On the early morning of Dec. 15, white plastic bags with little red crosses could be seen fluttering on the mailbox posts throughout the Valley Forge Crossing mobile park community.
Each bag contained emergency preparedness and fire safety literature specific to manufactured homes, and were distributed by volunteer members of the Westmont Team of the South Eastern Pennsylvania (SEPA) Red Cross.
“There’s a lot of wonderful people that volunteer with the Red Cross,” Ed Kershner, a volunteer lead responder with the Westmont team, said.
Kershner started volunteering with the Red Cross since 2005, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
As an Audubon resident, Kershner has since joined one of the many individual volunteer Disaster Action Teams (DAT) that serve localized areas throughout the southeastern region of the state. In Montgomery County, Kershner explained, there are two DAT teams, Eastmont (short for Eastern Montgomery County), which serves the greater Abington area; and Westmont, which serves from Norristown to above Pottstown, including the Lower Providence area.
DAT volunteers provide assistance to those in emergency situations, such as providing shelter and monetary support for those whose home becomes uninhabitable after a fire.
“It was so Devestating.”
According to Kershner, the Westmont team participates in several community outreach events throughout the year. Last year, the team embarked on a new outreach initiative, focusing on the safety and well-being of manufactured home residents.
Kershner recalled a mobile-home fire that took place at the Valley Forge Crossing mobile park community approximately two years ago. As a Westmont DAT member, he and team co-captain Terry O’Hara responded to the fire. Kershner recalled the mobile home owner saying that he was able to quickly evacuate his two children from the premises, before immediately returning to his home to save valuables.
“But, when he turned around, the entire thing was up in flames,” Kershner recalled. “It was so devastating, we were very much impacted by them.”
Kershner said that he and his team wanted to help prevent further disasters, and decided to organize a “Fire Prevention Walk Through,” specifically for local mobile-home parks.
The team independently researched manufactured home fire-prevention literature, and received approval from the SEPA Red Cross for distribution.
In the literature [see .pdfs in the media gallery], manufactured home residents were given information and guidelines on safeguarding their home from fires, such as:
- During a typical year, manufactured homes account for 17,700 fires, hundreds of deaths and $155-million in property losses.
- Electrical system malfunctions and heating fires are the leading causes of fire in manufactured homes.
- Plan an Escape Routine
- Install/Maintain Smoke Detectors
A Little Help from St. Gabe's
The first and second year of the Fire Prevention Walk Through, SEPA Red Cross provided the Westmont Team with 500 plastic bags for the literature. Last year, the Red Cross also provided 9v batteries. This year, Dawn Knobel, a teacher at St. Gabriel’s Hall in Lower Providence, worked with Kershner, who also works at the school, to encourage students to help prepare the literature and bags.
Kernsher helped explain the purpose of the outreach, and the importance of community service and volunteerism.
“They worked hard for three days,” Kershner said.
On Dec. 15, three members of the Wetmont team visited Lower Providence Township’s mobile-park communities, including Trooper, Sunnyside, Hillside and Valley Forge Crossing. Some of these communities have had recent reports of fire calls.
Approximately 440 bags were handed to residents or left on mail boxes. Members of the Westmont team that participated were:
- Marie and Richar Jimenez
- Joy Mealey
- Doris Grubb
- Natalie Watterworth (co-captain)
- Ed Kershner
- Terry O’Hara
“A lot of people thanked us this year,” Kershner said.
The Red Cross will continue on Thursday afternoon its Fire Prevention Walk Through in a mobile home park off of Ridge Pike in Limerick.
For more information, visit www.redcross.org/pa/philadelphia