Bringing you the issues since 1986

View Online Print Edition


Fire victims' lives rise from the ashes

March, 2010

Imagine you’re sleeping tight when suddenly you are awakened by an alarm. It’s too loud to be your alarm clock and you can smell smoke.

You have time to wake your family, but not to grab anything. Within seconds you are out in the cold, in your pyjamas and slippers.

Firefighters arrive with other emergency responders and community organizations. Red Cross and Sun Youth are partnered with the city of Montreal to aid victims in the aftermath of a fire. We have been assisting fire victims since the 1970s.

A Red Cross co-ordinator at the scene alerts Sun Youth that assistance is required. Just as fire victims are awakened by a fire alarm, our emergency workers receive their call to action in similar fashion: The sound of a pager urges them to report to headquarters.

Eric Kingsley has had his share of sleepless nights in his eight years on the Sun Youth Emergency Response Team – most fires happen at night or in the early hours of the morning.

Eric and the Red Cross co-ordinate what sort of assistance is required: clothing, food, medication, etc. Eric might drop by Sun Youth to pick up a few things before getting to the fire scene.

Eric visits the firefighting command post to announce his presence. A registry is kept of everyone on the scene. If a building must be evacuated, a security perimeter is erected and only authorized emergency responders are allowed to cross the lines. Eric then meets the Red Cross co-ordinator inside the fire department’s bus. The bus, where the victims gather to keep warm and meet emergency responders, was a 1970s Sun Youth brainchild.

Eric determines which victims have a place to stay – those who don’t will be put up at a hotel for 72 hours. Victims are given a resource booklet containing valuable information on steps to take in the aftermath of a fire. Material assistance in the form of vouchers and transportation to temporary shelters is offered by Sun Youth once all the paperwork has been filled in on the bus. The most common assistance provided is clothing; most victims flee their home without any warm clothing.

The following morning, Sun Youth contacts each victim to make the next steps as smooth as possible. The victims must make an appointment with the Montreal Housing Bureau to start the process of finding a new home. Once they are settled, they may visit Sun Youth to obtain household accessories.

Up to 24 per cent of Montrealers don’t have household insurance that protects against fire.

Eric’s advice: Insurance won’t bring back lost belongings with sentimental value, but it will save you tons of headaches in the process of returning to a normal life.

Sun Youth’s Emergency Response Team responded to 269 calls in 2009, an average of one fire every 36 hours. In total, 1,764 people were assisted. Info: 514-842-6822.



Post a Comment