Subscribe for 33¢ / day

We hear amazing heartwarming stories daily about ordinary people coming to the aid of others during that horrific week in October. It's interesting that we continue to be surprised at their selfless acts during emergencies but it never fails to reinforce faith in the human race.

My family's experience involves the Atlas Peak fire and those people dedicated to the safety and care of others on a daily basis. Those with parents or friends in elderly situations throughout Napa would surely like to hear of their performance during that frightening week. We hope that all senior facilities would react as quickly as Brookdale.

Our dedicated executor director, Laura Bourret, with devoted staff worked as a unit for long hours and days for our safety and well-being. Laura's quick and decisive steps were the probable reason it did not become necessary to evacuate Brookdale. Her calm, professional direction surely averted panic and could have prevented possible casualties from heart attacks and hypertension.

With deepest gratitude, we recognized these special friends at our November Resident Council Meeting. Along with Brookdale's Certificate of Recognition, we presented Laura with a vase of beautiful long-stemmed roses and applauded her leadership during this crisis. Laura is a lovely, totally caring person. She and staff not only met our emergency safety needs, but all our needs were lovingly and promptly met by this outstanding troupe of caregivers. We were served our favorite menus throughout that long week and enjoyed the distraction of talented entertainment.

After just one year at Brookdale though, long acclimated to living apart from my only daughter and family (during many years of independent living) I now become more easily agitated with concern for their safety. They reside minutes away in Monticello Park but how quickly my sense of security was smashed when connection was broken by no power or phone service. Police members had put them on alert about 2 a.m. Monday to pack up with pets and be ready to leave. That word came within hours and Karyn then rushed over with flashlight in hand to "rescue" Grammy.

Meeting Laura in the lobby she learned about and saw the survival steps in motion to assure our safety.

On that Sunday evening in her home, Laura had watched reports of the windswept fire's disastrous path toward Napa. Becoming more concerned she came to the facility about 11 p.m. to check our emergency oxygen supply. Most of our 65 residents and another 22 housed in the full- care dementia section suffer breathing problems to some extent so quality air is a priority.

She quickly recognized our predicament if exposed to the deadly smoke, so all outside doors were taped to prevent its entry. Volunteer night staff drove to the homes of other staff to summon help and though some were facing worrisome situations themselves they showed up.

Many of us had peacefully slept through a short power outage while Laura and staff had been in action for seven or eight hours. An assigned care person knocked on each door at about dawn making sure we were safe, not unduly alarmed and that all windows were closed tightly. They had prepared name tagged bags and were ready to assist in packing change of clothing, medicines and personal necessities for a possible two day evacuation.

We welcomed the noisy whir of machines circulating air throughout hallways and common area as we gathered in the downstairs living room for Laura's first briefing. She gave a calm, honest evaluation of our situation and explained steps being taken for our safety. In case we should need to leave, arrangements were made for our transfer to a San Jose Brookdale and rented buses were parked on the street ready to go on notice.

Laura's outreach to Brookdale's home office and nearby Brookdale locations resulted in prompt response. An emergency generator and extra air circulating machines arrived within a few hours. A disaster team arrived from a company Brookdale retains and worked most of Monday helping maintenance install the most efficient method for air distribution throughout the building.

We were freed to return to our own upstairs apartments after dinner. I'm sure some didn't choose to watch the horror scene depicted on their TV screens.

Just as there will probably be more church attacks on innocent people there will be more frightening fires. I'm confident there will also be people like Laura ready to step up to the plate.

Fran Kane