It all started around 9 a.m. on November 16, when Scott Rhinehart’s fiancée woke up to the smell of smoke and the screech of smoke alarms. Unable to get out of the upstairs bedroom, she had to wait for the fire department to get a ladder and rescue her.
Breaking down the door and spraying foam, firefighters doused the fire. The couple’s two dogs made it out safely. The turtles, in water, also survived, and later they found their cat, huddled hungry but alive in a suitcase.
The Red Cross responded quickly, Scott said, providing financial help, cleaning supplies, toiletries and resources. He said Red Cross caseworkers have reached out several times since that day, which he especially appreciates as his fiancée recovers emotionally.
The fire started when an unused electrical outlet in the kitchen began arcing, setting plastic containers and the surrounding cabinetry on fire. The resulting smoke damage affected the whole house, Scott said.
Electrical incidents are just one of the causes of home fires, the most common disaster Red Cross volunteers confront. Other culprits are space heaters and stoves left unattended, or a fireplace not properly maintained. Working smoke alarms that are properly placed can be the difference between life and death when such accidents happen. Making and practicing an emergency escape plan can also be a life-saver.
Red Cross volunteers who respond to home fires and other disasters are part of the Disaster Services Department. They are trained in how to talk with those affected, assess needs, and provide immediate help. Survivors may need a place to stay until they find a new home. They may have to replace medication, clothes, and important documents. Volunteers offer compassion and emotional care, as well as resources to replace these and other necessities. In the days following a fire, caseworkers follow up with phone calls to make sure those affected are getting what they need to recover.
Although these events can be devastating, human beings are resilient: They do get back to “normal.” Scott, with his father’s help, has taken on the task of restoring their home. “It was pretty daunting right at first, but it’s starting to look like a home again,” he said.
“We really appreciated everything the Red Cross has done for us,” he added. “It meant a lot that they were so quick on their response and keeping up on us. It’s nice to know there’s someone out there looking out for us.”
Could you see yourself helping someone get back to normal after a fire? Or would you rather help military families stay in touch? Maybe you enjoy driving and would like to transport blood products to local hospitals. These are just a few of the ways Red Cross volunteers can be of service. To find out more, visit http://www.redcross.org/volunteer/volunteer-opportunities