Home Fire Prevention Week!

Today marks the beginning of fire prevention week! Make sure you are Red Cross ready when it comes to house fires with these tips and facts. But first, take our fire safety savvy quiz to see where you stand with fire safety knowledge and what areas you need to brush up on.

The most effective way to keep you and your home safe from house fires is to prevent them. Here are some steps you can take now:

  • Identify and remove fire hazards
  • Keep flammable items at least three feet away from anything that gets hot
  • Install and smoke detectors and check them once a month to make sure they are working
  • Never smoke in bed
  • Turn portable heaters off when you leave the room or go to sleep
  • Talk to your children about the dangers of fire, matches and lighters and keep them out of reach

Another important step in fire prevention is creating a fire escape plan. It is important to make sure that everyone in the household knows two ways to escape from every room of your home. Practice makes perfect, so practice your escape plan at least twice a year. Try to switch up the time of day so you are prepared for different scenarios and make sure everyone knows where your safe meeting place is.

If you do experience a fire, try to stay calm and put your plan into action. Here are things to remember during a fire:

  • Avoid smoke by crawling underneath it
  • Check closed doors for heat – if it’s warm use your second escape route
  • Make sure everyone is accounted for when you arrive at your meeting place

Download the free Red Cross First Aid App to have advice for everyday emergencies in the palm of your hand. The app includes first aid information on burns as well as a checklist to make sure you are prepared in case of a house fire. The First Aid App is available in both the Apple App Store and the Google Play store.

This Enigmatic World

This 2-D metal print of Alla's original acrylic painting can be seen on the second floor of DeVos Place.  Vote code: 56397, ArtPrize 2014.

This 2-D metal print of Alla’s original acrylic painting can be seen on the second floor of DeVos Place. Vote code: 56397, ArtPrize 2014.

Story by Emily Glidden.

As a passerby, the connection between the American Red Cross and Alla Dickson’s abstract ArtPrize entry may not be obvious.  However, once the Holland artist begins telling the story behind her piece, a deep and inspiring meaning comes to light.

On Christmas Eve morning of last year, Dickson rose early to get some painting done in her art studio.  Soon after she started her work, Dickson’s husband saw the first puffs of smoke come through their brick chimney into the house.  He immediately recognized the severity of the situation and within five minutes everyone was out of the home.  As Dickson and her family watched the flames come through the roof, her husband Richard looked at them and said, “It’s all gone; life goes on.”

“Then we saw the Red Cross van and once they came we started laughing and smiling, shaking hands and drinking hot chocolate,” said Dickson.

“We immediately felt a transition from tragedy to recovery and celebrating life and community.”

That sense of community is why Alla and Richard decided to settle down in Holland Michigan.  Between the two of them they have visited over 90 countries, but they agreed that Holland had the greatest sense of community they had ever experienced.

Luckily ‘This Enigmatic World’ was saved from the home after the flames were extinguished. Dickson then decided to dedicate the piece to the American Red Cross.

“I am completely on a mission to bring awareness to this great community. Their generosity is unbelievable,” said Dickson.

Dickson’s ArtPrize Submission, ‘This Enigmatic World’ can be seen on the second floor of DeVos Place.  Vote for ‘This Enigmatic World’ with the vote code: 56397.

Read more about her story at The Rapidian.

Being “Right There” for Our Neighbors: Margarethe’s Story

Story by Scott Morton

Margarethe Rosa Reb (right) stands near a cleanup crew at her Kentwood Home. The 88 year-old resident said she never expected to experience a twister in Michigan.

Margarethe Rosa Reb (right) stands near a cleanup crew at her Kentwood Home. The 88 year-old resident said she never expected to experience a twister in Michigan.

Amid the uprooted trees, downed telephone poles, and branches and debris still piled around her neighborhood lives 88 year-old Margarethe Rosa Reb. She was in her Kentwood home on the night of July 6 when an EF1 tornado cut through Kentwood, Wyoming, and southeast Grand Rapids leaving six people injured and hundreds of homes damaged.


The tornado struck at 10:20 that night knocking out Reb’s electricity along with about 20,000 other Consumers Energy customers.  Reb says she never thought she’d experience a twister. To this day she hasn’t actually seen one since the tornado struck at night.


“I was sitting by the table and all of the sudden the lights went out and I got a flashlight,” she says.  “I got dressed in case anything happened because I had my night gown on…all I heard was a whoosh going through.”


The next morning at day break, she and her grandson Nick walked around the three bedroom house to see the storm damage.


“It was a mess. It was terrible!” Reb added. “You couldn’t see over to the next house there were so many branches and leaves piled up.”


Later that morning, two American Red Cross volunteers visited Reb and provided her with food, cleaning supplies, financial assistance and, best of all, someone to talk with.


“The Red Cross was really helpful. God bless them all!”


Rosa Reb4

Reb’s home surrounded by downed trees and branches from the tornado on July 6. The storm damaged hundreds of homes and injured six.

A few days later Reb’s power returned. The day that she spoke with us about her experience a cleanup crew for the damage around her home was finishing up for the day.


Reflecting on the experience, the long-time widow puts the ordeal in perspective.


“It was kind of scary, but I’ve been through worse!”


Still, she says the fact that two American Red Cross volunteers checked on her and provided aid makes her thankful to this day.


“I never thought people would be so nice.  I never thought I’d meet so many nice people.  They were right there!”


You can help people like Margarethe affected by disasters like floods, fires, tornadoes, and hurricanes by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. To make a financial contribution, visit redcross.org/donate, text REDCROSS to 90999, or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.



Witnessing Disaster, Discovering Hope: Alyx’s Story


May 3, 2014. Mayflower, Arkansas. Red Cross emergency response vehicles (ERVs) delivered cleanup kits, rakes, shovels, gloves, garbage bags, tarps as well as snacks and water to residents and workers cleaning up after the tornado. Photo by Jason Colston / American Red Cross

Mayflower, Arkansas. Red Cross emergency response vehicles (ERVs) delivered cleanup kits, rakes, shovels, gloves, garbage bags, tarps as well as snacks and water to residents and workers cleaning up after the tornado. Photo by Jason Colston / American Red Cross

Story by Allie Weston


During severe storms in early May, many small towns in the Midwest were crippled by violent storms. Baxter Springs, Kansas was right in the path of several tornadoes and suffered a large-scale damage. Once the storm passed, the American Red Cross was on the ground ready to help the community. Alyx Dean, volunteer services associate with the American Red Cross of West Michigan, went to Baxter Springs to help the people affected by the storms.

Upon her arrival, Dean witnessed terrible destruction. The tornadoes displaced almost all of the 4,200 citizens of Baxter Springs from their homes.

“It was crazy to see all the damage,” Dean explained. “I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.” Many homes, as well as the town’s few stores, were demolished. The tornadoes destroyed the only grocery store and gas station. While surveying the damage, Dean recalls seeing cement steps that had once led up to the entrance to a house.

“There used to be a home there,” Dean said she realized. “People used to walk up those steps every day.” Seeing the damage showed her just how much she needed to help these people that had lost their houses, the places that they had come home to each day.

Dean, along with other Red Cross volunteers, set to work to help the people of Baxter Springs. A multi-agency resource center (M.A.R.C.) was set up in order to connect people with resources to help get them back on their feet. Dean was a client case worker at the M.A.R.C. She met with people, listened to their stories, and connected them with the resources that they needed.

“It was really touching to be able to help people when they didn’t have anything or anywhere else to go,” Dean said.

Many of the people she spoke with really touched Dean. Hearing their stories gave a face to all the destruction she saw. One woman that was reluctant to receive help finally opened up once she met Dean. The woman’s son had convinced her to go to the Multi-Agency Resource Center (M.A.R.C.), and it was there that she met Dean.

“I touched her hand,” she said. “And she just broke down and started crying and gave me a hug. She was so grateful because she hadn’t admitted to anyone before that she couldn’t do it by herself.”

Slowly but surely, with the help of the Red Cross, the Baxter Springs community started to get on its feet. Debris was cleared from the streets, citizens received help at the M.A.R.C., and people rediscovered hope. Thanks to volunteers like Dean, the citizens of Baxter Springs were well on their way to recovery.

Being “Family Strong”: Linda’s Story


Linda Curtis (left) alongside her husband, Dick (Right), and son Ryan (center). The Curtis family called on the Red Cross for help in March after the passing of Ryan’s grandmother.

Story by Jon Breems

The strength of a family is tested and, perhaps, never more important than when a close family member passes. On March 19, the Curtis family, of Hastings, MI, learned of their grandmother’s passing in nearby Lansing. Linda Curtis, along with her husband and daughter, needed to start making plans for her mother-in-law’s funeral.

One of Linda’s toughest hurdles in preparing for the funeral was whether or not her immediate family could be together for the service. Linda’s son, Ryan, was stationed with the Marines nearly 1,000 miles away in Mississippi. Ryan had been on two tours of duty, including one in Afghanistan, and was now studying to join the Marine aviation program. Linda called her son that day and asked him what he wanted to do about the funeral.

“He (Ryan) wanted to come home for his dad because he knows the importance of being ‘family strong’,” said Curtis. “He told me to call Red Cross.”

The next morning, Linda contacted her local Red Cross to use the Emergency Messaging Service and, hopefully, have her son return home. The Red Cross then contacted Ryan’s commanding officer in Mississippi to request an official leave of absence so Ryan could attend the funeral. By that evening, Ryan was cleared to come home.

“I was so thrilled…he (Ryan) had a flight by that night,” said Curtis  “It was a blessing that he was able to come home and get closure where he could say goodbye to her (his grandmother).”

The next day, Ryan was on a flight home to reunite with his grieving family and say farewell to his grandmother. He attended the funeral that weekend alongside his mother, father, sister, and wife—a former marine herself.

Like the marines, the Curtis family knows the importance of sticking together. Every day the American Red Cross ensures that during life’s most trying circumstances military families, like the Curtis family, can be at each other’s side and find comfort in being ‘family strong’.

“I thank Red Cross for reaching out and being there for us—especially my husband and especially for Ryan” said Curtis. “I’m just very grateful to Red Cross…it all worked out perfectly.”

If you would like more information on the Red Cross of West Michigan Service to the Armed Forces, visit redcross.org or contact Sarah Day at Sarah.Day@redcross.org – (616) 498-6102.