In ten days, fires destroyed the homes of 14 adults and 15 children throughout the now six-county area of the American Red Cross chapter headquartered in Myrtle Beach. Across South Carolina, Red Cross volunteers in February assisted an average of two people every hour, and in three days assisted 120 people in house fires.
Nanci Conley, executive director of the Eastern S.C. Chapter, Palmetto Region, says home fires are a major focus of the chapter, headquartered on the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base at 3531 Pampas Drive. The chapter is partnering with Horry County Fire Rescue in placing “hundreds of smoke detectors.” Nationally, the American Red Cross goal is to reduce deaths from home fires by 25 percent in five years, Conley says.
“Every $4 in prevention saves $10 in response expense” for the Red Cross, she says. Another national home safety program is the “Pillowcase Project.” Schoolchildren are given a pillowcase to decorate. Youngsters can place their special things in the pillowcases to put under their beds and take with them if they experience a fire.
In a recent Hartsville smoke alarm blitz, 175 alarms and 31 carbon monoxide detectors were installed in 66 homes. In response to winter weather, “We supported warming shelters in Conway and Mullins.” Shelters were opened at the request of the municipalities.
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The realigned Eastern S.C. Chapter includes the counties of Horry, Marion, Marlboro, Florence, Darlington and Dillon. Georgetown and Williamsburg counties are now in the Low Country Chapter, headquartered in Charleston. Georgetown and Williamsburg were with Horry County in the former Coastal S.C. Chapter. The realigning has allowed a full-time disaster services response person in the Georgetown office.
March is National Red Cross Month and in Horry County the first half of the two-month Heroes Campaign. “We’re very, very excited” about the annual Heroes drive which kicked off a week ago. The major fundraiser has $140,000 toward its goal of $200,000. April is restaurant month for the drive.
“Taste of Surfside Beach” is a new event for the Red Cross, Conley says. The eight-day event runs March 21 through March 28. A variety of retail and service businesses in Surfside Beach will offer discounts and promotions to customers who purchase a “Taste of Surfside Beach Passport Card.” Conley estimates 50 businesses are participating, with the number growing every day. “It’s huge. I’m very excited. I am just so proud of the Town of Surfside Beach.”
“Centennial Swim” marks the 100th year of Red Cross water safety programs, including swim lessons and lifeguard qualifications. The cities of Conway and Myrtle Beach are partners with the Red Cross in Centennial Swim. Significantly, Horry County is No. 8 in the United States for drowning deaths – surely a statistic that needs to be addressed aggressively. Conley notes that the Horry rate of three deaths per 100,000 people is nearly triple the national rate. The Horry deaths are not primarily tourists who drown in the ocean, but fresh water mishaps.
Water safety programs; preparedness for natural disasters; helping folks through the trauma of home fires; notification of military personnel in family emergencies, these are vital human services provided by the Eastern S.C. Chapter. “We’ve got so much going on,” Conley says.