It’s the most common of disaster scenes: flames reaching into the sky from a burning home. The American Red Cross is there: to comfort, to provide hope, to help people get back to “normal” after a home fire. Red Crossers on the Disaster Action Team are ready to roll out to the scene of a fire with an hour’s notice.
The Red Cross response starts with providing comfort to people experiencing what may be the worst day of their lives. Red Crossers offer a steady presence as people experience the range of emotions that accompany such a disaster. Financial assistance is also provided as needed.
After immediate needs are met, it’s time for the long-term recovery. People are resilien,t and Red Cross case managers offer guidance as they decide how best to go about getting back to “normal.”
Steve Knorr, a Red Cross case manager for the past six years, is well versed in guiding people as they get back on their feet. Before he retired, he worked for the Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities, helping people acquire work skills.
There are similarities between his former occupation and what he’s doing now. He stands by with suggestions for resources, but the individual’s own determination directs the recovery process. This means that typically a case is closed in just three weeks.
Steve’s involvement with the Red Cross began when he became a blood donor at age 19, but health issues now prevent him from donating blood. After he retired, he joined the Disaster Action Team, which he compares to an emergency room. Seeing that there was a need for caseworkers, he moved into case management. Being a case manager, he says, allows him to see the fruit of his work as people resume their lives.
With a varied background, Steve is well prepared to be a case manager. He has a master’s degree in public administration, and his work history also includes serving as a police officer and as a safety director.
Steve volunteers two days per week at the Red Cross. “Every day is different,” he says. “For being retired, it’s a good place to come and be.”
The Emergency Services Department where Steve serves is especially active during the winter, which offers unique risks of home fires. To prevent this most common of disasters, the Red Cross recommends:
If someone is using a space heater, the safest model is one that shuts off automatically if the heater falls over. Space heaters should be placed on a level, hard and nonflammable surface in the home. Other safety tips include:
- Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces.
- Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended. Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.
- Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
Download the free Red Cross Emergency App at redcross.org/apps for heating safety and winter storm tips.