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.

IMG_7080

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.

IMG_7114

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).

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.

STA Blog

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.

Do you hear it? Sound the Alarm is coming

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

March 18, 2019 – Mark your calendar. It’s coming.

April 27 through May 12 are the dates for the 2019 Sound the Alarm campaign.

STA1

This spring, the American Red Cross needs your help to install 100,000 free smoke alarms and raise funds for lifesaving services in more than 100 cities in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands during Sound the Alarm home fire safety and smoke alarm installation events.

And, to quasi-quote Smokey the Bear, “Only you can help ensure our success.” One day of your time might be the difference that saves a family’s lives.

Every day, seven people die in home fires and the Red Cross wants to do everything we can to prevent these needless tragedies. That’s why we launched our Home Fire Campaign.

STA2

Volunteer participants work alongside fire departments and other local groups, canvassing at-risk neighborhoods to install free smoke alarms, replace batteries in existing alarms, educate families about fire prevention and safety, and fund raise to help sponsor this lifesaving mission.

STA3

It’s a perfect time to grab your family, your friends and your neighbors to come along and do a good deed installing smoke alarms. You needn’t be a Red Cross volunteer or employee to work these events. Instructions, tools and supplies are all provided the day of the event.

Last year, during the inaugural Sound the Alarm event, more than 103,000 smoke alarms were installed in 43,000 homes nationally over a three-week period. There was also an impact locally. In Northeast Ohio, during the same three-week period, 350 volunteers installed 2,500 alarms in more than 900 homes.

To date, there are 511 lives that have been saved because of smoke alarms installed during previous Sound the Alarm events. More than 1.5 million free smoke alarms have been installed to date.

To find upcoming Sound the Alarm installation events and to sign-up to volunteer to an event near you, visit SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO.

Unable to attend?  You can always make a donation that helps educate families and children about home safety. A donation can also provide food, shelter and comfort to those who’ve lost their home to a fire.

Donate today at https://www.redcross.org/donate/home-fire-campaign.html/ or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer.

All photos by Doug Bardwell.

 

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

sam miller

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.

 

 

Northeast Ohio Region weekend disaster response report: December 21-23, 2018

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

Over the weekend, as people across Northeast Ohio were getting last minute tasks done to prepare for the holidays, the American Red Cross was responding to residents suffering from local disasters.

Sound the Alarm - Ohio 2018During the weekend of December 21-23, the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio responded to nine incidents in Cuyahoga, Mahoning, Summit and Wayne Counties. The incidents affected 24 adults, 16 children and resulted in the distribution of more than $8,000 in immediate financial assistance by the Red Cross.

Unfortunately, one of the nine incidents was a home fire in Cuyahoga County, which resulted in the fatality of an adult occupant and critical injuries to a two year old child. While the Red Cross is saddened by this tragedy during a time focused on happiness, the Red Cross will remain in contact with the victim’s family to provide assistance, such as support from disaster mental health workers. Louisiana Floods 2016

The vast majority of local disasters that the Red Cross responds to in Northeast Ohio are home fires. Every 24 hours, the Red Cross responds to three home fires on average. To learn how you can protect your family from home fires and to request a free smoke alarm installation, visit here.

If you would like to provide a financial donation to assist the Red Cross’ efforts to support the residents of Northeast Ohio in their time of need, visit redcross.org/donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Partners at Lincoln Electric, Euclid Fire Department Help Make Homes Safer

Hundreds of smoke alarms installed during the company’s fourth annual effort

Madison Miller was wearing big rubber gloves – pink, her favorite color – as she helped her mommy clean the house, when she heard a knock on the door.  Outside, four workers from Lincoln Electric asked if they could come in and help make her Euclid home safer.  They were volunteering with the American Red Cross on Saturday, August 4th, as part of a Sound the Alarm home fire safety and smoke alarm installation event.

Madison’s mother, LaceJavone Hill was happy to receive the volunteers, who installed a free smoke alarm on each floor of her home.  The volunteers also told Madison and her mom how to create an escape plan.

IMG_6355

Madison Miller, 6 and her mom LaceJavone Hill

“What you’re really doing is providing an opportunity to save someone’s life,” said Chris Mapes, Chairman, President and CEO of Lincoln Electric, as he rallied the troops before they fanned out across the community.  “You probably didn’t think you’d be spending your Saturday afternoon saving lives.  But that’s what this is all about.”

IMG_6326

Chris Mapes speaks with Lincoln Electric volunteers

It was the fourth year in a row that Lincoln Electric employees and interns volunteered to install smoke alarms and provide fire safety information to residents in the community the company calls home.  This year, nearly 70 interns and employees volunteered for the Sound the Alarm event.

“The first year there were 30.  The next, 40.  Last year there were 50 Lincoln Electric volunteers.  Today, 68 of you are here,” said Mike Parks, Regional CEO of the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. “Over the last four years, we’ll have installed well over 1,250 alarms in the city of Euclid, making close to 450 homes safer.  You are not only saving lives, you are making this community become more resilient.”

Before the smoke alarm installations took place, the volunteers gathered in the cafeteria at Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School on Lakeshore Boulevard, where they were fed pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken, barbecued in the parking lot by Euclid Fire Chief Chris Haddock, who expressed his appreciation for the work that was about to take place.

“As the fire department, on a daily basis throughout the year we install smoke alarms,” said the chief.  “But you guys will do more today than we will do all year long.  So you’re really making a difference.”

IMG_6350

Volunteer Justin Grabinski tests the alarm he installed in a Euclid home

By the end of the event, 373 smoke alarms had been installed, making 141 homes safer —including young Madison’s home.  And while the alarms should be tested every month, they are designed to last 10 years without a battery change.

Residents throughout Northeast Ohio can request smoke alarms by visiting soundthealarm.org/neo.  And those interested in helping make homes safer, like the Lincoln Electric employees did last Saturday, can apply to become a Red Cross volunteer by visiting redcross.org/neo, and clicking the volunteer tab.

See our photo album of the Lincoln Electric Sound the Alarm event on Flicker.  The pre-event “pep rally,” featuring the comments of Chris Mapes, Mike Parks, Chief Haddock, Euclid Mayor Kirsten Gail, and Red Cross Regional Disaster Program Officer Tim O’Toole were streamed live on our Facebook page, where it may still be viewed .

 

More NEO Lives Saved After Smoke Alarms Sound

By Eilene Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

2018 Richland Co Day of CaringIII

Volunteers from Mechanics Bank and the Mansfield Police Department with Red Cross workers on Richland County United Way Day of Caring,  August 3, 2018.

MANSFIELD, Ohio – Two Mansfield residents owe their very lives to free smoke alarms from the American Red Cross.

The alarms – installed during the United Way of Richland County Day of Caring on Aug. 4, 2017 – did their job on Feb. 13 this year, when fire broke out in a mobile home and a mother and her daughter were able to escape safely.

“Having working smoke alarms is vital to the safety and security of the residents in a home,” said Lara Kiefer, executive director of the Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter of the Red Cross, which serves Richland and six other northcentral Ohio counties.

“Most people think they have up to 10 minutes to safely escape a home fire, but studies show it’s closer to two minutes,” she said. The vast majority of the disasters the Red Cross responds to are home fires and tragically, seven people die every day in this country from home fire-related injuries.

In 2014, the Red Cross launched the Home Fire Campaign, a nationwide initiative to reduce the number of fire related deaths by 25 percent. Since the start of the program, more than 460 lives have been saved, including 12 in the city of Lorain.

To learn more about the importance of having working smoke alarms on every level of your home, or to ask for a home fire safety inspection and smoke alarm installation, visit soundthealarm.org/neo.

2018 Richland Co Day of CaringI

Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter Executive Director Lara Kiefer and Executive Coordinator Christina Ennis with members of the Madison Township Fire Department

On Friday, August 3rd, Red Cross volunteers and other community partners, including Mechanics Bank, the Mansfield Police Department and the Madison Township Fire Department, joined volunteers from the United Way of Richland County in this year’s Day of Caring, installing smoke alarms and providing fire safety education to Mansfield residents.

“It’s gratifying to know that our partnership with the United Way of Richland County has had such a positive impact in our community,” Keifer said, referring to the lives saved in Mansfield earlier this year.

To learn more about the many volunteer opportunities within the Red Cross – from preventing and responding to disasters (such as home fires) to serving our armed forces to teaching first aid, babysitting or water safety skills – visit redcross.org/neo and click the volunteer tab.