Sandusky man assisted by Red Cross during family tragedy to serve on local board

By Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

In January 2018 a family’s life was forever changed. An early morning fire broke out at a Norwalk, Ohio, home. Multiple fire departments responded and battled the blaze. Tragically, the fire took the lives of a husband and wife, their adult son, his certified therapy dog and their family dog.

The event devastated the family, which is still trying to heal. In a matter of minutes, they lost their parents, grandparents, brother and uncle. The case was difficult on the firefighters, too. It was the first multi-fatality fire in the community in nearly 100 years.

Rob Griggs of Sandusky is the oldest son and big brother of the family. A former Marine and self-described multitasker, he feels he can handle having a lot placed on his shoulders.

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Rob Griggs and his sister, Tricia Costanzo at the Sound the Alarm event in Sandusky in April

“My family often looks toward me for answers,” he said. “But I didn’t have them myself.”

“There was never a chance to say goodbye,” Rob said. “There is no closure, and there never will be. It’s been really, really hard for all of us.”

Rob, who is general sales manager at Kasper Buick GMC, is now working to prevent other families from having to experience this hardship—first as an American Red Cross volunteer and soon as a board member with the Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter.

 

On a Saturday in late April, Rob, his wife Cali, their 11-year-old son Zach and Rob’s sister Tricia Costanzo went door to door in Sandusky installing smoke alarms as volunteers during a Sound the Alarm event. That day, 129 smoke alarms were installed by two dozen volunteers—ultimately making 63 homes safer.

“My son loved it,” he said. “He was there knocking on all the doors. He and his sister lost two grandparents. It was their first loss . . . so it has been a process for them as well. He’s a good kid who wants to be part of helping.”

Rob stated that his family is now a “Red Cross family.” He explained that he and his wife Cali want “to give to any and every part of the Red Cross” and help in any way they can to bring more awareness to its needs.

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Rob’s wife Cali installs a smoke alarm in a home in Sandusky

“Rob informed me that he was incredibly touched by our Red Cross volunteers that night his family’s home caught fire,” said Lara Kiefer, executive director of the Red Cross Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter. “He never realized what the local Red Cross does in our communities every day and said he will forever be a Red Cross volunteer. I look forward to having Rob on our board and helping us advance our mission throughout the communities we serve.”

Rob’s advice:  Every six months, check your smoke alarms and replace them after 10 years. He will be vigilantly reaching out to friends and family and advocating on this issue as a family. He believes if he can help people be more secure or protect their homes, it will help him rest more easily at night.

“People don’t realize how important it is,” he explained. “It takes a few minutes of your life to check. It’s a few minutes you may never get back. . . . The time it took could have saved three lives.”

The Red Cross’ Sound the Alarm campaign is designed to reduce the number of home fire fatalities each year. To donate so that smoke alarms can be purchased and installed in local communities, visit redcross.org/donate or call 800-HELP NOW (800-435-7669).

A look back at the 2018 hurricane season

New hurricane season begins as spring storms continue to wreak havoc

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

Hurricane season begins tomorrow, on June 1, and continues through November 30. Last year’s Atlantic hurricane season saw a total of 15 named storms with eight hurricanes. Two of note were Florence and Michael, collectively wreaking $50 billion worth of damage.

Hurricane Florence 2018

Ivanhoe, North Carolina, September 23, 2019. Photo by Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

Florence made landfall in the United States on September 14, as a Category 1 near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. At least five people died in the storm.

Michael was only the fourth time a Category 5 hurricane touched down in this country when it made landfall on October 10 in the Florida panhandle. Fifty-nine deaths were directly or indirectly attributed to Hurricane Michael.

Hurricane Michael video screenshots 2018

Panama City, Florida, October, 2019. Photo by Amy Anderson/American Red Cross

The American Red Cross was there helping residents affected, providing 3,200 disaster

Hurricane Michael 2018

Day 5 after Hurricane Michael made landfall in Florida.  Photo by Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

workers, comprised of nearly 90 percent volunteers. More than 150 of those workers were from Northeast Ohio. Working with partner agencies, the Red Cross served more than 1.93 million meals and snacks. As cleanup began, more than a quarter-million relief items like cleanup kits and shovels were distributed. More than 70 emergency response vehicles were mobilized to deliver food and relief supplies.

Tips during any high wind situation

While Northeast Ohio never takes the brunt of a hurricane, we can get our share of high winds, thunderstorms and tornadoes, as the Dayton area experienced earlier this week. So what are some things to share with family members when preparing for high winds and inevitable power outages?

  • Never go near downed power lines. Report downed lines to the power company and keep people away.
  • Don’t risk a fire using candles – use only flashlights.
  • Keep a charged battery pack (preferably 20,000 mAh or bigger) for recharging cellphones until power returns.
  • Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed to maintain contents for as long as possible. Review these food and water tips during an emergency.
  • Only use portable generators, grills or camp stoves outside the home. Maintain adequate ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide from entering the home. Never refuel a hot generator. Wait for it to cool first.
  • Be sure to check on relatives, neighbors and friends, especially those with disabilities, accessibility and functional needs.

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What to do right now

Before power goes out, download these Red Cross apps for your cellphone:

Emergency – This all-inclusive app lets you monitor more than 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts.

First Aid – Get instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies.

Monster Guard – For kids aged 7-11. This app teaches preparedness for real-life emergencies at home with the help of Maya, Chad, Olivia and all the monsters.

 

 

From Northeast to Southwest: American Red Cross is Ohio-strong

NEO volunteers assisting residents affected by downstate tornadoes

More help from Northeast Ohio is on the way to tornado stricken Dayton and the surrounding area.  An Emergency Response Vehicle, which is stationed in Cleveland, will be deployed with a two-person crew to help provide meals and emergency supplies to residents affected by Monday night’s storms.

More than 130 Ohioans spent the night in 6 shelters last night.  They were among nearly 500 people who took refuge in more than 30 Red Cross and Community shelters in several states that have been hit hard by bad weather this week.

Red Cross volunteers Pam Williams and Monica Bunner working in Dayton

In addition to the ERV and its crew, six other disaster workers from Northeast Ohio are assigned to the relief operation, and are already in Dayton, fulfilling various roles – from mass care to government operations to reunification.

“Basically we help families reunite,” said Monica Bunner, a disaster volunteer from Medina. “Say someone is missing as a result of the disaster and could be in a shelter. The Safe & Well site allows one to register and send messages to loved ones to let them know they are OK.”

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                                           Photo credit:  Todd James/American Red Cross

Prepare in Advance

More spring storms are in the forecast this week for a vast swath of the country.  You can prepare for violent weather in the following ways:

Educate your family on how to use the Safe and Well website.

Assemble an emergency preparedness kit, which includes a battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio). For a detailed list of supplies to include, see updated Be Red Cross Ready Checklist.

Create a household emergency plan that includes your pets.

Stay informed about your community’s risk and response plans.

Download the Emergency App for iPhone or for Android.

Remember, if you or a member of your household is an individual with access or functional needs, including a disability, consider developing a comprehensive evacuation plan in advance with family, care providers and care attendants, as appropriate.

Complete a personal assessment of functional abilities and possible needs during and after an emergency or disaster situation, and create a personal support network to assist.

Many kind-hearted people have offered to help, driven by the compassion that is typical of Northeast Ohioans.  While the Red Cross does not accept donations of items, we do encourage financial support. It is the quickest and best way to get help to the people who need it most, by allowing us to be flexible in the help we deliver.  Financial donations can be accessed quickly, and can ensure that we can provide the residents affected by the tornadoes what they need most.

You can donate to American Red Cross disaster relief by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS, or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Sound the Alarm was a ringing success

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

May 24, 2019- Sound the Alarm 2019 wrapped up in Northeast Ohio on May 12. With a total of 21 events over a two-week period, more than 1,500 homes were made safer by the installation of 3,743 smoke alarms.

After responding to dozens of fires as an American Red Cross Disaster Action Team member, it’s always sad to see a family lose all their possessions; but far more heart-wrenching is when a family member is hurt or a pet dies. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of a minute or two that makes the difference in who survives and who doesn’t. Sound the Alarm’s purpose is to make sure the number of home fire fatalities is significantly reduced each year.

First-hand experience

David Leatherwood, who still carries the scars of being in a home fire when he was younger, was appreciative when approached by volunteers in Lorain during the Sound the Alarm event. “It makes me feel so much better knowing that my whole house is now protected by smoke alarms,” said David. Volunteers from Ford Motor Lorain plant installed new alarms, replacing his old ones that were already more than 10 years old.

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Volunteers Stephanie Pinskey (L) and Dionna Seplight (C) discuss the importance of replacing smoke alarms every 10 years with homeowner David Leatherwood (R).

Stephanie Pinskey, one of the Ford volunteers commented, “I can’t believe the power of the Red Cross brand. Not one of the people we met today ever hesitated about letting us come in to install alarms in their homes. With all the mistrust of strangers these days, this was heartwarming to know people really trust Red Cross and their volunteers.”

By the numbers

Begun in 2014, the Home Fire Campaign can already count 582 lives nationally that have been saved, thanks to smoke alarms installed by Red Cross volunteers. In that time:

  • More than 709,000 households have been made safer
  • More than 1,700,000 smoke alarms have been installed
  • 1,300,000 youth have been educated through the campaign

Not just a two-week event

Installing smoke alarms for those who need them is a year-round activity for Red Cross. In Northeast Ohio, anyone who needs alarms installed can visit SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO and be placed on a list for free installations. Cleveland, where the smoke alarm program began, has been making homeowners safer since 1992, when businessman Sam Miller partnered with Red Cross and the Cleveland Fire Department to lower the number of fire fatalities each year. This year marked the milestone of the 200,000th alarm to be installed in Cleveland.

In addition, fire prevention safety education has helped make sure that people know that they only have two minutes to safely leave their home in case of fire and that their children need to know what to do in case an alarm sounds. Families are encouraged to plan two escape routes from each room and to practice their escape drills twice a year.

Even though this year’s Sound the Alarm has wrapped up, Red Cross still accepts donations for additional alarms to be purchased and installed throughout the year. To donate, visit redcross.org/donate or call 800-HELP NOW (800-435-7669).

Catch the excitement of this year’s events by viewing photos on our Flickr page.

See photos from our Cleveland-West Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Youngstown Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Sandusky Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Ravenna sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Parma sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Sound the Alarm kick-off news conference here.

See photos from our Carrollton Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Ashland Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Mansfield Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Slavic Village Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Medina Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Norwalk Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Akron 5/7 Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Akron 5/9 Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Lorain Sound the Alarm event here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer.

Photos provided by Cal Pusateri, Doug Bardwell, Eric Alves, Jim McIntyre and Karen Conklin – American Red Cross.

Sound the Alarm campaign ends

But smoke alarm installations will continue all year long

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

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Volunteers and partners in Bedford Heights

May 13, 2019 –  As the national Sound the Alarm campaign came to a close this weekend, the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio held the final three installation events in Bedford Heights, Warren and West Salem, Ohio on May 11. Volunteers and partners installed free smoke alarms and shared vital fire safety information with residents.

In Bedford Heights, the Red Cross and its volunteer partners installed 224 smoke alarms and made 91 homes safer.

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Sue Richter (right) speaks with Northeast Ohio CEO Mike Parks

Among those helping make homes and neighborhoods safer was Sue Richter, the Crossroads Division Vice President. One of the residence Sue visited was the home of Dorothea Drake.

As smoke alarms were being installed, Dorothea spoke with Sue, telling her how she was personally affected by a fire at six years of age.

“It was a small fire, a grease fire in the kitchen.  But I got left in the house alone,” Dorothea recalled. “The door was locked and I couldn’t get out.  Everyone else thought I was with them.”

Dorothea wasn’t hurt, but the memory has stayed with her. That’s why she said she was grateful to the Red Cross for installing smoke alarms and making her current home safer.

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From left: Virginia Hexter, Jim Cutler, Zachary Cutler, Melissa Cutler, Brady Cutler, John Hexter

Also helping with the Sound the Alarm effort, three generations of the Hexter family.  John Hexter, his daughter Melissa and her three children went door-to-door, installing smoke alarms and helping residents create escape plans. Melissa and her family live in the Washington, D.C. area. When she learned that Sound the Alarm would coincide with a planned visit to Northeast Ohio, she jumped at the chance to take part.

“My dad (John Hexter) has always been big into volunteering. It’s something he instilled in me, and I’m trying to pass the legacy onto my children.”

Sound the Alarm is a two-week national initiative. It’s part of the Home Fire Campaign, which the Red Cross launched in 2014 to reduce fire deaths and injuries.

During the two-week campaign, across the region, the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio installed 3,743 smoke alarms in more than 1,500 homes according to preliminary numbers, far exceeding the region’s goal.

Protecting homes from fires is not just a two-week commitment by the Red Cross. As part of the Home Fire Campaign, the Red Cross installs free smoke alarms all year. To learn more about the program and to request a smoke alarm installation, visit SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO.

To view photos from the Bedford Heights installation event, click here to view our Flickr album.

Recognizing global humanitarian efforts on World Red Cross Day

By Ifat Gazia, American Red Cross volunteer

Did you know the World Red Cross has 11.7 million volunteers? These volunteers help Indonesia Earthquake 2018millions of people experiencing crises and disasters around  the globe. The American Red Cross is part of the world’s largest volunteer network, extending across 187 countries.

Part of this dynamic volunteer network are the Red Cross Red Crescent teams that provide relief and hope in nearly every corner of the globe. On May 8 every year, we celebrate World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day to appreciate these dedicated organizations and the powerful changes they bring to the communities they serve.

They respond to not only earthquakes, conflict and war emergencies, droughts, floods, hurricanes or health epidemics, but they provide necessary guidance, help and training to the communities, preparing them for the future. All the work done by the staff and volunteers of Red Cross and Red Crescent is done without discrimination. Their work is not just to ensure children receive necessary vaccinations but also to elevate communities from problems that arise due to conditions of prolonged poverty.

Bangladesh Trip 2018With a strong principle of promoting International Humanitarian Law, the national societies that work under the umbrella of the global Red Cross assist some 284 million people every year. The tasks they carry out depend upon the rules and regulations of that particular country. Therefore, their work is driven by local needs.  For example, the American Red Cross provides nearly half of the nation’s blood supply. The Palestine Red Crescent Society and Mexican Red Cross operate hospitals and ambulances. The Norwegian and Italian Red Cross conduct search and rescue operations. The Kenyan, Russian and Vietnam Red Cross provide care and support to people living with HIV/AIDS.

Beyond providing relief and rehabilitation, they even help reconnect families separated by disasters and conflict with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

To harness the power of emotion felt toward this humanitarian movement, we are asking: What do you #love about Red Cross and Red Crescent?  To help celebrate and continue the important work of World Red Cross organizations like the Red Cross and Red Crescent, contribute in whichever manner you can. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the American Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. Everything the organization does is to help meet the needs of the people that it serves. To donate, click here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Still “Sounding the Alarm” to make communities safer and save lives

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

May 6, 2019- The Sound the Alarm campaign continued in Northeast Ohio during the2019 STA Mansfield week of April 29 to May 4, with installation events in North Ridgeville, Carrollton, Ashland, Ashtabula, Massillon, Slavic Village (Cleveland), Medina and Mansfield.

Sound the Alarm is a two-week national initiative.  It’s part of the Home Fire Campaign, which the Red Cross launched in 2014 to reduce fire deaths and injuries.

Last week, the Red Cross installed 998 smoke alarms and made 456 homes safer. Since April 23, the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio has installed 2,024 smoke alarms and made 884 homes safer.

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The goal in Northeast Ohio is to install 3,000 alarms by May 11. It is part of the national goal to install 100,000 smoke alarms.

The early success of Sound the Alarm is made possible thanks to volunteers and generous partners, such as Third Federal, who lend a helping hand with installing smoke alarms in Slavic Village.

“Third Federal is a family organization. It is always important to keep family safe.  It not only helps our Third Federal family, but also keeps our local community safe,” exclaimed Sharon Rose, human resources specialist.

Volunteers Dennis Castiglione of the Wenk Family Foundation, and Tanner Ferko and Sarah Haynes of ArcelorMittal helped install two alarms in the home of Laura Kosto.

“This is great. It’s really good for the community,” the Slavic Village resident said. “I don’t have a job any more and that’s a horrible feeling. To know that you can get help like this is really wonderful.”

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Sound the Alarm continues until May 11 for the final week of the national campaign. Volunteer opportunities still exist for the remaining installation events throughout Northeast Ohio. Visit SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO to find an event near you.

See photos from our North Ridgeville Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Carrollton Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Ashland Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Mansfield Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Slavic Village Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Medina Sound the Alarm event here.