Golden Hero Awards Program

A program to recognize senior citizens who respond correctly to emergencies as a result of fire and life safety education.

The Golden Hero award recognizes a senior citizen who responds appropriately in an emergency by demonstrating key fire and life safety behaviors learned from a Senior SAFE program. Behaviors include:

  • Dialing 911 to report an incident and calmly providing information to a dispatcher 
  • Performing a lifesaving medical maneuver
  • Responding to a fire alarm by promptly exiting the building and alerting others to danger

This senior citizen's meritorious actions can be recognized with a Golden Hero award. 

Adults 65 years and older are 2 times as likely to be killed or injured in a fire, compared to the population at large. The risk increases to 2.1 times that of the general population by age 75 and 3.6 times by age 85. In 2016, 29% of fatal fire victims were over the age of 65. Senior citizens must do everything in their power to prevent fires and survive to teach their grandchildren about fire safety.

Success Stories

Barbara Haydocy – New Salem

On August 11, 2016, 74-year old Barbara Haydocy was at home. She noticed a tradesman working on her neighbor’s house. A short time later she saw her distraught neighbor calling 9-1-1 and waving for her to come over. Barbara rushed to assist and saw the tradesman slumped against the wall of the garage. She recently completed a CPR class through the New Salem Senior SAFE Program. She leapt into action, began CPR and had her neighbor count out the compressions in order to keep her calm. Shelburne Control Dispatch Center gave instructions over the phone, and provided updates on the emergency response. When the New Salem firefighters arrived they were impressed that Barbara was performing CPR and comforting her neighbor at the same time. New Salem, and small towns like it, rely on community members to step up and serve as emergency responders, and help their neighbors when they are in need. On August 11, 2016, Barbara Haydocy heard that call, and without hesitation, was there when she was needed the most.

Robert Levesque – Swansea

On July 4, 2014, Robert Levesque, a, 72-year-old retired firefighter, noticed what appeared to be smoke coming from the roof or eaves of the community center of the local housing authority complex where he lives. building. It had just rained, so he quickly checked the roofs of other buildings to see if the smoke was condensation from the warm roofs. But the other building had no condensation, and Levesque knew he was seeing smoke. He promptly called the fire department. The fire department arrived and extinguished an attic fire. The Swansea Fire Department has taught the “Remembering When” program several times at the complex over the years and Swansea Fire Lt. Rego credits the program with promoting fire safety among the older adult residents.

Susan Vancelette - Worcester

At 5:15 p.m. on September 24, 2014, 68-year-old Susan Vancelette was at home when a neighbor knocked on her door and asked for help. Susan followed the neighbor back to her apartment and saw smoke and flames coming from her neighbor’s oven. She sprang into action and immediately shut the oven door and turned off the stove. She then escorted her friend out of the apartment, closed the door and called 9-1-1. After exiting the building, she pulled the fire alarm to alert other occupants to the danger. Susan’s quick thinking and calm in the emergency helped to prevent the situation from getting worse. The fire was confined to just the oven and the smoke caused minimal damage. Sandra Dionis, resident services coordinator at Illyrian Gardens praised Susan for her efforts, “We are very fortunate to have Susan living in our building.” Fire Inspector Jeffrey Spring of the Worcester Fire Department noted that Susan’s actions were the result of lessons she learned at a recent fire safety seminar. Susan was excited to share the story and her award with the first grade class where she volunteers and to teach the students how important it is to listen and learn.

Nominate a Golden Hero

To nominate a senior citizen who deserves recognition for actions during an emergency, contact Cynthia Ouellette in the Public Education Unit at: