More volunteers are needed to respond to home fires across Tennessee
By Ryan Meyer, Red Cross volunteer
When Cathy Goodrich signed up to volunteer with the Red Cross in 2017, she planned to lend a hand with her amateur radio skills. She had no idea how quickly her time and talent would make an impact.
Shortly into her training with the Disaster Services Technology group, Cathy was asked to assist with the chapter’s Disaster Action Team. These volunteers are often times the initial responders to local incidents, many of them home fires. While major natural disasters may receive most of the national media attention, home fires are the nation’s most frequent disaster. On average, seven people die every day in the U.S. from a home fire. Many of these victims are children and the elderly, because in a home fire, there’s typically less than two minutes to escape.
When a home fire occurs, your local Red Cross office is often one of the the first to receive a call from the police or fire department. Volunteers then spring into action to help those affected. Support can range from providing immediate assistance on scene or off scene response for single families. It may also involve opening a shelter following multi-family fires, where clients may stay as they try to find accommodations. The Red Cross provides resources for clients starting at the initial event and through the recovery process.
“Just the other day, there was a multi-family fire in an apartment building, 20 units were totally destroyed,” Goodrich said. “Almost everyone in the complex spoke Spanish, so having volunteers with translation skills made a big difference.”
Home fires have been increasing in the Nashville and other larger metropolitan areas in Tennessee, making volunteer support and financial donations from the community even more imperative. When Goodrich gets called into action, she knows there’s always one partner who she can count on to be by her side.
“My husband and I got involved together, and he trained as a supervisor too,” she said. “There’s so many people out there struggling, and together we feel like we’ve been able to help as a team.”
While the general public most often associates the Red Cross with blood donations and national disaster response, the needs of the local chapters are significant, as is the opportunity to contribute.
“There have been instances where we’ve gone to the hospital for clients who have been burned. When they are ready to be released, our team will send someone out to provide one-time financial assistance and references to resources,” said Goodrich. “Sometimes they don’t even have cab money to get home - or a home to go back to, so our volunteers being there to provide emotional and financial support goes a long way.”
If you would like to join your local Disaster Action Team as a disaster response volunteer, visit redcross.org/dat.