My Experience Volunteering with the Red Cross
By Joana Hecker
When asked if I would like to help the Disaster Action Team (DAT) respond to a home fire my immediate response was yes. I put on my Red Cross t-shirt, grabbed my camera, and 15 minutes later we were on our way to the fire call. That day I learned three vital elements in volunteering with the Red Cross:
- Always be ready to help wherever needed.
- It is of extreme importance to have working smoke alarms inside your home.
- The gratification of helping others during a difficult time is priceless.
I hope by sharing my experience, everyone reading this will check their smoke alarms, make a fire escape plan and consider volunteering to help others in our community.
When we first arrived on scene, the family was waiting. Their house was no longer a home. The floors were covered in water, ashes and soot. The ceiling had extensive damaged and no longer did they have shelter.
It was my first fire call. Although I was there to document and observe – I was able to assist the family by translating their communications to our Red Cross team. I had the pleasure of speaking with the family who survived; I had the opportunity to look at their faces. This family didn’t have working smoke alarms. They had not considered their fire escape plan. The father was not home when the fire started, only his expecting wife and their three-year-old son were inside. Mother and son were able to make it out safely because pedestrians started screaming their home was on fire.
They were skeptical of us. I understood their apprehensions, I too would be cautious if a group of strangers came to me offering help. I understood, they were not expecting anything more than the firemen dousing the flames. The disaster could have been worse.
It was wonderful to see their appreciation for the emergency Red Cross assistance. We provided them with food, shelter, and comfort kits. What I’ll always remember is seeing the little boy open up after we gave him a bag of toys. He turned from this shy little toddler into the happiest kid in the world.