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  • Writer's pictureNEIA Red Cross

A Win for Smoke Alarms

A cold Sunday morning with a head cold. Corinne Bulat was awoken by her upstairs neighbor’s smoke alarm going off. Her cold wanted her to go back to sleep, so she tried to ignore the alarm. Soon, her own smoke alarm went off. Once she had turned it off, she took the opportunity to blow her nose. That’s when she smelled the smoke and saw the haze in her small apartment. She could hear items plunking into her drop ceiling. Bulat knew it was time to get out.

Experts say you only have about two minutes to escape a home fire. Bulat knew to grab her keys, wallet and coat. She could see smoke coming through the ceiling lights. Most of Bulat’s neighbors were awoken by firefighters pounding on their doors, telling them to leave the building. Bulat later learned that her apartment was next to the apartment that burned.

The fire that left Bulat and 21 other residents displaced occurred in Boone, Iowa on February 7, 2021. The Salvation Army provided lodging and food in the initial aftermath, and the Red Cross took over the response two days later and provided meals and hotel accommodation for the residents.

“The Red Cross gave everyone some money for essentials like toiletries, which was really needed”, said Bulat. “Even little things like my toothbrush were too smoky to use. They also followed up with me to make sure I was okay and didn’t need any help. I appreciated it because the situation was really overwhelming.”

Bulat is no stranger to the American Red Cross. Her mother, Denise Bulat, serves on the board of the Western Illinois Chapter of the American Red Cross. For her, this fire and the Red Cross response was truly a “mission moment.” “Our daughter was being taken care of,” she said. “We were so thankful the Red Cross was there.”

Like so many who safely escape from home fires, Corinne Bulat was fortunate that she heard smoke alarms go off twice, telling her to get out. Right now, we at the Red Cross are promoting Sound the Alarm, a campaign to draw attention to home fire preparedness. Home fires are the most common disaster, and they claim seven lives per day. You can take action today to prepare your home in the event of a home fire by visiting

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