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The upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend is the unofficial start of summer when all of us will begin enjoying the outdoors and sunshine. The American Red Cross wants everyone to have fun and offers 20 things you can do to be safe all summer long.

“Summer is finally on the way and many of us will travel, grill delicious food and cool off in the pool or at the beach,” said Dave Skutnik, Director of Communications “We want everyone to enjoy the summer and be safe at the same time, so we are offering these 20 safety tips people should follow.”

DRIVING SAFETY

  1. Be well rested and alert, use seat belts, observe speed limits and follow the rules of the road. Clean your headlights and turn them on as dusk approaches or in inclement weather.
  2. Don’t drink and drive. Have a designated driver available.
  3. Give your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions such as cell phones.
  4. Use caution in work zones. There are lots of construction projects underway on the highways.
  5. Don’t follow other vehicles too closely.

WATER SAFETY

  1. Ensure that everyone in the family becomes water competent. That is, learn to swim well, know your limitations and how to recognize and avoid hazards, and understand how to help prevent and respond to emergencies around water.
  2. Adults should actively supervise children and stay within arm’s reach of young children and newer swimmers. Kids should follow the rules.
  3. Fence your pool in with four-sided fencing that is at least four-feet in height and use self-closing, self-latching gates.
  4. Wear your U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket always when on a boat and if in a situation beyond your skill level.
  5. Swim as a pair near a lifeguard’s chair – everyone, including experienced swimmers, should swim with a buddy in areas protected by lifeguards. If in a location with no lifeguards, such as a residential pool, designate a “Water Watcher” to keep a close eye and constant attention on children in and around the water.

BEACH SAFETY

  1. If you plan to swim in the ocean, a lake or river, be aware that swimming in these environments is different than swimming in a pool. Be sure you have the skills for these environments.
  2. Swim only at a beach with a lifeguard, within the designated swimming area. Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards and ask them about local conditions.
  3. Make sure you swim sober and that you always swim with a buddy. Know your limitations and make sure you have enough energy to swim back to shore.
  4. Protect your neck – don’t dive headfirst. Walk carefully into open waters. Watch out for and avoid aquatic life.
  5. If you are caught in a rip current, try not to panic. Signal to those on shore that you need assistance. Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Once you are free, 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.

GRILLING SAFETY

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

 

In March of 1944, Frances Etherington was in her mid-20s and just joined the American Red Cross to serve in World War II. Following a six-week course at the American University in Atlanta, she sailed to London from Brooklyn, New York.

Paper shortages, buzz bombs and blackouts did not damper France’s dedication. She qualified for an international truck driver’s license and began driving a 12-ton truck through the busy streets of London; a “horrifying” feat, in her words. She served in the Red Cross Club Mobile Unit, providing coffee, doughnuts and special meals to soldiers.

Frances Eth

A couple months into her deployment, Frances sensed something big was about to happen. Just before what would come to be known as D-Day and the Invasion of Normandy (June 6, 1945), “London became very quiet and eerie. It wasn’t as crowded and many soldiers had been moved out,” she recalls. That night, while listening to the radio news, she learned of the attack.

Later that month, her unit sailed from Portsmouth to Utah Beach in Normandy. Etherington spent her first night on land just beyond the beach in a field that had been swept for German mines. She slept under a truck because the hedgerows were mined. In the coming weeks, her unit followed troops liberating European towns, never staying in one place for long.

While Frances’ unit avoided the immediate war zone, the devastation of the bombed French villages, images of refugees walking in hordes along the roads and a “nauseating” visit to a concentration camp were etched in her memory. “Such a methodical and scientific means of destroying human lives that I shuddered at the coldness of it all,” she remembers.

Etherington considered herself lucky to serve soldiers coffee and food. She was given a whiskey allowance, which she put towards the doughnuts fund since she didn’t drink alcohol. There was even some fun during it all, the unit was entertained by an army group of musicians and magicians.

In May 1945, victory in Europe was declared. In August, Etherington sailed back to New York on a hospital ship filled with amputee soldiers. As they entered the New York Harbor, a huge message painted on the banks of the river was there to greet them: “Welcome Home. Well done.”

Etherington returned home to her native North Carolina and remained involved in the Red Cross, donating throughout the years and establishing a Charitable Gift Annuity. She recently turned 100 years and her daughter thought to document her mother’s experiences with the Red Cross before it was lost.

Transcribed by Laurie Etherington

Written by Kathy Huston

 

Written by Randy Hulshizer

It’s almost that time of year again! For many, the upcoming warm, humid summer months are a time to head to the beach for a cool dip in the ocean, kick back with a glass of lemonade or iced tea in a shady backyard, or simply find a cool, air-conditioned place to relax. Instinctively, people tend to choose activities that alleviate discomfort from the heat, but sometimes the heat and humidity are so bad that the weather service and local governments issue warnings to  ensure people understand that heat is not only uncomfortable—it can be dangerous.

Despite the frequent and clear warnings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 681 people die in the U.S. each year due to heat-related factors. The majority of heat-related deaths occur in individuals over the age of 65 and most are preventable.

Hurricane Matthew 2016

Photo by Daniel Cima

The reason for the high number of elderly deaths due to heat are three-fold. First, as the human body ages, it becomes less adaptable to sudden changes in temperature or other environmental factors, such as humidity and air pollution. Second, many people over the age of 65 have chronic medical conditions or take multiple prescription medications, both of which could affect the body’s ability to adapt to environmental changes. And third, many people over the age of 65 simply ignore the warnings.

According to a 2007 survey of more than 900 individuals over the age of 65, only about half heed excessive heat warnings. Some individuals stated that, although they knew that “elderly” people were at higher risk of heat-related conditions and death, they did not consider themselves “elderly,” and therefore the warnings did not apply. In addition, most reported that they had access to air-conditioning, but about a third of them said they didn’t turn it on because it cost too much.

The Red Cross encourages everyone, especially the elderly, to pay attention to the warnings and take appropriate action: stay in air-conditioning if possible; drink plenty of water; stay out of the sun; wear lose-fitting, light-colored clothing; don’t engage in strenuous activity; and get plenty of rest. If you know someone over the age of 65, check on them occasionally to be sure they are weathering the heat safely.

Written by David Haas

 

In a typical year, home fires kill more people than all other natural disasters combined in the United States. The Red Cross has set a goal to reduce fire-related deaths and injuries in the US by 25% through the Home Fire Campaign. Each spring during the last weekend of April and first two weeks of May, Red Cross hosts the National Signature Event – Sound the Alarm. The 2018 Sound the Alarm campaign promotes fire safety and seeks to install 100,000 fire alarms in at-risk communities nationwide.

STA event Philly

The Red Cross of Eastern PA held a large event Friday, May 4th in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philadelphia. Helping to kick off the morning’s event were a wide range of senior leaders of the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania safety community.  Dan Bradley, the Director of Philadelphia’s Office of Emergency Management highlighted the importance of our involvement in Sound the Alarm by stating that “Fires are the #1 most frequent hazard occurring across the city, and the most important thing someone can do to prevent fire is to install a smoke alarm; the second most important thing is to have an emergency escape plan.”

Approximately 150 volunteers and partners from Wawa, PECO, FEMA, Boston Consulting Group, Philadelphia Fire Department, Duke Realty, CapTech Ventures, Temple University and Philadelphia Soul fanned out across the Port Richmond neighborhood for five hours installing smoke detectors and educating residents on fire safety. Through the volunteers’ hard work, 125 homes were made safer and 267 smoke alarms were installed free of charge.

volunteer STA

Volunteers received a warm welcome from the community and several instances of non-working and outdated detectors were found and replaced.  Said Interim Red Cross CEO Angela A. Broome Powley: “You never know which smoke alarm installed today will save a life tomorrow.”  To date, over 400 lives have been saved through the Home Fire Campaign.

Philly STA event

From left, Boston Consulting Group David Webb, Red Cross Eastern Pennsylvania Interim CEO Angela A. Broome Powley, Director of Philadelphia’s Office of Emergency Management Dan Bradley, Pennsylvania Acting State Fire Commissioner Bruce Trego, FEMA Region 3 Administrator MaryAnn Tierney and Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel

Go to www.SoundTheAlarm.org/EasternPA to learn more, or access Volunteer Connection to sign up for an upcoming event.

By: Elizabeth McLaren

One phone call can determine the entire course of Red Cross DAT Responder Elizabeth Stinson’s day. As part of the Disaster Action Team (DAT) in Chester County, Pennsylvania, Stinson knows her circumstances can change in an instant, just as they did on November 16, 2017. News of a five-alarm fire with possible injuries and fatalities at the Barclay Friends Senior Center in West Chester jarred her awake.

“I had fallen asleep on my couch,” Stinson said. “I got the call, got myself together and went.”

Stinson was on the scene of the Barclay fire for over 12 hours, supporting other local emergency responders and Barclay facility staff who were transporting clients to nearby senior and assisted living centers, and reuniting clients with family members. The relief efforts on the ground involved many moving parts. Stinson saw first-hand how small details can matter the most. “It was all about compassionate care. One of the volunteers went out to buy applesauce so patients could take their medicine.”

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Of the experiences Stinson has witnessed during her 419 hours logged as a DAT Responder, and close to 1,300 hours on call, the Barclay fire continues to stick with her. “It was the most rewarding experience I had with the Red Cross. I had no idea going into it how large the fire was or the type of people impacted. When I saw the clientele, we wanted to just keep them warm.”

Stinson helps with Red Cross workforce engagement on the days when she’s not involved with disaster response. She coordinates with Volunteer Services to introduce interested Red Cross volunteers to the many responsibilities of DAT Responders. Stinson helps with Red Cross initiatives such as the Home Fire Campaign and the Pillow Case Project, working towards community engagement for volunteers. She is also part of the committee organizing the Red Cross Disaster Institute offering classes to train DAT Responders. With her many efforts, she keeps one main approach in mind, both for herself and for potential volunteers.

“There’s no typical day at the Red Cross. Every day is different. I think that’s what I like about it. Each day is a new and unique set of challenges. Sometimes it’s routine like updating data and records, but it’s always different.”

Stinson believes that this variety adds value not only to her role, but also to her daily life. “Every experience is something to add to your toolkit. They’re all learning experiences. It’s [about] being a better human being. You get out there and you realize not everyone’s as fortunate as you.”

Tracey Howard joined the American Red Cross Team after retiring from 24 years in law enforcement as a federal probation officer for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, U.S. District Courts.  Tracey is a firm believer in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, “Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.”

Tracey Photo 2

Her commitment to community service has given her the opportunity to work with agencies including BEBASHI, Philadelphia’s District Attorney’s Youth Aid Panel, Mayor’s Commission on Literacy, the Girls Scouts, and AARP.  In addition to serving at the American Red Cross in various capacities (humanitarian, warehouse assistant, blood donor ambassador, …. she has served over 26 years on the Multi-Media Ministry for New Covenant Church and is the current President for Valley Forge Alumnae Chapter (VFAC) of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.  She is most proud to have initiated partnership with VFAC and the American Red Cross, participating in the Sound the Alarm Program., Emergency Preparedness Workshops, Hurricane Harvey Relief, the Pillowcase Project, and blood drives for VFAC service area.

Last year, the Red Cross in Eastern Pennsylvania collected more than 155,000 blood donations. Through voluntary donations, the American Red Cross Biomedical Services fulfills the needs of the American people for the safest, most reliable and cost-effective blood services.

Written by Sam Antenucci

April is National Volunteer Month and the American Red Cross wants to shine the spotlight on our wonderful volunteers that make the Red Cross what it is; an organization, empowered by our volunteers, to help those suffering in the face of emergencies. Without their talents, time, and efforts, the Red Cross could not accomplish it’s goal of making the community a better, safer place.

One of our volunteers, Cara Keiper, has stood out as an exceptional volunteer and has poured hard work and positivity throughout her time here at the Red Cross.

Cara

“I am a volunteer with the Red Cross because it’s a good feeling to know that I am helping out my community.” said Cara. She sought out to help the American Red Cross and joined the team in May of 2014. She has been working at the front desk of the Scranton chapter and also has volunteered her time in Disaster Service Cycle. She has logged over 1500 hours since she’s been here! Cara is a wonderful volunteer and is a positive presence at the Scranton Chapter. Her diligent work in helping the community and uplifting spirit is exactly what makes the Red Cross a special organization.

The Disaster Service Cycle is one of the five lines of service within the Red Cross that focuses on recovery, preparation, and response in the face of emergencies like fires, hurricanes, floods, and tornados. We rely on volunteers to make up over 90% of the work force and make it possible to aid in 70,000 disasters yearly! As a part of the Disaster Service Cycle team, volunteers can work in delivery response services, which supplies food, shelter, and comfort after disasters. Volunteers can also teach about preparedness to communities and children about being safe in the case of emergencies, work in Recovery services to help aid victims of disasters get back on their feet, teach courses to other volunteers, and/or work as a disaster mental health volunteer to offer emotional support and crisis interventions to those affected by disasters.

As a member of the team, our Disaster Cycle Service group will engage in the community as leaders, serve in planning responses and recovery situations, and/or assist in training efforts and community preparedness opportunities.

Through all the disaster situations, fires, floods, hurricanes, and tornados, the Red Cross needs amazing volunteers to help engage within the community with services that can save the lives of those around us. The Red Cross is always looking for more volunteers of all ages and skill sets to help! To join the American Red Cross, you can follow the link, redcross.org/volunteer, to find an opportunity you like and submit an application today!