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We were so saddened to hear this morning of the death of Chester County Department of Emergency Services Director Colonel Ed Atkins. We send our deepest condolences to his family and the entire Chester County community.

The Red Cross and Colonel Atkins were great partners and worked closely to not only respond to disasters large and small in Chester County, but also to prevent disasters from happening in the first place. Atkins’ leadership during the recent flooding and the February ice storm was instrumental to keeping citizens safe and informed.

Col. Ed Atkins. keynote speaker at the Red Cross Chester County Heroes breakfast in April, 2014, recognizes military members at the back of the room (not shown). credit: Alex Greenblatt

It wasn’t that long ago that Colonel Atkins was delivering the keynote address at our Chester County Heroes Breakfast. His deep concern for the county and his deep appreciation for the Red Cross was powerful and clear.

Col. Ed Atkins delivering the keynote address during the American Red Cross Chester County Heroes Breakfast, April, 2014. credit: Alex Greenblatt

Col. Ed Atkins delivering the keynote address during the American Red Cross Chester County Heroes Breakfast, April, 2014. credit: Alex Greenblatt

 

Our CEO, Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes called Ed Atkins a “great man and a great friend to the American Red Cross,” adding, “Every single day he committed himself to making Chester County a better place to live and ensuring the citizens of Chester County were safe. We will miss him dearly.”

 

That was a sentiment echoed by everyone around the office today and in the field. One person who worked very closely with Ed and his team is our volunteer Chester County disaster action team captain, Denise Graf. She is the one making sure the needs of the county and the requests of the emergency services team are met during disasters.

Denise sums up our feelings really well. “As a volunteer disaster responder for the American Red Cross in Chester County, I’ve worked with Ed Atkins on many occasions,” Graf said. “He has always shown me and all Red Cross volunteers the highest respect and appreciation. This truly is a sad day.”

 

As of 5/1/14, 2:00pm

All American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania flood shelters are now closed. In all, seven shelters were open at one time or another, with a maximum of four open at once. More than 110 people came through the shelters, with more than 50 spending the night.

The Red Cross continues to urge residents to remain vigilant about flood waters. They shouldcontinue to heed warnings and emergency officials’ advice. Drivers should never attempt to drive through high water. Below is a link to more flooding safety info.

http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/flood

The recent flooding is an important reminder how unpredictable Mother Nature can be and the importance of being prepared. The Red Cross encourages people to download the Red Cross free flooding app iPhone and Android. It will alert people when there are watches and warnings. It also provides info on what to do before, during, and after flooding hits. The app can be found at redcross.org/mobileapps or by searching Red Cross on Apple app and Google play stores.

 

UPDATED 5:30 pm 2/13/14:
The American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania has its volunteers on standby and has established shelter team in the event sheltering is needed due to the ongoing snow storm.  But as of 5:30 pm 2/13, that has NOT been necessary.

Staff and volunteers are staffing any open county and city Emergency Operation Centers and equipment has been prepositioned throughout the area to respond to any requests for assistance or sheltering.

If shelters do open, they will be listed below by county. Information will also include an address and if the shelter is pet friendly.

You can also follow updates on twitter, by following @redcrossphilly @telesara and @dcschrader.

And if you need your sidewalk or driveway shoveled Friday morning, let Uber Philly do the work. And all proceeds will benefit Red Cross disaster relief.

Visit here for info and details. http://blog.uber.com/ubershovel

Please keep these safety tips in mind if you do lose power during the storm.

Here are some tips to be safe during a winter storm.
Don’t forget about your pets, here are safety tips for your pets during a winter storm.
And, here are tips about preventing and thawing frozen pipes.

Thank you and keep warm.

The Red Cross

Cots set up last week at the shelter at West Chester University for residents affected by power outage. February 5, 2014

Cots set up last week at the shelter at West Chester University for residents affected by power outage. February 5, 2014

RCH and volunteers at Hatboro shelter

Red Cross Southeastern PA CEO Judge Renee Hughes visits a shelter in Montgomery County during the ice storm and power outage. February 7th, 2014

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UPDATE
As of 2/11 at 12pm all Red Cross shelters in Southeastern Pennsylvania in response to the ice storm have closed.

Supplies and resources remain in place throughout the region and volunteers are on stand-by to respond if needed following the next storm.

rco_blog_img_LionvilleShelter

Follow @redcrossphilly@dcschrader@telesara for immediate updates for all Red Cross activities in Southeastern PA.

Always an option: If people don’t wish to go to a Red Cross shelter and prefer a hotel and they have pets, we encourage them to download the American Red Cross Pet First Aid app. It includes a feature that will locate the nearest pet friendly hotels to them.

They can find it at redcross.org/mobileapps or by searching Red Cross on the iPhone App and Google Play stores.

The Red Cross asks that you do NOT drop off supplies at the shelters. It creates major logistical problems. If folks wish to help, they can make a financial donation at redcrossphilly.org

As power is restored, please take a moment to read these tips, or print this handy sheet to make sure you know what food is safe and more about how to safely get back to normal following a power outage.

CLICK HERE to learn more about what you will find at a Red Cross Shelter.

CLICK HERE for VIDEO about the Red Cross response as of 5PM 2/5.

VOLUNTEER ICE STORM

An American Red Cross volunteer meets with two people at the Lionville Middle School shelter in Chester County. photo credit: Sara Smith/American Red Cross

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On Saturday June 2, 2012 I participated in a shelter drill in Chester County at the Avon Grove High School.  In addition to representatives from various partner agencies, I was surrounded by friends in red vests.  They were American Red Cross volunteers from the surrounding counties, all there to participate in a complex drill involving opening a shelter for theoretical tornado victims in Chester county.  They gave up a Saturday to start early in the day, preparing the high school, loading in supplies, establishing assignments and chains of command, and in theory, preparing for the worst.  They might have been preparing to welcome friends and neighbors, but most likely they were there to help people they had never even met.  Things got into gear once the pretend clients started arriving, lining up to be registered, triaged, assisted, and in many cases hugged and welcomed.

That’s the way it’s done.  People you have never met and don’t know become your temporary responsibility while they sort out their lives and take the next small steps towards recovery.  The volunteers were there to learn, practice and keep their skills sharpened for the unwelcome day when reality will turn the drill into a disaster with an official American Red Cross DR number.  Interestingly enough, Friday evening saw inclement weather blanket the area, there were tornado watches and warnings, and enough possible uncertainty to make some of us wonder if we might be called out a little earlier than the original 8:00AM start time.  But thankfully, it remained a drill, and I personally had the opportunity to both learn and teach, meet some old friends and acquaintances, and make some new ones.  Some of my best friends wear red vests.  Some of yours do too.

Submission by: Joseph Luczkowski

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Red Cross is holding a Tornado Readiness Drill in Chester County this weekend.

Wow. . . . really?!

When I was a kid growing up in the Philadelphia region we didn’t talk much about tornadoes. These strange, powerful, spiraling storms were something that happened to other people in some distant part of our land, or better yet, a magical force that dropped a house on a Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz.

I maintained this state of blissful ignorance until 2005, when a Microburst (an extreme weather event similar to a tornado), dropped about 35 ancient trees in our town in northern New Jersey. Trees came down on several houses, on almost every main road and on power lines. It took only five minutes of extreme summer weather to make an idyllic suburban landscape treacherous for everyone and impenetrable for emergency responders.

Tornadoes popped up in some unusual places in the summer of 2011. One roared down the main street of Springfield, Massachusetts in the first few days of June. You read that right, my friends – Massachusetts. It was one of 19 tornadoes in New England that day. Four people were killed in those storms. On May 19th, 2011, in Northeast Philadelphia, a tornado touched down in the mid-afternoon with 75 mile per hour winds and a 100 by 300 ft. path of destruction.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Red Cross takes the increased threat of tornadoes in our region very seriously. We strive to prevent disasters, prepare for their aftermath and alleviate the suffering of victims. In order to succeed, we must practice. We do so by conducting Readiness Drills at locations in our vicinity that may need assistance in the event of a weather related emergency. To this end, we will conduct a Tornado Readiness Drill on Saturday, June 2 at Avon Grove High School in West Grove, Pa. between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. The Chester County Department of Emergency Services, Chester County Animal Response Team, Medical Reserve Corps, and Chester County Food Bank, will take part in training volunteers to respond to a hypothetical severe tornado where homes and businesses are destroyed and hundreds of people need a safe place to go.

Last year, a hurricane readiness drill (pictures above) proved invaluable when Hurricane Irene hit our region in August. Participants who practiced critical disaster relief skills like sheltering, food distribution, providing basic medical and childcare needs, caring for pets, and overall disaster response decision making were better able to anticipate problems and meet the needs of those affected. Although these are weather based drills, they help us practice our response to any large scale disaster.

If you are one of our generous donors, you not only support our response to disasters, your donation also helps us prepare for events we don’t know about yet. We could not hold these practice drills without your contributions and we are so grateful for your support of our efforts to be better prepared in the event of an emergency.

If last year, and indeed the last 10 years are any indication, tornadoes are no longer something that Philadelphia area children wonder about in ignorance. They are now part of our world. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Red Cross will be there, and with the knowledge we gain from preparedness drills like the one in Chester County this weekend, we will be ready.