By Sean Steinberg, Red Cross Americorps

When working in communications, you’re often planted firmly behind-the-scenes of the Red Cross action. Be it during a disaster or a CPR training, the behind the scenes position can make it easy to feel disconnected from the larger mission.  

That’s the beauty of Sound the Alarm: When you’re in the field, the impact of your work is on full display.  

You just can’t appreciate all the work this organization does until you’ve walked the streets of the communities we care for, entered the homes we’re trying to protect and met the residents whose lives our work may one day save. 

During one home visit, as I searched the room for a smoke alarms to test and replace, I was shadowed by the house’s youngest resident, a 4-year-old boy named Jonathan. This kid could talk for days: He loved sharing every little detail of his life, and I was more than happy to share his company. He even gave me a new nickname: Dr. Alarms. 

I’m still trying to get that one to catch on with my friends. 

After I wrapped up installations and was waiting for my partner to finish walking the family through best practices for preventing home fires, Jonathan and I continued to hang out. He showed me his toys and games and taught me a few tricks. We even came up with our own signature handshake.  

I honestly could have stayed there all day, but we had another job: Jonathan’s mom told us that her neighbor might be in need of our services. So he and I had to part ways, but not before one final high five, complete with fist bump.  

When we arrived next door, the neighbor was reluctant to let us inside.  

“It’s a mess,” he told us.  

We assured him that all we cared about was keeping him safe. When he finally let us in, we discovered that at least two of his alarms were no longer functional. He explained why he had neglected his personal safety for so long: His father recently had a stroke.  All of his spare time and resources were going straight to his father’s care. 

And in that moment I realized, these two experiences between Jonathan and the neighbor perfectly captured the importance of this program.

Deep down, we all know that a working smoke alarm may be the difference between life and death someday. But life has a bad habit of getting in the way. This small little device has the power to save those who are older and need assistance and those who are young and innocent and need assistance. One sound of that smoke alarm could be what saves these two families and these two neighbors.   

When you sign up to Sound the Alarm, you become part of the process of helping the greater community focus on the things in life that really matter. And if you’re lucky, you might even meet a new friend or two along the way.  


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