Red Cross, Charlotte Fire Department are “like family”

imageA few years ago, Greater Carolinas Chapter Disaster Action Teams (DATs) were only called out by the Charlotte Fire Department (CFD) well after the fire had been brought under control.  Not only did this delay the chapter’s response to displaced clients, but canteening for first responders was almost non-existent because they left the scene before the time the DAT team arrived.  In September 2007, chapter staff and senior volunteers met with the CFD and arranged to carry the same pagers that CFD uses internally for the notification of large (2+ Alarm) fires.  The CFD further authorized senior chapter volunteers who “knew their way around a fire scene” to respond directly to the fire in their own vehicles once they received the pager notification.  Now, the responding volunteer frequently arrives before some of the firefighters, quickly determines what type and size of canteening and first responder meals will be required, performs an initial damage assessment, and determines the type and size of casework response that will be required.

Since the program’s inception a year and a half ago, the Chapter has responded to 56 2+ Alarm fires.  In the case of multi-unit residential fires, client casework now starts two to three hours earlier than before the program began, and on commercial fires, the chapter has become the default provider of snacks, drinks and meals to all first responders.

On a recent 3-Alarm fire response, a mis-informed private security guard refused to allow one of our Red Cross trucks onto a fire scene. He was quickly informed by a CFD Captain that the Red Cross was supporting the CFD, and the guard could either let us pass or go to jail for interfering with a firefighting operation.  When later thanked for his support, the CFD Captain replied, “The Red Cross is family, and you belong on any fire with us.”

The chapter has come a long way from just 18 months ago when the CFD had forgotten that the Red Cross even provided canteening services.  This example further shows that even in a relatively large metropolitan area (CFD has 38 fire stations and the chapter’s jurisdiction covers over a million people), organizations with complementary goals can work closely together to everyone’s benefit.

For more information on this program, contact Keith Partin,
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