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).

Sam Miller’s generosity touched many lives in Cleveland and across the country

Fatal fires in Cleveland prompted beloved philanthropist to start free smoke alarm program

By Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross

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Red Cross file photo

March 8, 2019 – Something had to be done.

That was the sentiment in 1992, when 28 people died in home fires in the city of Cleveland.  Half of the victims were children.

Sam Miller did that “something.”  Angered by the deaths, especially the loss of children, he partnered with the city of Cleveland and the American Red Cross to help establish an initiative to install smoke alarms in homes throughout the city.  It was called “Operation Save-A-Life,” and the effort had the desired effect; fire fatalities in the city of Cleveland plummeted.

Mr. Miller died on March 7.  He was 97 years old.

“The Northeast Ohio Community has lost an icon of caring, compassion and concern for his fellow man and his community,” said Tim O’Toole, Regional Disaster officer for the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio, and a former Assistant Fire Chief for the city of Cleveland. “Sam Miller was involved in many public safety initiatives over the years, but none more impactful than the Operation-Save-A-Life program he founded here in 1992.  This program has improved the safety of tens of thousands of residents in Northeast Ohio, and is now the model for the National Red Cross Home Fire Campaign.”

Since 2014, when the Red Cross started its Home Fire Campaign by installing smoke alarms, replacing batteries, and helping create home fire escape plans in homes across the country, more than 520 lives have been saved due directly to the efforts of Red Cross volunteers and partners.

“We are grateful for the passion Sam Miller had for saving the lives of the most vulnerable people in the city of Cleveland,” said Mike Parks, Regional CEO of the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio.  “That passion led to the effort that the American Red Cross continues to this day, and will no doubt save more lives in the future. Sam Miller’s contributions to the Red Cross will be felt for many years to come.”

This spring, the Red Cross will launch Sound the Alarm, a nationwide initiative to save lives by installing 100,000 smoke alarms in homes throughout the country from April 27 through May 12.

Sam Miller continued to support the Red Cross for years.  He served on the Board of Directors of the Greater Cleveland Chapter beginning in 1998, providing valued leadership and donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Red Cross’ lifesaving mission.  Following his tenure on the board, he was named Co-Chairman Emeritus.

“The impact of Mr. Miller’s initial donation for the residents of the city of Cleveland is now being felt nationwide by hundreds of thousands of people,” said Tim O’Toole.  “While his passing is a significant loss, it is outmatched by his legacy of community spirit that will live on for decades.”

To volunteer to install smoke alarms during Sound the Alarm this spring, visit soundthealarm.org/neo.

 

 

Beyond national hurricane relief efforts, the Red Cross continues to respond to local disasters in Northeast Ohio

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

IMG_2066Currently, the most visible work of the American Red Cross is its response to assist in the relief efforts in the Southeast United States following Hurricanes Florence and Michael. However, even with 23 disaster relief workers deployed from this region to assist with the hurricanes, the Red Cross continues to respond to disasters here in Northeast Ohio.

The Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross, which serves 22 counties and 4.5 million dunham ave 2 residents, has continued to be very active responding to calls across local communities. This past weekend, disaster relief workers responded to eight calls from home fires to storm damage in Canton, Cleveland, Fairlawn, Lorain, Sandusky, Sheffield Lake, South Euclid and Willard. They assisted 23 adults and 10 children and provided nearly $8,700 in aid.

IMG_4123The Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross is prepared 24 hours per day and seven days a week to prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. If you are interested in making an impact in local communities, the Red Cross is always looking for volunteers. We can provide support to our communities thanks to the work of our tremendous volunteers, which make up 90 percent of our workforce. To volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer or contact our Volunteer Services Department directly at 216-431-3328 or NEOvolunteer@redcross.orgIMG_1758

We also rely on the generosity of Northeast Ohio residents to continue to offer disaster relief. If you would like to provide a monetary donation, visit redcross.org/donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

EY Interns Help Make Dozens of Homes Safer

It was hot.  It was Friday the 13th.  But it didn’t stop more than 40 interns from Ernst and Young in Cleveland from making dozens of homes in the city safer, by installing smoke alarms and offering residents fire safety information.

They were helping the American Red Cross by taking part in a Sound the Alarm home fire safety and smoke alarm installation event.

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EY intern Nigel Williams of Marquette University installs a smoke alarm.

“When I learned about Sound the Alarm, and how the Red Cross makes so many homes safer by installing smoke alarms, I knew it would be a worthwhile project for our interns,” said Nick McCauley, Senior Manager, Assurance at EY and  a member of the board of directors for the Greater Cleveland chapter of the Red Cross.  “They loved being able to make a difference in so many people’s lives.”

The interns study at schools near, like Kent State University, and far, like Marquette University in Milwaukee.  They are working this summer at the EY office in downtown Cleveland.  But on Friday, July 13, 2018, they left the office and entered 77 homes in an east side neighborhood,  installing a total of 185 smoke alarms.

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EY Interns Nadia Dansani of Kent State University and Katherine Butler of the University of Cincinnati in the home of Danita Beamon Battle of Cleveland.

If you have an interest in helping make homes safer in vulnerable communities, become a Red Cross volunteer.  If you need smoke alarms in your home, visit soundthealarm.org/neo. To view more photos from the EY Sound the Alarm event, visit our photo album here.

Sound the Alarm on Home Fires

National, Local Effort to Prevent Fire Fatalities Gets  Underway This Week

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

Every day, seven people are killed from home fires. It’s a staggering statistic, but true. If their homes had smoke alarms installed, who knows how many of those lives could have been saved? Watch this video.

Not content to accept this statistic, the American Red Cross is determined to reduce the number of injuries and deaths by at least 25 percent by the year 2020. From April 28 through May 13, smoke alarms will be installed in 100 at-risk communities across the United States.

In Northeast Ohio, the Red Cross is partnering with local fire departments and corporate partners to install smoke alarms in homes that have none or have older ones that need to be replaced. If a smoke alarm is more than 10-years old, it needs to be replaced. The portion of the detector that senses the smoke can lose its ability to function properly after 10 years.

Teams of volunteers, both Red Cross members and other members of the community will be visiting areas throughout the country, and will be installing these smoke alarms at no cost to the homeowners. Locally, smoke alarms will be installed in communities in Cleveland and Akron.  Visit soundthealarm.org/neo for the dates of our home fire safety and smoke alarm installation events.Sound_the_Alarm_2018-04-23 (002)

Volunteers – both trained and untrained – are still needed for a variety of tasks. If you can’t help on the installation dates, additional volunteers are needed before the event. People will be canvassing the neighborhoods and leaving flyers announcing the event, along with fire safety information. If you can walk, you’ve got the skills necessary.

 

On the day of the event, people with tool skills will do the actual installations, but other people are needed to provide safety information, to document the installations and to explain fire evacuation facts to the homeowners.

There’s something everyone can do, and you could be the next person who directly or indirectly saves someone’s life that is presently without smoke alarms. Visit us online to sign up for one of the volunteer opportunities.  Consider bringing family and friends to help as well.

Overconfident and Underprepared

New Red Cross Survey Shows Many Americans Mistaken About Home Fire Safety

According to a new survey by the American Red Cross, many people overestimate their ability to react to a home fire and miss critical steps to keep their loved ones safe.

In fact, 40 percent of people believe they are more likely to win the lottery or get struck by lightning than experience a home fire. Yet, home fires are the most common disaster people face in this country – the majority of the nearly 64,000 disasters the Red Cross responds to every year.

“Every day seven people in this country die in a home fire and another 36 people are hurt,” reports Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern. “To address this crisis, we’re bringing together thousands of community partners and volunteers to Sound the Alarm about home fire safety and help save lives. We’ve already installed more than 1.1 million smoke alarms, but our work will continue across the country, because many families are still underprepared when it comes to home fire safety.”

This spring, the Red Cross will Sound the Alarm through a series of home fire safety and smoke alarm installation events in more than 100 high-risk communities in the United States, including Cleveland and Akron. In just 16 days – from April 28 to May 13 – volunteers and partners will install 100,000 free smoke alarms across the country. Volunteers are needed, learn more by visiting SoundTheAlarm.org/neo.

MANY PEOPLE MISTAKEN ABOUT HOME FIRE FACTS

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The Red Cross survey found that many Americans have a false sense of security about their family’s ability to escape a home fire. More than three-fourths (80 percent) of people surveyed believe everyone in their household knows what to do when a smoke alarm goes off. But less than half of those surveyed have a home fire escape plan in place. And only half of the families that do have a plan have actually practiced it.

Home fire experts say that people have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home. However, the survey showed nearly 60 percent of people mistakenly believe they have much more time than is realistic.

MORE SURVEY RESULTS Even though many Americans admit to actions that could contribute to a home fire, only one out of four (27 percent) think that they are likely to experience a home fire in their lifetime. For example, about 40 percent of people have forgotten to turn off a stove or oven, even though cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries. And, more than one-third (34 percent) of people have used a stove, kerosene lantern or space heater to warm their home. The fact is that heating equipment is involved in one of every five home fire deaths.

The survey does show that some progress is being made. More people are replacing batteries (a 9 percent increase vs. 2015) and testing to make sure their smoke alarms are working (an 11 percent increase vs. 2015). But there is still have a long way to go to make sure everyone is prepared for home fires.

Americans overwhelmingly believe that smoke alarms can save lives, yet one out of ten (12 percent) people have had to give up buying other essentials for their families to purchase one. These findings highlight just how critical the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign is in communities across the country. Launched in 2014 to save lives and help end home fire tragedies, the Red Cross and its partners have already installed more than 1.1 million free smoke alarms and reached 1 million children through preparedness programs. These efforts are already credited with helping to save 381 lives. Learn more.

This work is made possible thanks to generous financial donations from national partners: Almost Family, Delta Air Lines and International Paper. The Red Cross has also received funding from FEMA through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program.

Join the Red Cross today by volunteering to install smoke alarms in your community, making a financial contribution, or taking steps to protect your own family from home fires. Together, we can Sound the Alarm about fire safety and help save lives. Learn more at soundthealarm.org/neo.

Supplemental Information about Survey Methodology

The national public opinion survey was conducted for the Red Cross in August 2017 using the research firm Issues & Answers. The study was conducted among a national sample of 604 American adults. The total sample is balanced to be representative of the US adult population in terms of age, sex, geographic region, race and education. The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 4 percent.

Work of Her Hands Comes from Her Heart

Volunteer Caseworker Also Crochets for Victims of Disaster

By Jim McIntyre/American Red Cross

“I don’t knit.  I crochet.”

Stephanie Farley, a retired school teacher and long-time Red Cross volunteer, says she found a bag of yarn in her closet several years ago and started stitching.

“I couldn’t remember why I bought it, what I was going to make with it, and I had a hat pattern, so I made a hat.”

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Since then, Stephanie has stitched an untold number of hats that have been given to residents in Northeast Ohio who experience disasters like home fires.  Each time Stephanie brings a new batch of hand-stitched hats, they are distributed by Disaster Action Team members who respond to home fires.

“The first hat anyone took was bright red,” Stephanie said. “He was so excited, he was waving it around.”

Stephanie says she also received a thank you note from the recipient of one of her hats.

She’ll be crocheting for the foreseeable future, after making a request for yarn on the website nextdoor.com, a private social network for neighbors.  “I got tons of yarn.  I’m good for a year or two.”

 

You don’t have to knit, or crochet to volunteer for the Red Cross.  Your heart just has to be in the same place as Stephanie’s.  Visit redcross.org/neo and click “Volunteer” to explore the many ways you, too, can help others.