Volunteers “Sound the Alarm” in Joliet

Dozens of volunteers with the American Red Cross gathered on May 21, 2022 in Joliet to canvass neighborhoods installing free smoke alarms and providing fire safety education to families and helping them create a home fire escape plan.

“Sound the Alarm” is a national initiative by the Red Cross to make homes safer from fires across the country by installing more smoke alarms and making sure families know what to do if there is a fire. Studies show many people believe they would have five minutes or more to get out of a home on fire when in reality they have two minutes or less, and having a working smoke alarm increases your chances of surviving a home fire by 50%.

Don Cusack and Elsa Preciada are two volunteers who went to six homes on Saturday and installed over twenty smoke alarms. They were one of many teams out meeting people and installing smoke alarms for them in Joliet neighborhoods including a woman who was over 100 years old, families with many small children, multiple generations living together and more!

Volunteers replaced old, expired smoke alarms at Bob Lefevers’ home with brand new ones that last 10 years. He was glad to hear about the initiative as so often you hear about tragic fires where homes didn’t have alarms, so he thinks taking preventative measures like this is a good thing.

In total:

  • 269 free smoke alarms installed
  • 102 homes made safer
  • 363 people better protected against home fires

Thank you to all the volunteer and community partners like Exxon Mobile who helped make this “Sound the Alarm” event possible. Join the Red Cross and help “Sound the Alarm” in a neighborhood near you by signing up at www.redcross.org/soundthealarm.

Written by Illinois Communications Manager Holly Baker

American Red Cross of the Illinois River Valley Honors Three Local Lifeguards

The American Red Cross of the Illinois River Valley was proud to present a Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders to three local lifeguards who acted courageously in the summer of 2021 when a patron of the Joliet Park District needed help.

On June 2, 2021, three lifeguards working at the Inwood Athletic Club in Joliet called on their American Red Cross lifeguard training to help save the life of Marge Bell, a Shorewood woman in her 70’s after she collapsed during a group water aerobics class.

Julia Castillo was the active lifeguard on duty who noticed a woman in the water unresponsive and immediately activated the Emergency Action Plan, which triggered fellow lifeguard Cole Kics to respond as well. Together the two lifeguards got Marge out of the water using a backboard and started to assess her as she was not breathing and had no pulse. The Safety and Aquatics Superintendent, Lauren Ryan, also responded and together CPR was started as an automated external defibrillator, or AED, was set up. The AED advised a shock, and the lifeguards continued CPR as she began to show signs of life and regain consciousness. Local EMS arrived and took over care of Marge who says she finally started to fully regain consciousness in the ambulance.

Marge says she is usually very active and had no signs of health issues before the incident. “I was lucky to be where I was,” she said reflecting on being surrounded by lifeguards.

The following day, Marge required heart surgery and has been recovering well in the time since. She hopes to get back to water aerobics soon.

The Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders is the highest award given by the Red Cross to individuals or group of individuals who save or sustain a life using skills learned in a Red Cross Training Services course.

“We’re extremely proud to be presenting a Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders to three outstanding lifeguards and members of this community,” said Brian McDaniel, executive director of the American Red Cross of the Illinois River Valley. “Their actions exemplify our mission to help people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.”

See more photos here.


Red Cross training gives people the knowledge and skills to act in an emergency and save a life. A variety of online, blended (online and in-person skills session) and classroom courses are available at redcross.org/takeaclass.

If you or someone you know has used skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Training Services course to help save or sustain the life of another individual, visit LifesavingAwards.org to nominate, recognize, or be inspired.