Summoned to the scene of a house fire in Gilroy this past November, American Red Cross volunteers Mo Ghandehari and Gordon Sakai thought the residence — badly damaged — seemed eerily familiar to each of them. That’s because it was.
The two Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) members for South Santa Clara County had been there before; in fact, just seven months before as installers on a Red Cross smoke-alarm installation team.
“We had installed two alarms in the very same home as part of our Red Cross Home Fire Campaign,” Ghandehari says.
In this case, the eight occupants of the home were alerted to the fire by a neighbor who, seeing smoke billowing from the attic of the Lewis Street house, had knocked loudly on the door. But if the neighbor hadn’t happen to see the smoke, the recently installed Red Cross smoke alarms — also sounding a warning — might have been the only thing separating the home’s two adults and six children from almost certain tragedy.
“The incident really underscored for us the value of our smoke-alarm installation program,” Ghandehari says.
On average, home fires kill 7 people and injure another 36 — every single day in the United States. That’s why the 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 smoke alarm installation events in which Red Cross volunteers, working with local fire departments and other partners, visit neighborhoods to offer to install free 10-year 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 550 lives throughout the United States since the Home Fire Campaign began.
In addition to neighborhood-wide Sound the Alarm efforts, the Red Cross also works with its partners to promote appointment-based home visits. And the South Santa Clara County team, which also consists of volunteers Terrie Berry and Gilbert Dalit, has diligently scheduled and followed up on those individual home visits.
“In fact, it was an appointment that brought Gordon and me to the Lewis Street residence,” Ghandehari says. “We had announced the program at the Gilroy Senior Center, and that particular home visit resulted from our Senior Center outreach.”
Once the fire occurred at the residence, Ghandehari and Sakai offered the occupants Red Cross financial assistance to help them with short-term emergency lodging, as well as “comfort kits” containing personal hygiene items.
But it was the sound of two smoke alarms, installed just seven months earlier, that could have very easily been the most important assistance the Gilroy family received from the American Red Cross.
For more information about the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign in this region, please go to: soundthealarm.org/NorCalCoastal. The page includes information about:
- How people can volunteer to help or sign up to have free smoke alarms installed.
- The generous donors who have made this lifesaving work possible!