By Gordon Williams
Trudi Inslee, wife of Governor Jay Inslee, is First Lady of the state of Washington. This year she is also a Red Cross volunteer, on a life-saving mission. Mrs. Inslee is honorary chair of the Sound the Alarm campaign in the Northwest Region of the Red Cross, serving Washington and the Idaho panhandle.
The goal of Sound the Alarm, which kicks off on April 28, is to reduce deaths and injuries from home fires by installing 100,000 smoke alarms nationwide.
Mrs. Inslee will use her public persona – and a well-deserved reputation for community service – to raise awareness of Sound the Alarm. She says she volunteered for the role because she was impressed with how effectively the Red Cross responded to such disasters as the 2014 Oso landslide that killed 43 people.
Her schedule for Sound the Alarm hasn’t been set yet but she will be making appearances in person, in print, and via broadcast media to keep the program in the public eye.
Sound the Alarm is one component of the Red Cross Home Fire campaign which began in 2014 with the ambitious goal of cutting death and injury from home fires by 25% by 2020. It seeks to accomplish that by installing smoke alarms in dwellings that need them and by distributing fire safety literature.
Fires killed 3,280 and injured 15,700 in 2015 – the latest year for which information is available. That comes from the U. S. Fire Administration, which is a unit of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Three-quarters of both fire deaths and fire injuries occur in home fires. Most disturbing is that 60% of fire deaths occur in homes that don’t have a working smoke alarm or don’t have a smoke alarm at all.
To put it even more bluntly, you are more than twice as likely to die in a home fire if you don’t have a working smoke alarm. It was just such grim statistics that caused the Red Cross to launch the Home Fire campaign and to schedule Sound the Alarm installation events.
Sound the Alarm was supposed to kick off last fall, but hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria consumed so much of Red Cross resources that it was delayed until this spring. Now it will run from April 28 to May 13. During that time, teams from throughout the Northwest Region will be installing alarms and talking with residents about fire safety.
Both the alarms and the installation will be free to the homes that need them.
Mrs. Inslee is Washington-born, Washington-raised and Washington-educated. She met her husband when both were attending Ingraham High School in Seattle. He studied economics at University of Washington while she studied political science and sociology at Washington State University. The couple married in 1972. They live in Kitsap County now but raised their three boys on an Eastern Washington farm.
Volunteering is a way of life for Mrs. Inslee, ”mostly in campaigns involving women and children,” she says. She has raised money for schools her children attended and for the Brownies and the Girl Scouts. She recalls as a youngster collecting money for the Red Cross. She has been a volunteer in such organizations as NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, CASA (Court-appointed Special Advocates), Planned Parenthood and Mothers Against Violence in America.
“Volunteering is a way to give back to the community,” she says. “And when you volunteer you get more back in terms of satisfaction than you are giving.”
Given her high visibility in Washington, Mrs. Inslee was an obvious choice as honorary chair of Sound the Alarm. “The Red Cross asked if I would be interested in being involved in the Sound the Alarm campaign and I said yes,” she explains. “I am very supportive of what the Red Cross is doing with this campaign.”
What made it an easy call for her was having seen the Red Cross at work, responding to many of the disasters that her husband, as governor, was called to.
She saw more than 300 Red Cross workers on scene at the Oso slide. “We visited Oso more than a half-dozen times,” she says. “Every time we went there we saw the excellent job the Red Cross was doing helping those who survived the landslide.”
And she sees the role of the Red Cross as crucial in Washington, given the large number and variety of perils the state faces: not just home fires, but wildfires, landslides, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. Last December saw the Red Cross called out to assist at the fatal train wreck at DuPont, WA. ”The Red Cross is a great asset to have in the state,” she says.
Focusing on the Red Cross smoke alarm initiative, she says “I encourage everybody to realize the benefits that come from volunteering and to take part in the Sound the Alarm campaign.”