Red Cross volunteers are unstoppable and virtually waterproof! On a rainy Saturday in March, nearly 60 volunteers turned out to install new smoke alarms, help residents map fire escape routes and share preparedness information in the Lents neighborhood of Southeast Portland. With a history of severe fire incidents resulting in 12 deaths and injuries during the last several years, the Lents neighborhood was a clear choice for this event.
After training to be a home fire safety educator, a documenter or smoke alarm installer, volunteers headed out in their rain gear to connect with residents. Erica, a psychiatric mental health nursing student, volunteered because she loves helping people. That passion and her educational background were especially helpful for one local homeowner dealing with a disability and recent family loss. While others on the team installed two smoke alarms where there had been none, Erica spent the visit sharing home fire safety tips and quietly conversing with the homeowner. During their conversation, Erica learned that the resident has been financially unable to install smoke alarms in her house. According to Erica,
“This woman knew she needed a smoke alarm for her home, but she just couldn’t afford to purchase one. And that fact caused her a lot of stress,” says Erica. “I’m really glad I came out today to help. I made a difference in this woman’s life and that’s what really matters. In fact, on the way out, the homeowner called our team a gift from God.”
Daniel, an exchange student from Caracas, Venezuela, was another volunteer who joined the effort. He jumped at the chance to work with the Red Cross on this campaign because he knows firsthand the importance of smoke alarms—a friend in Caracas lost everything in a fire because he didn’t have smoke alarms where he lived. Daniel enjoyed the experience, made some new friends and had fun expanding his conversational English skills. When asked if he’d volunteer again, without hesitation Daniel said, “Yes. It’s important to help people learn about home safety.”
The Lents neighborhood event was a success! Nearly 1,000 homes were canvassed, 60 alarms were installed in 26 homes and 22 evacuation plans were made. Thanks to all our Red Cross, community volunteers and firefighters from the Portland Fire Department, four of whom participated in the canvassing effort.
Click here for more information about the American Red Cross Home Fire Preparedness Campaign, or to sign up to volunteer for an upcoming outreach event.