Today we’d like to introduce you to Elena Belden.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Well, January 29, 2005 was a day that was life-changing for me. My 9-year old, my youngest, Austin, was killed in a house fire. The days and months that followed were pretty much a blur. I often felt like I wanted to join him – wherever he was. Austin’s sister, my daughter, Danielle, was a senior in high school at the time, and if it hadn’t been for her, I may have taken that trip to join him.
I often rotated through the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – usually waffling between the first four.
And then one day, I had come to number five – acceptance. In that acceptance, I came to the realization that I never wanted another parent to have to bury a child who died in a fire when it could be prevented! There are ways to prevent fires and even if there is a fire, it is possible to escape with our lives! What was necessary to make sure this didn’t happen again? Equipment, training, and practice were all at the top of the list.
After years of contemplation, soul-searching and hearing the all-too-often news reports of “another child died today in a house fire“… I decided the world deserved to know my son and to have the information that he didn’t have.
And so, in 2018, Austin’s Fire Chiefs was born. Our mission is to teach what to do before “stop, drop and roll” through education and providing equipment for those in need.
Has it been a smooth road?
It has NOT been a smooth road!! It has taken a lot of years of therapy and peeling my onion layers to get to a point where I could determine what it was I wanted to do in Austin’s honor and to be able to even talk about it without crying.
Emotional process aside, after making the decision to create Austin’s Fire Chiefs, I was starting from scratch. I knew very little about the non-profit world, what it entailed and the work that went into it. All I knew was that I did not want another parent to have to bury a child who died in a way that could be prevented. I, along with my significant other , my daughter and my friends, worked tirelessly on content and how to present it in a fun and interactive way, but also effectively.
I have learned so much in this process and have so much more to learn. I am blessed to have amazing support to ask questions of, to learn from and most importantly, to love me.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Austin’s Fire Chiefs – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
Most kids know ‘stop, drop & roll’ but we haven’t taught them what comes BEFORE that, and that is where we believe there’s an enormous opportunity to educate people and save lives.
Our current educational presentation is geared for children ages 5 to 13, although most adults have also learned and appreciate the information provided. We offer fun, information and interaction all rolled up in an approximately 45-minute presentation. We also provide free smoke alarms to people in need. Since we began presenting the program in June 2018, we have already presented to approximately 2,800 children in the tri-county (Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach) area. It teaches many things, including:
• How to check smoke alarms
• What to do if you hear an alarm or somehow learn there is a fire emergency
• Identifying two exits from each room
• The importance of emergency ladders in homes that are more than one story
• Creating a family meeting place
• How to safely escape if there is a fire emergency
We have provided smoke alarms as far away as Massachusetts. We are partners with Habitat for Humanity Broward and present to their future homeowners and their children. We have presented to hearing-impaired children, numerous Scout troops, even birthday parties!
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We have a number of goals! We plan to expand from the South Florida area to all of Florida, and eventually to be a household name nationally and one day, internationally!! We plan to be sure that every house is equipped with the proper fire detecting equipment and do what we can to make that happen for those that aren’t able to do either financially or physically. We want every person (children, adults, special needs, elderly) to have the knowledge of how to react to a fire emergency. There is so much that we want to do and people/organizations that we look forward to partnering with to keep everyone safe! There really is no end to our future outlook.
- Website: www.austinsplan.org
- Phone: 954-673-9744
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: AFC33024
- Facebook: Austin’s Fire Chiefs
Wight Zebra Photography, Reizel Alvarez, Lori Green