Volunteers get trained before they head out to install smoke alarms in Magnolia Park.

Story and photos by Ekland Durousseau, American Red Cross contributor

The parking lot of the Community Family Centers is busier than usual on a Saturday morning. A long line of Red Cross, Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash volunteers wait patiently as hot coffee and breakfast sandwiches, provided by McDonald’s Greater Houston Owner Operators, are dispensed from the side of an emergency response vehicle.

Diesel from the Houston Dynamo chills with the McDonald’s Greater Houston Owner Operators team as they serve breakfast to volunteers before the Sound the Alarm event begins.

The group is fueling up so they can spend the next four hours walking door to door in the Greater East End Magnolia Park neighborhood installing smoke alarms and talking to residents about home fire safety as part of a Red Cross Sound the Alarm installation event.

This installation event, held during National Fire Prevention Week, is part of a larger home fire campaign that the Red Cross uses to educate communities, but more importantly, it’s also a way to save lives.

“The Red Cross responds to several home fires every day.  Not only is that a disaster to the family whose home has caught fire, it’s also a tragedy in some instances when there’s loss of life,” said Henry Van de Putte, Regional Chief Executive for the American Red Cross, Texas Gulf Coast. “The Red Cross is honored to partner with the Dynamo and Dash through this life saving initiative.  It says a lot that they are willing to go door to door educating families about fire escape plans and the importance of installing and regularly testing smoke alarms.”

On average, seven people die every day from home fires, which take more lives each year than all other natural disasters combined in the U.S., according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Houston Dynamo Jared Watts installs smoke alarm in Magnolia Park home.

That’s why the Red Cross is working with community partners to install free smoke alarms, help families create home fire escape plans, and provide public fire prevention and safety resources through its Home Fire Campaign, a nationwide effort to reduce fire-related deaths and injuries.

“We are proud to partner with the Red Cross on such an important and impactful campaign and to be able to hopefully help provide some added safety and security for our neighbors,” said Dynamo and Dash President Chris Canetti. “One of our core values as a club is to make a lasting and positive impact on the community around us, and this project is a great way to give back to the community that has always supported us.”

Diesel relaxes on the porch before helping install smoke alarms in Magnolia Park.

As the slightly overcast morning gives way to a bright and pleasant day, small groups of volunteers head back to the community center for pizza and a quick estimate of their efforts. A cheer goes up as volunteers learn collectively, they installed nearly a 100 alarms and helped educate a community on home fire safety.

Since the campaign began in October 2014, it’s reached more than 1.6 million people and is credited with saving 472 lives nationwide.

To learn more about home fire safety visit Texas Gulf Coast Home Fire Campaign.

To volunteer with the Red Cross and help with events like these, visit to find a volunteer opportunity that’s right for you!