Red Cross takes information and supplies, door-to-door, in Hazelwood

See what this organization did to help reduce tragic problems – before they occurred – in outer East Portland neighborhoods …

Tony Camacho checks in Maighie Fitzgerald, as her unidentified volunteer associate looks on.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
You often see how the local chapter of the Red Cross helps neighbors when tragedy strikes. Most often, they step in when a family is left homeless after a major fire.

But, a couple of weeks ago, we found volunteers with the Oregon Trail Chapter of American Red Cross taking proactive steps to help keep families in the Hazelwood and Mill Park neighborhoods safer.

“We’re doing a door-to-door canvassing outreach today,” Eric Corliss, Director of Emergency Services with that organization, told us. “When we looked at our historical response data, we found a significant increase in the number of house fires in this neighborhood. So, we’re bringing ‘preparedness’ information to the residents of these neighborhoods.”

Corliss said that volunteers with American Read Cross, in partnership with those from Portland General Electric, which provided grant money for the project, were giving out more than information – they were also distributing new smoke detectors and first aid kits to people in these neighborhoods.

Smoke detectors on every floor
“The first thing we do as ask the resident if they’re sure their smoke detector is working,” Corliss noted. “We also ask when they last tested it. We’ve found some residents tested theirs as recently as last week – others and never tested it with in their memory. Some folks invited us in to test of them and make sure they work.”

The City of Portland’s code says smoke detectors should be in every room, he added, “We’re starting out by making sure that every family has at least one functioning smoke detector on every floor of their home.”

If they find a compliant smoke detector with dead batteries, “We’re ready for that, too!” Corliss exclaimed, as he held up a stack of new batteries. He added that they are also giving residents a basic first aid kit “to handle those bumps and bruises”.

Urges CPR training
Also, as part of their outreach effort, Corliss said volunteers quiz residents about their knowledge of CPR. “We asked them how to tell the difference between someone who is joking, or who is really having a heart attack. If they aren’t sure, we also offer them a 50% discount on CPR training at the American Red Cross.”

Eric Corliss  director of emergency services with the Oregon Trail Chapter of American Red Cross debriefs volunteers Eria Neubauer, Nate Warren and Kate Fagerholm who just back from their canvassing in the Hazelwood neighborhood.

How much do they charge the residents?

“Thanks to the grant from PGE, and the hard work of our volunteers,” Corliss replied, “all that they receive costs homeowners nothing but their time.”

In total, the event coordinator said, about 40 volunteers were involved in the effort. With that, the second shift of volunteers arrived, ready to spread the word about fire and health safety to even more families.

The crew gets ready for another round of door-to-door lifesaving consultation.

Want to learn more? Check out their website:

“We want every family to make an emergency kit, make a plan and get trained. This way, if somebody has a life-threatening emergency, they are prepared to save a life.” Corliss concluded.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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