A lesson from childhood “Sounded the Alarm” for this Red Cross volunteer

By Sue Wilson, American Red Cross volunteer

American Red Cross volunteers come from many backgrounds, professions, and demographics and show up ready to work with different motivations. Whether it is the desire to make a difference, a way to network and socialize, or to stay active in retirement, a day in the field helping the Red Cross fulfill its mission with one of its many programs is a day well spent.

Elizabeth Sullivan (right), Red Cross Volunteer

Elizabeth Sullivan got involved this past May after a colleague suggested they partner with the Sound the Alarm campaign as part of their Yale Alumni Service activities. Sound the Alarm is part of the Red Cross home fire campaign, established in 2014 to help prevent fire-related fatalities. A similar program began in Cleveland in 1992, when the Red Cross partnered with the Cleveland Division of Fire to reduce fire fatalities by installing smoke alarms in homes and teaching fire safety.

Elizabeth, the director of opinion for cleveland.com, and previous editor of the editorial pages of The Plain Dealer, along with her team and others, installed 175 smoke alarms in 60 homes in Cleveland ‘s Old Brooklyn neighborhood on May 14. For her, the project took on a deeper meaning.

“My father survived a house fire as a child because his older sister came into the room at night with a wet towel, and they put it over their mouths and they crawled along the floor to safely escape,” said Elizabeth.

That experience prompted her father to do annual fire drills with their family when Elizabeth was a child. “We were taught basic fire safety tips, like touch the door before you open it to make sure it’s not hot and to go out the window.”  While she and her siblings had fun climbing out on the roof, the importance of those drills stuck with her.

Red Cross volunteers, Elizabeth Sullivan (far right)

Covid paused this important program over the last two years, but this spring, Red Cross staff members and volunteers like Elizabeth installed 2,374 smoke alarms throughout Northern Ohio, making 929 homes safer.

Home fires claim lives every day, but having working smoke alarms can cut the risk of death by half. The good news? You don’t have to wait until the next Sound the Alarm campaign, the Red Cross installs smoke alarms throughout the year.

If you or someone you know may need a smoke alarm, click here to request a home safety visit and smoke alarm installation. And if Elizabeth’s story encouraged you to want to volunteer, find more information here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer
Posted by Ryan Lang, American Red Cross volunteer and board member

929 Northern Ohio homes made safer through Sound the Alarm

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

Volunteers at the Sound the Alarm event in Garfield Heights – 5/13/22

Over the last few weeks, Red Cross volunteers and staff installed 2,374 smoke alarms throughout Northern Ohio, making 929 homes safer. Focus areas for this year’s initiative—the 30th anniversary of a program started in Cleveland—were Cleveland’s Collinwood and Old Brooklyn neighborhoods, Garfield Heights, Akron, Lorain, Wooster Township, Chippewa Township, Napoleon, Ohio, Fostoria, Ohio, and Monroe, Michigan (part of the Red Cross’s Northern Ohio Region.)

“This was my first time participating in a Sound the Alarm installation event, and it was a fantastic experience,” said Christy Peters, regional communications manager. “The residents we spoke with were so thankful for our help, and I left knowing the work we did could mean the difference between life and death for a family, should a home fire occur.”

The 30th anniversary of a partnership with the Cleveland Division of Fire was celebrated on 5/12/22

As I wrote earlier, Sound the Alarm and the Home Fire Campaign grew out of “Operation Save-A-Life,” an initiative begun in Cleveland in 1992, when businessperson and philanthropist Sam Miller joined with other civic leaders, the Cleveland Fire Department, and the Red Cross to reduce fire fatalities through installing smoke alarms and teaching fire safety. It has been remarkably successful, helping keep annual fire fatalities in Cleveland below the 1992 level. The Home Fire Campaign, which includes Sound the Alarm, became a national Red Cross program in 2014.

While Sound the Alarm occurs each May, the Red Cross helps make homes safer year-round. Since July 1, 2021—the beginning of the Red Cross’s fiscal year—5,495 smoke alarms have been installed in Northern Ohio, and 2,102 homes have been made safer.

Fire safety initiatives such as this are vitally important, as we may have just two minutes to escape a home fire. Having working smoke alarms can cut the risk of death in such an event by half.

Volunteer Dick Kincaid tests an alarm he installed in a home in Wooster Township on 5/22/22

Since 2014, the Home Fire campaign has documented saving 21 lives in Northern Ohio, 1,275 nationally. Thanks to this month’s efforts, families in 929 homes throughout our region are now better protected.

For more information on the Home Fire Campaign, including tips on making your home safer, please visit this website.

Photos from this year’s Sound the Alarm and other local events can be viewed here.

Thirty years of lifesaving preparedness: Northern Ohio initiative helps Sound the Alarm

By Tim Poe, Red Cross Volunteer

Former Cleveland Mayor Mike White and then CEO of the Greater Cleveland Chapter, Steve D. Bullock

Part of a lifesaving campaign with its roots in Cleveland, 2022’s Sound the Alarm has begun. Over the next few weeks, the American Red Cross, fire departments and other partners will be visiting neighborhoods, with a goal of installing 50,000 smoke alarms, teaching fire safety and helping families develop two-minute escape plans. The smoke alarm installation portion, paused during the pandemic, returns this year.

The idea began in 1992 when 28 Cleveland residents, half of them children, died in home fires. Businessman and philanthropist Sam Miller chose to act. He joined with other civic leaders, the Red Cross and the Cleveland Fire Department to create “Operation Save-A-Life,” installing smoke alarms throughout the city. Thanks to this and other safety initiatives, annual fire fatalities in Cleveland have remained below the 1992 level.

Other regions took note, and the Red Cross’ Home Fire Campaign became national in 2014. Sound the Alarm is part of the effort. Read this article for more on Operation Save-A-Life and Sam Miller, who passed in 2019.

The program has been an astounding success. Since becoming national, Sound the Alarm and the Home Fire Campaign have saved 1,275 lives in the U.S., 402 under the age of 18. That includes 21 in Northern Ohio; 70 statewide. John Gareis, regional manager, Disaster Preparedness, Northern Ohio Region, pointed out that there are countless additional lives saved that we do not even hear about.

It is critical that the campaign continues, as home fires claim seven lives per day, on average, and are the most frequent disaster in the U.S. And sadly, deaths continue, with 45 fire fatalities reported in Ohio so far this year.

Preparation and smoke alarms are effective. When a fire occurs, you have as little as two minutes to escape, so having a plan and a working alarm are critical.

John has been a key part of the campaign since its beginnings in Cleveland, helping it grow into the national effort it is today.

John said, “We are excited to return to in-person smoke-alarm installation this year, along with continuing to provide fire education. Home fires, like other disasters, can happen anywhere, anytime, and Sound the Alarm helps people be ready. So often we see the effects of those who had prepared and those who, unfortunately, did not. Understanding the basics of fire safety, having escape and communication plans, and knowing what to do does save lives. Helping people during disasters is at the heart of the Red Cross mission, and preparation is key.”

Additional volunteers are welcome.

“Sound the Alarm is a meaningful way to be a part of a larger movement while directly helping local families,” said Tim O’Toole, regional disaster officer in Northern Ohio. “In just one day, you could help save a neighbor’s life by installing smoke alarms—which can cut the risk of dying in a home fire by half.”

If you would like to volunteer, donate, request a smoke alarm or receive assistance preparing for a home fire, visit this site.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, Red Cross volunteer

From intern to trusted volunteer

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

Maria Ford lives in Toledo and is a member of the Northwest Ohio chapter. She has two children; a five- year-old son who keeps her running, and a nineteen-year-old daughter. They love to get out and hike the trails in the woods and enjoy being out in nature. In her spare time, Maria’s starting a collection of teapots.

Maria Ford

She’s been working for the Toledo Municipal Court for seven years now. Presently, she is a supervisor in the Probation department and really enjoys the work. “We’ve got so many good programs going now – it’s a great time to be here.”

Maria started with the Red Cross as part of an internship in connection with her Master’s Degree program through Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Able to take the program online, she obtained a Master of Science in Social Administration with a concentration in social work, completing the program during the pandemic. “During the internship, I realized that I enjoyed working with Red Cross so much that I’ve stayed with the organization ever since.”

Presently, she is actively involved as Community Preparedness Coordinator, educating people about home fire prevention. “I also help people get their smoke alarms and plan rallies, working with volunteers and our clients. I also do a bit of DAT (Disaster Action Team) on the side, and I’ve even done some sheltering, which was cool, and I enjoyed that too.”

“Maria has been with us for a number of years now,” says Rachel Hepner, Chapter Executive Director. “She’s been instrumental in making our home fire campaign a success and is a great person to have on board as we get closer to Sound the Alarm.”

When asked about what she would say to someone who’s not sure if they would enjoy being a Red Cross volunteer, Maria says, “Red Cross seems to attract some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, with such big hearts and willing to give back to the community when people may be experiencing the worst time of their life. Being able to be with those people, to love them, and to support them, is really a blessing. If anyone is inclined to give back and help people in their community, the Red Cross has a position for everyone, where you can make a difference.”

Northern Ohio Red Cross volunteer finds the path to yes, no matter the challenge

The first in a series of volunteer profiles during National Volunteer Week

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

Deb Day, Red Cross volunteer and Toby

The American Red Cross has many outstanding volunteers in Northern Ohio, and we
are proud to profile a few for Volunteer Week. Today we are featuring Deb Day, a
community volunteer leader in the Heartland, Stark and Muskingum Lakes (HSML)
chapter.

Since joining the Red Cross in 2017, Deb has helped a tremendous number of people recover from disasters—both in Ohio and throughout the U.S. She frequently assists during blood drives and has taken a key role in several Red Cross initiatives.

Deb Day, Red Cross volunteer

Deb brings a lifetime of learning and experience to the Red Cross. She retired from a public education career almost seven years ago, where she coached, taught and served as a guidance counselor. Her interests and hobbies include the outdoors, travelling , and sports. Deb has always loved helping others and seeking adventure.

“Now that I have the time to volunteer,” she said, “I truly enjoy helping out whether it is deploying to disasters, working as a blood donor ambassador, or working at the local food pantry.”

Deb first joined in 2017, after seeing a Red Cross call for volunteers during coverage of Hurricane Harvey.

Deb was soon assisting those impacted by the hurricane. She said her deployment started with “hurry up and wait” but soon changed to needing to be flexible, avoiding frustration, and getting the job done. Deb served in an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV), feeding those in a community about 45 minutes away from the kitchen in Sugar Land. “We were the first to leave and the last to come home,” she said.

Deb also saw the best of humanity. “Amidst all the destruction was hope and determination,” she said. “A community came together to look out for one another. It was a time when I could provide food, hugs, words of comfort, and a shoulder to cry on. It was remarkable!” She also spoke of the warm, welcoming the Southern Baptist kitchen volunteers and how “Red Cross deployments create families whose members stay in touch for life.”

Antique Day Parade, 10-10-21

Of course, most of Deb’s work is in her home chapter. In addition to helping with daily responses and initiatives, she assisted following the tornado in Shelby and flooding in the Wooster area. Speaking very highly of her fellow volunteers and staff members, Deb remarked how everyone in their small but mighty group pitched in and served the needs of the community, something which they consistently achieve.

“I truly appreciate everyone’s dedication to their community and the Red Cross,” Deb said. Whether Sound the Alarm, community assistance, disaster response, training, or meetings, “volunteers and staff find the path to ‘YES’ no matter the challenge.” And while the pandemic has been difficult, the Red Cross has not wavered in its humanitarian commitment to those in need.

“I am amazed and so thankful for everyone affiliated with the Red Cross,” she said.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Time to Turn and Test to stay safe and on time

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

Good news is on the horizon: If it’s time to “spring ahead” one hour on Saturday night, can spring be far behind?

Good news right away: You can protect your home and family now by “turning and testing” Saturday night.

American Red Cross volunteers like John Muni, a retired firefighter in Medina County, are urging everyone across northern Ohio to test the batteries in their smoke alarms this weekend, before they turn their clocks ahead one hour to stay in step with their neighbors.

“Smoke alarms are our silent sentinels, our sleepless watchers to alert us to a disaster nobody wants –- a home fire,” John said.

Fox 8 reporter Todd Meany interviews Red Cross volunteer John Muni

“Just since the first of the year, our Red Cross Disaster Action Teams have responded to more than 250 home fires across northern Ohio, bringing comfort, support and immediate assistance to 1,000 families who were living through a nightmare,” John said. “It’s been a rough start to the year, and we don’t want more folks to go through that.”

That’s the purpose of the fall and spring “Turn and Test” campaigns nationwide, because home fires are the nation’s most frequent disaster.

The Red Cross wants people to take three simple steps:

Install smoke alarms. If you don’t have smoke alarms, install them. At least, put one on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. If you have an alarm that’s more than 10 years old, replace it; smoke detection strips wear out.

Check smoke alarm batteries. This is “Turn and Test.” Push the test button on each alarm and replace batteries, if needed. It’s a good time to check carbon monoxide detectors too.

Practice an escape plan. Make sure everyone in your household knows how to get out of every room and how to get out of the home in less than two minutes.

In May, the Red Cross will resume its “Sound the Alarm” campaign, working with partners to install free smoke alarms in homes and to brief residents on fire safety and escape planning. The campaign had to be adjusted during 2020 and 2021 because of COVID-19.

This year, the Northern Ohio Region of the Red Cross has a goal to install more than 7,200 free smoke alarms and make more than 3,000 homes safer. Local fire departments, civic groups and workplace teams will provide the volunteer manpower for these important efforts.

“Sound the Alarm” is a national Red Cross program similar to one that started in Cleveland in 1992 as a partnership between the city’s fire department and the local Red Cross chapter. Since 2014, the campaign has installed more than 2.2 million(!) smoke alarms across the country that have saved more than 1,200 lives.

For more information, including safety tips and free resources, visit redcross.org/homefires or download the free Red Cross Emergency app by searching for “American Red Cross” in app stores.

And if you need free smoke alarms in your home, visit our website to ask for a home fire safety visit.

Edited By Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Honoring Steve Bullock during Black History Month

By Doug Bardwell, Red Cross volunteer

Northern Ohio has had their share of prominent African Americans:  Olympian Jesse Owens, author Toni Morrison, US Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones, inventor of the modern traffic light Garrett Morgan, and first black mayor of a major U.S. city Carl B Stokes. But, closest to the hearts of Northern Ohio Red Crosser’s is none other than our own Steve Bullock.

Steve Delano Bullock was the youngest of 22 children born to a sharecropper family in segregated North Carolina. He was in the U.S. Army in Vietnam in 1962 when he first volunteered with the Red Cross. He found a fit in the organization that upholds impartiality – not discriminating based on nationality, race, religion, class or political beliefs – as one of its fundamental principles.

– Steve Bullock, Photo credit: Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

Steve began his career with the organization in 1962, working as a caseworker on military installations. His work took him and his family to military posts throughout the United States, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Twenty years later, he became the Chief Executive Officer and Chapter Manager of the Greater Cleveland Chapter.

In Cleveland, he oversaw the launch of Operation Save-A-Life, which aimed to reduce injuries and deaths due to home fires by providing residents in at-risk neighborhoods with fire safety education and free smoke alarms and installations. That initiative has been adopted by the Red Cross nationwide and, as of the end of 2021, more than 2.2 million alarms have been installed and more than 1,200 lives have been saved.

– Northern Ohio Sound the Alarm installation event

Steve Bullock’s career with the American Red Cross spanned six decades. During that time, he has been one of the hundreds of thousands of volunteers and paid staff striving to help Americans and people around the world prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.

But there’s one thing no other Red Crosser will ever be able to claim: Steve was the first African American to sit at the helm of our nation’s premier humanitarian organization, when he was named Acting President of the national agency in Washington, DC.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find a more inspiring role model than Steve,” says Mike Parks, Regional CEO of the Red Cross in Northern Ohio. “It’s no wonder our humanitarian award is named in his honor. He has lived a life of service to mankind.” 

Thank you, Steve Bullock, for your years of service to our military members, their families, and our mission. 

If you feel a call to serve as Steve did, the Red Cross has a veritable wealth of opportunities for your talents.  Start your journey here.

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