by Miguel Soltero, Prepare & Response Member, California Safe Corps, American Red Cross L.A. Region, Arcadia Chapter
On October 11, 2014, I had the opportunity to visit homes in South Los Angeles, providing free smoke alarms and home fire safety instructions as part of the kick-off of the 2014-2015 Home Fire Preparedness Campaign.
Volunteers and members of the Los Angeles Fire Dept., AmeriCorps, the American Red Cross L.A. Region and other participating organizations joined together to launch the national American Red Cross multi-year initiative to reduce the high rate of home fire injuries and fatalities, especially in underserved areas like South Los Angeles.
I set off that Saturday with fellow AmeriCorps member Kerra Strum and Red Cross volunteer Kenny Jones. We went door-to-door asking single-family household residents if they would be interested in receiving a free smoke alarm and home fire safety information.
As an installer, my goal was to examine each pre-existing smoke alarm device within the household, verifying the type of model and date of installation. I tested for proper maintenance and replaced any fraying fire prevention device that was ineffective. I also advised each resident I assisted to test his or her smoke alarms at least once a month.
Kerra, Kenny and I identified two homes in particular as vulnerable for a fire hazard. In the first home, the husband and wife had four preventative fire measures in place. However, each sleeping area within the home had no fire alarm in place.
Although initially I had difficulties installing the first smoke alarm, I was able to grasp the knowledge and skill of proper installation with the help of fire personnel. As soon I as installed the first alarm on my own, I gained the confidence to install a total of eight more smoke alarms in the two households I visited.
I left my first home visit feeling satisfied that I was able to effectively bring about a solution to keep the family safe. I got things done the Red Cross way!
We also built important community relationships. That first homeowner requested we pay a visit to an elderly neighbor adjacent to his home. I was happy to see community members promote the safety of each other.
The gratitude and smiles we received from members of the first home we visited was the most special to me, with the owner saying, “I didn’t know the Red Cross provided services like this for people. For the first time in a long time, I’m happy to be an American.”
Taking part in the first ever Home Fire Preparedness campaign and leaving a lasting impact on the families and individuals we helped made spending the entire day helping others worthwhile. I left the neighborhood that day with the realization that I positioned two single-family homes in better and safer living conditions. I felt especially good inside about the work we did that day to push forth and improve public safety in local communities.
Thanks to each and every volunteer that participated in the October 11th kick-off. Additionally, thank you to Hilary Anderson, Priscilla Fuentes, Guillermo Sanchez, Tom Bryan, Viviana Mendez, Myonoway Toles and Hannah Wolfe for the incredible work in coordinating the successful fire prevention campaign. According to data, we managed to install more than 150 smoke alarms in South Los Angeles alone.