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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Preparedness and Security with Red Cross 72 Hour Kits in a Neighborhood Fire


Jessica Terlecki’s personal commitment to safety began in 2013, months before a fire in her Denver neighborhood. As an employee with Newmont Mining Corporation, which has a strong culture of safety, she was asked to make a personal safety plan. To fulfill her commitment, she organized a First Aid Training for her department and packed her own 72 hour emergency kit to keep at her apartment.

“It’s how we do business. Safety always comes first, even at our office locations,” Jessica explained. Newmont has supported the Red Cross since 2011 and as part of this partnership, her company regularly shares readiness information with employees. Jessica credits this relationship for her safety and emergency preparedness planning.

In the last weeks of 2013, on a cold December night, sirens outside Jessica’s apartment woke her. Jessica and neighbors in her 24-story apartment complex assembled on the fifth floor parking deck and saw an intense fire leveling a nearby apartment building under construction. Thankfully, the burning building was unoccupied. Although the sirens were the first warning, Jessica was fortunate to recognize other signs triggering her emergency response plan.

The blaze was southeast of Jessica’s apartment building and the winds were directing smoke away. It appeared that the fire might cross a four-lane road towards other 4-story apartments. The Denver Fire Department evacuated other buildings effectively and efficiently. It was so fast there was no time to think. “The residents didn’t have time to grab their valuables,” she said. Jessica, whose building had not yet been evacuated, told the crowd that she was going back to her apartment for her 72-hour kit if the winds changed and forced her building to evacuate.

The 72-hour kit gave Jessica a sense of security during that cold, uncertain night. She knew she would have copies of important documents, clothes, food and water for three days if the emergency required evacuation. “I wouldn’t have thought to bring the kit in a normal fire drill,” she added. Many of the evacuated residents were caught off guard and so were many of the bystanders in her building’s parking lot.

Months after the close-call, Jessica has reflected on the key messages from her experience. She will keep her 72-hour kit ready with updated copies of documents and add important items. “I replaced photocopies of credit cards that were old and I added a phone charger,” because she drained her phone battery searching for information about the fire when she was safe in the parking deck. She also emphasized the importance of her awareness about safety preparedness and planning from her company’s partnership with the American Red Cross. 

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