120 Hours of Disaster Response

levittown fire
SEPA responded to seven total disasters in three counties between July 24th and July 29th, including three major responses.

Over 100 people affected by local disasters were assisted by the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA) over 120 hours in late July. SEPA responded to seven total disasters in three counties between July 24th and July 29th, including three major responses, to provide families and individuals with necessary resources such as food, clothing, medication, lodging and financial assistance. Apart from necessary supplies, Red Cross staff and volunteers also provided emotional support for those affected by these disasters.

The 120 hours began early Wednesday, July 24th in Chester, Delaware County, where a fire on the 900 block of East 15th Street had fatal consequences. The single family home fire ultimately claimed the lives of three young children. The Red Cross was able to financially assist two grieving families following this fire. Two days after the fire, SEPA volunteers and mental health responders spent the evening providing support to the bereaved community and distributing fire safety materials. Bags filled with items such as batteries for smoke alarms, information on the importance of fire escape plans and suggestions for managing emotional trauma to local residents were left on doorknobs throughout the grieving community. These materials provided local residents with essential fire safety information and equipment.

Late that evening, Friday, July 26th, SEPA staff and volunteers once again answered the call and responded to a 4-alarm fire in Bucks County at an apartment complex in Levittown. In all, 43 apartment units were destroyed and more than 100 people lost their homes. What could have been a devastating loss was mitigated by the fact that renters in the complex were required to carry insurance and many families had access to immediate help and resources. Despite this, there were still ways for Red Cross volunteers to provide help and support, and 22 families (39 people) needed and received Red Cross assistance. An overnight shelter was set up for families affected by the blaze, and a reception area provided food and snacks to displaced families throughout the evening and next day. Red Cross responders were on the scene all day Saturday the 27th, meeting one-on-one with families and providing those in need with food, clothing, lodging, and help obtaining medications as needed.

On Monday, July 29th, SEPA assisted with an all-day clothing and goods drive intended to help families affected by the Levittown fire coordinated by a local lawmaker. During the drive, Red Cross volunteers were on hand to meet with any residents who still needed assistance.

While some SEPA staff and volunteers were helping in Levittown, another large scale disaster was unfolding in South Philadelphia. 17 Red Cross responders rushed to a building collapse in the 400 block of Daly Street. The collapse, caused by a gas explosion, had such enormous destructive capacity that the Philadelphia Fire Department, concerned for the safety of local residents, temporarily evacuated more than 70 homes in the surrounding area. Red Cross workers set up a reception area at a local elementary school and provided lunch and dinner to the displaced residents. More than 70 people made use of the reception center throughout the day. For those whose homes were damaged or destroyed in the explosion, and for those families who were unable to return home that night, SEPA staff and volunteers provided six families (14 people) with food, clothing and other emergency needs. Ultimately, three of the six families stayed at Red Cross House, the American Red Cross Southeastern P ennsylvania’s one of a kind short term recovery facility.

The 120 hours in late July also required response by the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania to four additional disasters. SEPA volunteers ultimately provided financial assistance to five more families, 13 people affected by three homes fires in Philadelphia and one in Delaware county; two families stayed at Red Cross House.

This is just an example of how the local Red Cross is ready to respond every day, whatever the disaster. All assistance is provided free of charge and funded entirely by individual and corporate donations. Anyone wishing to help local families affected by disasters like these can make a donation online, call 1-800-RED-CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 one-time donation.