You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

Donated Smoke Alarm Saves Indianapolis Woman from Fire

Home Fire
Just months prior to the fire, Johnnie Mae Pannell received the donated smoke alarm that would save her life.

In early February, a 73-year old woman was sound asleep at 3:00 a.m. when her home in Indianapolis caught fire. Thankfully, a smoke alarm woke Johnnie Mae Pannell and she was able to pull herself into her wheelchair in time to safely exit her home as the flames grew.

“Thought I was a goner,” said Pannell. “I got in my wheelchair and got out of there.”

Pannell received the smoke alarm for her home just a few months back during the 2014 October Fire Prevention Month blitz where the American Red Cross partnered with the Indianapolis Fire Department and State Farm Insurance to canvas neighborhoods and provide senior citizens with smoke alarms. Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to disasters such as home fires.

In the aftermath of the fire, the Red Cross of Greater Indianapolis has provided support to Johnnie Mae and her family. Working closely with the Indianapolis Fire Department, they have also installed new smoke alarms in her daughter’s home.

“We want to take care of you and we want to make sure your family is safe as well,” said Susan Grigsby, a longtime Red Cross caseworker assisting the family.

“That would be wonderful,” said Pannell.

Home Fire Campaign

The Red Cross helps home fire victims with food, clothing and shelter and has seen its volume of cases nationwide go from 5,000 a month in the fall of 2014 to more than 8,000 per month recently. Moreover, when compared to the summer and fall months of 2014, the monthly amount of assistance provided to fire victims in January has increased by over $1 million.

To help combat the threat of home fires, the Red Cross announced a national campaign this past October to reduce deaths and injuries from home fires by as much as 25 percent over the next five years. The Red Cross has already prepared more than 23,000 households and installed nearly 40,000 smoke alarms.

Two Ways to Donate

To support home fire survivors like Pannell, the Red Cross also launched a new social media campaign in February called #GiveWhatFireTakes, in conjunction with the Home Fire Campaign.

  • Set Goals and Fundraise with Crowdrise Whether you form a team or fundraise as an individual, Crowdrise puts you on the front lines of fundraising for home fire prevention and recovery. We even helped provide easy goals to help fundraise through your networks.
  • Choose Your Own Amount A new donation page on allows you to choose a support amount based on how much you can give. Donation levels represent a range of items that the Red Cross typically provides after a fire.
  • Visit our Crowdrise campaign page, make a direct donation on and share what moved you to join the campaign on social media with #GiveWhatFireTakes.

    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 or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.