Even during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, emergencies don’t stop and neither does the work of the American Red Cross. Local volunteers are still at work providing care and comfort after disasters, such as home fires.

Since March 1, American Red Cross volunteers responded to 44 incidents and providing emergency supplies, support and resources to more than 200 people. Volunteers drove over 6,600 miles in the state to offer help and comfort after these home fires. In the nine months since the start of the fiscal year, July 1, 2019, Minnesota Red Cross volunteers have responded to 468 incidents and providing support for 2,218 people.

“Despite this challenging situation, we’re fulfilling our humanitarian mission by collecting blood and responding to home fires,” says Leah Pockrandt, Executive Director for the American Red Cross serving Southwest Minnesota. “Our volunteers are helping people in this pandemic environment all while observing strong interpersonal safety precautions. As we continue to help our neighbors in need, we urge everyone to take steps to minimize the risk of a fire occurring in their home.”

Fire responses were in the following cities: Alexandria, Andover, Apple Valley, Austin, Barnum, Bigelow, Braham, Brainerd, Burnsville, Chisholm, Cloquet, Columbia Heights, Duluth, Elk River, Hill City, Jackson, Long Lake, Mankato, Marshall, Mazeppa, Milaca, Minneapolis, Mounds View, New London, Prior Lake, Rochester, Saint Paul, Sauk Rapids, Virginia, Warroad, Waseca, and Wells.

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In support of #StayHomeMN executive orders by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, and in response to updated American Red Cross policies, we have adopted new guidelines and tactics for the future as we continue to support our communities.

“All volunteer responders and clients are asked health screening questions prior to meeting at a disaster scene,” says Katie Webster, Regional Disaster Officer. “Our Disaster Action Team responders are providing people disaster assistance through virtual, rather than in-person, outreach in most cases.”

Using special Red Cross technology and systems, we will keep both clients and volunteers safe from close contact, while at the same time providing essential assistance and items such as food, clothing, shelter and medications.

The Red Cross also offers mental health support and guidance in beginning the long-term recovery process.

Staying home?
Red Cross and the Minnesota State Fire Marshal recommend the following tips:

​A majority fires happen where we are most comfortable — at home. As you spend more time at home over the coming weeks to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, Red Cross partner, the Minnesota State Fire Marshal asks that you keep some simple fire prevention and safety measures in mind:

  • Stay in the kitchen and pay attention when you’re cooking.
  • Sick of playing card games? Need a break? Test your smoke alarms.
  • Looking for something to do with the kids? Practice your family escape plan.
  • Talk to your kids about the dangers of fire. Stress and uncertainty in youth can be expressed in a number of ways, included unexpected ways like starting fires.

More information about fire safety and prevention, and activities you can do with your children while at home are on the SFMD website at sfm.dps.mn.gov and redcross.org/mn.