Written by David Haas

A priority for the Red Cross is reducing fire deaths in Eastern Pennsylvania. On Wednesday June 6th, Red Cross volunteers participated in a neighborhood safety walk-through with the Philadelphia Fire Department’s Fire Protection Division and the Fire Department Explorers (the Fire Explorers is a program for teens and young adults interested in fire science, emergency medical services (EMS), disaster relief, emergency management, and military-related training).

installatons 1

During the three-hour event, Red Cross volunteers installed smoke alarms and discussed fire safety with residents of the North Philadelphia neighborhood around Bustleton Ave. & Van Kirk St. where a fire death recently occurred. The Red Cross participates in fatal fire walkthroughs along side the Philadelphia Fire Department to promote fire safety and install smoke alarms in at-risk communities.

Concerned residents warmly welcomed the volunteers, who explained that fires are a major issue in aging homes around Philadelphia.  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.  In almost every house visited, non-working and outdated detectors were found and replaced.

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The Fire Department supplied smoke alarms while the Red Cross supplied drills and step ladders. Members of the Red Cross Spiritual Care team provided assistance to residents who needed support. WCAU Channel 10, the local NBC affiliate, recorded the event for coverage on its TV news program and online. Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel was on hand to thank the program participants.

You can check www.SoundTheAlarm.org/EasternPA to learn more, or access Volunteer Connection to sign up for an upcoming event.  Disaster Action Team members are alerted to Fire Walkthrough in coordination with the Fire Department.

As the temperatures soar, more and more of us will head to the seashore for some summer fun. Dangerous rip currents are a possibility beachgoers should be aware of and the American Red Cross has steps swimmers should follow if caught up in a rip current.

What are rip currents? They are powerful currents of water flowing away from shore. Rip currents usually extend from the shoreline past the line of breaking waves, and can occur at any beach with breaking waves, even on large lakes.

Rip currents are responsible for deaths on our nation’s beaches every year, and for most of the rescues performed by lifeguards. Be aware of the danger of rip currents and remember the following:

1. Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards and ask them about local conditions.

2. If you plan to swim in the ocean, learn how to swim in the surf. Swim only at a beach with a lifeguard, within the designated swimming area.

3. If you are caught in a rip current, try not to panic.

4. Signal to those on shore that you need assistance.

5. Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current.

6. Once you are free, turn and swim toward shore.

7. 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.

8. Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist near these structures.

9. If you see someone in trouble, get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1. Throw the rip current victim something that floats and yell instructions on how to escape. It’s important to know that people can drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current.

10.View this Red Cross video and graphic for more rip current safety information.

rip-current-sign

Graphic CTSY NOAA NWS

MORE BEACH SAFETY TIPS

 

  • Visit here for important Red Cross water safety information.
  • Designate a “Water Watcher” to keep a close eye and constant attention on children and adults while at the beach until the next Water Watcher takes over. Wave action can cause someone to lose their footing, even in shallow water.
  • All non-swimmers need to be monitored with arms-reach supervision by an adult who can swim.
  • Have young children and inexperienced swimmers wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • Protect your neck – don’t dive headfirst. Walk carefully into open waters.
  • Watch out for aquatic life. Water plants and animals may be dangerous. Avoid patches of plants and leave animals alone.

 

Written By Kathy Huston

“70% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the home. If you are called on to give CPR in an emergency, you will most likely be trying to save the life of someone you love.” – www.cpr.heart.org

Let this sink in, Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is the number-one cause of death in the U.S. Approximately 350,000 people of all ages, shapes, ethnicity and athletic abilities fall victim to this stealthy assailant each year. Nine out of 10 victims of SCA do not survive.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest occurs when the heart beats rapidly in an irregular rhythm. Often, SCA strikes seemingly healthy people with no known medical conditions. Scary, yes, but the American Red Cross estimates that 50,000 lives could be saved annually with improved training in CPR and increased access to automatic external defibrillators (AEDs). When bystanders perform CPR immediately and use AEDs before emergency personnel arrive, survival rates increase from an average of 10 percent to 50 percent.

Minutes

Quickly defibrillating the heart is key, a victim’s chance of survival drops by 10 percent every minute the abnormal heartbeat is left unchecked.

The AED is a portable, lightweight device that delivers an electric shock to the heart, bringing the heartbeat back to a normal rhythm. It’s an easy-to-use tool, even for people with no prior medical experience.

All Americans should be within four minutes of an AED, according to the Red Cross. The American Heart Association recommends placement of AEDs in all first-response vehicles, doctors’ offices, public places like sports arenas, airports, office complexes and all areas where large groups of people gather. The 2010 consensus on science for CPR and Emergency Cardiovascular Care (ECC) agrees that SCA can be treated most effectively by a combination of CPR and defibrillation.

June 1st to the 7th is National CPR AED Awareness week, which is an especially good time to become certified. Go to www.redcross.org and click on the “Training & Certification” tab. Who knows? You might just come to the rescue.

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.

 

Summer is finally here and many of us will travel, grill delicious food and cool off in the pool or at the beach. The Red Cross wants 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.