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Preparedness

Summer is one of the most popular times of year for people in the United States to take a trip that involves international travel. If you are planning a trip which involves driving across a border, sailing to a coastline, or flying halfway around the world, the American Red Cross has some steps you can take to stay safe.

CTSY: NASA

  1. Download the first aid app. The American Red Cross first aid app puts expert advice for everyday emergencies in your hand. Whether you’re in the United States or abroad, arming yourself with basic first aid skills can save a life. Be sure to download the app while you’re still in the United States, otherwise you’ll download the local Red Cross or Red Crescent’s mobile app (which will be in the local language).
  2. Make a plan. Just like at home, it’s important to establish a time and place to meet family members in case you get separated.
  3. Know what natural disasters are possible. There’s no reason to panic, but it’s important to research whether your destination faces emergencies you’ve never experienced. While you’ll need to gauge the local context, the Red Cross offers basic tips about what to do during natural disasters like tsunamis, volcanoes, and hurricanes.
  4. Register your trip with the State Department. Enter your travel details with the free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program online, which allows the State Department to better assist you in case of an emergency while you are abroad. You can also get information about safety conditions in the country you are planning to visit.
  5. Write down contact details for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to carry with you in case of emergency while traveling.
  6. Check out the State Department’s ‘What the Department of State Can and Can’t Do in a Crisisand have an evacuation plan that doesn’t rely on the U.S. government.
  7. Keep your destination country’s emergency numbers handy. You know to use 911 in the United States, but how will you reach the fire department, police, or an ambulance abroad? Find your destination country on this reference sheet from the State Department—and write down the emergency numbers before you take off.
  8. Know the six-month passport rule. Some countries deny travelers entry if their passport expires in less than six months. Renew your passport about nine months before the expiration date.
  9. Let your credit card company know what countries you will be visiting and when. This way, they won’t think your card is stolen and shut it off just when you need it the most.
  10. Pack your International Certificate of Vaccination. Also referred to as the “yellow card,” it lists your immunizations, allergies, and blood type. The “yellow card” is available from your physician or local health department.
  11. Bring medications, bug repellent. If you’re traveling somewhere with mosquito-borne illnesses—such as malaria, dengue, or Zika—be sure to spray repellent and/or cover your arms and legs with lightweight clothing at critical times of the day. Don’t forget your medications and it’s a good idea to bring other stuff like OTC pain reliever and something for an upset stomach.
  12. Check for emergency exits and evacuation routes. The American Red Cross has helped many communities around the world install signs that indicate evacuation routes in case flooding or another natural disaster occurs. Be sure to identify evacuation routes at your destination and, as always, pay attention to the location of emergency exits.

Hurricane Isaac 2012

It’s that time of year when the temperature goes up and heat and humidity, which can be deadly, make being outdoors very uncomfortable. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 600 people in the United States are killed by extreme heat every year. The American Red Cross has steps you can take to help stay safe when the temperatures soar.

HEAT SAFETY TIPS

Some people are more at risk of developing a heat-related illness, including adults age 65 and older, those with chronic medical conditions, people who work outside, infants and children and athletes. Here are steps you should take in hot weather:

  • Hot cars can be deadly. Never leave children or pets in your vehicle. The inside temperature of the car can quickly reach 120 degrees.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
  • Check on family, friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, who spend much of their time alone or who are more likely to be affected by the heat.
  • If someone doesn’t have air conditioning, they should seek relief from the heat during the warmest part of the day in places like schools, libraries, theaters, malls, etc.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays.
  • Slow down, stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.
  • Postpone outdoor games and activities.
  • Use a buddy system when working in excessive heat. Take frequent breaks if working outdoors.
  • Check on animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat. Make sure they have plenty of cool water.

HEAT EXHAUSTION Excessive heat can lead to sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. If someone is experiencing heat cramps in the legs or abdomen, get them to a cooler place, have them rest, lightly stretch the affected muscle, and replenish their fluids with a half a glass (about 4 ounces) of cool water every 15 minutes.

If someone is exhibiting signs of heat exhaustion (cool, moist, pale or flushed skin, heavy sweating, headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, exhaustion), move them to a cooler place, remove or loosen tight clothing and spray the person with water or apply cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin. Fan the person. If they are conscious, give small amounts of cool water to drink. Make sure the person drinks slowly. Watch for changes in condition. If the person refuses water, vomits or begins to lose consciousness, call 9-1-1.

HEAT STROKE LIFE-THREATENING Signs include hot, red skin which may be dry or moist; changes in consciousness; vomiting and high body temperature. Call 9-1-1 immediately if someone shows signs of heat stroke. Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the person’s body by immersing them up to their neck in cold water if possible. Otherwise, douse or spray the person with cold water, or cover the person with cold, wet towels or bags of ice.

DOWNLOAD RED CROSS APPS The Red Cross app “Emergency” can help keep you and your loved ones safe by putting vital information in your hand and settings for more than 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts including heat advisories and excessive heat warnings. The Red Cross First Aid App puts instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies at your fingertips including heat-related emergencies. Download these apps by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ in your app store or at redcross.org/apps.

The American Red Cross is pleased to announce that one million 3rd through 5th grade students across the country have learned how to prepare themselves, their households and their communities for emergencies by participating in The Pillowcase Project.

Pillowcase Project- General Charles Harker 2- 2018

Originally created in New Orleans, The Pillowcase Project is a free program inspired by the story of local university students carrying their belongings in pillowcases during Hurricane Katrina evacuations. During the presentation, participants receive a pillowcase to decorate and then take home to use as a personal emergency supplies kit.

The curriculum is structured by a Learn, Practice, Share framework. Students learn about the science of a locally relevant hazard and how to best prepare for it. They practice what to do if a disaster occurs and how to cope with related fear and stress. Afterwards, they share the information and skills they have learned with their family and friends so everyone in the household knows what to do.

To date, 11 lives have been saved by four students who put into practice what they learned through the program. Last year, 9-year-old Camryn Sarnie of Ramona, Oklahoma was startled awake at 3:00 a.m. by a smoke alarm sounding in his home. The sound scared Camryn, but he recognized it and knew that it was alerting him to a fire. He knew that he had less than two minutes to escape, so he quickly woke up his parents, alerted them to the fire and instructed them to evacuate immediately. Camryn saved three lives that morning, including his own, by putting into practice what he learned just a few weeks earlier from The Pillowcase Project presentation at his school. According to Camryn’s mother, Lora, “Camryn told us all about what he learned in class after the presentation. Camryn is a true hero.”

AmysPillowcase

The Red Cross has engaged more than 35,000 volunteers and partnered with more than 13,000 schools, community organizations and partners to deliver this program to students across the country and at more than a dozen U.S. military stations abroad. The Walt Disney Company is the founding sponsor of the program. Additional information about The Pillowcase Project is available at redcross.org/pillowcase.

Written By Sam Antenucci

The  2018 Hurricane Season, June through November, has arrived. Last season we, as a country, saw how hurricanes impacted Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. Red Cross volunteers dispatched to four southern states to aid in the recovery by mobilizing resources and help residents impacted by the storms. For Hurricane Irma victims, the Red Cross provided over 550,000 overnight shelter stays, 1.5 million meals and snacks, and provide 52,600 health and mental health services! Similarly, with Hurricane Harvey, the Red Cross provided immediate financial assistance to more than 575,000 households, 4.5 million meals in Texas and Louisiana, provided 435,000 overnight shelters, and offered 127,000 mental health services to those affected.

Hurricane Harvey 2017

A Red Cross worker assesses Harvey damage and standing water levels in Texas

However, even with all the great strides made in recovery, the devastation in these areas is still in effect going into the new hurricane season. For this reason, the American Red Cross wants to emphasize the importance of keeping you and your family safe this hurricane season.

NOAA’s forecasters predict a 70-percent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 5 to 9 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 1 to 4 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher). An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which 6 become hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes.

infrared goes-16 harvey

Image: Infrared GOES-16 as Harvey hits Texas coast. CTSY: NOAA

While the predictions are concerning, there are tips you and your loved ones can do to prepare for the season. Right before hurricane and tropical storm announcements, it is recommended that you stay up-to-date with your local news and officials, National Weather Service and Red Cross with changing conditions. It is also advised that families create evacuation plans with well-marked destinations and local emergency shelters listed. In addition, a fully stocked emergency kit can aid in keeping your family safe and prepared before the storm hits.

During a hurricane, stay indoors! By avoiding any beaches, riverbanks, or contact with flood waters, you can help protect you and your family from any contaminated water and prevent being knocked over by fast-flowing waters. If caught on flooded roads, the Red Cross advises getting out of the car as quick as possible and move to higher grounds.

After the storm has passed, make sure you and your loved ones register on Safe and Well, a website designed to help communicate with family during disasters if cellular communication is not an option. Just like before, keep listening to local news stations and/or weather radios for updates on the storm and instructions for returning home.

With the new hurricane season quickly approaching, you and your family can be prepared! For more safety tips and resources, visit the Red Cross’s hurricane safety page and download the free Emergency app.

 

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.

snow driving

As a major winter storm barrels through the region, road conditions are expected to deteriorate quickly. Slushy snow and ice could make for slick, dangerous roads. High snow rates along with gusty winds could lower driving visibility significantly.  Of course, the Red Cross recommends staying off the roads during hazardous winter weather. However, if travel is necessary, the American Red Cross recommends making safety a priority. Having an automobile preparedness kit in your vehicle at all times will not only come in handy but will also keep you safe in case you experience trouble on the roads.

  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Cell Phone Car Charger
  • Blanket and/or emergency Mylar blanket
  • Fleece Hat, Gloves, Scarf
  • Flares
  • Folding Shovel
  • Sand or Cat Litter
  • Ice Scraper and Snow Brush
  • First-Aid Kit
  • Small battery-operated radio
  • Emergency contact card with names and phone numbers
  • Extra prescription medications
  • Bottled Water
  • High protein snacks
  • Maps
  • Whistle
  • An automobile first-aid zip kit.This kit contains an assortment of bandages, gauze, antiseptic, insect relief pads, sunscreen and sanitizer. Cost is $10.00.
  • Personal Safety Emergency Pack. This kit contains emergency blanket, drinking water, emergency poncho, light stick, whistle, mini first-aid kit and mask. Cost is $11.00

Both kits are affordably priced and can be easily kept in a vehicle’s glove box.

If driving is unavoidable, safety should be your number one priority. Make sure your vehicle has plenty of gas and pay attention to the weather forecast for your travel route and destination. Buckle up, be alert and drive slowly with caution. In the event that your vehicle becomes disabled, keep the car running, make sure the exhaust pipe is clear and leave the window open a crack until help arrives.

  • Fill the vehicle’s gas tank and clean the lights and windows to help you see.
  • Pay attention to the weather forecast. Before you leave, let someone know where you are going, the route you plan to take, and when you expect to get there. If your car gets stuck, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
  • If you have to drive, make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions such as cell phones.
  • Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways.
  • Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.
  • Don’t pass snow plows.
  • Know that ramps, bridges and overpasses will freeze before roadways.

If you become stuck in the snow or icy conditions:

  • Stay with the car. Do not try to walk to safety.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) to the antenna for rescuers to see.
  • Don’t run your engine and heater constantly to help avoid running out of gas. Don’t use things like lights or the radio without the engine running so the battery doesn’t conk out.
  • If you can, move your vehicle off the roadway. Stay with it – don’t abandon it. If you have to get out of your vehicle, use the side away from traffic.
  • Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes won’t back up in the car.
  • Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running to help rescuers see the vehicle.
  • Keep one window slightly open – away from the blowing wind – to let in air.

NWS Snow

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for parts of Eastern PA through Thursday morning as a major coastal storm is forecast to produce significant impacts: heavy/wet snow, gusty winds, power outages, ice and hazardous travel.

WINTER SAFETY TIPS

The Red Cross has steps people should follow to stay safe during severe winter weather:

  • Wear layers of clothing, a hat, mittens and waterproof, insulated boots.
  • Be careful when tackling strenuous tasks like shoveling snow in cold temperatures.
  • Check on your neighbors, especially elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and children.
  • Bring pets indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
  • Watch for hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia symptoms include confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. Frostbite symptoms include numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy feeling skin.

WINTER TRAVEL SAFETY

Stay off the road if possible during severe weather. If you have to drive in winter weather, follow these tips:

  • Make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give your full attention to the road.
  • Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways.
  • Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.
  • Don’t pass snow plows.
  • Ramps, bridges and overpasses freeze before roadways.

PREVENT HOME FIRES

With the cold temperatures there is often a rise in the number of home fires. Follow these tips to help prevent a fire in your home:

  • Keep all potential sources of fuel paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs – at least three feet away from sources of heat.
  • Never leave portable heaters and fireplaces unattended.
  • Place space heaters on a level, hard and nonflammable surface. Keep children and pets away from space heaters. Look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over.
  • Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
  • Keep fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal fire screen.