By Gordon Williams
If you are pressed for time, don’t ask Steve Hatfield of Centralia WA to list all the things he has done for the American Red Cross in his nearly two decades as a Red Cross staffer and volunteer. The list runs on and on, from disaster responder to CPR instructor to installer of smoke alarms. The list of where he has worked for the Red Cross is equally extensive, stretching from Aberdeen WA to Albany NY.
These days, Steve is back in Washington state — a volunteer in the South Puget Sound and Olympics Chapter — after many years as a volunteer with the Red Cross in central New York state. The Tacoma-based SPSO chapter is one of the five that make up the Red Cross Northwest Region, serving Washington and northern Idaho.
Among his many chores now that he is back home in Washington, Steve helps supervise the Red Cross Disaster Action Teams (DAT) that respond to disasters in Grays Harbor and Lewis counties. That is a perfect fit for someone with Steve’s background. He responded to scores of disasters in New York and adjacent Vermont in his years with the Red Cross chapter in Albany NY.
Beyond that, Steve is a long-time volunteer EMT and firefighter with years of experience responding to disasters in both Washington and New York. “Every time I move, I become involved with the local volunteer firefighters,” he says.
When he is not out and about, responding to home fires and the like, Steve lends a hand with chapter logistics. In that role, he makes sure there is Red Cross disaster response gear available where and when needed. In what spare time he has, Steve teaches preparedness lessons aimed at educating people on how to avoid such disasters as fires in the home.
What really has Steve’s attention these days is the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign. That is the initiative launched by the Red Cross in 2014 to reduce death and injury due to home fires by installing smoke alarms in homes that lack them. The latest manifestation of Home Fire is Sound the Alarm, a Red Cross program that aims to install 50,000 smoke alarms nationwide in May. Around 900 of those alarms will be in the Northwest Region.
Speaking of Sound the Alarm, Steve says, “that’s my passion now.” His years as an EMT and firefighter taught him how many lives are lost to fires because victims were not alerted quickly enough to escape the smoke and flames. “Every time you install a smoke alarm, you know you may have saved a family from tragedy,” he says. Red Cross statistics show the campaign saving more than 1,270 lives — people who escaped a fire because a smoke alarm alerted them to danger.
Installing the alarms means going inside homes, not easy to do during the Covid pandemic. “Sound the Alarm was essentially shut down for the last two years and now it’s time to get the program re-ignited,” Steve says.
Steve is doing what he can to reacquaint the public with Sound the Alarm. Abby Lutz, regional communications manager for the Red Cross, has prepared radio spots that promote Sound the Alarm. Steve is helping place those promotional messages on area radio stations. Once the homes that will receive Red Cross smoke alarms are chosen, Steve will help with the installations.
Steve says he first came in contact with the Red Cross as a firefighter when he worked side-by-side with DAT responders at fires and other disaster scenes. His first response to a disaster for the Red Cross came in 1994 when he deployed to an earthquake in California. He then spent five years as a paid Red Cross staff member in Spokane.
He was first brought into the Spokane office as a worker in Client Services. That meant he worked with individuals receiving Red Cross assistance. Once his skills at first aid and CPR were realized, he was asked to become an instructor. “I work wherever I am needed, and I had the training they were looking for,” he says. “So I was asked to become an instructor.”
His first visit to New York came after Superstorm Sandy ravaged the East Coast in 2012. “I spent 12 weeks in New York working on Sandy,” he says. When the Sandy response began to wind down, Steve became a volunteer with the Red Cross chapter in Albany NY.
In typical fashion, Steve served the Albany office in a variety of ways — disaster response, mass care for disaster victims, logistics, preparedness education, and, of course, that office’s Sound the Alarm effort.
Steve moved back to Washington two years ago. Asked why he switched from East Coast to West Coast, he chuckles. A Facebook posting of his caught the attention of a high school friend. She was living in Centralia, near Steve’s childhood home in Aberdeen. With the old friendship rekindled, Steve says, “I told her I would move back to Washington.”
He did make the move — bringing a committed volunteer back to the Red Cross Northwest Region eager to help save lives by becoming a key player on his chapter’s Sound the Alarm team.