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What kind of resources are available to the victims of house fires?

Si Cantwell

Red Cross volunteers comfort a house fire victim. Photo courtesy of the American Red Cross.


Q. As I write this, a good friend of mine is watching the last of the flames go out in a fire that just claimed her house. Everyone got out fine, but they are left with basically nothing but they clothes they put on this morning. What kind of resources are available to help someone like this? There are many needs in the family. My friend is caring for her mother who has Alzheimer’s. Her husband has battled throat cancer twice and is now battling Parkinson’s. She is raising her grandson and also has a son living at home. I want to help, and I am trying to do some foot work so that they know what their options are. Thank you!!!

A. We asked Autum Mihm, director of communications for the  American Red Cross, Eastern N.C. Region, to provide an answer for this heart-wrenching question. Here’s her response:

The Red Cross can assist with immediate emergency disaster-caused needs including assistance with temporary lodging, food, clothing, replacement medications or eyewear, comfort kits with hygiene items, and storage containers for belongings. Red Cross mental health volunteers can support fire victims with grief and trauma counseling and referrals to local mental health care providers.

Additional assistance the Red Cross can provide is first month’s rent or security deposit and referrals to partner agencies for household goods, clothes, and other services. The affected resident(s) should call the Red Cross at 910-762-2683.

We also recommend people call 2-1-1 for a list of agencies in the area that can help with individual needs.

In 2013, the Cape Fear Chapter of the American Red Cross responded to 143 home fires and assisted 570 residents with immediate emergency needs including shelter, food, clothing, supplies, referrals, and emotional support. The Red Cross recommends two easy steps to help protect your home and loved ones from a fire: get a smoke alarm and create a fire escape plan.

The biggest disaster threat to American families isn’t floods, hurricanes or tornadoes; it’s fire. Across the country, the American Red Cross responds to a disaster every eight minutes and nearly all of these are home fires. Home fires can strike quickly and without warning, devastating lives and property. But unlike other disasters, most home fires can be prevented.

The Red Cross is committed to giving people the information they need to reduce their risk of home fires, and to helping people recover after a fire happens. At any time of day or night, trained Red Cross volunteers respond to the scene of fires and provide food, shelter, and emotional support to those affected.

Smoke alarms save lives. Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a home fire in half. Place smoke alarms on every level of your home, including bedrooms. Test smoke alarms once a month and replace batteries at least once a year.

Fires can spread quickly and every second counts. Having a plan in place can help you escape, but less than one-fourth of Americans have actually made a plan and practiced it. Home fire plans should include at least two ways to escape from every room of your home. Select a meeting spot at a safe distance from your home where family members can meet after a fire. Discuss the plan with everyone in the household and practice it at least twice a year.

Download the American Red Cross First Aid App to get access to life-saving information on what to do for common, everyday first aid emergencies including burns. The app is available in the Apple App Store and on Google Play for Android. For more information visit www.redcross.org/homefires.

While big, visible floods and hurricanes often bring millions into the Red Cross, we sometimes struggle to pay for smaller disasters like home fires. Every year, the Red Cross spends an average of $300 million preparing for and responding to nearly 70,000 disasters across the county.

You can help people affected by disasters like fires, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters.

Visit www.redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter (Cape Fear Chapter at 1102 South 16th St., Wilmington [Map this], NC 28401) or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.


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User-contributed question by:
Amy Westbrook

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