Opening Ceremonies

Phoenix Society’s 2013 World Burn Congress has officially opened!  Opening ceremonies were conducted this morning as an official start to this international gathering of burn survivors, family members, fire service, healthcare professionals and others focused on the need of long-term recovery services.

A stirring rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" opens the Phoenix Society's 25th Annual World Burn Congress

A stirring rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” opens the Phoenix Society’s 25th Annual World Burn Congress

A special thanks to the Providence Fire Department, the Fire Service Color Guard led by the West Warwick Fire Department, the Rhode Island Professional Fire Fighters Pipes & Drums, and other fire service members and emergency first responders who provide their service, honor, and pride to the burn survivor community!

Welcome attendees to Phoenix Society’s 25th Annual World Burn Congress in Providence, Rhode Island!

World Burn Congress Begins with Walk of Remembrance

The Phoenix Society’s World Burn Congress conference began with a “Walk of Remembrance” from the Omni Providence Hotel to the Rhode Island State House –  honoring those who have died from their burn injuries and offering a time to remember our own losses related to burn injuries.


Firefighters and Volunteers lined the walk route, escorting attendees on this symbolic opening of the 25th Annual World Burn Congress. Gathered at the State House, Rhode Island Governor, Lincoln Chafee, Former Rhode Island Governor, Donald Carcieri, Steven M. Pare, Commissioner of Public Safety, Paul Doughty, President IAFF Local 799, Gina Russo, President of Station Fire Memorial Foundation – Survivor, Dr. David Harrington, Medical Director of Rhode Island Hospital Burn Center, Jim Shannon, President National Fire Protection Association, and Amy Acton, Executive Director, Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors addressed the walk participants, and spoke to remind the public at-large that burn care and prevention is critical.

A special guest speaker, Adherbal Ferreira, President Association of Victims of Santa Maria Fire Brazil, also spoke to the crowd.  Phoenix Society was introduced to Mr. Ferreira during a visit to Brazil soon after the tragic 2013 Santa Maria nightclub fire in Brazil, where Mr. Ferreira’s daughter had died.    Phoenix Society saw the unique opportunity to invite the representatives from Brazil to World Burn Congress and to add their voices to the important issue of fire prevention.

Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors continues to be a central hub of information, resources and programming across North America, and more recently, internationally.  As part of the burn community, we believe by promoting life safety codes we will prevent needless loss of life and burn injuries that affect families and communities across America and internationally.

Catch some of the memorable moments of the Phoenix Society’s World Burn Congress “Walk of Remembrance” – view the slideshow below.

Phoenix Society's members and special guests carry the Walk of Remembrance banner

Phoenix Society’s members and special guests carry the Walk of Remembrance banner

Local Fire Departments join to provide pipe and drum escorts to burn survivors, family members and other attendees of WBC 2013

Local Fire Departments join to provide pipe and drum escorts to burn survivors, family members and other attendees of WBC 2013

Burn survivors, their families, fire services, caregivers and others join together to participate in the Walk of Remembrance

Burn survivors, their families, fire fighters, caregivers and others join together to participate in the Walk of Remembrance

Approaching the Rhode Island State House

Approaching the Rhode Island State House

Addressing the crowd at the Rhode Island State House

Addressing the crowd at the Rhode Island State House

A moment of silence - honoring those that have died from burn injuries and remembering our own losses related to burn injuries

A moment of silence – honoring those that have died from burn injuries and remembering our own losses related to burn injuries


“Becoming an Effective Advocate” Workshop Offers Important Tips for Promoting the Cause

Becoming and Effective Advocate: Get Attention for the Cause Through Public Speaking, Politicians, and the Press

IMG_1252Brad Phillips is conducting a full-day, interactive workshop today for new and experienced advocates. (Pre-registration required).

Brad Phillips, president of Phillips Media Relations. author of The Media Training Bible and the Mr. Media Training Blog, and former ABC News and CNN journalist, is here today offering his extensive experience and renowned advice to World Burn Congress attendees interested in becoming Phoenix Society Advocates.

Attendees are learning how to attract media attention and deliver a memorable media interview, how to create and deliver a compelling speech, and how to convince lawmakers to join their efforts.

This workshop is full of energy and fun, and is teaching numerous techniques to the WBC attendees through lecture, video examples, group exercises, and demonstrations.

The “Becoming an Effective Advocate” workshop is focused on becoming a Phoenix Society Advocate and the home fire sprinkler issue, but those advocating for other issues and causes are also learning critical tips for improving their efforts as well.

Thank you to our workshop attendees for getting involved and helping bring attention to the cause!

Congratulations to Amy Acton for Receiving Curtis P. Artz Award

Amy Acton recieving Curtis P. Artz award at the ABA conference in Palm Springs, CA

Amy Acton receiving Curtis P. Artz award at the ABA Conference in Palm Springs, CA

Congratulations to our Executive Director, Amy Acton, who was awarded the Curtis P. Artz Distinguished Service Award this week while the Phoenix Society staff attended the ABA Conference in Palm Springs, California! Amy was recognized for her dedication throughout her career to advocating for the expansion of burn recovery services and resources for those impacted by burn injury and their loved ones.

Amy’s career in burn care started at the Spectrum Health Regional Burn Center, located in Grand Rapids, MI,  as a burn nurse and nurse manager.  In 1998, she joined the Phoenix Society, which then relocated to Grand Rapids, and joined its mission as the only national non-profit organization of its kind helping those impacted by burn injuries meet their challenges with the community support and tools they need to thrive again.  She, along with the dedicated staff and volunteers of the Phoenix Society, has developed several national programs that have greatly increased accessibility to long-term recovery resources for those in the burn community.

Amy has been instrumental in refining the organization’s mission and building strong partnerships to build and expand programming which includes World Burn Congress, an international conference for burn survivors, their families and friends, fire services and medical professionals; a peer support program now in over 56 burn centers; and a thriving advocacy program to add the survivors voice to burn prevention issues. She is a member of the National Fire Protection Association Board of Directors and also serves on the Board of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

This award is presented annually to a non-physician member of the American Burn Association for his/her outstanding contributions in the burn field. This award memorializes Dr. Curtis P. Artz for his lifelong dedication to the well being of the burn patient and the support of all others who could contribute to that goal in the patient-center, clinical, and research spheres.

Thank You to All of Our Volunteers!

WBC volunteers assisting with registration

WBC volunteers assisting with registration

It is with deep appreciation that we are celebrating over 1,100 volunteers at the Phoenix Society as part of National Volunteer Week (April 21-27th).  Our volunteers are those everyday people who do extraordinary things for us, and include burn survivors, family members, firefighters, healthcare professionals and people in the local communities.

Since our organization’s founding, volunteers have been a source of action, contribution and moving the cause of burn awareness and improved burn care forward.  You, our volunteers, are critically important to burn survivors and their families, because you make the programs at the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors possible.  For those interested in volunteering for the Phoenix Society, additional information may be found at

What do our volunteers do and how do they support the Phoenix Society?  For starters, our volunteers fulfill some of our most fundamental roles in the programs we offer to support burn survivors and their families on the road to recovery.

–          SOAR Volunteers:  Over 900 volunteers serve our peer support program, SOAR (Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery).  These volunteers are comprised of coordinators, trainers, and peer supporters, and deliver the transforming power of peer support for hospitalized burn survivors and their families, which is essential to complete recovery.  More professionals than ever are recognizing the impact of “talking to someone who has been there”.  Peer support volunteers help others to thrive again!

–          Phoenix Society’s World Burn Congress:  Over 250 volunteers come together to support our annual conference..  This life-changing event is touched by volunteers who may be participating in a Phoenix Society program for the first time and others that have returned year after year to participate in our conference.  Volunteer roles at World Burn Congress:

  • Committees – a team of volunteers who work behind the scenes to coordinate all of the functions that produce Phoenix Society’s World Burn Congress.  This group coordinates everything from program sessions, media, hospitality / food, entertainment, transportation, silent auction, and the volunteer staff.
  • “AV Seals” – a team of volunteers who organize and run all of the AV, lighting, and equipment for the entire conference.
  • UBelong – a compassionate and caring group of burn care professionals, family members and burn survivors who volunteer to create a memorable experience for families, kids and young adults by delivering a session full of fun, social skill building and peer group interaction.
  • General Support – “Many hands make light work”; and we need the many hands to distribute t-shirts, transport attendees, move boxes, run registration and all the other behind the scenes work to make the event run smoothly.

–          Phoenix Society Advocates: Our advocate volunteers are those individuals committed to influencing positive changes in their lives, their communities and in their selected governments by sharing their story.  They become that “voice” for burn survivors and families, to support national prevention initiatives.

–          General Phoenix Society support:  We continue to receive behind the scenes support for our organization through such terrific volunteers that help with general tasks such as preparing mailings, stuffing envelopes, or offering their specialized services such as writing and consulting. All the volunteers out there sharing Phoenix Society information, programs and resources to those who need to find it most.

–          Phoenix Society Board of Directors:  Our board is comprised of skilled volunteers with a vested interest in the burn community.  The Directors volunteer their time and contribute their skills and knowledge to assist and oversee the operations of the Phoenix Society.  The board includes survivors, family members of those with burn injuries, and many industry and corporation experts.

SOAR peer supporter volunteers attend a training session

SOAR peer supporter volunteers attend a training session

35 years of providing services and  helping burn survivors everywhere get back to living -Phoenix Society continues to be a small staff with an inspiring base of volunteers across the country, whose enormous energy and commitment continue to support or efforts to ensure everyone affected by burn injury has the tools and resources they need to thrive again!

Phoenix Society would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to all the individuals, organizations and supporters of the work we do.  Together, we can make these programs and resources available for anyone who is suffering from the affects of burn injury.

“No one is more cherished in this world than someone who lightens the burden of another.  Thank you.”  ~Author Unknown

Interested in volunteering? Go to our volunteer page on our website for more information!

March is Child Life Month! Wishing all the best to child life specialists everywhere!

ubleongIMG_1718Child Life Specialist have been involved in developing, planning and delivering many Phoenix Society programs and resources.

Markelle Springsteen  was first introduced to the burn survivor population from one of her child life mentors, Donna Trentel.  Donna, a skilled specialist  who has volunteered with Phoenix Society for many years and most recently has been heavily involved in the UBelong program at World Burn Congress, invited her to volunteer at the family burn camp near Estes Park, CO.  According to Markelle, “It was an eye-opening experience to see how surviving a burn impacted the entire family”.   When she took the job at Children’s Hospital Colorado, one of the clinics that she provided coverage to was Burn Clinic.

Markelle is highly skilled at facilitating groups and working with kids and teens. At Children’s Hospital Colorado, she co-leads a Seizure Class, an Epilepsy Camp and she has facilitated a bereavement group for children who have had someone close to them die.  Beyond this, Markelle has been on four Operation Smile trips, where she served as the child life specialist on each mission.  She has volunteered in Kenya, Ethiopia, India and Mexico.  So, last year when The Phoenix Society called me looking for a “rock star child life specialist” to volunteer with the UBelong Program, I knew just who to ask. 

According to Markelle, being a part of Phoenix Society’s  UBelong program was a wonderfully insightful opportunity.  She learned a great deal from the kids and from the highly trained, expert staff. She experienced the impact that a burn can have on the entire family.  The kids also taught her about resiliency.  “The UBelong program draws on strengths of others, normalizes the participants’ experiences and teaches valuable skills.  In my short time with this program, I see how powerful it is for everyone involved and you cannot get this anywhere else.  As a professional, having these experiences also re-energizes me and continues to give me passion for my Child Life role”.  

When asked how the experience impacted her child life practice Markelle said, “I am able to use the resources, training and communication skills that I learned through this program in several areas of my child life role”. Much of what is taught and experienced in the program can be applied to other types of diagnoses and/or injuries. Markelle says that participating in WBC and the UBelong program has advanced her professional knowledge. She will always be mindful of the fact that the whole family is impacted (which is the essence of the Patient and Family Centered Care Philosophy) and the huge impact that peer interactions can have. 

Phoenix Society has continued her involvement as a volunteer by inviting her to help plan UBelong 2013.  As part of the Planning  Committee, she is now part of the team designing the program for Phoenix Society’s  World Burn Congress UBelong program in Rhode Island. Markelle epitomizes the Child Life profession.  She has a strong knowledge of child development and the impact that trauma and illness can have on it. She takes her skills and applies them to any situation. Most importantly, she has an amazing talent in effectively working with children in group situations.  The kids and their families all really connected with Markelle….it’s not hard to see why!

Special thanks to all the Child Life Specialists who volunteer with Phoenix Society and dedicate their daily work to supporting children and families who are recovering from burn injury.  Your specialized skills help kids to thrive again!

Carla Oliver

“Carla Oliver is the manager of the Therapeutic Recreation/Child Life Department at Children’s Hospital Colorado. She has practiced in the field of child life for more than twenty years, with the  majority of her career  dedicated to working with pediatric burn survivors and their families. Carla is a member of the mental health team for the World Burn Congress and has co-presented the parent workshop for 4 years at WBC, and will be presenting it in WBC 2013. Carla is also on the slate to be President-elect of the Child Life Council in May 2013”

Media Stories Increase Smoke Alarm Awareness – But Some Confusion

Recent Media Stories Share Only Part of the Story on Smoke Alarms

On Sunday, March 24, the national newsmagazine TV show, Dateline, is scheduled to air two segments about smoke alarms.  Here is a teaser of what will be aired.

The first segment originally aired on TODAY in October and there were many concerns within the fire service about the information given in that report.  The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) issued a release urging its members to educate themselves on the issue, and criticizing TODAY for dispelling “half-information.”  CPSC and the major manufactures also all provided statements recommending for optimal protection, families should use both types of technology in their home. We are told that Dateline’s re-airing of this piece will re-emphasize how ionization technology works well in most fires and photoelectric tends to work faster in slow, smoky fires. Yet we want to make sure that any partial information is backed up with facts.  The upcoming segment focuses on photoelectric smoke alarms, and includes an interview with a woman who lost family members in a fire, a demonstration with Don Russell from Texas A&M Universityand an interview with the CPSC.

The second segment will focus on smoke alarm research conducted at National Children’s Hospital in Ohio regarding the effectiveness of parent-recorded voice warnings vs tonal warnings in waking children.  As many of you know there are alarms with this function already available.

Some points to keep in mind and to share if asked as a burn care expert :

–       Nearly every national fire expert, recommends having both types of smoke alarm in a home for optimal protection.  Regardless of technology, smoke alarms must pass the same tests to receive UL-listing, and studies show that both types provide adequate warning for egress.

–       Having a working smoke alarm does not guarantee that you will survive a fire – it increases your likelihood by 50%.  There are still many unknowns, which is why it’s so important that families install smoke alarms throughout the home, replace batteries every year and alarms every 10 years, and have an escape plan so they know what to do when an alarm sounds.

–       Regardless of technology, homes that do not have enough alarms are still under-protected.  Recent surveys show that three out of four homeowners don’t know where to place smoke alarms.  The NFPA recommends placing smoke alarms on each floor and inside and outside of sleeping areas.  IAFC along with Kidde, created a toolkit to help remind fire departments and the community about the proper locations for alarms.  It is available at

–       We asked Kidde a leading manufacturer of residential fire safety products about the technology, Kidde states they review industry data, trends and scientific studies in order to advance technology and create solutions to further protect people and property from fire and related hazards.  Recent examples include:

  • Launching a combination smoke/CO alarm with voice notification nearly ten years ago, based on research showing that voice may be more effective at waking children (the teaser report states they are not available yet)
  • Launching a wireless smoke alarm in 2005 to help bring the benefits of interconnection to nearly 100M homes, based on research showing that average time to escape a home has dropped from 17 minutes to three minutes
  • Launching a line of sealed-in battery smoke and CO alarms in 2012/2013 to help address the issue of battery removal and fire deaths; nearly 2/3 of all fire deaths occur in homes without alarms or with no working alarms, mainly due to dead or missing batteries.  This product line also eliminates homeowners’ top fire safety annoyance – low battery chirps – and was designed with location-based features to make it easier to choose the right alarm for the right location.

Dateline airs at 7pm ET and has an average audience of 6 million viewers.  It is critical that the consumers understand the facts about smoke alarms and it is also an opportunity for us to further educate the public on the topic of prevention, including those building new homes to add fire sprinklers to increase the chances of surviving a fire from 50% to 80%.

Thank you for your effort in sharing this important information with your family and friends to prevent further burn injuries and deaths.

Amy Acton
Executive Director