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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

 

 

 

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Although I’ve only been interning with the Red Cross Communications team for several weeks, I have already gained an entirely new perspective on both this community and providing assistance to those in need. The future of the Red Cross is dependent on volunteers who recognize the importance of this organization and then donate their efforts towards fulfilling its mission.

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During my time at the Red Cross, I have had the opportunity to assist outside of the office. One day, I hope to be part of the Disaster Action team and respond to local disasters. So far, the closest that I have come to disaster response is participating in Red Cross Fire Safety Walkthroughs. During Fire Safety Walkthroughs, Red Cross workers distribute fire safety materials, such as educational materials as well as a 9-volt battery for smoke detectors. The educational material comes in multiple languages and provides individuals with information on how to prevent a fire, making an escape plan and pet fire safety.  In the past several weeks, I’ve participated in Fire Safety Walkthroughs in the two communities surrounding the fatal fires at Gesner Street and North Sixth Street. When fire suddenly destroys homes and claims the lives of community members, the scene is always very sensitive.  It has been difficult to see the tremendous toll these disasters have on communities. As we made our way up and down the streets, I did my best to be respectful to people’s properties, especially the homes where the fires occurred.

Gesner St Fire picture of Laurel

When I am in the office, I work with both internal and external means of communication to keep the general public as well as Red Cross employees and volunteers informed about what is going on in the community and the office. I really value working beside and learning from my manager, Sara, and the rest of the Communications department. Our many responsibilities have so much purpose, which causes me to constantly look forward to my time here. This branch of the Red Cross employs many friendly and intelligent people. I’ve received nothing but a warm welcome to this team. The Red Cross never stops responding, so as long as I’m here I’m sure I will be kept busy by providing the community with the information they need to stay informed and safe.

~submitted by Laurel, a high school intern for the communications department

If you are interested in volunteering with the American Red Cross, click here.

Did you know every year on May 8th we celebrate World Red Cross Day? I am sure many of you, like me before I was a volunteer with the American Red Cross, have never heard of World Red Cross Day. Below are some facts to give you a better understanding of what World Red Cross Day is, how it came about and why it is so important.

What is World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day?

It is an annual celebration of the principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The seven principals are HUMANITY, IMPARTIALITY, NEUTRALITY, INDEPENDENCE, VOLUNTARY SERVICE, UNITY, and UNIVERSALITY. Each year about 97 million members and volunteers of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are honored on this day making it the largest humanitarian network of relief worldwide serving over 170 countries.

Why is it celebrated on May 8th?

May 8th is the birthday Henri Dunant who founded the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) 1863 in the Geneva, Switzerland.

Henri Dunant

Jean Henri Dunant (May 8, 1828 –October  30, 1910), also known as Henry Dunant, was a Swiss businessman and social activist. In 1901 he received the first Nobel Peace Prize, along with Frederic Passay, for his role in founding the International Red Cross Movement and initiating the Geneva Convention. In 1903 Dunant was given an honorary doctorate by the medical faculty of the University of Heidelberg.

He died on October 30th 1910, and his final words were “Where has humanity gone”? The former nursing home in Heiden, Switzerland where Durant died is now the Henry Dunant Museum. In Geneva, there are numerous streets, squares, and schools named after him. The Henry Dunant Medal is awarded every two years by the standing commission of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. It is its highest decoration.

How did Henri come up with the idea to start the International Red Cross?

During a business trip in 1859, he witnessed the aftermath of a battle in Solferino, Italy. He recorded his memories and experiences in the book A Memory of Solferino .  In 1862, 1,600 copies of the book were published and printed at Dunant’s own expense.  Dunant’s experiences at Solferino inspired the creation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 1863. In his book, he described the battle, its costs, and the chaotic circumstances afterwards.  After the war, he visited with wounded soldiers and was shocked by the lack of facilities, personnel, and medical aid available to help them. He abandoned the original intent of his trip and spent his time helping with the treatment and care for the wounded soldiers.

 What is International Red Cross and Red Crescent  Movement ?

It is an international humanitarian movement with approximately 97 million volunteers, members and staff worldwide. The International Red Cross Movement was founded to protect human life and health, to ensure respect for all human beings, and to prevent and alleviate human suffering. The movement consists of several distinct organizations that are legally independent from each other, but are united within the movement through common basic principles, objectives, symbols, statutes and governing organizations.Red cross day

 When was the first World Red Cross Day celebrated?

It was first celebrated as the Red Cross Day on May 8th 1948. Later, it was officially named as the “World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day” in 1984.

When was the International Committee of the Red Cross Founded?

Their first meeting was held on February 17, 1863 which is considered the founding date.

What is the theme for 2014?

World Red Cross Day theme of 2014 was “Together for Humanity”

How can you celebrate World Red Cross Day

You can celebrate World Red Cross Day and World Red Crescent Day in a variety of ways:

  • Learn more about the Red Cross
  • Support Red Cross programs and efforts
  • Send a donation to the Red Cross
  • Donate blood today
  • Become a Red Cross volunteer
  • Thank Red Cross volunteers for their service

— Posted by Jennifer Ingram, SEPA Red Cross Communications Volunteer

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)

Volunteering with the American Red Cross these last three years has been a great experience for me. When I first became a volunteer, I was unemployed and looking for something to keep me busy until I was able to find a job. Now that I have a job, I still continue to volunteer on a weekly basis. Just about every Tuesday afternoon you can find me in the Communication Pod (CommPod as its come to be known) on the 5th floor. I have a background in English with some journalism experience, and the communications department has been a perfect fit for me. I have written several posted blogs, press releases, captions for pictures, research on various topics and many other things. I enjoy being able to use my experience in a useful and rewarding way.  As I am making my way to the CommPod, if I am not spotted first, I usually stop and talk to all the wonderful people I have gotten to know.

rco_blog_img_jenniferOver the years, my volunteering has expanded beyond the CommPod. I sometimes call myself the 5th floor volunteer because, at times, my help has been needed all over the floor. For about a month after Hurricane Sandy, I came in several days a week to help with anything that needed to be done. I not only got to see first hand all the different services that the Red Cross provides when a disaster occurs, but I actually contributed to the success of these services. I feel proud of my volunteer efforts during that difficult time. I can also be found helping out on the 4th floor in the Volunteer Department with various things.

When I am here volunteering, it gives me such a warm feeling inside knowing that I am helping a great organization and that my work is well appreciated. Every Tuesday, I look forward to coming, and when I am not here, I can’t wait to come back. When I am gone for a few weeks and return, I am often told how much I was missed, which also makes me feel good. The most important reason why I continue to volunteer is seeing the difference that volunteering makes in the lives of those affected by a disaster whether you are in the field or working behind the scenes.

— Posted by Jennifer Ingram, Communications Volunteer for the Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania

Me with some of my favorite volunteers at Red Ball

Vicki Worrall, Janice Winston and me at       Red Ball

I volunteer for the Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania. I am not trained in Emergency Services. I am not an instructor in swimming or First Aid. I cannot drive an ERV (The acronym for Emergency Response Vehicle, a Red Cross response truck). I do not ever deploy in the middle of the night to scenes of fire and flood. Nevertheless, I make my contribution. I take in information at the speed of sound.  My fingers are a blur at a keyboard.  I am here to tell the world what we do, why we do it and how it is absolutely essential to a just and humane society.

A short perusal of my file in the Volunteer folder of our hard drive reveals that, since becoming a volunteer, I have written 34 blogs, 26 news articles, 10 storyboards and countless news releases.  Some of my favorite pieces are about the history of the Red Cross – I did one on the how the service of one of our founding members was inspired by her experience on the Titanic – but the pieces I love the most are about the day to day efforts of ordinary members of our community to make the world a more caring place.

This leads me to this morning, when the Red Cross office here at 23rd and Chestnut was a little empty. Several people I work with were out attending the Montgomery County Heroes Breakfast. For the last couple years, I have had the pleasure of writing a short summary of the deeds of heroes in Bucks County for the program to be read by attendees.  The Montgomery heroesare equally impressive. There is no way that one event could capture all the extraordinary things that we do for one another every day, but it’s important to remember that the honorees are representative of the rest of us and our “better angels”. Among them, Patricia Lloyd used her Red Cross training to save a five-year-old from choking to death at her school. Montgomery County police officers risked their lives to apprehend a dangerous fugitive and protect their community. Fire Chief Thomas Hayden rescued two women from a home engulfed in flames.  Did you know that men like David Gartner give both blood and plasma several times a year, saving countless lives?

My workstation

I love telling these stories, which is why I keep coming back to this desk, despite an increasing busy professional schedule as my children age into their college years. The work we do is here is essential and important. The people who are trained to teach First Aid, who respond to emergency calls and who provide comfort to veterans and their families are deeply committed and caring. The world is an uncertain place and everyone here stays vigilant, just in case others need our help. It is an honor to sit at this keyboard.

— Submitted by Sarah Peterson, Proud Red Cross Communications Volunteer

As a volunteer photographer for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Red Cross communications, I have the opportunity to witness dozens of examples of my fellow _ALT4720volunteers on the job. Often, they are not just helping people who have experienced catastrophe, but are on hand at major city events to handle medical emergencies and participate in fund raisers, which are the “life blood” of our local Red Cross.

At the Hurricane Sandy Thank-a-Thon, I took pictures as volunteers manned telephones at Channel 3 and spent the day calling contributors to

Carolyn Smith V Front Desk

express thanks.  I was at Red Cross House during Thanksgiving week to witness over 400 turkeys being handed out to people in the community.  I was also at the delicious cook-out celebrating the Red Cross House’s tenth anniversary. There, I witnessed volunteers working tirelessly from morning to dusk to make the occasion a high point 

for current and past Red Cross House guests. What an amazing event!  Scrumptious food was prepared, cooked, and served by Red Cross House volunteers.


Volunteers are not only ON the scene of disaster but BEHIND the scenes working on-call shifts for 

Bob Brown at the BarbecueCommunications, tweeting key information on breaking and ongoing disasters.   On Independence Day, a Disaster team was on the job, performing first aid and signing up volunteers.  Large city events can sometimes involve crowd related injuries.  Red Cross volunteers were on the scene to assist people until late that night.ouse employees and volunteers.  This summer, I photographed the Annual Veterans’ Stand-down, a huge event to connect homeless veterans to essential services in their communities.

Then there are the people who volunteer to wear the Fred Cross and Buddy Tear Drop mascot costumes to delight the children at the annual Holiday party.  It is HOT inside those outfits, but nobody complains.BloodDropFredBaby

I could go on and on citing example after example, but I think you get the drift.

The selfless dedication to the Red Cross Mission, seen day-in and day-out in the hundreds and hundreds of people who do the work of the Red Cross in the Philadelphia area, is so apparent.  And the thing that stands out the most for me is that Red Cross Volunteers LOVE the work they do.  None would have it any other way.

I’m very proud to be associated with the American Red Cross SEPA Chapter, and will always be grateful that I signed up to be part of the team.

Michelle Alton

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