Tag Archives: Sound the Alarm

Volunteer LouAnne Williams keeps it simple in order to serve hundreds

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(l to r) Eva Marquez, Keith Hoffman, LouAnne Williams, and Jeff Airth. Photography: Kane Wong | American Red Cross
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LouAnne Williams keeps it simple. On October 31, 2013, she began to look for ways to give back to her community. She tried to register with a local hospital but felt that they had an overwhelming number of rules and regulations.  Craving something simpler and more direct, she sought counsel from friends and family. Her son-in-law suggested she try the Red Cross, so LouAnne walked into the front door of the Red Cross, literally across the street from the hospital. And she has never looked back.

LouAnne began her journey as a preparedness instructor and now leads her peers in multiple capacities. Last year, she received the San Mateo County Volunteer of the Year Award, something that came as no surprise to her colleagues.

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Red Cross-installed smoke alarm alerts mobile home residents to fire

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These volunteers were among those installing smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in the Sunshadow mobile home park on Feb. 19, 2019, six months before two residents’ lives were saved when the smoke alarms alerted them to a fire. Photo Credit: American Red Cross/Oleksii Nazaruk.
Click here for more photos from the event.

San Jose resident Nguyen Robson had been an American Red Cross volunteer for less than a year when he was called to help two mobile home residents displaced by a fire and received a vivid lesson about his volunteer work’s impact.

When Robson arrived at the Sunshadow mobile home park in San Jose, the two residents — waiting safely outside their home — greeted him with grateful recognition in their native Vietnamese. They remembered Robson as one of the volunteers who had installed smoke alarms and helped them prepare an evacuation plan for their mobile home only six months earlier. The alarm woke them from a mid-afternoon nap and allowed their escape.

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Over half of homes in Silver Creek Mobile Estates made safer by ‘Sound the Alarm’ event

On October 19, 2019, a team of over 100 American Red Cross and Tzu Chi Foundation volunteers supported by Council Member for District 7, Maya Esparza, San Jose Fire Department worked in teams to install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.

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The Silver Creek Mobile Estates is a community of 240 homes located in San Jose, California. Captain Bien Doan of the San Jose Fire Department working with Terry Unter, Disaster Services Volunteer at the Silicon Valley Chapter of the Red Cross, directed a coordinated campaign to canvass the community and pre-book Saturday morning appointments for the installations. Following the installation, everyone regrouped for lunch: subs from Lee’s Sandwiches.

Volunteers were greeted with welcoming remarks from Council Member Esparza and San Jose Fire Chief Robert Sapien, Jr. Chief Sapien stressed how important this work was to the safety of citizens of San Jose and recalled an incident in August where a mobile home resident was awakened by a smoke detector and was able to safely evacuate the home along with the other resident living there; that smoke detector had been installed in February 2019 during an earlier Sound the Alarm event.

STA SVC Blog 420x280 2Initial training was provided by Terry Unter, Liz Dietz, and Doug Moses-Batson. After instruction on how to install smoke alarms and provide training to residents, teams of four were deployed to visit the homes in the community. Each team was composed of an Educator, an Installer, an Assistant Installer, and a Documenter.

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Contra Costa Smoke Alarm Lead Wins Top Award

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Marcie Wright-Powell considers herself an unlikely hero. As with many Red Cross volunteers, Marcie shuns the spotlight. She says, “I really don’t do anything special and certainly a lot less than other volunteers.”

But Marcie could not avoid the accolades this spring, as she was named the 2018 Volunteer of the Year for the American Red Cross of Contra Costa County.

Those who nominated Marcie for this award noted that she is one of those volunteers who does it all: “…being deployed to local disasters, working in shelters, volunteering at the Red Cross Galas, delivering food to our Red Cross shelters, working on our volunteer events committee, and along with everything else she has done, with a can-do attitude, excellent leadership skills, and a true volunteer spirit.”

Now, Marcie is the lead for scheduling all volunteers in the “Sound the Alarm” smoke detector campaign. Marcie’s journey to that role started five years ago. After working as an office manager for 30 years, she joined her husband, Don, in volunteering for the Red Cross. “It’s a challenge, another thing we can do together.”

Their first assignment as a team was with Volunteer and Youth Services, working with high school Red Cross Clubs. “They were very impressive and had all their fundraising plans together.”

Marcie’s next big step was into Disaster Deployment. She worked 12-hour shifts at shelters during several fires in Contra Costa County. She checked fire survivors into the shelter, served food, and found a way to deliver food to another shelter that was cut off by the fire.

During a fire in Clayton, Marcie worked at a shelter at the local library. “One guy came in filthy dirty from work and asked ‘do you guys just have a clean t-shirt I can wear?’” The volunteers found him one. “His son was just thrilled to have pizza and soda and asked if he could read a book from the library.” Marcie said this work gave her a new perspective, that “just having a toothbrush, food, and water” can make a huge difference to a fire survivor.

Marcie also heaps praise on other volunteers, and even the survivors themselves. She noted that the Red Cross partners with Animal Services to help care for pets affected by the fire. “I was really impressed. They bring crates, food, water, leashes, collars. One lady evacuated without her cat. Her neighbor just ran into her house, grabbed her cat, threw it into his car, and brought it to the shelter.”

But Marcie felt she could put her office management skills to better use for the Red Cross. Now she marshals her own army of volunteers, contributing hundreds of hours to the “Sound the Alarm” campaign. She schedules volunteers to install smoke alarms free of charge in clients’ homes and to provide education on fire safety and preparedness.

Marcie has recruited teams of Sound the Alarm volunteers, often husbands and wives, or groups of friends. “My only request is – come up with someone you can work with. Four guys who are in Kiwanis set up their own team and give me four hours a month. They can get five homes done in a day.”

Marcie says people are grateful for the help. She remembers a single mother who had been scared about a fire breaking out in the middle of the night. The team took the time to go over fire safety with her children. “I get emails from people saying, ‘Thank you. Your crew was so professional.’”

And there is a lighter side to her work. Marcie once called an 85-year-old woman to schedule an appointment for the smoke alarm team. “She was pretty much homebound, and very talkative. She said, ‘Now I just have one question for you. I need a man, but he has to drive and he can’t wear a diaper!’”

What will Marcie take on next with the Red Cross? She has an idea she’d like to promote to help volunteers stay engaged. Along with the more formal meetings at Red Cross offices, she asks, “Can we just meet somewhere in a non-business way, and have a cup of coffee with a few people? That’s where ideas come from; not by meeting, but by actually talking.”

With her “true volunteer spirit,” Marcie just might make that happen!

Marcia Antipa is a volunteer writer with the Northern California Coastal Region.

Even though spring has passed, it’s still ‘Sound the Alarm’ season

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New Regional CEO Jennifer Adrio joined Silicon Valley Chapter CEO Ken Toren, more than 100 chapter volunteers, and partner teams at a very successful Sound the Alarm event earlier this month in San Jose. (Photo: Camilla Boolootian)
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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 smoke alarm installation events in which Red Cross volunteers, working with local fire departments and other partners, visit high-risk 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 600 lives throughout the United States since the Home Fire Campaign began.

Teams throughout the American Red Cross’s Northern California Coastal Region were especially busy in April and May, organizing and holding a large number of Sound the Alarm “signature events.” These events were part of a special spring push that American Red Cross volunteers and our partners were making nationally from April 27 through May 12. The goal of this national effort was to install 100,000 smoke alarms during that three-weekend period. Read more

Santa Clara County home fire illustrates value of smoke-alarm installations

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Mo Ghandehari, left, and Gordon Sakai visited the same Gilroy home twice: once to install two smoke alarms; a second time when the same alarms were activated by a fire in the attic.
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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. Read more

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