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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Life’s more persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”

As part of the MLK Day of Service, the Red Cross Eastern Pennsylvania Region participated in a nationwide effort to install 15,000 smoke alarms in homes across the country.  The Red Cross held six smoke alarm installation events across our 17 county region, installing approximately 1,200 smoke alarms. It’s all part of the continuing Home Fire Campaign to make our communities safer and better prepared.

Red Cross volunteers, along with local fire departments and our community partners, went door-to-door to speak with residents and educate them on potential home fire hazards and risks. Fire safety information was provided in English and Spanish and residents received free smoke alarms installed in their homes.

Since 2015, the Eastern Pennsylvania Region, in partnership with local fire departments and community partners, have installed approximately 8,000 smoke alarms.

Take a moment to watch the MLK Day of Service Video.

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Lehigh Valley-Bucks Chapter

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Tri-County Chapter

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NEPA Chapter

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SEPA Chapter

Photo galleries of the events can be found here.

IMPACT OF HOME FIRES & RED CROSS RESPONSE:  Seven times a day someone in this country dies in a home fire and on average 36 people suffer injuries as a result of home fires every day. To combat these tragic statistics, the Red Cross has launched a nationwide campaign to reduce the number of deaths and injuries due to home fires by 25 percent by 2020. Since 2014 the Home Fire Campaign has saved 116 lives nationwide.

Home fires remain the biggest disaster threat to individuals and families in the United States and the number one disaster the Red Cross responds to in America. This campaign is in direct response to that dire threat, with the Red Cross committed to install 2.5 million free smoke alarms in neighborhoods at high risk for fires, and to educate those residents about fire prevention and preparedness.

HOME FIRE SAFETY, A FEW SIMPLE STEPS: Most home fires can be prevented. The Red Cross is asking everyone to take two simple steps that can save lives: check their existing smoke alarm and practice fire drills at home.

There are several things families and individuals can do to increase their chances of survival in a fire:

  1. If someone doesn’t have smoke alarms, install them.  At a minimum, put one on every level of the home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Local building codes vary and there may be additional requirements where someone lives and practice.
  2. If someone does have alarms, test them today.  If they don’t work, replace them.
  3. Make sure everyone in the family knows how to get out of every room and the home in less than two minutes.
  4. Practice the plan with home fire drills.  What’s the household’s escape time?  An individual only has two minutes.

 

To become a Red Cross volunteer please visit, www.redcross.org/volunteer.

rco_blog_img_PREPARESeptember is National Preparedness Month, and it’s important to remember that emergencies can happen anywhere and at any time. Most of us have plans in place at home for emergencies like illness or natural disasters, but is your workplace prepared for these events? There’s a good chance that your employer has emergency procedures like building evacuation in place and has an easily-accessible first aid kit and automated external defibrillator (AED). However, your co-workers may not be aware of how to respond to emergencies or use equipment like an AED. The American Red Cross can help your workplace prepare for emergencies through services like safety assessment, training, and certification programs.

You can always find emergency preparedness information at Redcross.org, but the following programs can help your workplace better respond to emergencies.

American Red Cross Ready Rating Program 

The American Red Cross Ready Rating™, a first-of-its-kind membership program designed to help businesses and organizations become better prepared for emergencies. Membership is free, and the program is self-paced. After joining, members complete a 123-point self-assessment to find areas of improvement for emergency preparedness.

Workers learn tips and best practices for emergencies. Most importantly, members make a commitment to improve their readiness score each year in a continuing process.m10643684_241x164-learning-aed

Employee Training

The American Red Cross provides flexible training options for workplaces that meet OSHA, corporate, and other regulatory standards. From on-site employee CPR and First Aid training, to access to community classes, employers can work with employees to find the best training options based on their needs.

Instructor Training

If your workplace has a designated emergency response or health and safety team leader, they can benefit from receiving training from the American Red Cross. After completing Red Cross training, your workplace instructor can lead their own training sessions on emergency response topics like First Aid/CPR and other areas that are relevant to your field.

download workplace safetyFor more information on all Workplace Safety Training and Preparedness Programs available through the American Red Cross, see the online catalog here.

I didn’t really start using Twitter until being deployed with the Red Cross to the Boston Marathon disaster a year ago. I was never a fan. Now, it’s not only part of my day but a large part of my response to disasters.

rco_blog_img_PETEWINE This weekend I was a #DigiVol (Digitally Deployed Volunteer) for the @Redcross (American Red Cross). We were 1,200 miles away from the disaster zone, but still helping to make a difference. It was a short but wild adventure.

As tornadoes and thunderstorms bore down on the Midwest, our job was to take to social media and promote preparedness and safety. Our intention was to engage people to help calm and guide them.

For my shift, I was handed the keys to @RedcrossNETexas (The Official Twitter of NE Texas and SW Arkansas) and sent out on my mission. Watching weather radar, media outlets, and other posts from tornado chasers, I promoted the Red Cross Tornado App and gave tips on how to prepare and respond to the storm. My partners for the day, @Telesara (Sara Smith) and @Mindy_Hart (Mindy Hart) were also from Philadelphia.

I went for quite a spin around the block with the account. Hashtags — symbols placed in front of a word to help Twitter organize different topics — were flying. Some were obvious… #helpme, #scared, #missing, #disaster, and some were not. For example, #NoRotation came to designate clouds not moving in a twisting funnel.

We engaged scared people by telling them it was alright to be scared and guiding them on what to do next. All the while, we watched the destruction start to hit national news. It’s a very scary, hopeless feeling. You just want to do more. At the end of the shift, Sara and I guided a young middle school student on how to find her uncle amidst a destroyed town using #safeandwell, the Red Cross database to help let loved ones know you are okay.

Later, I was listening to a storm chaser on a radio feed talking to the National Weather Service (NWS) in RDCC Terminal (1280x721)Little Rock, AR. He was with a pastor from the Antioch Baptist Church in Conway, AR. They were opening a shelter there to provide immediate cover for victims who had just lost their homes. Another round of bad weather was on the way. The phones were down and they couldn’t get in touch with the Red Cross. They needed our help. The NWS wasn’t able to get in touch with Red Cross yet either.

I told Sara what I’d heard. She said she saw the Red Cross communicator near Conway online. I gave her all the information, and we relayed it to Arkansas from Philly. A few minutes later, a Handheld Amateur Radio Operator (HAM) with our team in Arkansas was on the air advising people in Conway that they’d gotten the message and were sending them Red Cross teams and supplies. We had made a difference to immediate disaster victims from 1,200 miles away.

Now, a day later, the Digital Volunteers of @RedCrossPhilly are still watching over the people of the Midwest. We stand ready, waiting to respond, to help them recover, using the best communications methods at our disposal.

In person, at the scene of the disaster, or in the virtual world of cyberspace, our mission remains the same: Help alleviate the suffering of victims of disaster.

Posted by Volunteer @PWine_1_1 (Peter Wine)

 

I don’t know if our Red Cross friends have noticed, but this part of the world is damp. Sometimes, it’s too damp. Southeastern Pennsylvania experiences several torrential rainfall events a year, and while this makes our local flora lush and green, we also live with the threat of flooding, especially in low-lying areas.

The Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania is committed to helping people in our area be prepared for disasters all kinds. Recently, we have been developing applications for iPad, iPhone and Android to help people act safely and responsibly in the event of an emergency. Our newest app, provided in both English and Spanish, deals with the most common disaster in the United States: flooding.

Floods are extremely dangerous because they occur quickly and with little warning. A road can become impassible in a matter of seconds. A house can be submerged in the same amount of time. The flood app will have location based NOAA flood and flash flood warnings to let users know when they are in danger and should evacuate. It will offer one touch “I’m safe” messaging to family and friends, as well as inform users of critical steps to take in order to stay safe. The app provides the locations of Red Cross shelters, resources for recovery and opportunities to learn more about helping friends and neighbors when the water get too high. These include interactive quizzes and badges you can earn and share on social networks. It even provides a flashlight, strobe light and alarm to make others aware of your location

Everyone who lives in Southeastern Pennsylvania should download this app. When the unexpected occurs, we are filled with questions. What should we do? Where should we go? What should we remember to bring? What dangers should we worry about and anticipate? The Red Cross is doing a tremendous service by making the answers to these questions as accessible as a smart phone. The flood app will save lives, it will provide essential information in real time and it will assist people to recover when the waters recede.

Here’s wharco_blog_img_FloodAppt the National Office of the Red Cross has to say:

The Flood App is the latest in a series of Red Cross emergency preparedness apps that put lifesaving information right in the hands of people whenever and wherever they need it. These apps allow people to make critical, lifesaving decisions.

All Red Cross apps can be found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross or by going to redcross.org/mobileapps.

Apps are not a substitute for training. Go to redcross.org/takeaclass to take a First Aid and CPR class so you’ll know what to do in case emergency help is delayed.

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Thanksgiving week marked the end of my rotation working in preparedness education as an AmeriCorps member.  Working that rotation was a friendly reminder for why I wanted to follow a career in medicine.  What really pushed me towards medicine was that medicine gives me the opportunity to interact with such a diverse group of people, and I encountered this during my time in the preparedness education rotation.

While working in preparedness education, I was given the opportunity to travel throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania to present the various courses Red Cross offers at schools and community centers.  Some classes I taught were about fire safety, others were about disaster preparedness, and my favorite one was teaching a hygiene class to kindergartners.

What I enjoyed most about teaching classes was the diversity of the participants.  I find that the diversity brought an element of surprise to teaching because I never knew the people I’d encounter when walking into a classroom.  This made each day of work exciting because I knew I would have the opportunity to meet new people.

Although it was my job to be teaching others, I often found myself learning skills that I hope to take advantage of when I go into the medical field.  Working in preparedness education has really improved my ability to teach others and has also greatly improved my public speaking.  It has also taught me the importance of being able to adapt to different situations; I often found myself drifting away from my script to better explain the course.

I hope my time working in preparedness education had a positive impact on Southeastern Pennsylvania.  It is sad to be leaving that department, but I am excited knowing that the other departments have just as much to offer!

With Hurricane Isaac on its way, you can now keep track of your loved ones who are in disasters path! The American Red Cross released its new official hurricane app for iPhone and Android users. And while it won’t be able to stop the awful conditions, it will help you be prepared with easy to understand and follow step-by-step instructions. So, before you rush out to the grocery store for eggs and bread, I would suggest downloading this FREE app for preloaded checklists, tracker maps, and alerts.

Here’s a look at what the new Red Cross hurricane app looks like

Fortunately, I have not experienced extreme hurricane conditions in my lifetime, but I have loved ones who live in areas more prone to such conditions than Philadelphia, like Florida and New Jersey. This app sends you real-time hurricane alerts for your area, or any location that you choose. These alerts are sent straight to your phone as soon as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issues them, even if the app is closed.  For each location you set to monitor, the app sends you hurricane warnings, as well as alerts for tropical storms and floods.

What I think is great about this app is the toolkit located in the top left corner. It comes with emergency tools like a flashlight, strobe light, alarm and an “I’m Safe” feature. This allows you to connect with others to let them know you are ok in the face of danger with only the touch of a button. You can personalize your message beforehand and share via Twitter, Facebook, SMS, and email.

You’d be amazed how the littlest preparations could save you from a lot of grief. Some of these hurricane preparedness tips are ones that I would never think of, like filling your car’s gas tank or putting your refrigerator on its coldest setting – so if you lose power, the contents will stay cooler longer. In addition to preparation pointers, this app has information on what to do immediately before, during and after the hurricane hits.

There is also a feature that lets users map locations and shelter details across the United States. You  can zoom in on local area and view details on each shelter, such as which agency is managing the shelter, its capacity and current population, the disaster event and the specific shelter address or location. It is quick and easy.

This app is useful even when you’re not necessarily faced with an alert or warning at the moment. Prepare for disaster by testing your hurricane knowledge and preparedness. There are three quiz categories (history, knowledge and prepare) in which you can earn achievements and share them with your friends. And if you are particularly interested in hurricane history, you can also look back 150 years and see how many hurricanes have hit your area. In Philadelphia, we’ve experienced 34 hurricanes – the top speed being 135 mph!

The hurricane app is the second in a series of preparedness apps the Red Cross is releasing. Several weeks ago, the Red Cross unveiled a first-aid app that has been very helpful to me in providing tips for treating major and minor medical emergencies. Needless to say I was excited to add another preparedness app to use in case of disaster. (Not to mention, many preparedness tips and tactics can easily translate to other disasters.)

Take a look at this video for more information:

(download here for iPhone and here for Android)

-Kelsey Crater

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.