Red Cross Offers Assistance in Armstrong County

West Kittanning Fire Hall

Two members of the American Red Cross met with first responders last night at the West Kittanning Fire Hall to discuss their involvement in Armstrong County.

It has been a number of years since the American Red Cross has had an office in middle Armstrong County.  In fact, there were many that thought when they closed down their local office, they stopped servicing Armstrong County.

However, the Red Cross is looking to change that image. Last night two Red Cross representatives met with emergency first responders at the West Kittanning Fire Hall to review procedures in case there is a disaster situation.

“The point of the meeting was to share some awareness of who we are and what we do as far as services from a disaster point of view,” said Red Cross Disaster Program Manager Rebecca Gaidrich. We want to help people on our responding teams to know who to contact and how to contact us, and what we do across the board.”

Gaidrich said that it’s obvious to call in the Red Cross for major disasters, but that isn’t the only time they can assist.

“Just because someone’s house isn’t completely destroyed doesn’t mean that we still can’t step in and offer services. But if something really big and bad does happen, then we want the first responders to know how the process works.

Red Cross Executive Director Tessie Dunmire-Amaranto, an Armstrong County native, said the agency wants to become visible and make sure people know they are available to provide assistance.

“Sometimes when you don’t have a brick and mortar building in the community, the community thinks you left because they can’t see a sign or staff. So we are making a big push to raise awareness about all of our services. We want called for 100% of the disasters in Armstrong County if we are needed,” Amaranto said. “Obviously your first responders are on fire scenes to put out the fire and protect property and protect lives. We can step in second and actually take that person, hold their hand, and walk them through the process of recovery. And I don’t believe we’re getting called by all of the fire companies across the County, so we’re doing a lot of work to raise awareness.”

Amaranto pointed to the Mechling-Shakley Veterans Center as the example of an organization in Armstrong County that the Red Cross regular provides comfort kits, socks, and totes.

Amaranto was also at the Ford City Borough Council meeting last Monday night unveiling another outreach to their residents. On November 2, teams of volunteers will be canvassing the neighborhood installing free smoke detectors in homes.

Amaranto said the “Sound the Alarm”campaign is partnering with the Ford City Hose Company #1 to provide and install the detectors.

Red Cross Disaster Program Manager Rebecca Gaidrich and Ford City Fireman Joe Peters hold the smoke alarms that will be given free to residents of Ford City on November 2.

“On November 2, we have a group of Red Cross volunteers will be joining the fire company to basically canvas Ford City. We will go door to door to door. We ask you to let us in,” Amaranto told Council.  “We’re not going to ask you for anything. We don’t require a repayment. We don’t want anything. What we want to do is make sure you have working some alarms.”

She said the average home will receive three detectors, but they could install as many as five if the home needed it.

“We need people to let us in, obviously. We will be clearly marked with Red Cross gear.”

Amaranto said the most her office has ever installed over the past four years in one day is 188 units. She has set the goal high — 500 to be exact, but that will require many volunteers.

“We need community residents who would like to come help give back to your community that day. It’s a one-day event. We would ask you to register in the morning. We’re having it at the fire hall. You would come in, we’d feed you. We would have breakfast, snacks, and then you would go out in groups of three to your neighbors’ homes to knock on the door and install smoke alarms. And the other part of that is while someone’s installing the smoke alarms, someone is talking to the family on how to make your home safer and how to create and practice a fire safety plan. This is usually a really big hit when we have kids in the home because that’s a great thing for them to do to help in the planning process.”

The neighborhood canvassing will start at 10AM and conclude by 2PM. Fireman Joe Peters said he is going to be assisting the Red Cross that day installing detectors.

“It’s known that smoke detectors can be your first line of defense in the event of a fire. Without smoke detectors, many people die,” Peters said. “It’s our goal to make sure our residents are as safe as possible by installing smoke detectors on November 2 with the Red Cross.”

Red Cross Executive Director Tessie Dunmire-Amaranto listens to questions from the residents at the Ford City Borough Council Meeting last Monday night. She explained that the smoke detectors are installed free by volunteers, and she is hoping for many volunteers on November 2. 

Amaranto said the Red Cross can furnish the smoke detectors because of the generosity of Air B&B, Delta, FEMA, Nissan, Erie Insurance, and a local organization.

“The Snyder Family Foundation has submitted a check for $2,500 to the Red Cross to specifically support the efforts in Ford City,” she added.

Amaranto said that if someone has a smoke detector that is over ten years old, they will replace them with new ones.

“The process is simple – we come in, talk to you real quick, check out whatever you now have in place, replace if necessary or add new, and be on our way,” she said.

To let residents know that this event will be taking place November 2, the Ford City firefighters are hanging announcements on doors today.

“We really want to make a big splash and let everyone know that the Red Cross is here,” Amaranto said.

The Chestnut Ridge American Red Cross office covers Armstrong, Fayette, Indiana, and Westmoreland counties.