Smoke Alarm Project Saves Lives and Money

David Larrick points to one of the new smoke detectors installed in their home as he and Rachel hold the packet of fire safety information provided by the American Red Cross.

David Larrick points to one of the new smoke detectors installed in their home as he and Rachel hold the packet of fire safety information provided by the American Red Cross.

Written by: Weysan Dun

(Omaha, Nebraska; March 5, 2015)

David and Rachael Larrick knew they needed new smoke alarms in their home after recently testing their old ones and discovering they were not working. David said he regularly tests his smoke detectors because they have a young daughter and they are concerned about fire safety for their family. He had been looking at and pricing smoke detectors and was planning to buy some on the over the weekend of  February 21st and 22nd.  In addition to getting new smoke detectors, David wanted to upgrade to ones with carbon monoxide detection capability but found that they were “pretty pricey” as he looked around at various options.

Rachel was talking with her mother about buying the smoke detectors when her mother told there was a recent TV news story about the American Red Cross , First Responders Foundation and Omaha Fire Department’s plans to conduct a fire safety canvass in their neighborhood on Saturday, February 21st. David and Rachel hoped their home would be included in the canvass and decided to wait see, before going out and buying new smoke detectors that weekend.

They were rewarded for that decision late Saturday morning when a team of well-trained Red Cross volunteers and Omaha Firefighters knocked on their door and asked if they had working smoke detectors in their home and offered to replace their old, non-working detectors.  In addition to installing two, state-of-the art smoke detectors with built-in carbon monoxide detection capability and a 10-year battery, the Red Cross volunteers helped them draft a fire escape plan and gave them fire safety information.

Rachel said the visit from the Red Cross and Omaha Firefighters was “quite a blessing” because they could now use the money they had planned on spending for smoke detectors for necessities for their daughter, adding that “every little bit helps.” Rachel continued to say, “it’s pretty cool that the Red Cross provides this service to the community because so many people can’t afford to buy new smoke detectors or don’t know the proper way to install them.”

Help Families Prepare. Install Smoke Alarms.

Smoke AlarmsjpgSmoke detectors save lives.

The American Red Cross has set a goal to reduce the total number of home fire deaths and injuries by up to 25 percent within five years. Your donation can support the work of Red Cross volunteers and partners who canvass communities to install smoke detectors for those that need them.

The cost to install 2 smoke detectors is $30.  Your donation can help us install smoke detectors for families who need them.

Sign up to fundraise as an individual or by starting a team. Set your own goal to help the Red Cross install smoke detectors for those who need them in your neighborhood and across the country. Your symbolic gift will help those affected by disasters like a home fire.

Fire takes. Help Give Back.

GWFT_FacebookCoverPhotoFire takes. Fire takes security. Fire takes a lifetime of cherished moments. Fire takes without regard to race, income, or social stature. When a home fire happens, it can take everything.
While the American Red Cross can’t begin to replace all the intangible things that make a house a home, the Red Cross can begin to provide some useful items that offer immediate care and comfort to those in need.

We need your help! Become a fundraiser for the Red Cross and help us provide care and comfort to people in our community and around the country. The dollars you raise could help us install smoke alarms, provide blankets, clothes and shoes or financial assistance for families. Your symbolic gift will help those affected by disasters like home fires. Sign up to fundraise as an individual or a team with our Give What Fire Takes Campaign on CrowdRise today!

Home Fire Preparedness Campaign Kicks Off in Crete

Home Smoke Alarm Briefing

On Saturday, November 8th, nearly a dozen Crete High School students donned a Red Cross Disaster vest before pounding the pavement in their community. The goal, to install lifesaving smoke alarms in the community of nearly 6,900 people. “I’m here to make a difference in my town,” said 17 year-old Barbara Ortiz.

Smoke Alarms

The piercing sound of smoke alarms could be heard radiating through the fall air as teams of Red Crossers knocked on doors to talk about home fire safety and make sure residents have a working smoke alarms.

The Red Cross is making sure working smoke alarms are in homes because of this heartbreaking statistic – seven times a day someone in this country dies in a fire. The Red Cross Home Fire Preparedness campaign is designed to reduce deaths and injuries from home fires by as much as 25 percent over the next five years. The initiative focuses on joining fire departments and community groups nationwide to install smoke alarms in communities with high numbers of fires and encouraging everyone to practice their fire escape plans.

“Installing smoke alarms cuts the risk of someone dying from a home fire in half, so we’re joining with  groups from across our community to install smoke alarms,” said Jill Orton, Region Executive. “We also will be teaching people how to be safe from home fire.”

Installing smoke alarm

The Red Cross also is asking every household in America to take the two simple steps that can save lives: checking their existing smoke alarms and practicing fire drills at home.

For Ortiz, knowing how to evacuate during a fire hits home, just last year her family escaped their burning house. “I had a space heater too close to the curtains. They caught fire in my bedroom,” said Ortiz.

The teen recalled yelling for help to put the flames out, but the fire spread too fast. A team of Red Cross disaster responders answered the family’s call for help and provided assistance with basic needs. Things like food, clothing, and a safe place for them to stay.

Barbara Ortiz

Barbara Ortiz on right creates an escape plan with Andrew Francis.

Barbara spent time with each homeowner drawing a map of their home and walking them through an evacuation plan. “I want to make sure people know how to get out if a fire  happens to them.”

In all, 40 Red Cross volunteers visited 250 homes. With the support of Fire Chief Tod Allen and the Crete Volunteer Firefighters, 85 lifesaving smoke alarms were installed in homes.

The Red Cross responds to nearly 70,000 disasters each year in the United States and the vast majority of those are home fires. You can help people affected by disasters like home fires and countless other crises by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

The American Red Cross – Providing Comfort, Care and Assistance to Families after an Apartment Fire

Written by: Weysan Dun
(Lincoln, Nebraska, October 26, 2014)

The American Red Cross responded in early morning hours of Sunday, October 26, 2014 to provide assistance, comfort and shelter when a fire caused serious damage to an apartment building at 1615 Garfield Street, in Lincoln, Nebraska. The fire resulted in the closure of the entire multi-unit apartment building. A team of well-trained Red Cross workers responded to the fire scene and then set up a shelter at the Red Cross facility in Lincoln to provide a safe and comfortable place to spend the night for three families who were affected by the fire and had no place else to stay.

The Red Cross provided more than just shelter for those affected by the fire. Red Cross workers assisted the apartment building tenants with contacting their landlord and setting up a meeting so they could get details about returning to their homes. When the Red Cross was unable to contact a number of the tenants in the affected building, Red Cross staff posted a notice on the door of the sealed building to let affected tenants know a shelter had been opened and provide a Red Cross contact person who furnish assistance. People staying at the Red Cross shelter were provided meals, toiletry kits and other assistance for their immediate needs, as well as comfort and encouragement during a stressful time.

Robert Rice and Nancy Towns were one of the families who sought refuge at the Red Cross Shelter after the fire. Robert said he and Nancy were both asleep when Robert’s son woke them in the middle of the night, telling there was a fire in the adjacent apartment. They heard lots of noise and could see the flames in the apartment next to theirs as soon as they stepped into the hallway outside their apartment so they had to flee the building with no time grab any possessions or clothing. Having no place else to stay, they were very grateful for the availability of the Red Cross shelter and for the assistance in coordinating with their landlord.

Meet Jill Orton, Region Executive

Jill Orton, Region Executive

The American Red Cross Nebraska/SW Iowa Region is excited to welcome Jill Orton as the new Region Executive. Jill is a Nebraska native with a long standing Red Cross career. She has served as Executive for the Loess Hills Chapter in Council Bluffs, IA from January 2010 until August 2013. Jill came to her first paid Red Cross position in 2000 as part of the Health & Safety staff for the Heartland (Omaha, NE) Chapter and became Director of Health & Safety in 2006, prior to that, Jill started as a volunteer in Hastings, NE.

“I’m excited to be now leading a great group of volunteers and staff in the best region of Red Cross,” said Jill Orton, Region Executive. “The Midwest is my home and Red Cross is one of my loves. I’m proud to serve them both.”

Jill is currently a participant in the Red Cross Leadership, Education and Development (LEAD) program. In 2014, Jill accepted the Mount Marty College Alumni Service to Church and Community Award; was elected President for the Council Bluffs Noon Rotary Club, and President for Pottawattamie County Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD). She serves as the Lakin Legacy Family Campus Board President, and has sat on the local organizing committee for the USA Olympic Swimming Trials. Jill is an alumnus of the Institute of Career Advancement Needs (ICAN), Influence Defining Leadership for Women, Leadership Council Bluffs Class XXIII, and the Non-profit Association of the Midlands Executive Institute. She earned the Nebraska/SW Iowa Red Cross Region Employee of the Year award in 2012, and in 2004, she accepted the prestigious The Ector Thyfault Health & Safety Services Award. Jill is a graduate of Mount Mary College in Yankton, South Dakota, with a double major in Chemistry and Biology.

As Job Director this past year during the southeast Nebraska Tornado outbreak, Mother’s Day tornado outbreak, and Pilger Northeast Nebraska tornado storm, her leadership assisted the Red Cross to deliver food, clothing, shelter, comfort and care. In addition to answering the call for help in Nebraska, Jill has served on disasters including Superstorm Sandy, Thurman Tornado, and Missouri River Floods.

Jill and her husband, Doug, have two children, Zach (15), Jamie (12) and their rescued kitties, Ziggy and Smokey.

Wakefield, Nebraska Family Finds Comfort with Red Cross Following Tornado












Written by: Liz Dorland, Communications Manager


Jerez Family Sifts Through Home

Through scattered debris in farm fields and piles of rubble, the Jerez family searched for familiar pieces of their home, a place torn apart by a massive tornado on June 16, 2014.

“When I came home, there was nothing left. I was sick,” said Clarita Roblero.

With no where to go, Clarita, her husband Carlos and their two children came to the American Red Cross emergency shelter in Wakefield, which is where I met them. At the safe shelter, the family of four joined 23 others who were also displaced and needed a safe place to sleep, a warm meal, comfort and compassion from Red Cross disaster workers.

“We feel good being in a Red Cross shelter because we don’t have any family or friends here,” said Carlos Jerez.
Jerez Family in Wakefield Shelter
Side-by-side with new-found friend and Red Cross Shelter Manager Martha Connot, the Jerez family told me they’re lucky no one was home when the tornado hit because they’re certain they would not have survived. Carlos works in Sioux City and that Monday morning, he and Clarita decided 10 year old Andie and 6 year old Reggie would also go to Sioux City for the day because Clarita had to work.

Clarita worked at the Luna Cafe in Wakefield. Even though Wakefield is only about an hour away from the Village of Pilger, Clarita said she could see the tornado rapidly close-in on the sleepy northeast Nebraska town.

“I saw the black sky, it was swirling and I saw the debris falling from the sky,” she recalled.

Clarita along with her eight Luna Cafe co-workers got into the basement moments before the tornado ripped through the building. “When I came outside, debris was still flying. I had no idea what my home looked like.”

Clarita finds a picture

Sadly, like many houses and farms in rural Wakefield, the  monstrous tornado shredded their home. The Jerez Family took  me to where their house once stood and I decided to walk the fields  with Carlos, both of us were on a  mission to find pieces of their  home that now lay in miles of farmland. Carlos told me he and his  wife came to the United States 12 years ago with nothing. They  settled in Wakefield where they both had good jobs and started t  their family. As he finished sharing their story, I watched him look  the ground and his eyes fill with tears as he realized again he would  need to start over.


I offered Carlos comfort with a hug and reminded him the Red Cross is here to help them get back on their feet.  He nodded and said, “I know. I’m grateful for the support. The Red Cross has helped us with food, clothing and given us a place to stay until we move into our new home.”