Smoke Alarms and Partnerships Help Save Lives

By Dyana Mason, Red Cross Volunteer/Board Member

“We deal with people on the worst days of their lives, and so do you,” White City, Oregon Fire Marshal Speaks About Close Red Cross Partnership in Preventing and Responding to Home Fires.

Speaking from a room crowded with volunteers for a National Sound the Alarm (STA) event in White City, Oregon on April 6, Risk Reduction Chief for District 3 John Patterson spoke about the close partnership that firefighters have with the American Red Cross. 

“We deal with people on the worst day of their lives, and so do you,” he stated. “Our portion is the immediate emergency. It really seems that the Red Cross is the emergency, the post-emergency and the recovery of the family, of the health, of different services that you can help get them involved in. Without that, the circle is incomplete, and nobody wants that.”

“We as the fire department and firefighters don’t panic often,” he also stated. “We don’t feel like we’re in the lurch and unable to do something, especially in an emergency situation.  If your house is on fire, we’re going to come. We’re going to show up….. if we don’t have the Red Cross to help us there, that’s as close to the fire department panicking as we will ever get.”

The American Red Cross responds to more than 60,000 home fire disasters across the country every year, making it the most common disaster our volunteers respond to.  Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) members are trained volunteers that deploy to home fire sites at the request of local fire departments. They assist residents with their urgent needs, including financial assistance for emergency lodging, food and clothing and replacing medications.  Other Red Cross teams continue the work with one-on-one support over the following weeks.

“If we don’t have the Red Cross to help us there [at the fire], that’s as close to the fire department panicking as we will ever get,” said Chief Patterson. “And so, it’s critically important for us and the community to have the Red Cross doing what they do in the community.”

Chief Patterson also described that when the fire department responds to house fires, many times people do not have working smoke alarms.  Because of that, the damage is so much worse, and sadly, in some cases, the result has been deadly.

This is why the National Sound the Alarm events held across the country every spring are so important. They are part of the Red Cross’ Home Fire Campaign, which installs free smoke alarms in homes and provides fire safety education to residents.  In this way, the Red Cross helps to prepare families and save lives.  In March 2023 during Sound the Alarm events, Red Cross Cascades Region volunteers made 362 homes safer across the region, serving more than 1000 people.

This year’s partners at the White City Event included, the Southern Oregon University football team, Unete, La Clinica, the LDS Church, Rogue Credit Union, along with Jackson County FD #3.

Although the fire department also installs fire alarms, Patterson mentioned that they are only able to do so one or two at a time.  They rely on the Red Cross to help cover full communities during these events. Still, he was instrumental in making this event happen. His planning and assistance earned him the coveted “Golden Smoke Alarm” from the Red Cross.

Individuals wishing to request smoke alarm assessment and installation can contact the Red Cross year-round. The Red Cross also recommends that every family prepares and regularly practices a two minute escape drill and test existing smoke alarms monthly.  To make an appointment or for more information go to: