From Heartbreak to Hope: Ohio Quotarians Fight Fire

  • January 26, 2011

From Heartbreak to Hope: Ohio Quotarians Fight Fire

QI of East Liverpool

When trapped by fire, victims, especially children, often become frightened and hide under beds or inside closets, making it difficult, or even impossible, for firefighters to find them inside burning, smoky structures and carry them to safety.

This tragic fact hit home four years ago in East Liverpool, Ohio, U.S.A., when fire ravaged a home there. As fire trucks and ambulances raced up the highway outside their school, elementary school teacher Teresa Todd and her colleagues feared that a student in the small town would be affected in some way. Indeed, a third-grader lost his twin in that blaze.

Seeking Solutions

Two years later, Teresa became Service Committee Chair for the East Liverpool Quota club. With co-chair Debbie Wynn and committee members Juanita Clendenning and Dolores Satow, Teresa looked for a way to help prevent such heartbreak from happening again.

The Service Committee learned that portable, infrared cameras, called Thermal Imaging Cameras
(TIC), can assist firefighters in finding victims. According to East Liverpool Assistant Fire Chief Bill Jones, these devices allow search and rescue teams to find victims who are otherwise impossible to see.

TICs also make a “remarkable difference in finding hidden fires behind walls and detecting the seat of a fire.” Because of their temperature-sensing features, TICs can even be used to find a child lost in the woods, fire or not. But, at a cost of at least U.S.$18,000 each, the breakthrough technology was prohibitive for the fire department budget in their small town.

Responding with Service

The East Liverpool club had found their project. The committee rallied the other members and, then, the community to raise money for a TIC for the East Liverpool and nearby Liverpool and St. Clair Township fire departments to share. The club established an interest-bearing checking account with an initial deposit of $2,500 and set out to earn the rest toward the purchase of a TIC.

Although some of the members were skeptical about their club’s ability to take on a project so large, the 37 members got busy and involved the whole community, including schools and fire departments. They had hot dog sales and ran concession stands for the school dances. They sponsored a Halloween costume ball. They wrote letters to business organizations and to individuals asking for donations. They applied for a local grant. They placed cans for public donations at businesses all around the area.

The club even involved the community’s children with a penny drive at the local elementary school that generated over U.S.$1,600 in one week alone!

A Penny Goes A Long Way

In a year and a half, the club had raised over $21,000 and delivered the Argus 2 TIC and accessories to the East Liverpool fire chief. Within two weeks, the camera was already in use, shared among the local fire departments.

East Liverpool, Ohio, firefighters use high-tech equipment provided by their local Quota club. The thermal imaging camera (on the helmet, center) allows them to see hot spots as well as people trapped in burning buildings. Photos courtesy of East Liverpool Fire Department.

The International Fire Fighters Association Local 24 presented a plaque in appreciation of their excellent service to the East Liverpool Quota club, then followed Quota’s lead by launching a fundraiser of their own for another TIC for the nearby volunteer fire department.

Although a project of this breadth had never before been attempted in the East Liverpool club, the result was a tremendous success for both the club and the community. The club named Teresa Todd and Debbie Wynn co-winners of their Quotarian of the Year award. Adds Teresa, “Our club’s success has given members great pride in ourselves and the attitude that we can do anything!”

Teresa Todd and Debbie Wynn share the title of Quotarian of the Year in the East Liverpool Quota club for their work to organize this project.

Words from the Wise

Assistant Fire Chief Jones encourages everyone to find out if local fire stations are equipped with TICs. He admits that “because of their cost, TICs are usually only found in larger metro stations—or smaller departments with Quota clubs to support them.”

If your club is considering a project to provide TICs, the East Liverpool Quota club offers a few tips before you begin:

  • Find out how the local fire department operates and who are the decision-makers, then get them involved from the beginning. The equipment will help them save lives, so they will be willing to help your club in this effort.
  • Take advantage of local or township grants, if available. Investigate all possibilities and apply for all grants available for the project before starting the fundraising campaign.
  • Get the community involved.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the people of the community for money.

“Just think,” adds Teresa, “one penny at a time led to $1,600 in one week.”

How many lives will those pennies save?
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