It was a Wednesday evening — July 5th — when a fire broke out on Fitchett Street in the City of Poughkeepsie. It started on a mattress in an upstairs bedroom, and before long, it had spread through the entire house.
Pamela Green-Smith was at home with several of her loved ones when the smoke alarms started to go off. The fire was moving fast, and she knew there would only be a matter of minutes for everyone to get out safely.
She shouted instructions up the stairs, through a haze of smoke and flames, hoping that her adult sons would heed her warning and get out. She escaped and waited outside the house for what felt like an eternity. But in a couple of minutes, everyone who’d been inside — 5 people in total — appeared out there with her.
“We’re alive and well because of those smoke alarms,” she says. “Because we had enough warning to get out before it was too late.”
Pamela shudders to think of what might have happened if it weren’t for that warning. It’s not hard for her to imagine, because her home was without working smoke alarms less than a week earlier. Just five days before the fire, volunteers from Rebuilding Together Dutchess County, working in partnership with the American Red Cross, came and installed them.
Rebuilding Together is a national nonprofit organization with a mission to repair the homes of people in need and revitalize communities. Home safety and fire preparedness are central components of their efforts to ensure that everyone has access to safe and healthy housing, and through their partnership with the American Red Cross — locally and nationally — they provide essential volunteer training and install smoke alarms free of charge for those they serve.
The American Red Cross responds to nearly 64,000 disasters a year, and the vast majority are home fires. In 2014, the organization launched a nationwide Home Fire Campaign to reduce fire-related tragedies by educating families on fire safety and installing free smoke alarms for those in need. Over the last four years, Red Cross volunteers and partners have installed more than 1.4 million smoke alarms in nearly 14,000 cities and towns across the U.S. and saved at least 472 lives — including those of Pamela Green-Smith and her family in Poughkeepsie.
On Friday, October 5, 2018, representatives from the Red Cross and Rebuilding Together gathered at the Poughkeepsie Fire Department with Mayor Rob Rolison, Fire Chief Mark Johnson, and other local officials, to announce the success of their local Home Fire Campaign partnership. Pamela Green-Smith was there to share her story, and to encourage others to make fire safety a priority.
“I hope that people who hear our story will learn something from our experience,” she said. “Take advantage of the help that’s available through organizations like the Red Cross and Rebuilding Together, because someday, it really could save your life.”
You can see and hear more from Pamela in news clips from the Poughkeepsie Journal, Spectrum News, and Mid-Hudson News Network, and in this video, produced by Roger Connor:
To learn more and get involved in the Home Fire Campaign in your community — or to request free smoke alarms from the American Red Cross — please visit soundthealarm.org/eny.