Just over three months into the year, 3,993 Georgians are among the many Americans who have already turned to the Red Cross for help after losing homes, belongings and sometimes loved ones to home fires and other disasters. This higher-than-average demand for services is compounded by spring storm and tornado season when volunteers must be ready to respond to severe weather at a moment’s notice, here and nationwide. The ability to provide food, shelter, relief supplies, emotional support, recovery planning and other assistance comes at a cost and the Red Cross is asking the public for their financial support now to meet urgent, ongoing needs.
So far this year, Georgia’s Red Cross has:
• Responded to 1,222 disasters, including 10 large, multi-family fires – as many large-scale fires to date in 2015 as in the three previous years combined.
• Helped over 1,250 Georgia families, an average of 13 families per day. To put this in perspective, the Red Cross provided similar financial and recovery assistance to 500 families following the 2009 Georgia floods and nearly 200 families following the 2011 Georgia tornadoes.
“We’re asking the public to see what’s been happening here since January in a whole new light and help us respond,” said Terri Badour Duckett, CEO of Georgia’s Red Cross. “This has been an entire season of non-stop disaster relief,” she added. “When you look at just one fire or one devastated family at a time, you miss the shocking reality that thousands of our neighbors became suddenly homeless in a very short period of time,” said Badour Duckett.
Bahiyah Graham and her six children are among the 15 families who lost everything during Georgia’s 10th major apartment fire of the year on March 7th at the Park Crossing Apartments in Lilburn. A team of Red Cross disaster volunteers met one-on-one with residents and provided emotional support, toiletries, clothing and shoes; food, lodging and replacement bedding, based on need. “Yes, the monetary part will help us because we are starting over,” Graham later said, “but what struck me was how compassionate everyone was. There weren’t a lot of questions asked, just help, help, help…”
The causes of home fires vary but two of the most common in recent months were space heaters too close to combustibles and unattended cooking, according to Georgia Insurance and Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens. He is quick to point out that families must use caution to prevent home fires year-round. In addition to providing fire safety tips, the American Red Cross launched a national preparedness initiative last fall and aims to reduce fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent over the next five years. Since October, Georgia’s Red Cross, in partnership with local groups and emergency agencies, has already installed nearly 1,000 smoke alarms in high-risk neighborhoods statewide and attributes at least one life saved in Albany to these efforts.
In local communities and across the country, the Red Cross depends upon the generosity of volunteers and donors to help people prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters of all kinds. Georgia’s Red Cross is appealing to the public for help in raising the funds needed to respond quickly when our neighbors and emergency partners need us most.
“From home fires to weather-related disasters, Georgia’s Red Cross is an essential response partner for the Atlanta-Fulton County Emergency Management Agency,” says Matthew Kallmyer, director. “It has already been a tough year for many families in our area and Red Cross was there to provide support in a compassionate and caring manner. Red Cross has always been there during our time of need,” he added, “and I am truly grateful to call them a partner.”
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Please consider helping people across the country – including in Georgia – affected by disasters big and small. You can make a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation, setting up a Crowdrise page (https://www.crowdrise.com/) or writing a check payable to American Red Cross (mail to: P.O. Box 40002018, Des Moines, IA 50340-2018).
Donations to American Red Cross Disaster Relief ensure that no matter where a disaster happens, the Red Cross can respond without delay across the country. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters of all sizes.