Chris Gilyard Describes her Journey – “Walking Through Ashes”

Chris Gilyard, featured speaker at today’s World Burn Congress general session, uses the words “Walking Through the Ashes” to describe her burn injury experience and her journey through years of recovery.  Thirty five years ago, burned in an auto accident at the age of 17, she suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns on 21% of her body, with her face having some of the deepest burns.ChrisBlogpic

Chris explained that, although the physical pain and recovery in the burn center was intense, the emotional healing from her injuries was equally devastating.  She described how, upon first seeing her reflection in the mirror, she thought ” I don’t look like a girl anymore…..who is ever going to love me?”

Upon being discharged from the security of the burn center, Chris explained, she had no support groups, websites, camps, school or social reentry, or social skills training available. They simply weren’t available at that time.  She experienced the humiliation and pain of pointing, laughing, inappropriate questions, and hurtful comments.  And although her family was loving and highly supportive, they did not have the skills or resources to handle the difficulties of going out in public and responding to the reactions of others.

Chris stated, ” I felt so alone”.

Chris compared the available resources and assistance she had during her journey, and what she wouldn’t have done to have the resources that are offered by the Phoenix Society today, such as SOAR, for a peer supporter who has “been there” like she had; for social reentry skills, such as the Phoenix Society’s “Beyond Surviving:Tools for Thriving”, to help with going out in public; and for a school reentry program such as Phoenix Society’s Journey Back, to help with the challenges of returning to school.  Although she didn’t have these tools, Chris did rely upon the support of family, friends and therapy on her journey to recovery.

She described the breadth of her journey, including a pivotal point where another family member experienced a severe burn injury, and how this motivated her to pay it forward by becoming a Burn Support Representative at Regions Hospital Burn Center, in St. Paul, Minnesota.  She stated she learned  “the journey is much easier to do with someone by your side.”

Today, Chris is married with 2 sons and works in private practice as a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist in Minnesota, offering caring and healing for those struggling with burn and other types of trauma.

Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors continues to be the central hub for resources for everyone affected by burn injury, offering peer support – SOAR (Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery), online learning courses, online support chat services, the Journey Back resource for school reentry, and many other educational tools and resources so that burn survivors and their families can live productive and fulfilling lives.  No one has to travel the road of recovery alone.  More information is available for these resources at

Parent Workshop Addresses the Needs of the Entire Family after Burn Injury

The parent workshop was held today for parents coping with burn survivorship within the family. The workshop provided information, perspectives, expert advice and open discussion for the attendees. Aimed at both parents of child/teen survivors as well as parents who are themselves burn survivors, this workshop addressed the impact that burn injury has on children, teens and family.

Parents had the opportunity to explore what their family had experienced and gained useful information and tools to manage the future.

A facilitated support group follows this session to allow for further discussion. The parent support group addresses aspects such as guilt and children’s behavior challenges. Hearing that you are not alone, connecting with each other, and learning about recovery helps parents prepare for the next stages of their family journey.

Phoenix Society’s SOAR Training at WBC

Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors conducted multiple SOAR (Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery) training sessions at this year’s World Burn Congress 2013.  Phoenix Society’s SOAR is a hospital-based program that provides the transforming power of peer support so that everyone affected by burn injury can make a complete recovery – and resume a productive and fulfilling life.

On Tuesday, October 8th Phoenix Society conducted a SOAR Instructor training class and welcomed Massachusetts General Hospital and Arkansas Children’s Hospital Burn Center’s newest instructors to the SOAR family!

Phoenix Society offers SOAR (Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery) Instructor training at its World Burn Congress 2013

Phoenix Society offers SOAR (Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery) Instructor training at its World Burn Congress 2013

On Wednesday, October 9th, we held one of our largest Coordinator training classes to-date, with a broad attendance of hospitals & burn centers from across the country including:
– Rhode Island Hospital Burn Center / Hasbro Children’s Hospital
– Brigham & Women’s Hospital Burn Center
– Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital
– UC San Diego Regional Burn Center
– University of Iowa Burn Center
– Oregon Burn Center
– University of Colorado Hospital Burn Center
– St. Barnabas Medical Center
– Grady Memorial Hospital Burn Center
– Shriners Hospitals For Children Galveston
– Calgary Firefighters Burn Treatment Center / Foothills Medical Center
– Tampa Bay Regional Burn Center
– Rhode Island Hospital
– Ohio State University Medical Center
– Community Regional Medical Center
– New York Presbyterian Hospital

We also welcome the volunteers who attended the SOAR Peer Supporter training on Wednesday, October 9th.  These peer supporters are based out of the following hospitals:
– Massachusetts General Hospital
– Brigham & Women’s Hospital Burn Center
– St. Barnabas Medical Center
– University of Michigan Health Systems
– Calgary Firefighters Burn Treatment Center /Foothills Medical Center
– University of Texas Medical Branch
– UC Davis Regional Burn Center
– Rhode Island Hospital Burn Center

Phoenix Society welcomes them to the program and the SOAR hospital network across the country! This training is part of the Phoenix Society’s ongoing commitment to provide peer support to burn survivors and their families as they recover from burn injury. The instructors, coordinators, and peer supporters are crucial roles in providing the peer support program for survivors and their loved ones. For more information on Phoenix Society’s SOAR program go to

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

Phoenix Society Joins Efforts to Prevent Tragedy through Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act

By:  Amy Acton

Executive Director, Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors

For the past week, our hearts have been with our friends who were impacted by The Station fire in West Warwick, RI as they prepared themselves for the 10th anniversary, and all of the emotions that would bring.

I attended the memorial Sunday where that tragedy took place, to honor the 100 people who lost their lives that day.  As I stood there,  I recognized so many familiar faces, and was reminded of the efforts of so many people over the last 10 years who have worked, and continue to work, to support this community.

Common Voices -DC 1-group - 02.20.13

The Phoenix Society has played a small part in assisting the healing along with countless other organizations and individuals.  Yet there is still so much to do.  Today we are in DC with our partner Common Voices, promoting the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act to prevent future loss like those experienced in Rhode Island.  Rob Feeney, Phoenix Society Advocate, and others affected that night, have shifted their focus to be voices for change.

Common Voices - DC4 - Rob Feeney 2 - 02.20.13

The Phoenix Society joins Common Voices and other national fire service organizations, who are working with the House and Senate to reintroduce the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act (FSIA) in the 113th Congress.  Join us and add your voice and help us to prevent another fire like the Station fire.  Visit 

Phoenix Society at SOAR Firefighter Summit

by:  Pam Peterson

The Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Charitable Foundation and National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF), and the University of Kentucky College of Social Work came together this past week to participate in a Firefighter Peer Support Summit, in Phoenix, AZ.

SOAR Summit - IAFF firefighter - unedited 01.30.13

Phoenix Society SOAR instructors, coordinators, and peer supporters, IAFF District Coordinators, Burn Foundations, and the NFFF were among those who took part in the discussion of peer support for the burn injured firefighter and their families.

During the two day summit, participants were introduced to the Phoenix Society’s SOAR program, the support needs of burn-injured firefighters and their families, as well as the firefighter specific components newly added to SOAR. Together we have developed goals for future work.  We began discussion about dissemination strategies and will continue this exploration at the meeting at the ABA.

SOAR Summit - Amy A 01.30.13

This exciting effort would not have been possible without the investment and interest of all of those individuals and organizations involved. We especially would like to extend our gratitude to the burn injured firefighters and spouses who participated in the focus groups and surveys that initially explored peer support as a resource for firefighters- they have provided the foundation on which this project has been built.  We would also like to thank everyone who participated in the summit to ensure access to peer support for anyone affected by a burn injury.

Phoenix Society joins with NFPA and ESPN’s Hannah Storm on Burn Awareness

As part of Burn Awareness Week (February 3-8), the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors has joined with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and ESPN’s Hannah Storm to promote home fire safety and the need for burn recovery resources.

Both NFPA and Hannah Storm, ESPN’s sports anchor who suffered burn injury from a grilling accident, worked together to create a series of PSA’s that will target home fire safety . This kickoff will coincide with Super Bowl weekend as well as Burn Awareness Week, so we welcome the opportunity to also share that thousands are affected by a burn injury each year and the Phoenix Society is providing a community of support and the resources needed to help survivors get back to living.

See the attached press release.  Help us promote the Phoenix Society’s burn recovery resources by “sharing” the message, so that others can get and give support!


NFPA and ESPN’s Hannah Storm release PSAs on grilling safety
Sports anchor calls on Super Bowl grillers to play it safe

January 30, 2013 – The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is collaborating with ESPN SportsCenter Anchor Hannah Storm on a series of home fire safety PSAs. As the Super Bowl approaches, these messages encourage the public to take care when using their grills. For PSAs and safety information visit,

In December 2012, Storm was badly burned while preparing to cook dinner for her children. After wind blew out the flame, propane gas pooled on her grill and became an explosive fireball when Storm attempted to re-ignite it. Only the instinct to close her eyes upon seeing the flame saved her corneas, but her face, neck, chest and hands suffered first- and second-degree burns.

According to NFPA, flammable or combustible gas or liquid was the item first ignited in half of home outdoor grill fires. The course of action to remember in grilling is:  if the flame goes out, immediately turn off the gas and the grill, and wait at least 15 minutes before trying to re-light it.

Storm feels that it is “important to tell and share this story because it was a very simple mistake that I made, but it was a very common mistake. People all over the world grill and they grill all the time, and most of the people that I know really don’t understand the proper procedures…”

“Fires and burn injuries are not only traumatic for the person, but for the family and community as well,” says Lorraine Carli, vice president of Communications at NFPA. “Hannah is very courageous to share the personal details of her fire experience and burn injury to remind the public to take steps to prevent fires and avoid injuries.”

February 3rd marks not only the Super Bowl, but also the first day of Burn Awareness Week 2013. The week is an opportunity for burn, fire and life safety educators to spread a message of fire safety throughout local communities.

The Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors works with those injured by burns, providing a supportive community on the road to recovery.

“Imagine for a moment every single person who is at the stadium at the Super Bowl – approximately 85,500 plus attendees. That’s the number of just children under the age of 14 impacted by a burn injury each year,” said Amy Acton, executive director of the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. “We commend Hannah for sharing her story to bring awareness on how you can prevent burn injuries and to connect those who have had an injury to available resources.”

Storm returned to television on January 1, 2013. Her PSAs aim to raise awareness of the potential dangers of grilling, and to ensure safe cooking for sports fans and families alike.

About the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors The Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors is the leading national nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering anyone affected by a burn injury through peer support, education, and advocacy. Visit the Phoenix Society’s website at

About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) NFPA is a worldwide leader in fire, electrical, building, and life safety. The mission of the international nonprofit organization founded in 1896 is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education.

NFPA develops more than 300 codes and standards to minimize the possibility and effects of fire and other hazards. All NFPA codes and standards can be viewed at no cost at