only vaguely understand all we do.”

Jani also expressed hope that more will volunteer, saying, “Hopefully through our own volunteerism we can inspire others to take up the mantel. There is so much work to be done and so few who actually do it. That is my hope for 2022, that more people give of themselves, to help mend others.”

If you are able, please consider volunteering with the Red Cross, either as a DAT member or in another capacity. Information can be found here.

Up your game: Resolve to volunteer!

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross Volunteer

As we come to the end of another year, many of us are thinking about what we can do to make the next year better.

Resolve to lose (or gain) weight? Resolve to spend more wisely? Resolve to be on time?

How about, resolve to volunteer?

The American Red Cross has a wide variety of volunteer opportunities that pay off big time in “job satisfaction.”

“It’s a rewarding experience when you can help somebody,” said Paul Grygier.

Paul Grygier

Paul began his volunteer career as a Disaster Action Team (DAT) member, responding to home fires and other emergencies in Wyandot County, where he lives. In that role he brings compassion, safe accommodations and financial assistance to meet disaster-caused needs. “DAT is a good way to help people in their time of need,” he said.

Dotty Dolwick of West Park, in Cuyahoga County, finds her satisfaction as a blood donor ambassador, welcoming donors, being sure they’ve read important pre-donation materials and answering questions at a couple of blood drives a week.

“It’s a good way to get out with people,” the retired nurse said, adding that she likes the flexibility Red Cross offers its volunteers. “You get to kind of pick and choose where you go, when you go.”

Paul also leads his Red Cross chapter’s Sound The Alarm campaign, which strives to save lives by installing free smoke alarms in every home that needs one (or more). “I’m basically a mechanic,” he explained. “It’s easy for me to do. I like to help the older people who can’t get up on ladders.”

Dotty Dolwick

The Pillowcase Project is another of Paul’s favorites. He gives the Red Cross disaster preparedness presentations to third- through fifth-graders. “You know you’re reinforcing important lessons in an organized fashion,” he said, hoping those messages will spring to mind if the youngsters ever need them.

To explore all the volunteer roles the Red Cross has to offer, visit redcross.org/volunteer or contact your local chapter.

As for me, I wear a few hats with the Red Cross: Communicator, blood donor, chapter board member and financial supporter. These are all volunteer roles.

Eilene Guy

I enjoy spreading the message about what the Red Cross is doing to help people prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters large and small. Like a lot of other Red Cross activities, it’s something I can do from home; at a time of heightened COVID concern, the Red Cross has modified its activities to keep its staff, volunteers, and those we serve safe.

Serving as a board member and supporting the organization financially may be low-profile activities, but they’re vital for this organization with a big role in our society.

And don’t get me started about how rewarding it is to know that every time I donate blood, I could be saving up to three lives.

Dr. Paul Biedenbach

My ear, nose and throat doctor spotted my Red Cross socks and said proudly that he had just made a Power Red donation, giving two units of red blood cells at one sitting. “They even let me know where my blood is going,” Dr. Paul Biedenbach of Sandusky said. “It’s kinda cool.”

He realizes that giving the gift of life isn’t a casual act: “People need to make an effort, to register in advance. It’s not as easy as just walking into a donation site. But it’s so important.”

As someone said recently, “If I don’t do this, who’s gonna do it?”

So please, make it a happy new year and resolve to volunteer!

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Red Cross offers home fire preparedness tips during National Fire Prevention Week

By Chris Chmura, American Red Cross volunteer

Next week is National Fire Prevention Week and the American Red Cross wants to ensure everyone is prepared should they experience a home fire. So far in 2021, Ohio has had 95 home fire fatalities vs. 67 in 2020. 

We lost four on-duty firefighters in 2021 and the year is not over. These heroes were willing to give up their lives to help save lives of fellow Ohioans.  

Could your family escape in 2 minutes in case of 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 before it’s too late to get out. But most Americans (62%) mistakenly believe they have at least five minutes to escape, more than twice the amount they have. Nearly 18% mistakenly believe they have ten minutes or more to get out. 

The American Red Cross urges everyone prepare by practicing their home fire escape plan and testing their smoke alarms.

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. 

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. 

Teach kids about preparedness

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

Volunteer to help those affected by home fires

Join your local Red Cross to help families prepare for, respond to, and recover from home fire. The need for volunteers continues amidst a busy disaster season. Disaster action team members from the Red Cross Northern Ohio Region responded to nine local events over the weekend, all of them home fires. Several individuals were affected, including 30 adults and 7 children. The Red Cross provided more than $10,400 in immediate assistance.

Make a donation

Your financial gift allows the Red Cross to provide food, comfort and aid to those who have lost their home to fire. It also helps us install free smoke alarms and educate families on fire safety.

Be prepared before disaster strikes

Be prepared for disasters and other emergencies with a well-stocked emergency kit for your home, workplace and automobile. Choose from a variety of survival kits and emergency preparedness supplies to help you plan ahead for tornadoes, flooding, fire and other disasters.

Giving back this Good Neighbor Day

By Sam Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

National Good Neighbor Day is September 28, a day that celebrates our neighbors and encourages us to get to know our community better. Neighbors look out for one another and help each other out.

Good Neighbor Day was created in the 1970s in Lakeside, Montana, and President Jimmy Carter in 1978 proclaimed the day, saying: “Understanding, love and respect build cohesive families and communities. The same bonds cement our nation and the nations of the world. For most of us, this sense of community is nurtured and expressed in our neighborhoods where we give each other an opportunity to share and feel part of a larger family.”

Neighbors extend past the individuals who share a common wall or property line. At the American Red Cross, our communities are our neighbors. Whether they are next door or beyond, the Red Cross works to help and support individuals who are in need—after a disaster, when a blood donation is needed or preparing before the next disaster strikes.

This Good Neighbor Day, there are many ways you can give back to your Northern Ohio neighbors through the Red Cross.

  • Donate. There are different ways you can make a financial contribution to support the work of the Red Cross, both in your local community and around the world.
  • Give Blood. Donating blood is a simple thing you can do to help save lives. Blood donations help people going through cancer treatment, having surgery, who have chronic illnesses and those who experience traumatic injuries. The Red Cross holds blood drives across Northern Ohio every week. You can find and sign up for an upcoming blood drive here.
  • Volunteer. 90% of the Red Cross workforce are volunteers. There are a variety of volunteer opportunities available right here in our area. You can learn more and apply to be a volunteer in Northern Ohio here.
  • Learn a Lifesaving Skill. The Red Cross has been teaching emergency and safety training for more than a century. You can learn first aid, be trained in administering CPR or using an AED, to be prepared for when a need for these skills arises. You can review and sign up for a class here.

There are endless possibilities of ways you can be a good neighbor and help give back to the community. You never know how one small act of kindness can impact a neighbor near you.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer