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By Samantha Antenucci

As a loving pet owner, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my cat and five dogs (two of which are pictured below!). Pets are valuable family members—and as with any family member, they need to be looked after, especially when challenging weather poses health risks for them.  

This winter’s polar vortex in the Midwest and East Coast left single-digit temps and subzero wind chills in its wake. Although that episode has passed, it doesn’t mean winter has loosened its grip on the Northeast. We may still see subfreezing weather blast through before the season is over, and inclement conditions can stress our pets. Here are some simple guidelines to ensure that your furry friends survive the season. 

Keep ’em in if it’s cold out 

Yes, Fido has a fur coat, but extreme cold is dangerous for humans and animals alike. So bring your pet indoors when temperatures dip. If it’s an outdoor pet, it still needs warm indoor shelter during freezing and below-freezing temps. The rest of the time, your pet needs an enclosure that protects it from wind, rain, and snow. The size of the enclosure matters—it should be large enough for the animal to sit and lie down, but small enough to ensure conservation of body heat. It should also face away from any wind and be elevated above ground to prevent further heat loss. It is also good practice to cover the doorway with a waterproof material for warmth and to keep the elements out.  

Wipe those salty paws 

Unless you’re in the country, chances are that after a storm, your streets and sidewalks are heavily treated with salt or chemical deicers. These compounds can stick to your dog’s paw pads during a walk,  causing major irritation. In addition, if Fido tries to lick his pads clean, the salt and chemicals can make him sick. So make a habit of ending your winter walks by wiping off your dog’s feet with a damp cloth or towel, and checking regularly for cracked or bleeding paws. 

Avoid household hazards  

Speaking of chemicals, antifreeze is a deadly poison that’s often kept indoors. Its sweet taste attracts animals and ingestion can lead to death. Keep this and other household chemicals safely stored, and clean up any spills immediately.  

Consider the local critters  

Your own pets are not the only animals who may suffer in winter, so keep an eye out for creatures in need. Neighborhood cats have been known to crawl under car hoods or onto the tops of tires to keep warm. Before starting your engine in the morning, bang on the hood to scare away any animals that could be hiding inside. 

Expect the unexpected                               

Being prepared in winter is vital; extreme weather can knock out heat, power, and communications. Make a plan to deal with storms, and keep an emergency kit handy—including five days’ worth of food, water, and medications. That way you can better protect your whole family—and your pet—from unforeseen hardships.  

For more tips on weather safety for your pets, check out the American Red Cross’s Pet First Aid app. With veterinary advice and emergency preparedness info, the Pet First Aid app can help you keep your pets safe and warm this winter. To access all Red Cross apps, click here.

By: Kathy Huston

It’s Black History Month and we wanted to celebrate an honored member, and leader within our Eastern Pennsylvania Region, Gregory L. Smith.  

Smith has a long history of dedication to the American Red Cross, which started in 1992 as a volunteer. Since then, Smith has worked his way to his current role as Regional Disaster Program Officer for the Eastern PA Region, headquartered in Philadelphia.  

“In this role, I am the lead employee responsible for preparedness, readiness, response and recovery activities for the 17 counties that comprise the region’s territory,” Smith said. 

Smith has held a number of titles during his years of service, including Disaster Cycle Service supervisor, manager and director in Northern California, Columbus, OH and Philadelphia, PA, and at the national headquarters, where he also served as the VP of Volunteers, Youth and Nursing Programs from 2000 through 2002.  

Over the past two decades, Smith has seen his fair share of major disasters. His wealth of information and knowledge come, in part, from deployments to support major disaster relief operations across the country, including the North Ridge earthquake, hurricanes Fran, Ike, Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, Matthew and Florence, and tornados in Moore, OK and Joplin, MO. He was also on the scene for the relief efforts that followed 9/11 in New York City.   

During the month of February, when we reflect on the contributions of African Americans and the cultural richness and diversity of our country, Smith explains why honoring diversity and inclusiveness ultimately helps the organization succeed in following through on its mission.  

“Diversity is vital for the American Red Cross, because we must reflect the diverse communities we serve, whether translating the care and concerns of our donors into actions, or engaging volunteers in the delivery of our services,” he said.  

In talking to him, it’s clear that Smith is motivated by the impacts he has made, and continues to make, on individuals, families and communities, as they prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters and emergencies.  

“My greatest motivation is that I can engage and support community volunteers in these efforts,” he notes. 

For Smith, black history is a year-round celebration, as is his determination to carry out his unwavering service to the American Red Cross. 

 “I do my best every single day to demonstrate that you can look like me and not only deliver the Red Cross mission, but be a leader in the movement as well,” he said. 

Smith’s dedication and commitment to making a positive impact on the communities he serves is certainly an example we can all look up to.  

By Kathleen Huston

Safety is the Goal at Your Super Bowl Party

Quicker than you can say “double doink” (with a shout-out to my Philadelphia Eagles, who unfortunately didn’t make it this year), the Rams and the Patriots will go head to head in Atlanta, GA for Super Bowl LIII. Here are some timely tips to help ensure that all you fans out there don’t take a hit as well.

For the Host With the Most

The focus of your get-together should be on the five F’s: football, fun, family, friends and food. You might be watching for a while! The longest Super Bowl game was number XLII in 2013, clocking in at four hours and 14 minutes, according to Bustle.com.

In addition to your chips and dips and pizzas and wings, be sure to have healthier options on hand. Hummus, guacamole, veggies and dip, turkey chili with lots of healthy peppers and beans, nuts, and popcorn without butter all fit the bill. Also make sure nonalcoholic drinks (especially water) are in plentiful supply.

Finally, sure, your fun and festive football-themed hand towel in the bathroom is nice for guests to look at, but have disposable towels at the ready so they can avoid getting the last person’s germs. Also, make sure your hand soap dispenser is full. In that same vein, have serving utensils to use with each food item — even a spoon in the nut bowl — so guests don’t have to stick their hands in anything and risk spreading the flu virus.

For the Party People

Be sure to designate a sober driver before game day. If everyone in your group wants to imbibe, make sure you install a ride service app on your phone or have a taxi company number available in your contacts.

If you’re sick, don’t think you should rally and attend anyway. Stay home. You aren’t doing yourself any favors and nobody wants to score your cold or flu either. There’s always next year!

If you are the designated driver, practice defensive driving (as you always should). Snopes has confirmed time and again that car accidents soar after Super Bowls. “Even those fans who don’t drink during or after the game pose a risk to themselves and others once they hit the road because of the distraction factor,” it notes. Whether you’re wallowing in the fact that you’re team didn’t make the cut or celebrating your victory over and over again in your head, save those thoughts until you’re home safe and sound. You don’t want to be one of those distracted drivers yourself.

Download the App

To wrap it up, the Red Cross offers a free first-aid app you can install on your phone now. Among its many features, it provides tips and videos addressing common first-aid scenarios. Content is available in English and Spanish. Read more about it here.

By: Sophie Kluthe

My Experience 

I recently donated blood for the first time. It was something I’d always wanted to do, but couldn’t because of my travel history. I’ll admit, I was nervous at first because of a childhood fear of needles, but the staff at the donation center made my experience nearly painless. Especially compared to what the person who will receive my blood is going through.  

Feeling great after giving blood at the Blood Donation Center at 700 Spring Garden Street in Philadelphia.
Feeling great after giving blood at the Blood Donation Center at 700 Spring Garden Street in Philadelphia.

When I used to think about who was receiving these blood donations, I imagined car crash victims and other trauma patients. While these people do depend on life-saving blood, there are many others who rely on it as well. While I was rolling that foam ball around in my hand, I wondered if my blood might go to help a child battling leukemia, or a person who regularly needs blood transfusions to fight a chronic disease. Maybe it would it be used to help someone getting an organ transplant. Every two seconds someone in the United States needs a blood transfusion. If a trauma victim ends up in the emergency room, it’s the blood already on the shelves that will save their life.  

National Blood Donor Month 

This January the American Red Cross celebrates National Blood Donor Month, which has been observed in January since 1970 with the goal of increasing blood and platelet donations during winter. The colder months are typically the most difficult times of year to collect enough blood products to meet patient needs. During the winter months, bad weather often results in cancelled blood drives, and seasonal illnesses like the flu may cause some donors to become temporarily unable to donate. This winter, the need is especially urgent, since there weren’t as many people who donated in the fall compared to years past.

A Sweet Incentive

Throughout the month of January, presenting donors in Southern New Jersey and Southeast Pennsylvania will receive a voucher for a free medium Dunkin’ hot coffee and a classic donut, redeemable at participating Dunkin’ restaurants in the Greater Philadelphia Region, while supplies last. Blood donation appointments can be made by downloading the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to make an appointment or to receive more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. 

Regional Red Cross CEO, Guy Triano, kicks off the January promotion alongside Jessica Weissman, Integrated Marketing Manager for Philadelphia, Dunkin’ Brands

A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements. 

Blood donors can now save time at their next donation by using RapidPass to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, prior to arriving at the blood drive. To get started and learn more, visit redcrossblood.org/RapidPass and follow the instructions on the site.