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A Night in the Life: Disaster Volunteers Respond to Home Fire

Home Fire Safety

The biggest disaster threat in the United States isn’t floods, hurricanes or tornadoes; it’s home fires.

Every night in America, while most of us are sleeping, American Red Cross disaster volunteers are standing on the lawn of someone who has just lost their home and everything they own in a fire. Our volunteers give them a warm blanket, a hot cup of coffee, a place to stay for the night and a plan to help them get back on their feet.

A Night in the Life of Our Disaster Volunteers

The Red Cross responds to help a family affected by a home fire every 8 minutes. Follow the typical journey of our disaster volunteers as they respond to a home fire:

1:10 a.m. A Red Cross disaster volunteer receives a call from the local Fire Department that there has been a home fire in their community. She quickly gets up, gets dressed and calls another volunteer to meet her at the location of the home fire.

1:30 a.m. The disaster volunteer arrives at the scene of the home fire. She talks with the fire chief to find out who has been affected and what their needs may be. She also touches base with the EMS captain and leaves a case of water for the firefighters.

1:35 a.m. The fire chief introduces the Red Cross disaster volunteer to the family of four whose home has been destroyed. The two parents and two children are standing out on the lawn watching as the firemen work to put out the fire. The volunteer immediately wraps warm Red Cross blankets around each of them, and offers them hot coffee or cocoa which she has brought with her as well.

1:50 a.m. Another Red Cross disaster volunteer arrives to help the affected family. With a smile, he hands the parents two stuffed animals to give to the children. He then helps watch the little ones so that his volunteer partner can talk with the parents about next steps.

2:15 a.m. The Red Cross volunteers contact a nearby hotel and secure a room for the family to stay in for the next couple nights. They give the family four comfort kits which each contain a toothbrush, tooth paste, soap and other personal hygiene items. They also hand them an emergency gift card to help the family purchase clothes, food, and other items they may need to replace.

2:30 a.m. The disaster volunteers help the family pack some of the personal items that the firefighters retrieved from the home and a few additional Red Cross supplies and snacks into their vehicle, which thankfully has not been damaged so they can drive to the hotel.

2:50 a.m. The family says goodbye and embraces the Red Cross volunteers. Before they drive off, one volunteer hands her card to the parents and sets up a time to talk the next day.

2:55 a.m. Finally, the disaster volunteers check back with the fire chief to tell him the family is taken care of. They then depart the scene of the fire and head back to their homes. In a few hours, they will have to get up and go about their day.

How You Can Help Home Fire Victims

You can help people affected by fires and countless other crises by making a donation to support Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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