Even during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, emergencies don’t stop and neither does the work of the American Red Cross. Local volunteers are still at work providing care and comfort after disasters, such as home fires.
In the month of March, Red Cross disaster workers responded to 43 incidents in the Dakotas Region, providing assistance to 125 people. Volunteers drove nearly 2,800 miles across North Dakota, South Dakota and Northwestern Minnesota to offer help and comfort after these home fires.
"Despite the COVID-19 epidemic, the Red Cross continues to fulfill its mission by responding to local disasters, training volunteers, collecting blood, and serving our military community, all while observing strong interpersonal safety precautions,” said Gretchen Hjelmstad, Regional Communications Officer for the Dakotas Region of the Red Cross. “As we continue to help our neighbors in need, we urge everyone to take steps to minimize the risk of a fire occurring in their home.”
We continue to work closely with public health officials to deliver our mission where and when it’s safe to do so. Our top priority is protecting the people we serve and our volunteers, so we have adopted new guidelines and tactics as we continue to support our communities.
All volunteer responders and clients are asked health screening questions prior to meeting at a disaster scene. We also have the technology in place to issue immediate disaster assistance on a virtual basis. Using special Red Cross systems, we will keep both clients and volunteers safe from close contact, while at the same time providing financial assistance for items such as food, clothing, shelter and medications. The Red Cross also offers mental health support and guidance in beginning the long-term recovery process.
Stay Safe and Help #EndHomeFires
The Red Cross is asking everyone to take simple steps to reduce the risk of a fire in your home and help save lives. While many are home from work and school with their families, now is the perfect time to talk about home fire safety and practice your home fire escape plan.
- Make sure everyone in the family knows how to get out of every room and how to get out of the home in two minutes or less.
- Teach children the sound of a smoke alarm when you practice your home fire escape plan.
- Select a meeting spot at a safe distance away from your home, such as a neighbor’s home or a tree in the front yard, so everyone knows where to meet.
- Visit redcross.org/homefires for additional free resources and safety tips.
If you have experienced a disaster and need extra support due to the new fears and stresses you may be feeling during this time, call the free, confidential SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
You can find more information on COVID-19 safety here. For the latest information, please visit the CDC website at cdc.gov/covid19. If you live outside the United States, health and safety tips can be found through the World Health Organization and by following your local Red Cross or Red Crescent society’s social media channels.