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

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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.

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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.

Written by Bryan Myers

Flooding has been a major concern throughout Pennsylvania this summer, especially in the Central and Eastern parts of the state. After several rounds of thunderstorm on August 13th, communities began to flood and houses became inundated with water. Montgomery County’s Department of Public Safety reported that the Pennsylvania Turnpike was closed between Valley Forge and Norristown. The Schuylkill Expressway and PA Turnpike were also shut down due to flooding in the county. Portions of Berks, Delaware, Lackawanna, Schuylkill, Susquehanna and Wyoming counties were particularly hard hit.

The Red Cross responded to the historic flooding in Delaware County by opening an evacuation center at the Darby Recreation Center for flood victims. Throughout the region, dozens of people fled the floodwaters into Red Cross shelters, which were opened in coordination with community partners.

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As water levels receded, the Red Cross focus shifted to distributing emergency supplies, serving meals and working one on one with affected families.  In the first week alone, Red Cross volunteers served more than 2,100 meals and snacks and distributed hundreds of clean up kits and other flood related supplies.

Five emergency response vehicles were deployed to the hardest-hit areas where volunteers could hand out food and emergency supplies door to door. Disaster Assessment teams were sent out to traverse neighborhoods while caseworkers went door to door to talk with affected families, providing more than 75 of them with assistance.

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To be prepared for flood emergencies, the Red Cross recommends assembling an emergency preparedness kit and creating a household evacuation plan. You should ensure that you have access to NOAA radio broadcasts and keep insurance policies in a safe-deposit box or with pictures on a flash drive. Remember to take precautionary measures for your pets by downloading the Red Cross Pet First Aid app.

Home protections might include raising your water heater or electric panels to higher floors, the addition of flood barriers around your house and waterproofing the walls in your basement. Check with your local municipality about the availability of sandbags prior to a flood watch or warning.

You can read more about flood safety from the Red Cross by visiting the Red Cross Flood Safety website. Stay up to date with the latest alerts with the Red Cross Emergency App for iPhone or Android.

Philadelphia’s Office of Emergency Management offers flood safety awareness with an outline of flooding hazards. At the state and federal level, a Pennsylvania Flooding Recovery Guide is also available.

Written by Sam Antenucci

My father is a universal donor, meaning he can donate his blood to anyone who needs it. He donated as frequently as he could, often donating plasma as well. He did this for years, up until he was diagnosed with cancer.

Knowing that blood can help burn-victims, transplant patients, those battling cancer etc., made me want to step up and take my father’s place on the donation table. Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood, making donations not just important but the difference between life and death.

Blood Drive at the Rayburn House Building Capitol Hill 2017

My first donation was in September of 2014 and I had some concerns going into my first blood drive. Like many other first-time donors, I didn’t like needles. I walked into a room bustling with nurses, donors and soft rock playing in the background. I was greeted by the warm faces of volunteers at the registration table and led to the back for a mini-physical where I answered a few general health questions and had my vitals taken. Once the physical was finished, I was on track to donate.

I laid down on the table as the nurse and I chatted away about being a first-time donor. She explained everything and tried to ease my fear of needles, reminding me that each donation goes to those in need. Before I knew it, the needle was in with a slight pinch and I was only ten minutes away from filling my first pint of blood! Between the music and the friendly staff, time zipped by and I was able to hop off the table and enjoy the refreshments waiting for donors afterwards. From there, my blood was sent to the blood donation center in Philadelphia for processing and testing.

Four years later, I’m still donating to this day, especially since blood supplies have been noticeably low during the summer months. To make matters worse, the number of Red Cross donors decreased each year, leaving many hospital’s supplies low, shelves empty and patients in dire need of transfusions. Now is better than ever to make the decision to save lives by donating blood.

3 livesBy taking 15 minutes out of your day to donate blood, you can save three lives and give patients a chance to keep fighting. You don’t need a special reason to give blood, just one that motivates you. Some donate because of friends, some do it because they believe it is the right thing to do, and there are some who do it for the free cookies. Regardless of the reason to give blood, I would like to offer advice for new-donor jitters – take pride in the good you are doing, relax with music or chat with the staff, and be prepared before you donate by eating a good meal with plenty of water. It is a rewarding experience that changes the lives of those in need.

 

To find more information on where you can donate, you can go to https://rdcrss.org/2ORL31P to find a blood drive near you.

Written by Marquee Brown

Many people do not know the proper procedures for managing a crisis, which can result in injuries or death. The Red Cross of Eastern Pennsylvania sponsors Camp Save-A-Life each summer to teach kids ages 10 to 14 the proper way to handle disasters. The camp runs for seven weeks with a new group of campers every week. Participants become certified in CPR and First Aid while having fun and making new friends.

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The children were shy upon arrival the first day. That was short lived once the counselors started group games to get the campers comfortable. By lunchtime, the kids were formed into groups and conversing as though they’ve known each other for years. The camp counselors were engaged and passionate as well. Many have been leading the camp for years. When asked why they kept returning, every answer was the same- for the children, they enjoy watching them develop skills and get involved in activities. Each counselor had a story about the emotional impact of seeing kids take on new responsibilities.

The camp creates a fun and competitive environment by dividing the kids into groups of six, with relevant names like lightning, hurricane, fire, tornado, flood and earthquake. They even have a student of the week who receives a disaster preparedness backpack full of emergency tools on the last day of the program.

IMG_1502On the first day, the children were introduced to firemen of the Philadelphia Fire Department and taught how to use the hose on a fire truck. They are reminded to have an escape plan in case of fire at home.

Over the course of the week, the children were taught different kinds of disaster preparedness. Lesson modules included Military 101, Conflict Resolution, CPR, Disaster Preparedness, and First Aid. According to a study by the US Department of Homeland Security, sixty percent of Americans have not practiced what to do in the event of a disaster. The American Heart Association found that less than twenty percent of Americans are equipped to perform CPR in emergency situations. One can only imagine the number of injuries and lives that could be saved if everyone was properly informed. Camp Save-a-Life spreads this knowledge to youth who can take the lead in informing their friends and families.

For the camper, their parents and the camp counselors, being a part of the Save-a-Life program is an experience that is both fun and practical.

Written by Sam Antenucci

Imagine yourself in a disaster without power or internet. Finding out vital information would be next to impossible.  However, amateur radio – ‘Ham’ as its more commonly called—is a popular hobby that doubles as a way to send disaster messages without the need for internet. During a disaster when internet and power can go down, Ham radio acts as a lifeline in times of need.

Seeing the potential of Ham Radios in disaster scenarios, John Weaver, a Red Cross Disaster and Mental Health volunteer, has been advocating and pushing for more awareness of Ham radios and the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) field day. Weaver says that “Field day is a chance to reach out to the community, practice for emergencies, enjoy informal contests, and most of all have fun!”

john Weaver

John (left) , Al (center) and Sean (right) from the Red Cross Lehigh Valley-Buck Chapter visited the 2018 Field Day sites. Using the Ham radio, they simulated emergency communication to an ARC volunteer in Texas.

With more than 40,000 attendees including Red Cross volunteers, the ARRL field day is easily the largest gathering of radio amateurs in the United States. During the ARRL field day, enthusiasts set up transmission stations throughout the Nation to showcase the service opportunities that the radios hold.

Ham radios work on a variety of frequencies for communications and can be set up anywhere in the world. Both Ham and non-Ham users can tune into their own receivers or radio scanners to listen to the broadcasts. Ham users utilize many frequency bands across the radio spectrum that have been given to them by the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) for amateur use.

Ham radios have often been utilized in the past by those wishing to aid in disaster services. For example, Amateur Radio Services helped New York City agencies keep in contact with one another during the 9/11 tragedy. Ham radio has also aided in rescues during Hurricane Katrina and helped in the disastrous flooding in Colorado in 2013.

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Volunteers participate in Ham Radio training at the 2018 Red Cross Disaster Institute

If Ham radios are something you might want to get involved with, you need to acquire an Amateur Radio license from the FCC and your own equipment. The Red Cross offers Ham training and encourages you to participate in the 2019 ARRL field day on June 22nd and 23rd . Save the date and we’ll see you there!