By Osvaldo Rodriguez
I was invited to spend a few hours volunteering on a Saturday morning by my friend Eddie, who is also the Executive Director of the American Red Cross in Kern County, to volunteer for Sound the Alarm. He informed me that the company that I work for, The Wonderful Company, had partnered with the Red Cross to install free smoke alarms in Delano where I work. I was excited to see that the Red Cross and The Wonderful Company would be working together to ensure that people who live in Delano would be better prepared in the event of a home fire by having free smoke alarms installed in their homes and receiving life-saving education.
I am a third-grade teacher at Wonderful College Academy, and every day I work with my students that live in Delano and surrounding communities. I was able to recruit Mrs. Anderson, another third-grade teacher, to volunteer with me. It is always great to volunteer with friends and co-workers, which only adds to the volunteer experience!
We arrived on the morning of Sound the Alarm and were assigned to help with registration and passing out new Sound the Alarm t-shirts as the volunteers arrived. It was inspiring to see so many volunteers that ranged from high school students to adults show up that morning to help.
After registration, opening comments and training, the teams went out to install smoke alarms and provide education. I went out with Eddie and Mrs. Anderson to help check in on the teams to make sure everyone had what they needed throughout the event.
The final team we came across was a team of three Kern County Firefighters. They needed a Spanish speaker who could assist them with educating the residents. At the next home, I was able to take over the role of the educator. It was great to jump in and fill a need using my bilingual skills. We remained with the team of firefighters for the remainder of the event.
It was a humbling experience to enter a home and ensure that the household was better prepared for a home fire. I was surprised at the number of people that did not have smoke alarms. Over the years, there are many times Eddie had mentioned the need for smoke alarms. But it clicks when you come face to face with people and see how they either don’t have smoke alarms or if they do, how many don’t work. It is something that stays in the back of your mind but is easily taken for granted and it is so simple. Every home that we entered had a need for smoke alarms.
It was great being able to work alongside Kern County Firefighters and learn about the need for smoke alarms from their perspective as well. Each day, they see firsthand the effects of homes not having working smoke alarms.
Volunteering gave me a perspective of how many people are vulnerable to home fires and solidified my understanding of the need that is out there. I am glad that I along with my colleague and many others were able to have a hand in helping people be better prepared.
IF YOU NEED HELP If you cannot afford to purchase smoke alarms or are physically unable to install one, the Red Cross may be able to help. Residents who need assistance can visit endhomefires.org to schedule an appointment for a free smoke alarm installation. During the 20-minute home visits, Red Cross volunteers will also share information on the causes of home fires, how to prevent them, what to do if a fire starts and how to create a home fire escape plan.
HOME FIRE CAMPAIGN SAVE LIVES Since October 2014, the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign with community partners has saved at least 1,393 lives by educating families about fire safety, helping them create escape plans and installing free smoke alarms in high-risk areas across the country. To learn more about the campaign and how you can get involved by volunteering, visit redcross.org/homefires.