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Written by David Haas

Isolated by high water for three days, a dedicated team of five Red Cross volunteers opened and maintained a shelter serving 900 people.  Outside contact was limited to helicopter deliveries. One of the five was an 84-year-old retired nurse with more than 30 deployments on her volunteer resume. “I am too busy thinking about other people, people who have lost everything” she says.

Helicopter

Red Cross volunteers personal belongings onto a national guard helicopter. They will fly to relieve shelter volunteers isolated by the effects of Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, NC. Photo credit: American Red Cross

A Red Cross volunteer from Newport NC summed up the hurricane’s effect by stating that, “it looks like someone took a bomb and dropped it” on her hometown. We found the woman helping run a Red Cross blood drive, a higher priority for her than cleaning up the storm damage to her home.

Flying over Elizabethtown North Carolina, a Red Cross volunteer saw “saw a silo and a barn roof sticking through the water, and knew there was a farm below that was surrounded by water.”  Four hundred pounds at a time, he worked with other volunteers to deliver 288,000 lbs. of supplies.

These are just some of the inspiring stories told by the more than 2,350 Red Cross volunteers providing disaster response for Hurricane Florence. More than 70 Eastern PA volunteers and staff deployed as part of the national response and many are still there providing support in the coastal areas of North and South Carolina.

As a public affairs volunteer during the first week following landfall, I witnessed the generous nature of Red Cross volunteers and the communities they support.

For example, one of the 110 Red Cross shelters in North Carolina was located in Chapel Hill.  Housing 340 people at its busiest, the shelter received tremendous community support. This included volunteers reading to children, fire fighters showing off their trucks, boy scouts cleaning cots and the entire championship UNC-Chapel Hill basketball team.  It was hard to tell whether the shelter residents or the Red Cross volunteers were more excited by the visits, but it did wonders for morale in the midst of long days in the shelter.

Basketball

Red Cross volunteers take pictures with members of the championship North Carolina Tarheels basketball team during the team’s visit to a shelter in Chapel Hill. Photo credit: David Haas/American Red Cross

More than 19 non-profit organizations coordinated with the Red Cross during the disaster. Members of the Southern Baptist Crisis Care Team worked in stand-alone kitchens to prepare 6,000 lunches and dinners each day. The meals were delivered by Red Cross volunteers to first responders, residents and survivors of the hurricane.  “The Red Cross and the Southern Baptists represent a unique display of partnership that is working well.”  Said spiritual care provider Kristen Curtis.

Southern Baptist

Red Cross volunteers load meals prepared by Southern Baptist volunteers at a mobile feeding station in Washington, NC. Photo credit: David Haas/American Red Cross

Even American Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern participated, spending two days visiting disaster assistance headquarters to listen to the issues faced by volunteers and thank them for their dedicated service. She stayed for a long time at each location until all questions were answered and all selfies were taken.

Gail

American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern speaks with Red Cross volunteers staffing North Carolina District 2 disaster relief headquarters in Greenville NC. Photo credit: David Haas/American Red Cross

We could not reach many areas until the water level on roads receded.  Then I saw firsthand the damage caused by Florence.  Traveling with a small team, we visited a shelter in New Bern, NC to meet with volunteers and determine what additional supplies were needed. En-route, we saw boats lifted onto dry land by the surge, trees ripped up by their roots from the wind, and hundreds of homes whose insulation flooring and furniture were lying in the road, removed because of flood exposure.  We could see the discoloration of water marks halfway up the sides of many buildings.

damage

The contents of historic homes in New Bern, NC are piled in their front yards after being inundated with water during Hurricane Florence. Photo credit: David Haas/American Red Cross

Returning to regional headquarters, we learned of two Red Cross volunteers who left their 12-hour shift and were first on the scene of a serious car accident. A mother was trapped in the driver’s seat and her teenage daughter injured and hanging out of the passenger side window.  Using their Red Cross First Aid/CPR training, one stopped traffic to prevent a secondary collision while the other worked to stabilize the injured until first responders arrived.

Still wearing his Red Cross T-shirt, the volunteer was able to calm the teenager. “What we did seemed natural” he said. “When you see a need, you help.”

Home fires kill seven people everyday. Fire Prevention Week begins October 7, and the American Red Cross reminds everyone to take two simple steps – practice fire drills at home and test smoke alarms monthly – to stay safe from the nation’s most frequent and deadliest disaster.

On average, seven people die every day from home fires, which take more lives each year than all other natural disasters combined in the U.S., according to the National Fire Protection Association. But working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a home fire in half.

That’s why the Red Cross is working with community partners to install free smoke alarms, help families create home fire escape plans, and provide public fire prevention and safety resources through its Home Fire Campaign, a nationwide effort to reduce fire-related deaths and injuries. Since the campaign began in October 2014, it’s reached more than 1.6 million people and is credited with saving 472 lives nationwide.

Sound the Alarm North Carolina 2018

CTSY Adam Jennings/American Red Cross

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO

Experts say that today’s home fires burn faster than ever, leaving people with only as little as two minutes to escape a burning residence. But many mistakenly believe they have more time, according to a Red Cross survey last year. During Fire Prevention Week, the Red Cross urges everyone to take these lifesaving steps:

  • Develop a fire escape plan with everyone in your household and practice it at least twice a year. Need help with your plan? Use these free Home Fire Campaign resources.
  • Install smoke alarms in your home, on every level and outside each sleeping area. Test them once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year if required.
  • Teach children what smoke alarms sound like and what they should do if they hear one.
  • Make sure all household members know two ways to escape from every room.
  • Establish a family meeting spot outside.

Written by Grave Nava

The Red Cross has an app for that! In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, access to information and the ability to connect to loved ones is critically important.  We are reviewing American Red Cross apps that would be most useful in an emergency like Hurricane Florence. Considering there are so many, it’s tough to narrow it down. But in a case like Florence, these apps offer you the tools and preparedness info you need.

Emergency App

This all-inclusive app lets you monitor more than 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts, to help keep you and your loved ones safe. This latest app from the Red Cross provides information about what to do in case of floods, thunderstorms, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires and more. The emergency alerts are available for the user’s location and to monitor where friends and family live. A single map provides open Red Cross shelter locations and weather information.

Emergency users can easily toggle between English and Spanish. Information is included on emergency first aid for situations such as heat-related emergencies and water safety for lakes and beaches. The app also covers what to do in emergencies that affect a large area, such as mudslides and snow storms.

“I’m safe” is another unique feature of the emergency app that allows people to see if loved ones are okay. You can notify friends and family of your condition and location through text message, email, Facebook and Twitter.

Pet First Aid

Our pets are part of our families and getting help for them is crucial in the event of an emergency. However, a veterinary is not always accessible when needed. This app fills the gap until the pet can be taken to the vet.

The main features include:

  • Convenient toggle between cat and dog content.
  • First aid steps for over 25 common pet situations.
  • Step-by-step instructions that include text, illustrations, videos, plus interactive quizzes for easy learning.
  • Storage for veterinary contact info for easy access.
  • A list of common toxic substances.
  • Help to locate the nearest emergency vet hospital or pet-friendly hotels.

A must for every pet lover!

First Aid

This is one of the most recognized American Red Cross apps and puts free and simple lifesaving information at your fingertips.

This app gives instant access to information on how to handle the most common first aid situations, taking critical first aid information normally stored on bookshelves and in pamphlets and places it at the fingertips of millions of individuals – in order to help save lives.

Videos and interactive quizzes are also part of the app. Users who take quizzes can earn badges they can share with friends through social media to show off their lifesaving knowledge.

First Aid App features include:

  • Simple step-by-step instructions for everyday first aid scenarios
  • Prioritized steps to take during an emergency, with a 9-1-1 call button
  • Sharable badges to be unlocked through interactive quizzes
  • Videos and animations to make learning first aid fun and easy
  • Safety and preparedness tips for a range of severe weather
  • Preloaded content that gives instant access to all safety information at any time.

The content is available in English and in Spanish. Downloading the app is not a substitute for first aid training but instead can be used in conjunction with training.

Hero Care

Can you imagine being away from your loved ones serving in the Armed Forces without being able to get hold of them? The American Red Cross has the solution: Hero Care. This is a free app designed to keep current members and veterans of the Armed Forces in touch with their family members. It allows emergency and non-emergency communication to reach either side 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all year round. The current version allows for only one service member, but additional members can be added over the phone 24/7/365 by calling the Hero Care Center at 877-272-7337. In addition to being a great tool to stay in touch with loved ones, it also provides useful information such as behavioral health assistance, local organizations serving veterans and active duty service men and women, and other valuable resources. The app is available in English and Spanish.

Download any of the FREE Red Cross Mobile Apps today, in the Apple App Store or in Google Play.

 

When the unspeakable happened on September 11th, 2001, the Red Cross was there in the immediate aftermath, and the years to follow. Immediately, the Red Cross:

  • Activated 6,000 Red Cross volunteers
  • Opened 13 Red Cross shelter
  • Sent Disaster Mental Health workers to shelters, crash sites, airports and hospitals
  • Set up a mental health hotline
  • Opened Respite Centers for firefighters, police officers, port authority workers and others
  • Received 1 million calls on the Blood Donation line (the previous record in one day was 3,000 calls)
  • Every chapter in the nation supported stranded passengers at airports as air space was shut down
  • Launched the Family Registration Web, a predecessor to today’s redcross.org/safeandwell
  • Sent teams of Red Cross workers door-to-door in the Restricted Zone for families who had chosen to stay
  • After one year, the Red Cross had served 14 million meals for disaster workers and victims, mental health services for more than 237,000 people, and health services for 131,000 people.
  • And much  more.

The Greater New York Red Cross has put together a YouTube playlist of Red Crossers remembering that day, including this video about all the spontaneous volunteers who showed up to help out where they could:

Remembering the Red Cross Response to 9/11

September is National Preparedness Month, the perfect time to get your household ready for an emergency. The American Red Cross Eastern PA urges everyone to make sure they are prepared for a disaster and not wait until an emergency occurs and it’s too late.

“This is the time of year when hurricanes, floods, wildfires and other large disasters can happen,” said Guy Triano, CEO of Red Cross Eastern PA region “You should take steps now to be ready if an emergency occurs. It’s critical that all members of your household know what to do.”

BE READY TO EVACUATE Whether the emergency is a home fire or something bigger like a hurricane, the situation may force you to leave your home. There are ten steps you can take now to be prepared if the emergency makes it unsafe to remain at home:

  1. Follow the instructions of officials and evacuate if told to do so.
  2. Leave early enough to avoid being trapped by severe weather.
  3. Remember you may have to get out on foot depending on the type of disaster. If you don’t have a car, or can’t use your vehicle, plan on how you will leave the area.
  4. If you have a car, keep the gas tank full if an evacuation order is possible. Don’t let the tank go below half full in case gas stations are unable to pump gas.
  5. Decide where you would go and what route you would take to get there. This could be a motel, the home of a friend or relative a safe distance away, or an evacuation shelter. Download the free Red Cross Emergency App to find shelter information and weather and emergency alerts for more than 35 different situations.
  6. If you have time, let someone out of the region know you are evacuating and where you are going. Leave a note saying when you left and where you plan to go.
  7. Wear sturdy shoes and clothing that provides some protection.
  8. Be alert for road hazards such as downed trees, flooding, etc. Do not drive onto a flooded road.
  9. Practice evacuating your home twice a year. Grab your emergency kit and drive your planned evacuation route. Include an alternate route in a different direction in case one is impassible. Make sure you have locations and maps saved on devices such as cell phones and GPS units and on paper.
  10. Don’t forget your pets. If it’s not safe for you to stay home, it’s not safe for them either. Prepare a phone list of pet-friendly motels and animal shelters located along your evacuation route. Keep in mind only service animals are usually allowed in shelters

NPM

THREE EASY STEPS Getting prepared is easier than it sounds. There are three basic steps:

  • GET A KIT. Pack the following items in an easy-to-carry container – a gallon of water per person, per day; non-perishable food; flashlight and hand-crank or battery-powered radio; extra batteries; sanitation and personal hygiene items; copies of important papers; extra cash and any medical or baby supplies family members may need. See full details here.
  • MAKE A PLAN. Have all members of your household help devise your emergency plan. Consider what emergencies could happen where you live; what to do if you are separated and how will you let loved ones know you are safe. Find full details and easy-to-use plan templates here.
  • BE INFORMED. Learn what disasters are common to your area. Find out how local authorities will let you know an emergency is happening. Make sure at least one household member is trained in first aid and CPR in case help is delayed during a disaster. You can also download the Red Cross First Aid App at redcross.org/apps to have instant access on how to handle common first aid emergencies. Learn how to get fully informed about emergencies here.

The Labor Day holiday is fast approaching, signaling the unofficial end of summer and time for that last hurrah of summer fun. The American Red Cross has steps everyone can take to help stay safe over the long holiday weekend.

TRAVEL SAFETY Many families see the holiday weekend as their last chance to travel and celebrate the end of the season. Many will hit the road sometime over the three-day holiday weekend. The Red Cross offers these travel tips to help keep you safe on the highway:

  • Find out what disasters may occur where you are traveling and how you would get information in the event of a disaster (local radio systems, emergency alert systems).
  • Pay attention to the weather forecast for your destination.
  • Buckle up, slow down, and don’t drink and drive. Designate a driver who won’t drink.
  • Be well rested and alert; give your full attention to the road.
  • Use caution in work zones.
  • Observe speed limits.
  • Make frequent stops.
  • Be respectful of other motorists.
  • Clean your vehicle’s lights and windows to help you see, especially at night.
  • Turn your headlights on as dusk approaches, or during inclement weather, and don’t overdrive your headlights.
  • Carry a Disaster Supplies Kit in your trunk.
  • Don’t let your vehicle’s gas tank get too low.
  • If you have car trouble, pull as far as possible off the highway.
  • Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive. If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route. 

RIP CURRENTS If a trip to the beach is part of your weekend plans, remember the possibility of dangerous rip currents which are responsible for deaths on our nation’s beaches every year, and for most of the rescues performed by lifeguards. For your safety, be aware of the dangers of rip currents and remember the following:

  • If you are caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Once you are free, turn and swim toward shore. If you can’t swim to the shore, float or tread water until you are free of the rip current and then head toward shore.
  • Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist near these structures.

GRILLING SAFETY Perhaps your plans include an old-fashioned barbecue at home. The Red Cross offers these steps you should follow to use that backyard grill safely:

  • Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use.
  • Never grill indoors – not in your house, camper, tent, or any enclosed area.
  • Make sure everyone, including the pets, stays away from the grill.
  • Keep the grill out in the open, away from the house, the deck, tree branches, or anything that could catch fire.
  • Use the long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill to help keep the chef safe.
  • Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using grills.

The Red Cross hopes everyone enjoys their Labor Day weekend and stays safe whatever their plans may be. For more information, visit redcross.org/prepare.

Back-to-School-Safety-FEAT

Summer vacation for students is coming to a close as local schools open their doors for the new school year. The American Red Cross has these safety steps to help make your student’s trip back to the classroom a safe one.

American Red Cross Eastern Pennsylvania Regional CEO Guy Triano suggests looking over the safety steps with the entire family. “While you’re making that list of school supplies the kids will need, talk with them about school bus safety and getting to school by car, bike or on foot. Keeping all students safe is the primary concern for everyone. But there are special steps for parents of younger kids and those going to school for the first time,” he says.

  • Make sure the child knows their phone number, address, how to get in touch with their parents at work, how to get in touch with another trusted adult and how to dial 9-1-1.
  • Teach children not to talk to strangers or accept rides from someone they don’t know.

SCHOOL BUS SAFETY

  • If children ride a bus to school, they should plan to get to their bus stop early and stand away from the curb while waiting for the bus to arrive.
  • Board the bus only after it has come to a complete stop and the driver or attendant has instructed you to get on.
  • Only board your bus, never an alternate one.
  • Always stay in clear view of the bus driver and never walk behind the bus.
  • Cross the street at the corner, obeying traffic signals and staying in the crosswalk.
  • Never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.

GETTING TO SCHOOL BY CAR, BIKE, ON FOOT

  • If children ride in a car to get to school, they should always wear a seat belt. Younger children should use car seats or booster seats until the lap-shoulder belt fits properly (typically for children ages 8-12 and over 4’9”), and ride in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old.
  • If a teenager is going to drive to school, parents should mandate that they use seat belts. Drivers should not use their cell phone to text or make calls, and should avoid eating or drinking while driving.
  • Some students ride their bike to school. They should always wear a helmet and ride on the right in the same direction as the traffic is going.
  • When children are walking to school, they should only cross the street at an intersection, and use a route along which the school has placed crossing guards. Parents should walk young children to school, along with children taking new routes or attending new schools, at least for the first week to ensure they know how to get there safely. Arrange for the kids to walk to school with a friend or classmate.

DRIVERS, SLOW DOWN!

Drivers should be aware that children are out walking or biking to school and slow down, especially in residential areas and school zones. Motorists should know what the yellow and red bus signals mean. Yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is getting ready to stop and motorists should slow down and be prepared to stop. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign indicate the bus is stopped and children are getting on or off. Drivers in both directions must stop their vehicles and wait until the lights go off, the stop sign is back in place and the bus is moving before they can start driving again.