Although we are enjoying an unusual warm fall, winter is indeed coming. Days will be noticeably shorter and the weather will get colder. As we naturally associate these facts together, it just makes sense that we prepare for them simultaneously. Daylight Saving Time ends Sunday, November 5, which means that we should turn our clocks back an hour. It is also the perfect time to test the batteries in our smoke alarms.

Yes, smoke alarms! You know? Those round, white things on your home ceiling. If you have just moved into your first home, or you are perpetually distracted – like me – you might not even notice them. Well, I have news for you: those small devices SAVE LIVES, and they do need a change of batteries from time to time.

How do I know this? Funny that you ask. Let’s go back four years. My husband, my 7-month-old and I just moved to the US from overseas. We were thrilled with our new house, the area and our jobs. Everything was super exciting… and exhausting! Add a baby to an international move, sprinkle in a 12-hour time difference and you get a zombie-looking, extremely tired family. You get the idea.

After another chaotic day of unpacking, I was in bed, peacefully sleeping when… Beep! Beep! Beep! An annoying, perfectly timed beep sounded from somewhere in our house. My husband and I got up, almost sleepwalking, bumping into boxes and unfamiliar doors while looking for the source of the sound.

We checked everything, every single appliance, toy, clock and electronic device that you can think of. We unplugged, turned off and restarted each of them. But the beeping sound was relentless. We gave up, we were just too tired to keep looking, so we did the only thing left to do, we got out airplane earplugs, climbed back to bed, and slept despite the noise.  Lucky me, my baby is a heavy sleeper and she didn’t even flinch during our nighttime adventure. Bless her heart!

The next morning, when we took out the earplugs, the beeping not only continued but it got even worse! What was happening? Was our house damaged? Were we losing our minds? Not knowing what else to do, we walked across the street and we asked our neighbor if he could come over to take a look. To my surprise, as soon as he walked in the door, he grabbed a stool and reach out to the smoke alarm. “It needs new batteries”. He went into his house and came back with batteries to replace them for us.  He was amazed and horrified at the same time that we were able to ignore the beeping and keep sleeping.

As mortified as I was, I learned my lesson. I did my research and got in the habit of checking the smokes alarms during Daylight Saving Time weekend. So take a piece of advice from me, if you want to avoid something much worse than public embarrassment, don’t sleep on it! Check your smoke alarms, protect your family.

-Written by Mar Torres

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Listen up ghouls and goblins – it’s easy to get swept into the spooky spectacle of Halloween. The clever costumes, the thrill of collecting tasty treats and attending parties can sometimes make us forget about safety basics. Here are a few refreshers to keep the festivities fun.

  • Map out your neighborhood route ahead of time with trick-or-treaters.
  • Stick to sidewalks whenever possible.
  • Bring a flashlight to guide your way and be seen.
  • Look both ways before crossing the street and watch for drivers.
  • Visit houses with porch lights on and skip houses that are dark.
  • Accept treats from strangers outside only, and don’t accept an invite to enter an unknown house.
  • Face paint allows for better visibility than masks, especially in the dark.
  • Keep capes, gowns, tails, wigs, hats and sleeves away from open flames.
  • Use glow sticks or battery-operated candles in jack-o-lanterns and luminaries.

Funny Jack O Lantern

-Written by Elizabeth McLaren

For millennia, philosophers have debated the question: “what is a person?” Are insects people? How about fish or birds? Robots or computers? Some people say yes, others say no. But one thing’s for sure: if you’re a pet person, you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that your pet is a person. After all she or he has a distinct personality, right? And only a person can have a personality. Case closed.

Maybe my argument isn’t very philosophical, but it works for me, and probably for most pet owners. Pets sure seem to experience emotions and feelings very much like we do. And just like us, they tend to spend more time outside during the summer months. So as pet owners, it’s our responsibility to make sure they stay healthy, happy, and cool all summer long!

Here are some tips to heat your pets beat the heat:

  • Make sure your pets have plenty of fresh, cool water throughout the day. This is probably the single-most important thing you can to help your pet avoid dehydration and heat-exhaustion.
  • Provide plenty of shade for your pets. For example, if you have a sunny yard, make sure there are some trees your pet can rest beneath.
  • NEVER leave your pet in your car unattended. Even with the windows “cracked,” temperatures in your car can quickly rise to dangerous levels and put your pet in danger of heat exhaustion or stroke.
  • Be prepared in case your pet succumbs to heat stroke. Consult “How To Treat Heat Strokes In Pets” published on the American Red Cross website for information.

No Pets in Cars

In addition to beating the heat, be sure your pets are wearing collars and ID tags so they can be easily identified and returned to you if they get lost. Also be sure they are protected against heart-worm, fleas, and ticks by giving your pets medication recommended by your veterinarian.

To be even more prepared to assist your pet in the event of a summer health or safety emergency, consider downloading the Red Cross Pet First Aid App for your smartphone or tablet. It is available free from the Apple iTunes App Store, Google Play, and Amazon.

So, if you ever wonder if your pet is a person, just look at that little face. Of course, your pet is a person! And just like other people, pets don’t always make the right decisions about how to stay healthy and safe during the hot summer months. But as your pet’s best friend, you can help.

-Written by Randy Hulshizer

Want to help save lives during a road trip with friends? Offer some assistance to others on a rainy afternoon while on a beach house getaway? Or even pitch in while visiting out-of-state family members? Now is your chance. Donating blood from anywhere in the country is possible thanks to the American Red Cross.

This summer, the Red Cross is facing a significant blood donation shortage, reporting 61,000 fewer donations than needed across all blood types. The demand for blood is far outpacing recent collection amounts because of a huge drop-off in new donors, a group mostly made up of high school and college students who are on summer break until classes resume in the fall. For regular Red Cross blood donors, vacation plans may prevent them from donating.

Blood Emergency Give Now

“We have a huge unmet need,” said Alana Mauger, External Communications Manager for the Northeastern Pennsylvania and Penn-New Jersey Blood Services Region. While the number of donation appointments has increased since the call for donors began after Independence Day, Mauger said a big factor still effecting the nation’s blood supply is donors who haven’t followed through and arrived at their scheduled appointments. “You may take a vacation, but the need for blood doesn’t.”

New and returning donors who want to get involved can call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), visit or use the free Blood Donor App to learn more about blood donation eligibility and to sign up to give blood. The Blood Donor App allows donors, especially those who may be on vacation, to participate from anywhere in the U.S. by texting “BLOODAPP” to 90999. The Blood App enables donors to search zip codes for nearby donation centers, schedule appointments and complete a RapidPass online health history questionnaire to speed up the donation process. The Blood App even lets donors track where their own blood donation has gone, whether on a local or national level.

Mauger said one of the most common misconceptions about blood donation is the length of time it takes to donate from sign-in to recovery. It’s important for donors to know what blood donation options are available, and just how much time is involved for each type of donation, which include:

Whole Blood
Blood is donated and then manufactured into red blood cells, plasma and platelets.
Amount: Approximately a pint of blood
Appointment Length: About 1 hour from sign-in to recovery; 8-10 minutes for blood to be drawn and collected
Where to Donate: All Red Cross Blood Donation Centers and Blood Drives
Frequency: You are eligible to donate every 56 days

Power Red Donation
Red blood cells are the most transfused blood component and often in short supply. With a Power Red donation, red blood cells are collected while plasma and platelets are returned to the donor.
Amount: Approximately 2 units of red blood cells
Appointment Length: About 1.5 hours from sign-in to recovery, with 20-30 minutes for blood to be drawn and collected
Where to Donate: Most Red Cross Blood Donation Centers and some Blood Drives
Frequency: You are eligible to donate every 112 days

Platelet Apheresis
The Red Cross collects platelets along with some plasma by using an apheresis machine. Red and white blood cells are returned to the donor. Platelets and are important for cancer treatment, organ transplants, surgical procedures and blood loss.
Amount: One full transfusable unit
Appointment Length: About 2.5 to 3 hours from sign-in to recovery
Where to Donate: Select Red Cross Blood Donation Centers
Frequency: You are eligible to donate every 7 days, up to 24 times a year

Plasma Apheresis
The Red Cross collects plasma by an apheresis machine simultaneously with a platelet donation. Plasma is important for trauma or emergency situations, patients with bleeding disorders or difficulty fighting infections because of immune diseases.
Amount: One full transfusable unit
Appointment Length: About 1 hour, 15 minutes from sign-in to recovery
Where to Donate: Select Red Cross Blood Donation Centers
Frequency: You are eligible to donate every 28 days, up to 13 times a year


By Elizabeth McLaren

Why do people volunteer? The answers are as varied as the opportunities. I recently searched a volunteer website to find ideas.

Childcare worker. No thanks. Dog walker. Uh, no. Tutoring?  Nah. Helping the elderly. Not feeling it.

I started to wonder if I had any charitable cells in my body.

Five pages into the volunteer website, I finally found a link which suited my personality. Writer for the American Red Cross. I hadn’t considered the American Red Cross before. I’m certainly not a hurricane expert, blood specialist, or nurse. I expected all those positions as volunteer opportunities. But a writer? I clicked on the link the learn more.

I was floored to discover how much the American Red Cross offers beyond disaster relief and blood. You will be, too. The most fascinating part of the American Red Cross environment is the size of the volunteer pool. Over 90% of the humanitarian work is done by volunteers. What makes all those people tick?

I had the chance to talk with my friend’s father, who was a Transportation Specialist for the Red Cross approximately twice a week for five years. Here’s a snippet of my conversation with Mr. Bill Miller:

Me: Mr. Miller, how did you find out about volunteering with the American Red Cross?

Mr. Miller: I had been giving blood for several years, and after I retired, I was looking for something to do. I got into a conversation with the volunteers at the blood center, and found out about the transportation specialist role.

Me: Why did you decide to volunteer?

Mr. Miller: I felt it was a way for me to serve the community. Knowing blood is needed every day, I thought it could be a way to give back. It made me feel good, even though it was a small role.


As evidenced in Mr. Miller’s comments, volunteering provides personal rewards, both tangible and intangible. But that’s the thing. When I think about volunteering, I don’t consider personal rewards. It’s about helping others, right? It’s in helping others I can simply be… human.

Physically, volunteerism has been linked to a reduced level of stress. Sounds good to me. Emotionally, it can also reduce depression. Personally, it provides an outlet for purpose and meaning as well as a connection to others. It’s also a fun way to learn something new, and to meet others who are liked-minded.

The cost? A little bit of my time. But if my life is enhanced as a result, I think it’s worth it.

For more information on the American Red Cross volunteer opportunities in the Eastern Pennsylvania region, go to the website. We look forward to having you join us!


By: Lisa Tomarelli


We’re a month into hurricane season and as Tropical Storm Cindy showed us the week of June 21st, these weather systems can stall, causing severe weather and damage as storms move inland. Heavy rain, flooding, and the threat of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes can occur hundreds of miles away from where these storms make landfall.

Severe weather is the last thing you want to interrupt summer fun, but it’s a real concern, and can develop from a threat into a warning in just a short period of time. Not only is it a good idea to keep up with the latest weather news, but it’s crucial to prepare in advance.

Planning now can protect you and your loved ones from serious emergencies. The Red Cross has some key steps you can take so you can stay safe if severe weather or flooding is possible in your area.

Flooded Roadway Outdoors

Radio Broadcasts: Stay informed of severe weather developments by NOAA radio broadcasts. Battery-powered or hand-crank NOAA weather radios are available to purchase in the on-line Red Cross Store.

Watches vs. Warnings: A watch means flooding or severe weather is possible. A warning means flooding or severe weather is already happening, or will be happening very soon. Don’t hesitate. If a warning has been issued, you should take immediate action.

Evacuation Plan: You and the members of your household may need to quickly leave your residence. Having a plan already in place will allow you to evacuate if local law enforcement or emergency responders tell you to do so.

Be Informed: Do you know what your local community’s response plan is? Now is the time to discover local plans and map out routes to local shelters. If you’re traveling to another destination, learn about how that city or town spreads the word about emergency situations.

Shelters: Everyone is welcome at Red Cross shelters. If you have any special requests or needs, you can contact the Eastern Pennsylvania Region chapter ahead of time to speak with a Red Cross staff member. Register any family members who have special medical needs. Service animals are welcome in shelters. Make separate arrangements for all other pets. To find out real-time shelter availability, you can log onto and search for open shelters by your zip code.

Emergency Kit:  Build an emergency kit with a gallon of water per person, per day, non-perishable food, a flashlight, battery-powered radio, first aid kit, medications, supplies for an infant if applicable, a multi-purpose tool like a Swiss Army knife, personal hygiene items, copies of important papers, cell phone chargers, extra cash, blankets, maps of the area and emergency contact information. If you have an emergency kit already packed, be sure to check if your food and water supplies haven’t expired, and if your paperwork is up to date. Replace as necessary.

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Securing Property: If your residence is in the path of a hurricane or tropical storm, install permanent storm shutters or invest in pre-cut one-half inch marine plywood to fit windows and doors. High winds can turn typical outdoor items into dangers. Store lawn furniture and other loose items like toys, garden tools, decorations and trashcans so these items are secure.

Red Cross Emergency App: Want to learn more in-depth tips? Download the free Red Cross Emergency App from the Apple App Store or Google Play, or by texting “GET EMERGENCY” to 90099.

Weather Red Report: The Red Cross and The Weather Channel have partnered to produce a weekly national weather roundup, airing on The Weather Channel on Sundays at 8:40 am EST. Segments from the Weather Red Report are available online at Stay up to date and know what to do in a weather emergency.

-Written by Elizabeth McLaren

There’s something to be said for a meal prepared on an outdoor grill. Marinated chicken has a whole new dimension after those flames do their thing. Vegetable kebabs become a treat instead of a main course you beg your kids to eat thanks to flavor provided by charcoal and heat. Add a warm afternoon or evening, and you have the ideal recipe for a Fourth of July holiday weekend you’ll fondly recall during those cold Winter days.

With great potential, however, comes great responsibility. Grilling safety deserves your attention, and with a few tips, meals can be prepared with ease and without an unexpected visit from the good folks working with your local fire company or emergency services.


Always Outdoors: Never grill indoors. Inside the house, camper, tent or any other enclosed area aren’t options. Ever.

Stay Clear: Keep kids and pets away from the grill. Set up the grill in the open, away from the house, deck, low-hanging tree branches or anything that could catch fire.

Starter Fluid: Never add charcoal starter fluid after coals have been ignited.

Supervise: When the grill is in use, always be there to monitor cooking. Follow the grill manufacturer’s instructions when operating the grill.

The Right Tools: Long-handled tools just for grilling keep hot food away from the chef.

Emergency App: More safety questions beyond these basics? Want to know if any severe weather will disrupt the grilling process? Download the free Red Cross Emergency App from the Apple App Store or Google Play, or by texting “GET EMERGENCY” to 90099.

Now that you’ve mastered these tips, you’re on your way to a delicious Summer  barbeque.

-Written by Elizabeth McLaren