Sound the Alarm is Back in 2021 to Inspire Everyone to Make their Homes Safer

Story by Patricia Griffiths / Red Cross Cascades Region

With the whir of a screwdriver and chirp of a tested alarm, Cascades Region volunteer Jon Grasle wraps up another day’s work.

Starting in 2014, this is how the American Red Cross Sound the Alarm campaign helped make homes safer.

During that time the Portland-based retiree quietly went about the business of saving lives by installing free smoke alarms in homes.

The importance of his work cannot be measured. 

Jon Grasle installing a smoke alarm during the 2019 Sound the Alarm event. Photo submitted.

But, the impact of this work is very tangible, as is evident in Grasle’s recollection of a Portland couple’s story.  

“We had installed smoke alarms in their home,” he said. “Not long afterward, they had a fire. The house was a total loss, but they escaped.”

Sadly, he often sees the other side of the story. Grasle also volunteers as a Red Cross local disaster services worker, helping survivors after home fires. As such, he witnesses the aftermath of home fires, often the result of not having working smoke alarms installed. 

Grasle’s anecdote underscores the reason the Red Cross is in the “business” of home fire safety and why it’s important to continue the work.

In 2020, a global pandemic brought all this in-person work to a halt, forcing a pause for the Sound the Alarm campaign.

But home fires don’t stop and the presence of working smoke alarms in the home cuts the risk of fire-related death in half. Three out of every five deaths occur in homes where there were no smoke alarms or the smoke alarms did not work. 

The Red Cross Home Fire Campaign has a goal to reduce fire-related deaths and injuries in the U.S. by 25 percent through fire safety education and free smoke alarm installations. 

Every year, the Red Cross drives this home, literally, with the Sound the Alarm campaign. This year we are thrilled to announce the return of Sound the Alarm for the spring of 2021, with social-distancing changes appropriate to the ongoing pandemic. The volunteer teams will train residents on home fire safety either virtually or outside their homes, socially distanced, while wearing masks.

February 27, 2021. Houston, Texas. Sound the Alarm Stock Photography project to illustrate what “doorstep” home fire safety visits will look like on the Sound the Alarm day of action in spring 2021. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross Please note: these are staged photos and shouldn’t be conveyed as a real home visit from the 2021 campaign.

While taking a more distanced approach this year, Grasle, the soft-spoken volunteer would like to send an emphatic message to everyone:

“I encourage people to call. Assure them it’s free,” he said. As an added benefit, Grasle explained, people can make sure that those who are close to their hearts but live far away are safe.

“It’s a nationwide program. They can call for friends and relatives in other areas.”

The Red Cross encourages everyone to examine the status of the smoke alarms at home. Each room should have a smoke alarm that is no more than ten years old. If your home is not adequately protected, or if you would like to assist in making sure other people’s homes are safe, contact the Red Cross. 

To request home fire safety education for yourself or someone else, to go:

“It’s very easy to do and very rewarding,” he said. “We’re giving people a chance to survive.”