(Canonsburg, PA) – On the afternoon of September 27th, the American Red Cross Greater Pennsylvania Region was dispatched to assist multiple residents of apartments in the 300 Block of Summit Avenue in Canonsburg, Washington County following a large multi-family fire which impacted nearly all units in the complex.
Initial reports indicated that approximately 40 residents were displaced by the fire and many units suffered extensive water and smoke damage in addition to those directly affected by the fire. Because of this, many of the residents who called Summit Avenue their home would not be able to return by evening and would need emergency shelter. While still enroute, Red Cross teams reached out to local hotels to determine capacity and pre-arrange next steps, if necessary.
As local fire departments and emergency officials worked to get the fire under control, Red Cross Disaster Action Team members arrived on scene and immediately established contact with Summit Avenue residents offering support, resources, and providing for emergency needs. For some residents, this meant a simple reassurance that while this was a difficult experience, it was going to be okay; and for others, it meant providing for medical needs, health services, and even pet bereavement support.
As the afternoon turned into evening and the fire was extinguished, residents were shuttled to one of three non-congregate shelters (individual hotel rooms) for the evening.
Once residents were settled into their private hotel rooms, meals were delivered by Red Cross teams who, adhering to COVID-19 guidance, maintained social distancing when possible, utilized PPE including gloves and masks, and provided sanitizing measures to provide for the safety of the clients and the Red Cross workforce. In total, 50 meals were provided through the evening.
With meals completed and residents settled into their temporary shelter, Red Cross teams continued to provide casework with Summit Avenue residents. This was accomplished via phone – at times from the hotel lobby to hotel room – where casework teams determined ongoing needs, provided updates on the status of the fire response, reviewed circumstances, and provided the support and resources to begin a plan for recovery for each family.
Many residents were able to return to their home in the days following the fire and in total, 21 cases were opened by the American Red Cross providing 28 adults and 5 children with immediate needs, resources for shelter, clothing, and food, medical support, and other services.
These services were all provided by a team of 16 dedicated American Red Cross volunteers – 10 on location and in-person and 6 behind the scenes providing support virtually.
The assistance and services provided to the residents of Summit Avenue would not be possible without the collaboration of many community partners and organizations; but it was the generous support from the United Way of Washington County that enabled the delivery of the Red Cross Mission of comfort and care during this response.
At the Red Cross, we know firsthand that when times of disaster strike, we see the best of humanity as so many pitch in to help those in need…and because of the United Way of Washington County that is exactly what we saw in Canonsburg in September 2020.
“This generous support from United Way of Washington County supports our critical work here in the county. We are incredibly grateful to have them as a partner. Their commitment to the Red Cross is longstanding and has made an incredible impact on our ability to serve the communities throughout Washington County, offering preparedness, disaster response, and through recovery” shared Terry Koontz, Chief Development Officer of the American Red Cross Greater Pennsylvania Region.
All American Red Cross disaster assistance is provided free of charge and is made possible by the voluntary donations of time and money from caring individuals and, in part, by contributions given through the United Way. You can help people affected by disasters big and small by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to learn more.