Burk Honored For Efforts During Emergency at Kendrew IRA
RENSSELAER FALLS – Imagine sleeping peacefully and being awoken by the sounds of a smoke detector going off in your home.
The first thing you would do is rush to get yourself and your family out of the house.
That task however is easier said than done when your home is an Individual Residential Alternative (IRA) with six guys with varying degrees of developmental disabilities, including two in wheelchairs.
This scenario played out on Jan. 27 when an alarm was activated at the Kendrew IRA. Brian Burk and his housemates, along with two staff members had to evacuate their home, in some instances leaving in just their pajamas.
Luckily it was a false alarm triggered by a rush of heat from the homemaking its way onto the porch when the home’s back door was opened. However, this was not immediately apparent, and not determined for nearly 20 minutes as Mr. Burk, United Helpers Behavioral Health and Life Skills staff, and the home’s other residents waited for the fire department to respond and give them clearance to go back inside.
Making matters worse, the temperature was -20 degrees.
As the home emptied varying degrees of irritation could be detected among those residing there, and that’s where Mr. Burk sprang into action.
“Brian has a huge heart and is always very helpful to everyone in the house,” said Kendrew IRA Program Leader Paul Linden. “That night was no different.”
Mr. Linden explained that as the home was evacuated program members were loaded into a van located a safe distance from the house.
“Brian gave one of the guys his coat and used his own cell phone to provide a hot spot so another could play on his tablet while they waited to go back inside,” Mr. Linden said.
Those two simple gestures helped ease tensions and provide a much-needed sense of calm, both for his housemates and for staff attempting to manage the situation.
For his actions on that night, Mr. Burk was recently presented with a gift card and a certificate at a surprise meeting held at the Behavioral Health and Life Skills complex in Ogdensburg.
As the clock ticked towards 2:30 p.m. and people began to file into the room, one could tell that Mr. Burk was curious about what was going on.
“I guess now I can tell you this is for you,” Mr. Linden told him, eliciting a surprised reaction.
“I never expected so much attention for doing what I did on that day,” Mr. Burk said. “If it happened again, I would do the same things all over again.”