Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina commits $1 million to Red Cross Home Fire Campaign in North Carolina

Home Fire Campaign in Fayetteville, North Carolina 2016

This spring, the American Red Cross, as part of its Home Fire Campaign, worked to Sound the Alarm with local volunteers and community partners as it aimed to install 100,000 free smoke alarms in more than 100 major cities across the country, helping to save lives and lessen the number of tragedies attributed to home fires.

The Red Cross is thrilled to announce that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) will serve as its North Carolina state Home Fire Campaign partner. Blue Cross NC generously donated $1 million to support the campaign.

“Blue Cross NC is proud to support the Red Cross in this important effort to save lives,” said Blue Cross NC President and CEO Patrick Conway. “A crucial part of our quality of life is being able to sleep in peace at night. All homes in North Carolina should have reliable, working smoke alarms that can help prevent unnecessary tragedies. The Home Fire Campaign is a big step toward that goal.”

Since the launch of the Home Fire Campaign in 2014, Red Cross volunteers and members of more than 4,400 partner organizations have installed over 1,100,000 smoke alarms in nearly 12,400 cities and towns in all 50 states, serving more than 1,262,000 people.

Sound the Alarm smoke alarm installation events are part of the ongoing campaign, in which Red Cross volunteers and partners canvass high-risk neighborhoods to install free smoke alarms, replace batteries in existing alarms and help families create escape plans. This work is made possible thanks to generous financial donations from partners like Blue Cross NC.

“Every day, home fires are responsible for as many as seven deaths and 36 injuries in this country. We want that number reduced. So far, our Red Cross Home Fire Campaign is responsible for saving 381 lives across the U.S.,” said Barry Porter, regional CEO of the Red Cross in Eastern North Carolina. “Because of the generosity of Blue Cross NC, we can continue to reduce the number of home fire deaths in our communities, one smoke alarm at a time.”

“We know that working smoke alarms in a home cut the risk of death by half, and having an escape plan further improves the odds of survival,” said Angela A. Broome Powley, regional CEO of the Red Cross in Western North Carolina. “Together with Blue Cross NC, our other partners, and our volunteers, we can Sound the Alarm about fire safety and help save lives.”

Large Sound the Alarm installation events are scheduled across North Carolina thanks in part to Blue Cross NC. Register for a Sound the Alarm event near you!

Nearly 100 homes made safer in Kinston by Red Cross

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Kinston, Feb. 12, 2018 — Nearly 100 families in the Sand Hill area are safer because of a partnership between the American Red Cross and the Sand Hill Volunteer Fire Department to install smoke alarms in local homes.

Every day in the U.S., seven people lose their lives to a home fire, most often children and senior adults. The Sand Hill community knows this too well as they recently lost a resident to a tragic home fire.  As a result, Sand Hill Fire Chief David Jones, and local resident, Charlie Broadway, a Red Cross volunteer, wanted to make homes in their community safer by joining together to install smoke alarms in homes.

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Sand Hill Fire Chief David Jones (left), and Red Cross volunteer Charlie Broadway.

Jones and Broadway planned to take advantage of the Red Cross nationwide Home Fires Campaign to save lives and help in the local area.  After coordination and planning, the idea became a reality and on Feb. 10, 40 volunteers gathered for a day-long smoke alarm installation in the area.

The group included Red Cross volunteers from Onslow, Craven, Lenoir and Wayne Counties; Marines from Camp Lejeune and the Air Station; and local firefighters from the Sand Hill Volunteer Fire Department.

After being trained day-of, the volunteers divided into 11 small teams equipped with ladders, drills, and smoke alarms, and went into their assigned areas of the community to install alarms.

One resident, Curtis Moore, had smoke alarms, but they were old and did not work. He was most appreciative of the new installs and said, “I can’t believe there is no cost to me for this service. I am so thankful.”

By early afternoon, the teams installed 200 smoke alarms in 98 homes. Follow up information was left on the doors of residents who were not home.

Fire experts agree that people may have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home before it’s too late to get out.  Every household should create a fire escape plan and practice it until everyone can escape in less than two minutes.

For additional information or steps on how to protect your family, contact your local Red Cross or go to


The Red Cross provides free smoke alarm installations. To request a free alarm, call your local Red Cross office, or visit and fill out a request form.

Story and photos by Char Rodriguez / American Red Cross


A candle changes the lives of a Durham family

pexels-photo-373988.jpegCottis Dickens, of Durham, spent her Tuesday afternoon just as any other – stopping by the grocery store, then to the bus stop to pick up her granddaughter.

But on this particular Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, the 78-year-old didn’t realize she’d forgotten to take her granddaughter to a scheduled appointment until they pulled into the driveway of their home.

“When she got out of the car she told me I forgot to take her to the dentist,” Cottis said. “I sure did. She was just going to be fitted for retainers because she had just lost them.”

The two brushed it off and planned to reschedule. Cottis unloaded groceries from the car, and her granddaughter went inside to drop off her things and visit with her grandpa.

Moments later, Cottis said her granddaughter bolted out of the house and said, “the house is on fire!”

The second-floor bedroom filled with smoke and flames, Cottis said. The fire started from a lit candle in a glass jar. She points out, the bedroom was directly above the living room where her husband happened to be sitting at the time.

“If I wouldn’t have forgotten to take her to the dentist, you see what could’ve happened…” Cottis trailed off.

But Cottis and her family weren’t alone during this disaster.

“I’ve never been in a position where I’ve had to use the Red Cross,” she said. “But when I turned around, there they were. They were standing there [at my home]. They were very kind and polite and they told me they were there to help our family in any way they could.”

Cottis said Red Cross provided her family with direct financial assistance to help purchase a hotel room, food and other emergency needs, and gave her family comfort kits filled with hygiene necessities. In the days following the fire, they also checked in with the family to make sure they were doing ok.

“They were there when I needed them and I really do appreciate it,” Cottis said.

Cottis and her family will be out of their home for an estimated three months while repairs are made.

To others who may find themselves in a similar situation, Cottis offers this advice: “Be calm. You will get help. And you will get help from Red Cross.”

For information about home fire safety, visit

Hope Through Flames

Red Cross volunteer uses personal experience when responding to disasters

On the morning of Nov. 2, 2014, Gracie Shardt just wanted to sleep in. But what started out as a restful morning recovering from long nursing shifts, turned into a disaster training course that isn’t offered.Gracie Schardt- picture

A smoky smell filled her home and caused her dog to bark frantically and wake her up. Schardt said she went to the wall behind the fireplace she and her fiancé had just used the night before. She felt heat radiating from behind the wall and heard a loud “whoosh.”

“I covered my face with a T-shirt, grabbed what I could and ran back outside to call 911. At the same time, I was screaming for my fiancé [who was nearby outside] in hopes that he could hear me.”

As the fire department extinguished the eight-foot flames that were engulfing Schardt’s house, she said a car pulled up. Two Red Cross volunteers got out, wrapped their arms around the couple, and provided the hope they needed after witnessing the loss of the home they’d worked so hard for.

The Red Cross volunteers supplied them with three nights in a dog-friendly hotel, and emergency financial assistance for food, clothing and toiletries.

“It was emotionally overwhelming that they were doing this for us. Neither of us knew that the Red Cross did this, but thank God they did,” Schardt said. “We truly do not know what we would have done if we did not have a place to go.”

Three years later, Schardt is now training to become a Red Cross volunteer so she can help families suffering from disasters. She hopes to share her story to give people a glimpse of hope.

Along with being a disaster responder, Schardt is hoping to become a volunteer for the pillowcase project, which teaches kids about emergency preparedness.

“I am so excited to help educate children in my community on how to be prepared for an emergency!” Schardt said.

Now that the colder months are here, more people will heat their homes using space heaters, wood-burning stoves and fireplaces to stay warm, just like Schardt did. The Red Cross urges everyone to follow proper heating safety guidelines and to also make sure smoke alarms have new batteries and that fire extinguishers are up-to-date.

Story by Rachel Jennings/American Red Cross

Smoke alarms installed to save lives in Wake County

Dozens of Red Cross volunteers gathered for a day of service in the Fairview area of Wake County on Nov. 4 to install smoke alarms in neighborhood homes.

Eagle Scout Troop 395 kicked off the morning by providing a safety briefing for volunteers to follow. Then, teams of four were set up consisting of a smoke alarm installer and assistant, documenter and educator.

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Area residents appreciated having new smoke alarms installed, batteries replaced in existing units and a home fire escape plan developed.  Many families who received alarms said it was helpful to identify their points of exit and align on a common meeting spot outside of the home in case of a fire.

By the end of the day, volunteers installed more than 110 smoke alarms in the community. American Red Cross bags with information on how to avoid fires, as well as a list of preparedness items, were also provided to the families visited.

A big thank you to the Fairview Fire Department for their support during the event, to UPS for bringing a group of volunteers, and to Subway for providing lunch.

For more information about smoke alarm installations or how to create a home fire escape plan, visit

Pictured: Red Cross Volunteers Nick Thelen, Anthony Swigert, Roger Kennely and Alexis Weaver.

Story by Alexis Weaver/American Red Cross

Eastern NC native reflects on home fire

Kelcey Ashworth was having dinner at her father’s home in Pinehurst when she got a call kelceythat her mother’s house was on fire.

Kelcey, a sophomore in high school at the time, recalls arriving on the scene of the fire in 2002. There were a multitude of first responders, she said, among them, the American Red Cross.

“[The Red Cross] was there. They stayed with us,” she said. “The offered us a place to stay and provided a [financial] voucher to get essentials…they were a huge savior to us.”

The fire, which started from a faulty electrical wire, consumed the garage, living room, and kitchen, Kelcey said. Her family ultimately had to tear down the home and sell the property.

“A lot of people think it won’t happen to them,” Kelcey said. “But it’s more common than people think.”

In Eastern North Carolina, the Red Cross responds to about five home fires every day. Keep your family safe this winter by following two steps: 1. Practice a 2-minute home escape drill and make sure your family can safely exit a home in under 2 minutes. 2. Test your smoke alarms monthly.

For more information about home fire safety, visit

Smoke alarms installed to save lives in Fayetteville

Every night in the Eastern North Carolina Region of the Red Cross, about five house fires occur, leaving families helpless, confused and alone.

Nearly 300 Red Cross volunteers gathered in Fayetteville in September to install free smoke alarms in homes of military members and their neighbors.  The effort is part of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign – an initiative that aims to reduce deaths and injuries caused by home fires by 25 percent in five years. To date, the campaign has saved 111 lives across the country.29736367751_a2d1cabf14_z

“Brave men and woman of our military work every day to make sure we are safe in our homes,” said Barry Porter, CEO of the Red Cross in Eastern N.C. “We want to return the favor and protect them in their own homes with new smoke alarms.”

Four Red Cross volunteers visited the home of Cory Hall, an active-duty military member and former firefighter. The team installed four smoke alarms and tested his existing alarms. Because of the newly installed alarms, Hall said he feels confident his family is safe in their home should a fire start.

Hall’s neighborhood also welcomed Red Cross teams. Timothy Smith and his family received four alarms. He let out a sigh of relief as they were installed.

“We don’t have smoke alarms in our home, and I know that we need them,” Smith said. “I want them installed for my kids. My kids’ safety is the most important thing to me.”29191537124_f6dd73f18f_z

The event was made possible by sponsors: Nationwide-Sean Fincher and Nationwide-Mike Warren; Merrill Lynch, Wright Cobb Tilghman Group; Healy Wholesale Co.. Inc.; and Fayetteville Technical Community College. A big thank you also to the Dept. of Defense, JROTC, Wounded Warrior Project, Army DC 325th Air, 82nd Division 189 BN 249th, Fort Bragg Fire Dept., and the US Army.

For more information about smoke alarm installations or how to create a home fire escape plan, visit

To see video footage from the smoke alarm installation event, visit:

Story by Emma Kirkpatrick.

Photos by Adam Jennings.

4th of July: Red Cross Steps for Enjoying a Safe Holiday Weekend



We’re just a few hours away from the Fourth of July holiday weekend and the American Red Cross has steps to ensure safety during firework displays and trips to the beach.

“This holiday weekend is a time to spend with family, enjoy water activities and watch fireworks with friends. And there are simple steps that can make for a safe holiday weekend,” said Barry Porter, regional chief executive officer of the Red Cross in Eastern North Carolina. “By downloading the Red Cross First Aid and Swim Apps, folks can have safety information at their fingertips.”

FIREWORKS SAFETY The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public fireworks show put on by professionals. Stay at least 500 feet away from the show. Many cities and states outlaw most fireworks. If someone is setting fireworks off at home, follow these safety steps:

  • Never give fireworks to small children.
  • Always follow the instructions on the packaging.
  • Keep a supply of water close by as a precaution.
  • Make sure the person lighting fireworks always wears eye protection.
  • Light only one firework at a time and never attempt to relight “a dud.”
  • Store fireworks in a cool, dry place away from children and pets.
  • Never throw or point a firework toward people, animals, vehicles, structures or flammable materials.
  • Leave any area immediately where untrained amateurs are using fireworks.

BEACH SAFETY If holiday plans include visiting the beach, learn how to swim in the surf. Swim only at a beach with a lifeguard, within the designated swimming area. Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards. While enjoying the water, keep alert and check the local weather conditions. Other safety steps include:

  • Swim sober and always swim with a buddy. Make sure you have enough energy to swim back to shore.
  • Have young children and inexperienced swimmers wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • Protect your neck – don’t dive headfirst. Walk carefully into open waters.
  • Keep a close eye and constant attention on children and adults while at the beach. Wave action can cause someone to lose their footing, even in shallow water.
  • Watch out for aquatic life. Water plants and animals may be dangerous. Avoid patches of plants and leave animals alone.

RIP CURRENTS Rip currents are responsible for deaths on our nation’s beaches every year, and for most of the rescues performed by lifeguards. Any beach with breaking waves may have rip currents. Be aware of the danger of rip currents and remember the following:

  • If you are caught in a rip current, try not to panic. Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Once you are free, turn and swim toward shore. If you can’t swim to the shore, float or tread water until you are free of the rip current and then head toward shore.
  • Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist near these structures.

DOWNLOAD SWIM, FIRST AID APPS The Red Cross Swim App promotes water safety education and helps parents and caregivers of young people learning how to swim. The app has features specifically designed for children, including a variety of kid-friendly games, videos and quizzes. It also contains water safety information for parents on a variety of aquatic environments including beaches and water parks. The First Aid App provides instant access to expert guidance on a variety of situations from insect bites and stings to choking and Hands-Only CPR. People can download the apps for free by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ in their app store or at

HOME POOL ESSENTIALS COURSE The Red Cross and National Swimming Pool Foundation® (NSPF) have developed an online safety course for pool and hot tub owners. Home Pool Essentials helps people understand the risks of pool ownership, how to maintain a safer and cleaner pool, what safety equipment is appropriate, how to prevent pool and hot tub entrapment hazards, and how to respond to an emergency.

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.


About five families lose their homes to fire every day

It can be difficult to comprehend, but every day in Eastern North Carolina, about five home fires occur.

Five families lose their beloved possessions, House Fire 2015sometimes loved ones and pets. Five families are left homeless. Five families are forced to rise from the soot and
rebuild their lives. Five families almost every single day.

“Unfortunately, home fires are all too common,” said Barry Porter, regional chief executive of the Red Cross in Eastern North Carolina. “Each day in our region, families affected by home fires all of a sudden face the tremendous challenge of regrouping and starting new. It’s our job to help ease that burden.”

In just one weekend in April, the Red Cross responded to 18 fires in the Eastern North Carolina region, which affected 73 people. That weekend, the Triangle area saw two 12-unit apartment fires, which left families homeless, many injured, and killed several pets. Only one apartment fire received media attention that weekend, but the Red Cross was onsite at each disaster.

In each case, families may be provided financial assistance, shelter, food, and mental health services to help them begin their recovery.

The Red Cross relies on the generosity of the community to continue to help families affected by home fires each day. To make your contribution, visit

American Red Cross Urges People to Stay Safe Cooking This Holiday Season

thanksgiving_dinner_1280x1024EASTERN NORTH CAROLINA [November 21, 2014] — The American Red Cross responds to nearly 70,000 disasters a year – one every eight minutes — and most are home fires. Last year, the Red Cross of Eastern North Carolina provided shelter, food, clothing, and emotional support to 2,628 families in need. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, the Red Cross of Eastern NC encourages families to prevent kitchen fires by taking some basic safety measures.

“Thanksgiving is the peak day for kitchen fires, and most of those are caused by unattended cooking,” said James D. Jarvis, Disaster Program Specialist, Cape Fear Chapter. “The good news is that home fires can be prevented by following some simple, safety tips.”

A recent Red Cross survey revealed that nearly one in five Americans (16 percent) admit to leaving food cooking unattended on the stove — a major cause of kitchen fires.

Tips to avoid cooking fires include:

  • Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen, even for a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • Keep young children and pets at least three feet away from the stove.
  • Move items that can burn away from the stove such as dishtowels, bags and boxes.
  • Clean the stove and the area around it before turning on the heat.
  • Don’t leave food on the stove unattended.
  • Turn pot handles to the back of the stove to avoid spills.


If a pan catches fire, don’t move it. Slide a pan lid or cookie sheet on top of the pan to put out the fire. Turn off the heat. Keep the lid on the pan until it cools. Never try to stop a grease or oil fire with water! This will actually fuel the fire.

If something catches fire in the oven, keep the door closed. Call 9-1-1 so firefighters can make sure the fire didn’t spread into the walls. If a fire occurs in the microwave, keep the door closed and unplug the microwave, if you can. Don’t use it again until a repairman checks it.

If the kitchen catches fire, make sure everyone gets out and call 9-1-1 when outside. Once outside, stay out. Never go back inside a burning building.

Download the Red Cross First Aid App at to get access to life-saving information on what to do for common, everyday first aid emergencies, including burns.  For more Red Cross fire safety and preparedness information, please visit