Kalika Estes and her children with their fire escape plan.

It was a sweltering Saturday morning as the American Red Cross Texas Gulf Coast volunteer teams left the Houston Texans YMCA building in Houston. Tiffany Circle and Houston Board member Dorothy Baker, Disaster Cycle Services volunteer Manjot Jawa and Communications Manager Vanessa Valdez joined approximately 150 other Red Cross volunteers and community partners to Sound the Alarm in the Old Spanish Trail and South Union neighborhood.

Baker, Jawa and Valdez had a list of approximately 20 homes that their team would be visiting. The team was on a mission to help save lives by installing free smoke alarms and educating homeowners on what to do should a fire happen to you.

In 2014, the Red Cross launched Sound the Alarm home fire campaign to help save lives. Every day seven people die because of a home fire across the United States. Through our Sound the Alarm campaign, more than 1,275 lives have been saved across the U.S., 21 of those lives being in the Texas Gulf Coast region.

Dorothy Baker with Kalika Estes working through the home fire education and drawing her escape plan.

Kalika Estes was so excited when she saw the team walking down the street in her neighborhood. She made sure to stop and ask them to please not forget to stop by her home. When arriving at her home, the team was met by her and her three children. The children were very curious to know how smoke alarms worked and how they could make their home safer should a fire affect them.

Baker worked with Estes and her four-year-old Kannon to draw out the plan. “I really enjoyed drawing the escape plan, I feel that it will be very helpful for me and my kids,” said Estes.

When teams visit homes, they install up to three free smoke alarms, but they also educate the residents on how they can escape, where they should go once they escape and how to regularly check their smoke alarms.

Jawa walked to every room in the house with Estes educating her on how to keep herself and her children safe.

Manjot Jawa shows Kalika Estes how to check the smoke alarm and walks her though home fire safety information.

After Jawa installed the smoke alarms- he tested the alarm. The children giggled as they heard the loud beep, beep, beep of the alarm. The team quickly explained to the children how important it was to get out of the house and go to their safe place should they ever hear that sound.

After cleaning up and getting ready to leave, Estes looked at Valdez with gratitude in her eyes.

“The Red Cross helped me and my family feel safer today by installing these alarms,” Estes Said. “I can sleep better knowing that my boys know what to do should they hear that sound. I am so thankful for them coming and making sure that my boys and I are safe.”

The positive impact that we had on the Greater Old Spanish Trail and South Union neighborhood that day was nothing short of mission critical. The Red Cross made more than 220 homes safer that weekend, helping save so many lives from home fire.

If you would like to learn more about the Sound the Alarm campaign and how you can get involved in making your community safer, go to soundthealarm.org/txgulfcoast.

Story by Vanessa Valdez