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By Caroline Hroncich, American Red Cross Volunteer and Villanova student

As a senior in college, I have come to think of this time in my life as a stepping-stone between childhood and adulthood. You are given freedom, but are not yet required to be completely independent. We often don’t realize how much we rely on our universities to provide us with essentials. Personally, I did not realize how much I relied on my school until Superstorm Sandy hit.

Until Sandy, I had never thought about what I would do in the face of a disaster at college. I have distinct memories of my 19-year-old self, perched atop my bunk bed, listening to rain pound the window. The lights flickered frequently, threatening to die; all I had to eat was a bag of tortilla chips. I was completely unprepared. The school lost power, the dining hall could not be kept open, and my friends and I found ourselves confined to our dorm rooms while the storm raged around us. After talking to my friends who attend other universities, I realized this was not an uncommon experience.

While universities are equipped to deal with disasters, it is equally as important for students to prepare. During my junior year, a major snowstorm hit, leaving me (I was now living in an on-campus apartment) without power. Being without light meant there was a mad rush to purchase battery-powered lamps, leaving many students without alternative options to light their apartments. I lost most of my refrigerated food. The school urged everyone to go home, but since I did not live a convenient distance, that was not an option. A few of my friends considered going to a nearby hotel for the night.

rco_blog_img_CollegePrepAs a freshman, I laughed at my parents when they insisted I keep things like a flashlight in my dorm room. Now I realize how truly important those things are. Keeping items like a flashlight, extra batteries and a small portable lamp in your dorm are essential when it comes to emergency preparedness. Even food is important to keep in your room, just in case the dining halls are unable to serve you. My experience has definitely taught me that as we go about our busy college lives it’s important to stop for a second and think about if we are truly prepared.

— Cross-posted from the American Red Cross of Greater New York’s Blog

 

 

 

On October 29, 2013, I had the pleasure of participating in yet another amazing American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania event! Volunteers and staff came to CBS 3 studios to participate in a Thank-A-Thon phone bank. This event was held on the one year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, with the purpose of showing appreciation to those who donated to Sandy relief efforts.

rco_blog_img_Devan

I arrived at CBS 3 a little before 12:00p.m., and was able to start making phone calls after a little training and some practice. Many of the calls I made in the beginning of the Thank-A-Thon were voice messages, as many people were at work. Towards the end of the afternoon and into the evening, more people were beginning to answer. The people I was able to reach were happy to hear from the American Red Cross.  Donors were appreciative of the call and glad to be recognized for their generosity.  By the end of the evening, over 3,500 people were called and thanked for their donations and support! It was a lot of hard work and took many volunteers, but was worth it to be able to thank so many generous supporters. Please check out the Red Cross One Year Sandy Report, where you can see how the donations have been spent as well as the amazing response and recovery efforts made by the Red Cross.

You can also check out this video of us at work (You may see me in the background).

When you work for the Red Cross you learn very quickly to be ready for anything. That was my first lesson when I started here; it just happened to be the same day Superstorm Sandy struck our region.

Most folks when they start a new position have some idea of how their first day will go. I had no idea what to expect since this was not only my first day on the job but my first time dealing with a hurricane. Being from Texas I was well versed in what to do in a tornado but hurricanes were out of my league.

In spite of my apprehension, I knew that this storm was an “all-hands-on-deck” situation and I didn’t want to let anyone down my first day on the job. On the morning of October 29, 2012 I found myself driving very slowly and carefully to our offices in Philadelphia.

Once there I discovered that a lot of the staff had decided to stay at the chapter overnight. Preparations for Sandy had been made several days in advance throughout our region and I was astounded at the level of preparation and dedication everyone showed. Without hesitation my colleagues were ready to face whatever Sandy was going to throw at them and I was so inspired.

rco_blog_img_SEPACotsThroughout that day and the weeks and months after Sandy I continued to be amazed and honored to work with such incredible individuals. The workers of the American Red Cross are persistent and hard-working. Whatever the need they roll up their sleeves until the job is done. My first day on the job was the best orientation I could have had. I saw first-hand the importance of what we do. We represent the very best of what the American people are capable of when our sleeves are up, our hearts are open, and we’re all in.

Now, one year later, I’m still in awe of what we were able to accomplish that day and what we continue to do every day. Whether it’s Sandy or the 3-5 fires that happen almost nightly in this region the Red Cross is there and I’m glad I’m a part of it.

Michelle Wigianto is major gifts associate for the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania,
who began as a volunteer. Her first day as a paid employee was the day Sandy struck.

Mindy PinkusSubmitted by Disaster Volunteer, Mindy Pinkus

Super Storm Sandy arrived for me actually a few days prior to the storm. I was busy preparing my family for the brunt of the storm. I knew that I would not be home with my family during for the storm. I knew that I would be busy doing something for the Red Cross. I had know idea what that busy was, I just knew what that I would be busy, in fact very busy.

The phone rang and the caller ID announced that SEPA was calling.  So, I picked up the phone and Leo Pratte, Director of Emergency Services was on the other end. He proceeded to ask if I would accept the managers position for Disaster Assessment (DA) for the Chapter. He told me to be prepared to leave, and that I would be staying at HQ for the duration and aftermath of the storm.

Wow, was I excited and extremely nervous at the same to time. Leo told me be at Chapter Sunday morning before the storm hit on Monday. So, I ran around like crazy buying this and that. I needed to know that my family was  prepared for the storm so that I could feel good about leaving my loved ones at home without me. Ok SEPA… ready or not here I come. After all, I had prepared myself for this, taking class after class and having had the knowledge and practical experience from my many many National Deployments!

Sunday arrived and off to Chapter I go… When I got to Chapter I found out who the other Managers were and realized that I was the only Manager at HQ that was a volunteer. OMG, now I was officially was shaking in my boots. After a pep talk to myself I stepped up and started to develop a plan of action. I said to myself, “Wow, I think I can do this.” I then had the realization I can do this and that I will do this. I was off and running…

I recruited teams, developed my plan of action, and delegated responsibilities. I very quickly trained my DA teams and sent them out to hit the streets to find and record the damage. They worked diligently at the task and did a wonderful job! I was so proud of my teams. Without them the damage could not have been documented!!! Thank you, teams…

I worked very long hours, slept at chapter on a cot, spent many nights sleeping at the Red Cross House, typed reports and sent my DA Teams out to hit the streets of our five counties.

I was so thankful for Leo having the confidence in me and allowing me the privilege of leading a team of wonderful volunteers. They gave their time and left their families to volunteer with SEPA andserve their communities. This was an amazing experience for me and one that I will not forget. Thank you, Leo and thank you Red Cross for the opportunity to serve!

Flooding3With heavy rains amongst us and the peak of hurricane season fast-approaching, it’s important to be prepared and know some basic safety tips when it comes to flooding. Floods not only occur frequently, but the resulting damage can be quite costly. They are often caused by heavy or steady rainfall for several hours or days that saturate the ground. Particularly, flash floods occur suddenly due to rapidly rising water along a stream or low-lying area. Often weather forecasters will use different terms to describe floods. While a “flood/flash flood watch” describes a possible flood in your area, a “flood/flash flood warning” emphasizes that a flood is already occurring or will occur soon in your area.

In addition to knowing the predicted weather conditions of your region, it’s important to be prepared for any possible or sudden evacuations. When a flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground. Stay away from all floodwaters and keep children away from streams or running water.  If you do happen to come across a flowing stream of water that reaches above your ankles—stop, turn around, and go another way. Stick with the motto, “Turn around, don’t drown!” Remember, six inches of swiftly moving water can sweep you off of your feet.  These basic rules also aFlooding1pply when driving. If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are quickly rising, move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water. It’s especially important to be cautious at night when it’s harder to recognize flood danger and difficult to perceive how deep the water really is. More tips on flood preparation can be found here.


While it’s definitely important to be aware of these basic safety tips when it comes to flooding, you can find more tips on what to do right before, during, and after a flood by using the free hurricane app from American Red Cross for iPhone and Android. Along with tips, it provides preloaded checklists, tracker maps, and alerts that can help you in times of a flood watch oFlooding2r warning. It even provides emergency tools such as a flashlight, strobe light, alarm, and an “I’m Safe” feature that allows you to communicate with others on your current condition via Twitter, Facebook, SMS, and email.  In times of flooding, stay informed, be prepared, act smartly, and make use of the tools available on the Red Cross Hurricane App.

Download the app here for iPhone and here for Android.

-Khushbu Majmundar, Americorps NPRC member

I’ve never really known the huge impact a hurricane can have on a community until Hurricane Sandy this past October. It was devastating to see people lose their homes to the storm. It never affected me when I was little, but it definitely does now. When you’re younger your parents do everything for you, think and act on your behalf, and you just follow their lead. Now that I’m 20 years old and living on my own, I’ve come to realize I am not prepared for the fast-approaching hurricane season, and would not know what to do in case of an emergency. Not only is it National Hurricane Preparedness Week, but Hurricane season officially begins June 1st and runs through November 30thThe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)predicts an active season. NOAA estimates between 7 and 11 Atlantic hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), potentially above average. This definitely caught my attention and is making me take the steps to be fully prepared this upcoming season.

There are Red Cross ready online tools, a downloadable app and web-based training modules available. Preparing ahead of time is the best way to be ready for any emergency or weather disaster.

With the hurricane season nearby, it is important to prepare early and make sure everything you need is available and ready. The Red Cross encourages three simple steps for at-home preparedness. They are, get a kit, make a plan, and stay informed.

The kit should comprise of gallon of water per person, per day, non-perishable food, a flashlight, battery-powered radio, first aid kit, medications, supplies for an infant if applicable, a multi-purpose tool, personal hygiene items, copies of important papers, cell phone chargers, extra cash, blankets, maps of the area and emergency contact information.  All of these tips and advice can be found on the American Red Cross website,

(NBC 10 reporter Tim Furlong detailed some of this during a recent live shot in Ventnor, NJ.)

Following that advice is what I’ll be doing to get ready for this upcoming Hurricane season. Staying informed is important, and you should be aware of the community evacuation plan, local shelters nearby, but also be aware of flooding in nearby areas. For families, preparing for a Hurricane is a little different, in that the amount of supplies increases and there is a need to sit down as a family and make a plan, so everyone understands what to do in case of emergency. Keeping up with the emergency information is very important during Hurricane season, and when a Hurricane hits, it is important to have a battery powered radio accessible.

Another way to get prepared, and a more convenient way, is to use the American Red Cross Hurricane app. It is full of everything you need to stay prepared during a Hurricane. There is a toolkit with a flashlight, strobe light, alarm, and there is also an “I’m Safe” option, which allows you to post to social media websites of your safety. There are also Prepare, Test, Hurricanes, Shelters, and More tabs, which all provide information on what to know during a Hurricane, and how to handle emergency situations. The Prepare tab has a Right Before section, a During, After, Plan Ahead, and Make a Plan section, so you’re always ready. There is an active storm tracker and shelter map, showing where all the nearby shelters are during disaster relief. The App is a great way to access information on your smartphone and will be more than useful this upcoming hurricane season; I know I’ve already downloaded it!

– Written by Erin McGinn

Volunteer

We’re fast approaching the 4th holiday since Super Storm Sandy smacked the eastern seaboard.

11.12.12_NYC_Trip 037Affected residents, business owners and city, state and federal officials have been cleaning up through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and now through Christmas and New Years.

All the while, Red Cross volunteers have been there to support response, recovery and relief efforts. This is the largest response for the organization in 5 years and so far, the Red Cross has served more than 9 million meals and snacks, handed out more than 6.7 million relief items including cold weather items and clean up supplies, provided more than 103,000 health services and emotional support contacts for people living in very rough conditions and connected with more than 93,000 families and individuals to determine longer term recovery needs.

Here, in Southeastern Pennsylvania, we have been doing our part to assist this on-going response. We have deployed more than 30 volunteers and employees to New York and New Jersey to serve in a variety of ways. Some spent Halloween, Thanksgiving and/or Hanukkah away from family and loved ones to help provide comfort and relief to residents still recovering from Sandy.

MarcHenley

Just this week, our volunteer, Marc Henley packed his big red bag, put his finger aside of his nose and up to New York he rose to help spread some holiday cheer to families desperately in need. Marc specializes in Disaster Mental Health and will truly spread holiday cheer by providing emotional support to families over the Christmas holiday. When I saw that he was leaving, I couldn’t help but wonder if Old Saint Nick himself was playing a little trick on us and sending Marc on a very important mission. You see, Santa is a very busy elf this time of year and won’t have time to visit with families and provide hugs and a shoulder to lean on. He must be on his way to provide toys for all of the world’s good boys and girls, but Marc will be in New York to provide those hugs, the strong shoulder and time to support families still reeling from the trauma they’ve endured.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll think of Marc and our 4 other local volunteers spending the Christmas holiday in New York as I hang my stockings and set presents under my tree. I’ll think about how they will all be providing comfort, support and hopefully smiles to families and, for Marc, especially to a few little boys and girls in need of a longer visit from a jolly old elf.

Happy Holidays!