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Monthly Archives: August 2013

As AmeriCorps National Preparedness & Response Corps (NPRC) members, before we started working at our chapter here in Philadelphia, we were invited to a summit in Washington, DC gathering with fellow members from different Red Cross chapters across the nation. This summit wasn’t simply an initiation, but also an opportunity to get to know our fellow AmeriCorps members and to truly get an idea of what this program was about. This conference consisted of three days of events, activities, presentations, and free food (yes, free!) at the American Red Cross National Headquarters in beautiful Washington, DC.

When I first began to research tnationalhe AmeriCorps NPRC, I thought it was just like many volunteer programs out there—simply working behind the scenes. However, I soon realized that there was a lot more to it. We were, in fact, going to be the ones working on the front lines. At the conference, we learned that in addition to the mission of AmeriCorps of providing direct service, this program focuses greatly on the mission of the Red Cross—that is, “to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.” This provides the perfect combination of values and goals that will allow us to make a difference, both in our local communities and nationally at times of deployment.

At the conference, we were also given the opportunity to meet with AmeriCorps NPRC alumni. Meeting with alumni provided us with an insight as to how demanding and rewarding this job was. It was amazing to be able to get a first-hand account on the journey that we, as new AmeriCorps NPRC, were about to embark on. When all the alumni stated that one year of service within this program was in itself a life changing experience, I realized that we were certainly in for a ride.

bowling

In addition to the immense amount of information we obtained from the different presentations at the conference, we were also given the opportunity to bond with our fellow members. It was wonderful to be able to interact with individuals from all types of backgrounds, fields, and areas of the nation. With different activities, such as bowling night, we were able to really get to know our chapter members (those who we will be spending the next year with) and members from different nationwide chapters (who we may encounter on future deployments).

The summit in Washington, DC definitely allowed us to perceive the immense possibilities of this program. Returning to our Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter, I am really excited to start taking advantage of these opportunities. As my fellow five NPRC members and I are assigned to different rotations—Communications, Community Resiliency, Volunteer Administration, the Regional Disaster Coordination Center, Logistics, and the Red Cross House—we are all working in hopes of contributing to and fulfilling both the missions of AmeriCorps and Red Cross. On behalf of the AmeriCorps NPRC members of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Red Cross Chapter, I would like to say that we are truly honored to be here and excited for a rewarding year to come!

September! What a great month. The weather is fine. Tired parents get a break from school age children. At the end of summer, we refocus our energies and prepare for the change in seasons. And sometimes, the seasons change rather dramatically, which is why September is National Disaster Preparedness Month.

The American Red Cross is recognizing this important time by sponsoring the fantastic and funny television advertisement above. In the ad, a young couple discusses the husband’s unusual choices for their Emergency Supply Kit. Eschewing a battery powered radio, he includes pancake batter, practical joke items and gummy worms instead. Over at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), assisted by the American College of Emergency Physicians, they are piloting an online game called Disaster Hero, to help people of all ages learn to prepare for an emergency. These are great initiatives, and I encourage any and all savvy citizens to watch the ad, giggle, play Disaster Hero, share it with your family members and enjoy. And after you are done enjoying. . .create your freakin’ emergency kit, already, and stick that thing in the trunk of your car, for goodness sake!

We are serious, people.  Someone clever wrote the script for that ad. We hired real actors, who spent days shooting it. There were cameramen, and set designers, and prop people and all the other craziness that goes into making a decent piece of televisual media. The American College of Emergency Physicians hired game designers who thought hard about how to make Disaster Hero appealing and educational. We’ve put in a lot of effort here. Now it’s time for you to do the same.

It’s easy. It’s so easy, even my chaotic, disorganized family of several teenage boys managed to get this done. Here’s what’s in our Emergency Supply Kit:

Water—one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
That means we have 2-3 five gallon tanks per person stored in our house at all times that can be moved to the car if necessary. It’s also possible to sterilize old milk jugs and use tap water.

Food—non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
Oatmeal, canned beans and rice—because these items are easy to store, healthy and filling. Nuts and peanut butter – because these items are very high calorie and great for large, hungry boys. Also, whole wheat crackers, lots and lots of energy bars, dried fruits. We included some canned tuna, for protein. As far as canned veggies, we could only agree on peas and carrots so that’s what we have. My sons may have included a bag of gummy worms. They seemed to feel that one item should lighten the mood.

Flashlight
We have several in our kit. Each boy wanted his own.

Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible) and extra batteries
I know it’s hard to imagine losing the ability to access info with your smartphone, but networks become overwhelmed in an emergency.

First Aid Kit – Anatomy of a First Aid Kit
This is essential for helping ourselves and others.

Medications (7-day supply) and medical items
Tylenol or Ibuprofen, as well as other medications. In our case, an extra inhaler goes in the kit as well.

Sanitation and personal hygiene items
Ladies take note! Also, TP, TP and more TP. Paper towels are a great idea as well. Don’t forget to include some of those wonderful cheap plastic bags from the grocery store. We all have like 300 of them in a drawer in the kitchen, don’t we? Our kit also includes garbage bags.

Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies), family emergency contacts, extra cash and a good area road atlas
Do it. Get it done. Zip it in a seal-able plastic bag, and keep it in a place you can grab it if you need to take it in your car. I don’t recommend keeping this info in your car all the time.

Emergency blankets
We have a few because there are so many of us, and they are all for me because, as the only one without gobs of testosterone coursing through my veins, I get the coldest. Okay, that might be an overstatement, but you never know when you might need to be warm in your car.

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That’s ours, now go make yours. It takes a couple hours, and it’s time well spent.

Posted by Sarah Peterson, Communications Volunteer

Flooding3With heavy rains amongst us and the peak of hurricane season fast-approaching, it’s important to be prepared and know some basic safety tips when it comes to flooding. Floods not only occur frequently, but the resulting damage can be quite costly. They are often caused by heavy or steady rainfall for several hours or days that saturate the ground. Particularly, flash floods occur suddenly due to rapidly rising water along a stream or low-lying area. Often weather forecasters will use different terms to describe floods. While a “flood/flash flood watch” describes a possible flood in your area, a “flood/flash flood warning” emphasizes that a flood is already occurring or will occur soon in your area.

In addition to knowing the predicted weather conditions of your region, it’s important to be prepared for any possible or sudden evacuations. When a flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground. Stay away from all floodwaters and keep children away from streams or running water.  If you do happen to come across a flowing stream of water that reaches above your ankles—stop, turn around, and go another way. Stick with the motto, “Turn around, don’t drown!” Remember, six inches of swiftly moving water can sweep you off of your feet.  These basic rules also aFlooding1pply when driving. If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are quickly rising, move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water. It’s especially important to be cautious at night when it’s harder to recognize flood danger and difficult to perceive how deep the water really is. More tips on flood preparation can be found here.


While it’s definitely important to be aware of these basic safety tips when it comes to flooding, you can find more tips on what to do right before, during, and after a flood by using the free hurricane app from American Red Cross for iPhone and Android. Along with tips, it provides preloaded checklists, tracker maps, and alerts that can help you in times of a flood watch oFlooding2r warning. It even provides emergency tools such as a flashlight, strobe light, alarm, and an “I’m Safe” feature that allows you to communicate with others on your current condition via Twitter, Facebook, SMS, and email.  In times of flooding, stay informed, be prepared, act smartly, and make use of the tools available on the Red Cross Hurricane App.

Download the app here for iPhone and here for Android.

-Khushbu Majmundar, Americorps NPRC member

Babysitting ImageBack when I was 15, my good friend Stacey and I were asked to take on a challenging babysitting job: eight dollars an hour to supervise eight children in one house for four hours. My memory, now hopelessly entangled with my imagination, informs me that all the children were less than eight years old.

Stacey and I were not inexperienced babysitters. We both were veterans of numerous Saturday nights and, by the time of this story, had the theme music of The Love Boat and Fantasy Island (Saturday night staples of the pre-cable era) by heart. Green we were not. Still, we were shocked when two of our charges, ages three and four, locked themselves in an upstairs bedroom and were unable to escape. After prolonged negotiations concerning the workings of the lock, we considered our options. The door hardware was old and hopelessly painted over, and we had no idea where the tool box was anyway. The small people behind the door were now deeply distressed. The other children were engaging in unsupervised and potentially troubling activities. Finally, in an act of desperation, Stacey climbed out the next door bedroom window, shimmied along the roof and let herself into the window of the locked room, thereby freeing our hostages. Proud of our problem solving, we reported the incident to our employers. We were not asked back.

I was reminded of this story when I saw a recent video advertisement produced by the American Red Cross encouraging potential babysitters to make use of their new Babysitting Basics Course. The course is offered online, can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection, and, according to the ad, will help earnest young teenagers like Stacey and I avoid difficult situations with young children. (We also offer a classroom based course.) In the ad, the not so innocent victims of incompetent babysitters talk directly to the camera in a breathtakingly adorable way. If you are a young person interested in babysitting to make extra cash or if you are the parent of a young teenager who wants to help his or her child be prepared to babysit, watch this ad, or that one, and then take the course. Trust me; it is well worth your time.


In other cute video news, the American Red Cross is not the only organization using humor to encourage people to learn important skills. In order to encourage participation in first aid trainings, the Australian Red Cross released this advertising video, which uses animation to tell a rather drastic story about the importance knowing how to help someone with a small problem before it turns into a big one. The video is extremely well made, amusing and also worth a few minutes of your time.

The point is the American Red Cross and the Australian Red Cross and all the chapters all over the world are here to help human beings become more helpful, useful and supportive of one another. We will use humor to get your attention. It is less painful than showing you endless footage of what really happens when things go terribly wrong due to weather or war.  But we want you to know, we conduct trainings in first aid, babysitting, life guarding, nursing assistance and disaster relief. Please take us up on these opportunities to learn how to help others. Check out all the options on our website and find out how you can become the one who knows what to do.

— Posted by Sarah Peterson, Communications Volunteer