Safeguarding: Locals serve their community by installing smoke detectors

SAN BENITO — During Hurricane Dolly in 2008, John Barrietes’ house flooded, displacing him and his family for several weeks.

Like many families at that time in need of urgent help, the Red Cross stepped in so Barrietes could pick up the pieces.

Years later, everything is back to normal and he thanks the Red Cross for that.

For the past year, he has been doing everything he can to give back to the organization that helped him.

Yesterday, Barrietes and other Red Cross volunteers and members of the San Benito Fire Department installed for free up to 300 smoke detectors at two mobile home parks in the city.

Barrietes’ group had just finished installing its fourth smoke detector and had several more to do. They broke for lunch and then were back at work.

As one of the many projects the local Red Cross takes on, the installation of smoke alarms and discussions with residents about their safety plans in the case of a fire is what some call one of their most important roles.

“We want to reduce death by house fire by 25 percent in the next five years,” said Red Cross South Texas Chapter Executive Director Iris Juergens.

The Red Cross hopes the installation or placement of batteries in smoke detectors will help the organization reach that goal.

It is part of the “Join the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign.”

The Red Cross is asking every household in America to join in taking two steps that can save lives — check or install smoke alarms and practice fire drills at home.

Juergens said it is important for people to know the Red Cross is there for them if they need them.

The American Red Cross is powered almost exclusively by volunteerism and the generosity of donors.

The organization is 134 years old and relies on more than 340,000 volunteers across the country to fulfill its mission of preventing and alleviating human suffering in the face of emergencies.

Barrietes, who has helped other flood victims, said it is his job as a volunteer to inform the homeowners about creating escape plans.

Every homeowner received a mapped-out escape plan.

Homeowner Hugo J. Alvizo had just had his new smoke alarm installed.

The clean, white, round piece of plastic shined like a new penny.

It will alert Alvizo and his family of five to any fire that may occur in their house.

“I’m happy,” Alvizo said. “They taught me what to do in the event of a fire.”

Alvizo, who now feels confident and prepared, can show his wife and children what to do in the event of a fire so they, too, will know how to find safety.