Metro Detroit family survives home fire, thanks to the Red Cross and DTE Energy Foundation

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On a hot Sunday afternoon in August, Lavivian White had just returned home from a church program and was getting ready to take a nap when her seventeen-year-old grandson ran in to her bedroom yelling for them to get out of the house. The ear-piercing sounds of their smoke detectors were going off around them.  A fire, which started in the basement from a faulty surge protector, destroyed a large part of their home, but the Whites escaped safely.  Fortunately, the American Red Cross and volunteer employees from DTE Energy had installed new fire alarms in the Whites’ home the previous September, as part of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign.

“I am so grateful,” said Ms. White. “I tell everyone I know to be sure they have two important things – smoke detectors and home owners insurance.  I feel so fortunate that I had both.”

The Whites’ story of survival and the reunion between Ms. White, the Red Cross and DTE was recently featured on WJBK FOX 2 with Roop Raj. Raj had been instrumental in helping to inform Detroit residents of the Home Fire Campaign installation day last September, which led to hundreds of people in the city of Detroit signing up to get free smoke detectors installed in their home, as well as fire safety education.

American Red Cross’ Home Fire Campaign is responsible for saving 111 lives nationally. The DTE Energy Foundation, the philanthropic arm of DTE Energy, provided a $250,000 grant to the American Red Cross of Michigan in 2016 for ongoing support of the campaign. In 2015, the DTE Energy Foundation invested $100,000 in the campaign, which provided more than 6,000 smoke detectors that were installed in more than 1,000 homes in Detroit and Monroe, Michigan.

“At DTE Energy, safety is a key priority,” said Faye Nelson, vice president, DTE Energy, and board chair and president, DTE Energy Foundation. “The DTE Energy Foundation is proud to partner with the American Red Cross in support of its Home Fire Campaign so that we can reach some of Michigan’s most vulnerable residents to help save lives, reduce injuries and educate families on what to do if there is a fire.”

DTE employee volunteers also made in-home visits to install smoke alarms and provide fire escape planning education to thousands of families throughout Michigan, as part of the Red Cross initiative.  DTE Energy Senior Strategist Terri Schroeder installed the smoke detectors that helped save the White family.

“I was saddened to learn that Ms. White experienced such a damaging fire, but thankful to hear that she and her grandson had the tools they needed to escape!” said Schroeder. “Ms. White’s story is proof that the campaign and our efforts in the community can make a difference in keeping our community safe.”

The Red Cross’s five-year campaign kicked-off across the country in October 2014, with a goal of reducing the number of home fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent. Working with local fire departments and community groups across the United States, the Red Cross is installing smoke alarms in homes in neighborhoods with the highest risk for home fires. In the last two years, more than half a million smoke alarms have been installed as part of the campaign. As of August 31, the Red Cross and 3,600 partners have reached more than 591,000 people through home visits in 7,300 cities and towns all across the country. The Red Cross also has reached more than 581,000 youth through fire safety and preparedness programs.