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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Home Fire is Anything But 'Routine' For The Survivors

“Just Routine, Really.” 
On Duty and Response with Red Cross Volunteers 
Story and Pictures: Ed O’Brien – Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer

On a cold mid-November afternoon, in a tightly packed mobile home park in Brighton, a small fire in a garden shed spread to two adjacent structures, rendering each trailer uninhabitable.  This fire displaced two families and 10 people.

One of the damaged trailers after the home fire.

“Just routine, really,” said the police officer who waved the Red Cross response truck into the fire scene. For the policeman it likely was routine. The fire-crew doused it quickly. Routine. The neighbors were helpful and interested. Routine. Children teased one another and played soccer among the ashes as they collected stories for tomorrow’s telling. Even this had a sense of routine.

It was all certainly unfortunate, but also very lucky – as no one was injured.
Volunteer Chris Humphries asks a resident about the damage to her home.


On that note and in this setting arrives a Red Cross Disaster Action Team led by volunteer Chris Humphries. This team is the first step for reestablishing a real routine back into the lives of 10 displaced people.

A casual gathering forms around the Response Truck. The conversation is lively, quick, and interested, as the shock and chaos of the fire fades. Reassurance in the face of Chris Humphries helps ease the neighbors towards recovery.
Displaced family members look at the burned out trailers as
Chris Humphries fills out their Red Cross paperwork. 

“We need everything right now – food, clothes, a home. It’s cold and the holidays are coming. This is tough, really tough,” said one of the displaced residents.

So for these 10 displaced people, our Red Cross job is to help bring back routine to their lives. One layer at a time. Each layer a step towards, well… routine.

What do they need for the next three days? Food, shelter, secure storage for their household goods. Done!

What do they need for the next three weeks? Help with paperwork. Counseling. Reassurance. Follow-up. On-going!

What do they need for the next three months? A plan to rebuild. Replacement of lost items. Getting their stored items back in a new home. To resume their “routine.”
Saved items - water logged and partially burned pictures plus a
sooty religious statue  - are testament to lives disrupted


The Red Cross has expertise, donations, and layers of volunteers to help. Heart- rending, immediate emergencies require patient, dedicated recovery efforts. We do this work thousands of times per year. Yes, even for us this is routine too. But then, all those who have aided – from firefighters and police to the Red Cross –  all of us are here to do our job: To return these 10 people and all those we serve, back to their routine again.


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