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.

The power of personal connections: Transitioning back to in-person disaster response

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, many American Red Cross services are transitioning back to being in-person, especially in Disaster Response and Sheltering. While virtual response and other safety measures helped the Red Cross effectively respond to disasters during the height of the pandemic, in-person assistance was missed. As Mike Arthur, regional mass care and logistics manager for Northern Ohio, explained, the ability to provide hot coffee and a hug can mean a great deal.

In addition to Mike, I spoke with Tom Revolinsky, Red Cross disaster program manager for Northeast Ohio, and volunteer Mark Cline, whose many responsibilities include serving as lead for Disaster Action Team (DAT) and Sheltering Applications in Northern Ohio. Each spoke about how effective an in-person connection is for Red Cross responders and clients recovering from a disaster.

Red Cross volunteers respond to an apartment fire

Tom said the transition began a month ago and is going very well. The DAT team is ensuring volunteers are comfortable with the change, and it is safe. As we learn more, he said, we will adapt to ensure everyone’s safety.

Currently, 80% of disaster responses in our region are in-person. For the other 20%, virtual response remains the best option. Northern Ohio DAT has been highly active. Over the past two weekends they responded to 14 home fires, assisting 73 people.

Mark said an in-person meeting gives a chance to better connect with those in need of assistance, as it is much more personal. Similarly, Tom spoke of how meeting in-person better provides the opportunity to give hope, show someone cares and help with recovery. 

Tom recalled how after an exceptionally busy day, he received a late-night call to respond following a home fire. Upon arrival, he met a woman, in tears, sitting in front of her burned-out house. His being there greatly helped, provided comfort, and she soon moved from tears to smiles. Tom said it was empowering for him.

Disaster responder Jan Cooper assists resident Gabriella Asseff after a condo fire in Westlake

I had similar experiences during my time with DAT. The instances when I could see a person begin to recover, to smile and hope again, remain with me.

As for sheltering following a large disaster—fortunately not common in our region—Mike and Tom said congregate housing is now the first option. This will ensure enough space is available, as many hotels are currently near capacity. Safety protocols will be in place. Both Tom and Mike said the Red Cross remains flexible and adapts to each situation, and non-congregate housing remains an option.

Such adaptability has been a hallmark of the Red Cross. When the pandemic necessitated virtual responses to disasters, the DAT team responded. Additionally, technology implemented during the pandemic is also helping with in-person responses.

For many of us, the pandemic underscored the importance of personal connections, especially following a disaster. Thankfully, Northern Ohio DAT responders can provide that again, offering financial assistance along with comfort, hugs and hope.

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, 875 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.

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

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.

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.

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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

 

 

 

 

Lincoln Electric workers continue to make Euclid homes safer

Company workers install smoke alarms for the fifth consecutive year

By Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross

More than 600 homes in the city of Euclid have been made safer in the past four years, thanks to the efforts of Lincoln Electric employees and the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio.  They have installed more than 1,700 free smoke alarms, provided free batteries for existing alarms and offered valuable fire safety information during an annual event that began in 2015.

During the most recent Sound the Alarm event on Saturday, Sept. 21, dozens of Lincoln Electric workers gathered in teams of four, going door-to-door, and installing 328 alarms in 123 homes.

“This is a way for our company to give back to the community where we work,” said Chris Mapes, chairman, president and CEO of Lincoln Electric. “Our employees are helping make the community safer with free smoke alarms and fire safety information provided by the Red Cross.”

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Lincoln Electric Chairman, President and CEO Chris Mapes rallies employees prior to the 2019 Sound the Alarm event.  Photo credit: Jim McIntyre/American Red Cross

Mike Parks, regional CEO of the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio, said, “Lincoln Electric has been a dedicated partner in our efforts to make the community more resilient and save lives, thanks to efforts such as this.”

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Mike Parks, left, and Chris Mapes- Photo credit: Cal Pusateri/American Red Cross volunteer

As has been the case every year since Lincoln Electric staff began installing smoke alarms in 2015, Euclid Fire Chief Chris Haddock grilled hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken to provide the employees who volunteered their time with a hearty lunch before they embarked on their lifesaving mission. Euclid Mayor Kirsten Holzheimer Gail rallied the troops and thanked them for helping save lives.

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Euclid Mayor Kirsten Holzheimer Gail and Tim O’Toole, Regional Disaster Officer, American Red Cross – Photo credit: Cal Pusateri/American Red Cross volunteer

Every day, seven people die in home fires, most in homes without working smoke alarms. But these lifesaving devices cut the risk of dying in a fire in half. That’s why the Red Cross launched the Home Fire Campaign, to prevent needless deaths and injuries. Through the campaign’s year-round Sound the Alarm events, like the one that took place in Euclid on Saturday, volunteers and partners install free smoke alarms and help families create home fire escape plans.

The national Red Cross effort is modeled largely after a program that began in the city of Cleveland in 1992. Since then, more than 200,000 smoke alarms have been installed in Greater Cleveland by the local Red Cross and its partners.

Residents who need smoke alarms in their homes can visit soundthealarm.org/neo or call 216-361-5535 to request a and installation appointment. To volunteer for a future Sound the Alarm event and to learn more about other volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross, visit redcross.org/volunteer.

To see more photos from the Lincoln Electric Sound the Alarm event, visit our photo album on Flickr.

Edited by Glenda Bogar/American Red Cross volunteer

Sandusky man assisted by Red Cross during family tragedy to serve on local board

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.

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Rob Griggs and his sister, Tricia Costanzo at the Sound the Alarm event in Sandusky in April

“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.

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Rob’s wife Cali installs a smoke alarm in a home in Sandusky

“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).

Sound the Alarm was a ringing success

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

May 24, 2019- Sound the Alarm 2019 wrapped up in Northeast Ohio on May 12. With a total of 21 events over a two-week period, more than 1,500 homes were made safer by the installation of 3,743 smoke alarms.

After responding to dozens of fires as an American Red Cross Disaster Action Team member, it’s always sad to see a family lose all their possessions; but far more heart-wrenching is when a family member is hurt or a pet dies. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of a minute or two that makes the difference in who survives and who doesn’t. Sound the Alarm’s purpose is to make sure the number of home fire fatalities is significantly reduced each year.

First-hand experience

David Leatherwood, who still carries the scars of being in a home fire when he was younger, was appreciative when approached by volunteers in Lorain during the Sound the Alarm event. “It makes me feel so much better knowing that my whole house is now protected by smoke alarms,” said David. Volunteers from Ford Motor Lorain plant installed new alarms, replacing his old ones that were already more than 10 years old.

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Volunteers Stephanie Pinskey (L) and Dionna Seplight (C) discuss the importance of replacing smoke alarms every 10 years with homeowner David Leatherwood (R).

Stephanie Pinskey, one of the Ford volunteers commented, “I can’t believe the power of the Red Cross brand. Not one of the people we met today ever hesitated about letting us come in to install alarms in their homes. With all the mistrust of strangers these days, this was heartwarming to know people really trust Red Cross and their volunteers.”

By the numbers

Begun in 2014, the Home Fire Campaign can already count 582 lives nationally that have been saved, thanks to smoke alarms installed by Red Cross volunteers. In that time:

  • More than 709,000 households have been made safer
  • More than 1,700,000 smoke alarms have been installed
  • 1,300,000 youth have been educated through the campaign

Not just a two-week event

Installing smoke alarms for those who need them is a year-round activity for Red Cross. In Northeast Ohio, anyone who needs alarms installed can visit SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO and be placed on a list for free installations. Cleveland, where the smoke alarm program began, has been making homeowners safer since 1992, when businessman Sam Miller partnered with Red Cross and the Cleveland Fire Department to lower the number of fire fatalities each year. This year marked the milestone of the 200,000th alarm to be installed in Cleveland.

In addition, fire prevention safety education has helped make sure that people know that they only have two minutes to safely leave their home in case of fire and that their children need to know what to do in case an alarm sounds. Families are encouraged to plan two escape routes from each room and to practice their escape drills twice a year.

Even though this year’s Sound the Alarm has wrapped up, Red Cross still accepts donations for additional alarms to be purchased and installed throughout the year. To donate, visit redcross.org/donate or call 800-HELP NOW (800-435-7669).

Catch the excitement of this year’s events by viewing photos on our Flickr page.

See photos from our Cleveland-West Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Youngstown Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Sandusky Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Ravenna sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Parma sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Sound the Alarm kick-off news conference here.

See photos from our Carrollton Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Ashland Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Mansfield Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Slavic Village Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Medina Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Norwalk Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Akron 5/7 Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Akron 5/9 Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Lorain Sound the Alarm event here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer.

Photos provided by Cal Pusateri, Doug Bardwell, Eric Alves, Jim McIntyre and Karen Conklin – American Red Cross.

Do you hear it? Sound the Alarm is coming

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

March 18, 2019 – Mark your calendar. It’s coming.

April 27 through May 12 are the dates for the 2019 Sound the Alarm campaign.

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This spring, the American Red Cross needs your help to install 100,000 free smoke alarms and raise funds for lifesaving services in more than 100 cities in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands during Sound the Alarm home fire safety and smoke alarm installation events.

And, to quasi-quote Smokey the Bear, “Only you can help ensure our success.” One day of your time might be the difference that saves a family’s lives.

Every day, seven people die in home fires and the Red Cross wants to do everything we can to prevent these needless tragedies. That’s why we launched our Home Fire Campaign.

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Volunteer participants work alongside fire departments and other local groups, canvassing at-risk neighborhoods to install free smoke alarms, replace batteries in existing alarms, educate families about fire prevention and safety, and fund raise to help sponsor this lifesaving mission.

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It’s a perfect time to grab your family, your friends and your neighbors to come along and do a good deed installing smoke alarms. You needn’t be a Red Cross volunteer or employee to work these events. Instructions, tools and supplies are all provided the day of the event.

Last year, during the inaugural Sound the Alarm event, more than 103,000 smoke alarms were installed in 43,000 homes nationally over a three-week period. There was also an impact locally. In Northeast Ohio, during the same three-week period, 350 volunteers installed 2,500 alarms in more than 900 homes.

To date, there are 511 lives that have been saved because of smoke alarms installed during previous Sound the Alarm events. More than 1.5 million free smoke alarms have been installed to date.

To find upcoming Sound the Alarm installation events and to sign-up to volunteer to an event near you, visit SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO.

Unable to attend?  You can always make a donation that helps educate families and children about home safety. A donation can also provide food, shelter and comfort to those who’ve lost their home to a fire.

Donate today at https://www.redcross.org/donate/home-fire-campaign.html/ or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer.

All photos by Doug Bardwell.