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Written by David Haas

Isolated by high water for three days, a dedicated team of five Red Cross volunteers opened and maintained a shelter serving 900 people.  Outside contact was limited to helicopter deliveries. One of the five was an 84-year-old retired nurse with more than 30 deployments on her volunteer resume. “I am too busy thinking about other people, people who have lost everything” she says.

Helicopter

Red Cross volunteers personal belongings onto a national guard helicopter. They will fly to relieve shelter volunteers isolated by the effects of Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, NC. Photo credit: American Red Cross

A Red Cross volunteer from Newport NC summed up the hurricane’s effect by stating that, “it looks like someone took a bomb and dropped it” on her hometown. We found the woman helping run a Red Cross blood drive, a higher priority for her than cleaning up the storm damage to her home.

Flying over Elizabethtown North Carolina, a Red Cross volunteer saw “saw a silo and a barn roof sticking through the water, and knew there was a farm below that was surrounded by water.”  Four hundred pounds at a time, he worked with other volunteers to deliver 288,000 lbs. of supplies.

These are just some of the inspiring stories told by the more than 2,350 Red Cross volunteers providing disaster response for Hurricane Florence. More than 70 Eastern PA volunteers and staff deployed as part of the national response and many are still there providing support in the coastal areas of North and South Carolina.

As a public affairs volunteer during the first week following landfall, I witnessed the generous nature of Red Cross volunteers and the communities they support.

For example, one of the 110 Red Cross shelters in North Carolina was located in Chapel Hill.  Housing 340 people at its busiest, the shelter received tremendous community support. This included volunteers reading to children, fire fighters showing off their trucks, boy scouts cleaning cots and the entire championship UNC-Chapel Hill basketball team.  It was hard to tell whether the shelter residents or the Red Cross volunteers were more excited by the visits, but it did wonders for morale in the midst of long days in the shelter.

Basketball

Red Cross volunteers take pictures with members of the championship North Carolina Tarheels basketball team during the team’s visit to a shelter in Chapel Hill. Photo credit: David Haas/American Red Cross

More than 19 non-profit organizations coordinated with the Red Cross during the disaster. Members of the Southern Baptist Crisis Care Team worked in stand-alone kitchens to prepare 6,000 lunches and dinners each day. The meals were delivered by Red Cross volunteers to first responders, residents and survivors of the hurricane.  “The Red Cross and the Southern Baptists represent a unique display of partnership that is working well.”  Said spiritual care provider Kristen Curtis.

Southern Baptist

Red Cross volunteers load meals prepared by Southern Baptist volunteers at a mobile feeding station in Washington, NC. Photo credit: David Haas/American Red Cross

Even American Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern participated, spending two days visiting disaster assistance headquarters to listen to the issues faced by volunteers and thank them for their dedicated service. She stayed for a long time at each location until all questions were answered and all selfies were taken.

Gail

American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern speaks with Red Cross volunteers staffing North Carolina District 2 disaster relief headquarters in Greenville NC. Photo credit: David Haas/American Red Cross

We could not reach many areas until the water level on roads receded.  Then I saw firsthand the damage caused by Florence.  Traveling with a small team, we visited a shelter in New Bern, NC to meet with volunteers and determine what additional supplies were needed. En-route, we saw boats lifted onto dry land by the surge, trees ripped up by their roots from the wind, and hundreds of homes whose insulation flooring and furniture were lying in the road, removed because of flood exposure.  We could see the discoloration of water marks halfway up the sides of many buildings.

damage

The contents of historic homes in New Bern, NC are piled in their front yards after being inundated with water during Hurricane Florence. Photo credit: David Haas/American Red Cross

Returning to regional headquarters, we learned of two Red Cross volunteers who left their 12-hour shift and were first on the scene of a serious car accident. A mother was trapped in the driver’s seat and her teenage daughter injured and hanging out of the passenger side window.  Using their Red Cross First Aid/CPR training, one stopped traffic to prevent a secondary collision while the other worked to stabilize the injured until first responders arrived.

Still wearing his Red Cross T-shirt, the volunteer was able to calm the teenager. “What we did seemed natural” he said. “When you see a need, you help.”

Written by Grave Nava

The Red Cross has an app for that! In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, access to information and the ability to connect to loved ones is critically important.  We are reviewing American Red Cross apps that would be most useful in an emergency like Hurricane Florence. Considering there are so many, it’s tough to narrow it down. But in a case like Florence, these apps offer you the tools and preparedness info you need.

Emergency App

This all-inclusive app lets you monitor more than 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts, to help keep you and your loved ones safe. This latest app from the Red Cross provides information about what to do in case of floods, thunderstorms, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires and more. The emergency alerts are available for the user’s location and to monitor where friends and family live. A single map provides open Red Cross shelter locations and weather information.

Emergency users can easily toggle between English and Spanish. Information is included on emergency first aid for situations such as heat-related emergencies and water safety for lakes and beaches. The app also covers what to do in emergencies that affect a large area, such as mudslides and snow storms.

“I’m safe” is another unique feature of the emergency app that allows people to see if loved ones are okay. You can notify friends and family of your condition and location through text message, email, Facebook and Twitter.

Pet First Aid

Our pets are part of our families and getting help for them is crucial in the event of an emergency. However, a veterinary is not always accessible when needed. This app fills the gap until the pet can be taken to the vet.

The main features include:

  • Convenient toggle between cat and dog content.
  • First aid steps for over 25 common pet situations.
  • Step-by-step instructions that include text, illustrations, videos, plus interactive quizzes for easy learning.
  • Storage for veterinary contact info for easy access.
  • A list of common toxic substances.
  • Help to locate the nearest emergency vet hospital or pet-friendly hotels.

A must for every pet lover!

First Aid

This is one of the most recognized American Red Cross apps and puts free and simple lifesaving information at your fingertips.

This app gives instant access to information on how to handle the most common first aid situations, taking critical first aid information normally stored on bookshelves and in pamphlets and places it at the fingertips of millions of individuals – in order to help save lives.

Videos and interactive quizzes are also part of the app. Users who take quizzes can earn badges they can share with friends through social media to show off their lifesaving knowledge.

First Aid App features include:

  • Simple step-by-step instructions for everyday first aid scenarios
  • Prioritized steps to take during an emergency, with a 9-1-1 call button
  • Sharable badges to be unlocked through interactive quizzes
  • Videos and animations to make learning first aid fun and easy
  • Safety and preparedness tips for a range of severe weather
  • Preloaded content that gives instant access to all safety information at any time.

The content is available in English and in Spanish. Downloading the app is not a substitute for first aid training but instead can be used in conjunction with training.

Hero Care

Can you imagine being away from your loved ones serving in the Armed Forces without being able to get hold of them? The American Red Cross has the solution: Hero Care. This is a free app designed to keep current members and veterans of the Armed Forces in touch with their family members. It allows emergency and non-emergency communication to reach either side 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all year round. The current version allows for only one service member, but additional members can be added over the phone 24/7/365 by calling the Hero Care Center at 877-272-7337. In addition to being a great tool to stay in touch with loved ones, it also provides useful information such as behavioral health assistance, local organizations serving veterans and active duty service men and women, and other valuable resources. The app is available in English and Spanish.

Download any of the FREE Red Cross Mobile Apps today, in the Apple App Store or in Google Play.

 

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

NPM

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.
Hurricane Maria 2017

Barceloneta, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Red Cross volunteers distribute water, food and other basic necessities to families affected by Hurricane Maria. Photo by Sergio Rojas for The American Red Cross

As the year nears the peak of the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season, the American Red Cross and its partners are ready. We are gearing up for the height, while hoping it will not be as active as last year.

2017 was marked by historic hurricanes, wildfires and other crises, the American Red Cross was there for a record number of people whose lives were upended by major events.  Last fall was unprecedented in terms of the scope and scale of our mission delivery.  We provided food, water, reconnected families, and mobilized thousands of relief supplies, including comfort kits, blankets and cleanup kits to help rebuild lives.  Everything we do depends on the needs of the people that we serve and we could not be there without the generous support of our partners.  Thank you for bringing hope to those in need.

  • Toll Brothers
  • SKF USA
  • Duane Morris
  • PJM Interconnection
  • Vanguard
  • Tanner Industries
  • Ametek Foundation
  • Bentley Systems
  • Dietz & Watson

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.

 

Written by Diane Coffey

Last fall, a number of volunteers from the American Red Cross Eastern Pennsylvania Region supported an emergency call center located in Philadelphia. That call center took many calls from areas of the south affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, as well as Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria. This is volunteer Diane Coffey’s story:

Being the calm voice connecting with someone in the midst of a disaster feels like a hand taking hold with reassurance, ‘we got you – we’ll take care of you.’

During one devastating week of the historic 2017 hurricane season, September 16 to September 21, a total of 184,139 hurricane related phone calls flooded the National American Red Cross emergency call number.  To help handle the volume overflow, the Red Cross set up Regional Volunteer Call Centers to assist Texas residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and direct Florida and Puerto Rico residents to resources as Hurricane Irma and Maria hit. Regional Volunteer Call Centers answered 52,371 of the calls during this crisis week.

These are more than just numbers with a ‘wow factor’, they represent the services remote volunteers from all over the country helped deliver to clients during real time disaster recovery operations. Hurricane survivors were connected to volunteers who would listen and provide information: shelter and food pantry locations, transportation, or partner organizations offering crisis cleanup and home repairs.

As a Philadelphia Disaster Call Center volunteer, I never left my home. I used my personal cell phone to answer calls and used my home computer to access multiple Red Cross resource applications. At the end of my professional work day, I signed into the Red Cross Call Center System for a four-hour shift.

One hurricane phone conversation will forever remind me why I volunteer with the American Red Cross. A Hurricane Irma survivor calling from Florida was running out of food.  As we talked, I learned the woman was visually impaired and did not have a computer.  Even if she had access, there was likely no power in her house.

From a Red Cross hurricane resource listing, (updated and distributed to all volunteers in real time as new information became available), I identified three nearby emergency food pantries which she might be able to reach. But our call took place on Friday night and two of the pantries would not be open until Monday.  I was able to find the phone number for the third food bank, Second Harvest, and suggested that she call them.

Despite the client’s visual impairment, she was able to slowly write down the information in hopes that her assistant could pick up the food. As we talked, she admitted that her roof was leaking rain water.  She needed a tarp. Again, based on her location I offered a Crisis Cleanup Hotline phone number for assistance.

The length of this call undoubtedly exceeded the average time for a disaster related issue. In this case, I felt time could stand still until the client got the information she needed.

 

Between October and December 2017, the Red Cross responded to six of the year’s largest and most complex disasters. This included back-to-back hurricanes — Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Thanks to the help of our partners and volunteers, the Red Cross was able to mobilize immediately to provide shelter, food, comfort and a path to recovery. Through it all, the Red Cross Eastern PA was able to send volunteers, emergency response vehicles, and critical aid to the hardest hit areas – with the help our generous partners.

  • PJM Interconnection
  • PPL Electric
  • West Pharmaceuticals
  • Air Products
  • Toll Brothers
  • Arkema
  • Kessler Topaz Meltzer
  • Penn Mutual
  • SKF USA
  • Tri State Toyota

With the support of our partners, the Red Cross provided more food, relief items and overnight shelter stays than in the past four years combined. The Red Cross mobilized 56,000 disaster workers — 92 percent volunteers — to provide help after 242 significant disasters such as wildfires, floods, tornadoes and other emergencies in 45 states and three territories. Altogether, Red Cross emergency response vehicles traveled 2.5 million miles to deliver food, relief supplies and support to communities affected by disasters. That’s the same as driving around Earth 103 times.

Thank you – as always – for your ongoing commitment to the Red Cross. We could not provide disaster relief without your help.