Pizza, volunteering, and newly formed friendships. Sounds like a great day, right? That was the theme of the Home Fire Campaign that the American Red Cross of Ventura County held on January 14th, 2017. Volunteers met early in the morning and divided into teams with different functions such as installers, educators, recorders, and translators. They installed hundreds of smoke alarms in the Oxnard area. Kimberly Coley, the Executive Director of the American Red Cross of Ventura County, explained that the volunteers go through orientation and training onsite. The American Red Cross of Ventura County was able to recruit the owner of Pizza Man Dan, Dan Collier, to donate pizzas to feed the volunteers. Coley stated, “The generous donation from Collier was amazing and greatly appreciated. The message of the American Red Cross is an important one, and we are pleased to hear that our message managed to reach Collier as well.”
When Dan realized the goal of the event he felt compelled to help. Collier described how he became familiar with the American Red Cross, and the lifesaving work that we provide. Collier explained that he found out about the Red Cross after losing his brother in-law to a home fire in New York two months prior. Collier said the fire started while he was asleep, and that his life could have been saved if the smoke alarm in his home had been connected. Collier said when he was approached by the Red Cross to assist with the event he jumped at the opportunity.
“When I heard the goal of yours was to install 400-500 smoke alarms in one day here in Oxnard it was not only great timing, but I wanted to do what I could to help spread awareness to people that were as unfamiliar with the work of the Red Cross as I was. I am impressed with the work that the American Red Cross is doing, and all the volunteers that have dedicated their whole Saturday. The least I can do is provide lunch for them.”
Dan also mentioned that the American Red Cross was the first and the only organization that arrived at the scene of the fire of his brother in law’s home before it was out. He explained that they offered everything they said they would. He praised the program for carrying out the same services in New York as well as in California. The volunteers offered emotional, financial, and other visible support when his family needed it most.
This event turned out to be a huge success. Red Cross volunteers managed to install 518 smoke alarms, educate 676 residents, and create 278 safety plans for families in the event of a disaster.
Collier returned three months later to provide lunch for volunteers and provide vouchers for pizza to families at the Camarillo Home Fire Campaign on April 8, 2017. On this occasion, community volunteers managed to cover 53 homes, install 158 smoke alarms, and educate 212 residents.
Dan Collier may not have heard much about the American Red Cross prior to his family’s unfortunate loss, but he has continued to show his support and help families potentially avoid such an accident. Like many others in the region, Dan may not have heard much about the Red Cross prior to his unfortunate incident, but now that he has experienced the importance of home fire safety first hand, he is committed to making sure no one else must go through the same tragic experience.
On Saturday, March 11, 2017 AmeriCorps Disaster Team member Bushra Zamzami met with 12 volunteers in Cold Springs Rancheria for a Red Cross Month Home Fire Campaign. Bushra set out Saturday morning from our Fresno location to not only install smoke alarms, but to help spread awareness to the Cold Springs Rancheria of Mono Indians of California. The American Red Cross has proudly been working towards an ongoing effort with Indian Country for the past two years to increase preparedness within the communities.
This being the first HFC within Cold Springs Rancheria was an absolute success. The group managed to canvas over 30 homes. More than 20 families were educated on home fire safety, and together 27 lifesaving smoke alarms were installed. While installing the alarms one of the tribal citizen volunteers mentioned that her home had caught fire not too long ago. At the time of the fire she did not have any smoke alarms installed within her home. She was thankful to be a part of something so impactful and helpful. After experiencing firsthand how devastating a fire can be she was excited to help her fellow tribal citizens with installing smoke alarms and helping make sure they had a home fire escape plan.
Bushra wanted to especially thank Team 3 consisting of, Suha, Arlene, and Jennifer. Their team managed to install the most alarms for the day (12), and snagged the notorious “Golden Smoke Alarm Award”. The Red Cross also gifted the tribe 2 tool kits and step ladders to help reduce home fire related injuries and deaths in the area.
Not only was this our first HFC for the area, but it was also an all women group that completed the task. What a way to kick off “Women’s History Month”, Clara Barton herself would be proud. Great job everyone!
The following blog post is written by guest writer Brian Bullock and was originally published by Pacific Gas & Electric Company. The Red Cross is proud to be celebrating a 40-year safety partnership with PG&E.
Like a lot of PG&E employees, Beverly Jones has sat through her share of Safety Minutes prior to meetings where the facilitator assigns someone to phone 9-1-1 in case of an emergency, someone to chase down the closest automatic external defibrillator and then finds someone who is certified in cardio pulmonary resuscitation. Even though she was certified to perform CPR, she admits she was reluctant to volunteer to use it, at least until Oct. 22 when she had to use it to save her husband Michael’s life.
Beverly, who started working at Diablo Canyon Power Plant as a contractor with Pullman Construction 32 years ago and now is an administrative specialist at the Old Santa Fe Road warehouse, was sitting with Michael, whom she met when they were both working in the General Construction Mechanical department over 30 years ago, watching the San Francisco 49ers get soundly thrashed by the Seattle Seahawks when Michael, after several days of not feeling well, went into convulsions and slumped lifelessly onto the couch next to her.
“We thought he had flu symptoms. Started on a Tuesday. He just couldn’t keep any food down,” Beverly said, recalling what led up to her husband’s collapse. “It just seemed like what people have when they get the flu.
“We were starting to watch football and he said I’m feeling a little dizzy. About the third time he said that, he just started convulsing. Sitting on the couch, he just started convulsing and then slumped over. All that fast.”
Just that quickly, Beverly pulled Michael onto the floor of their San Luis Obispo home and started chest compressions to keep him alive. She said she was lucky that she had been recertified in CPR in a class at PG&E’s warehouse organized by coworker Karen Reitzke, a buyer in the company’s supply chain, on Oct. 2. She had taken a similar class to be certified some 20 years earlier at Diablo Canyon.
In the heat of the moment, though, she got confused about exactly what to do. CPR training has changed since she first took the class, going from both chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing, to just solely chest compressions.
“It was kind of weird to me, I remembered I had to do compressions and I knew I needed to breathe, but I forgot to start counting. Then it was like ‘Oh wait, I don’t have to breathe,’” she explained. “I was by myself and so I knew I had to call 911, but I still had to do the compressions. I called 911 and I was trying to hold the phone and trying to do compressions and (the operator) told me to put the phone down but don’t hang up.
“We live maybe a half-mile, if that, from the fire department. So I could hear the sirens coming. So I calmed down and just started the CPR again.”
Eight firefighters from the San Luis Obispo Fire Department and a San Luis Ambulance crew all converged on the Jones’ home. After Beverly left Michael long enough to let them in, they went to work and had to use an AED three times on Michael to get his heart started again.
“I heard them have to put the paddles on him and do the “clear” three times. So essentially in my brain, I think he died three times. I heard one of them say ‘Go check on the wife,’ and I’m thinking, ‘Oh no! That’s me,” she continued, adding she was downstairs trying to calm their dog, Bella, a protective Weimaraner who had been frantically barking when the responders invaded her home.
By that time, she was sequestered downstairs as the EMS people worked to revive her husband. It wasn’t until she heard Michael moaning that she knew he was alive. He was taken to French Hospital Medical Center where he spent 11 days in the Intensive Care Unit, part of it in an induced coma-like state. Beverly learned from the doctors that her 59-year-old husband actually had developed pneumonia and had aspirated which caused sepsis, a blood infection, which led to his cardiac arrest.
Over the next several days, Michael and Beverly were visited by three of the eight firefighters and the ambulance driver who responded to their emergency. It turned out that firefighters from Station 1 and Station 4, along with an ambulance crew all responded to Beverly’s 911 call, and it was a good thing, too. It took many of them to get the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Michael strapped to a backboard and down their home’s narrow stairs. Coincidentally, one of the emergency responders was at San Luis Obispo’s Farmers Market giving CPR lessons to children.
“The ambulance driver gave me a big hug,” she said, recalling the days after the incident. “They were amazing. They just did their thing and it was pretty amazing. French, all of its staff, everyone in the ICU was amazing, too.”
Beverly learned from a nurse in the ICU that what she did to keep her husband alive as she waited for help was pretty amazing, too. The nurse told Beverly that there was another man in the ICU who hadn’t received CPR prior to the EMS response and she said they weren’t sure if he was going to make it.
Michael is back at home with an internal defibrillator inserted into his chest and outside of a sore throat, which resulted when he removed his own aspirator, and a few cracked ribs, courtesy of Beverly’s energetic CPR, he’s doing fine.
“I can remember in the class they kept saying ‘Don’t be afraid if you hear ribs pop, or you break ribs.’ Part of me was thinking I’m not hearing anything popping, so I don’t know if I’m doing it right,” she said, recalling her latest CPR instruction. “I didn’t find out until a week later, the doctors said he had a couple of fractured ribs. I was like ‘Oh, I must have done it right.’ Two weeks later, that’s the only thing that’s bothering him is the fractured ribs.”
The whole experience proved just how valuable taking those CPR classes through PG&E was to her and her husband. It also had her thinking back to all of those Safety Minutes she has been through.
“The thing is, is I was always the one who was reluctant to raise my hand when they asked for CPR certified. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be responsible for someone else. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way. There’s just something that makes you hesitant to go, ‘Hey, yeah, I’ll be the one that saves that person’s life,’” she admitted, adding that has all changed, now. “Essentially, for people who don’t know what to do, they need to do something. Do anything.
“It was strictly God and adrenaline that got me through it,” she added. “People ask me ‘Do you know how many compressions you did?’ I have no idea. ‘Were you tired?’ I don’t remember.”
It’s what she did remember that saved her husband’s life.
“God bless Beverly!” Michael said, adding he hopes everybody who knows them or hears their story learns from their experience. “Learn CPR. Strangers and, more importantly, your family may need to depend on it.”
The Red Cross offers a wide range or CPR/AID/First-Aid training courses. Find an upcoming class near you by visiting redcross.org/take-a-class.
Beverly’s story is part of the Heroes for the American Red Cross series, where local, everyday heroes are honored for their compassion and courage. Learn more at redcross.org/sloheroes.
Hilary Swartz had just made her way into Fresno and was beginning to set up her classroom. The drive from her mountain home isn’t the shortest or the easiest, but she’s happy to do it in order to teach a new class of eager CPR students. She flicked on the lights and began lining up her practice manikins.
Hilary began volunteering with the Red Cross just a few months ago, but she is already a DAT responder and preparedness educator in addition to teaching CPR/AED/First Aid and babysitting courses. Like many volunteers, Hilary often goes above and beyond her normal duties. She’s known for taking her knowledge into her own, often hard to reach, rural community. Her proactive approach to education is what makes her a great volunteer.
“Our volunteers have so much passion for what they do,” said Alex Villa, Volunteer Services Officer, “Their infectious energy is what makes them such powerful ambassadors to the communities in which they work and live.”
Hilary’s passion for the Red Cross comes from personal experience. During Hurricane Sandy, her 90+ year old mother-in-law was evacuated to a Red Cross shelter where volunteers provided her and other residents with lodging, warm meals, and comfort items. Then last summer, her small mountain community faced disaster when a wildfire destroyed neighbors’ homes. Her house was spared, but Hilary saw Red Cross disaster response first hand in her town. It was enough to inspire her to get involved.
Hilary began to greet her students as they arrived to the Red Cross classroom, each with a handshake and warm smile. Some were there out of obligation for work, and others simply to learn a new skill. Either way, Hilary planned to inspire all of them to learn these new lifesaving skills and use them to make a safer community.
“One thing I enjoy about being an instructor is I learn something new each time I teach a class,” said Hilary, “I am then able to use that in upcoming classes, so I am always learning also!”
All of the students were seated – a full class – and Hilary fired up the projector.
“Ok! Who’s ready to save some lives?”
Instructors like Hilary are part of the more than 90% volunteer workforce that provides humanitarian and public health services in the Central California Region. The Red Cross thanks and honors these selfless and compassionate every day heroes during National Volunteer Week, April 12 -18. Click here to learn more about the “Day in the Life of a Volunteer” series.