By Gordon Williams
Each time Jackie Hershey of Bellevue, Wash. heads out the door on behalf of the American
Red Cross, she personifies two of the basic principles that guide the organization.
First of all, she is a volunteer, as are 90 percent of Red Cross workers in the United States.
Jackie volunteers at the King County chapter, one of the chapters that make up the Red Cross
Northwest Region, covering Washington and Northern Idaho.
Second, Jackie’s work for the Red Cross involves saving lives by preventing disasters. While
the Red Cross is best known for aiding disaster victims, a key part of its humanitarian mission is
helping people stay safe by keeping these tragedies from occurring in the first place.
Jackie leads the Home Fire campaign team in King County. Home Fire is the Red Cross
initiative to prevent home fire deaths by installing smoke alarms in dwellings that don’t have
Many Red Cross volunteers are retirees with free time on their hands. Jackie, however, is fully
engaged running several small businesses. She does fingerprinting and runs background
checks for clients including businesses and law enforcement. She previously did background
checks for several federal agencies. What nudged her toward a law enforcement-related
career? “My father was a police officer for 30 years and there are a lot of lawyers in the family,”
If that weren’t enough to keep her busy, Jackie also teaches courses in CPR, plus online
courses in criminal justice. In fact, it was her involvement in CPR that first brought her to the
“I went to the Red Cross to renew my certification in CPR,” she says. “I realized I had some free
time so I volunteered.”
Her first role at the Red Cross was teaching emergency preparedness, mostly to elementary
“I just fell into Home Fires,” she says. “The school year was coming to an end, so there weren’t
many preparedness events to do. The Home Fire team needed some help so, I just sort of went
and did that.”
She began with Home Fire two years ago, just as the Sound the Alarm effort was first being
rolled out. While Red Cross teams are available to install smoke alarms year around, Sound the
Alarm is an all-out push concentrated in three weeks to enlist volunteers and install alarms.
Jackie says she herself has installed around 100 smoke alarms. She is passionate about why
every home should have a working smoke alarm.
“Having a smoke alarm not only makes your home safer, it makes your neighbor’s home and the whole community safer as well,” she says.
Jackie’s background in teaching preparedness has taught her the value of the fire prevention
advice that goes along with each smoke alarm installation. In terms of overall preparedness,
she suggests that everyone should be fully informed about both first aid and CPR.
At least one spot on Jackie’s volunteer Sound the Alarm team has already been filled. That
would be her son Desmond, only 13 but already a seasoned Red Cross volunteer.
“He helps locate the homes that need smoke alarms and he helps with the installation,” Jackie