‘Sound the Alarm’ teams make an impact in February; gearing up for spring push


With the help of the Red Cross’s Katareina Vincent, Christian (left) and Carlos Chavez create an escape plan during a February “Sound the Alarm” visit to their home in Oakland. (Photo: Cate Calson)

On average, home fires kill 7 people and injure another 36 — every single day in the United States. That’s why the American Red Cross launched its nationwide Home Fire Campaign in 2014 with the goal of reducing the number of home fire deaths and injuries.

A key component of the campaign is a series of Sound the Alarm – Save a Life events in which Red Cross volunteers, working with local fire departments and other partners, visit high-risk neighborhoods to offer to install free smoke alarms, replace batteries in existing alarms, and help families create escape plans. It is believed that the Sound the Alarm neighborhood visits, in which more than 1.5 million alarms have been installed, have already saved more than 500 lives throughout the United States since the Home Fire Campaign began.

During the month of February, four more Sound the Alarm events were held in the American Red Cross’s Northern California Coastal Region alone. Here is a brief summary of each of these local activities:

• In Novato on Saturday, February 9, seven teams of Marin County Red Cross volunteers made 53 homes at a mobile home park safer. In all, the teams — joined by partners from Solano and the local Salvation Army — installed nearly 80 smoke alarms.

• In San Jose on Saturday, February 16, more than 50 volunteers made 53 homes and 243 residents safer in the Sunshadow Mobile Home Park. In all, 216 free smoke alarms were installed in the residents’ homes. The Silicon Valley Chapter’s regular partner in local smoke-alarm installations, the San Jose Fire Department, was also on hand to help that Saturday. Fire Chief Robert Sapien and department PIO Mitch Matlow were there, as were 2 fire engines and 1 ladder unit. In addition to Red Cross volunteers taking part in the activity, the Tzu Chi Buddhist Foundation provided six volunteers who supported the home visits. Breakfast was donated by Chick-fil-A, and coffee was provided by Lee’s Sandwiches, which also supplied lunch at reduced prices. (See the photo album for this activity.)

• In Alameda County on Saturday, February 16, Red Cross volunteers conducted home visits in Oakland (Fruitvale community) and in Spanish-speaking communities in various areas of Alameda County, installing free smoke alarms and educating residents about home fires. They visited 40 homes, installed 117 alarms, and made 188 residents safer. (See the photo album for this activity.)

In the town of Gonzales on Saturday, February 23, 8 teams of volunteers visited 51 homes, installing 136 smoke alarms. Supported by the Gonzales Fire Department and Seaside High School National Honors Club students, the volunteers also replaced batteries in existing alarms and helped develop safety plans for each home’s occupant(s). In all, the effort made a total of 187 residents safer in this Monterey County community. (See the team photo for this activity.)

In the community of McKinleyville on Saturday, February 23, Red Cross volunteers and partners visited 14 homes and installed a total of 34 smoke alarms. That day, 7 Red Cross volunteers were assisted by 8 members of the California Conservation Corps from Fortuna. In all, the installations made 35 residents safer in this Humboldt County community. (See the photo album for this activity.)

From April 27 through May 12 this spring, volunteers and partners in communities throughout the country will be making an extra push to make in-home Sound the Alarm visits. The goal of this national effort will be to install 100,000 smoke alarms during that three-weekend period.

A number of these spring events are scheduled to take place in our region, and organizers are still in need of volunteer support. For information about how you can volunteer at these events, please see this press release.

For more information about the overall impact of the Home Fire Campaign in our region, please go to this web page.

Thank you to all who are making our region’s contributions to this national Red Cross campaign so successful!