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Why I Help: Mike Houston

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"I don’t think there is a higher calling than to save someone’s life."

After six years of active duty in the military, 20 years in the reserve and a career as a federal special agent/criminal investigator, Mike Houston understands the importance of training for emergencies.

Now he is using his experiences to inspire people across the Bay Area to learn lifesaving skills.

Mike, who lives in Pleasant Hill, first started volunteering for the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter seven years ago. At that time, he decided to teach CPR, AED (Automated External Defibrillator), and First Aid classes in order to keep his own lifesaving skills fresh. He soon found another reason to teach.

“I really get a kick out of the students,” Mike said. “The reward for me is motivating the students.”

Mike said he achieves this by drawing on his own emergency experiences, both in his professional career in the Air Force and in his personal life.

“I tell them about a 93-year-old man I did CPR on,” Mike said.

Because of the man’s age, the chest compressions Mike was administering broke some ribs.

“It was disconcerting because it was my wife’s grandfather,” he said. “But I tell [my students], don’t let that stop you from doing it, because that’s what can happen when you’re doing it right.”

Mike said that in his experience, the right training can help you remember what to do in an emergency, and overcome the hesitation most people feel when they want to help but are not sure what to do. After volunteering as an instructor for four years, Mike became a part-time paid First Aid instructor for the Red Cross. Mike said he has trained more than 3,000 students, giving them the skills that might help them save a life.

“In spite of what a lot of people think, we are placed here on earth to take care of each other. I don’t think there is a higher calling than to save someone’s life,” he said. Students have approached him to say they were able to help in a disaster because of taking his class, Mike added.

“Our Red Cross vision for a safer and more prepared community starts with Mike,” said Susan Hope Bard, Preparedness, Health & Safety Services delivery manager.

Go to to find CPR and other class options in your area.