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-submitted by Sarah Peterson, communications volunteer

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin was responsible for setting up the first fire company in Philadelphia? On a visit to see his family Boston, he observed that Bostonians were much better equipped to fight fires and save lives than the people of Philadelphia. According to the website, ushistory.org, after consulting with civic leaders in Philadelphia, he gathered 30 young men together to form the Union Fire Company on December 7, 1736. These men had special equipment provided by the community, and they began meeting regularly to practice their techniques and discuss successful firefighting procedures.

In order to raise public awareness, Franklin began writing about fire safety in his newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette. In one article, written in 1735, he cautions his fellow citizens against moving hot coals from room to room on an open shovel, in case one ember is lost under the stairs and results in a middle-of-the-night,“when your Stairs being in Flames, you may be forced, (as I once was) to leap out of your Windows, and hazard your Necks to avoid being oven-roasted.”

rco_blog_img_BenFranklinFire safety awareness has improved since the 1700s. No doubt Franklin would have been thrilled by the efficacy of smoke detectors, but we still struggle to make sure fire safety measures are protecting everyone.  On October 3rd, 2014, the White House released a proclamation by President Obama to mark Fire Prevention Week and to remind all Americans of the danger of fire. He urged all of us to practice evacuations plans from our homes, schools and places of business. He urged Americans who live near woodlands to practice caution and clear flammable vegetation from around buildings. He reminded all of us that, “During Fire Prevention Week, we recognize our duty to be vigilant and take action to avert fires, and we remember the sacrifices of those who gave their lives so others might live.”

That’s why the Pennsylvania State House also took some time this week to recognize National Fire Prevention Week. According to State Senator Rob Teplitz, the week commemorates the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and was first designated in 1920. It is still unclear how the devastating fire in Chicago got started, but it burned for two days, destroyed 3.3 square miles of the city’s central business district, killed up to 300 people and left more than 100,000 residents homeless. In 1920, officials decided that such a massive disaster deserved the be remembered in a way that could help everyone learn more about fire safety and prevention and President Woodrow Wilson released the first National Fire Prevention Week Proclamation.

Appropriately, this year’s theme is “Smoke alarms save lives: Test yours every month.” As Franklin surely knew when warning about embers in an open shovel, home fire deaths are preventable but require residents to take care. We no longer worry about lost embers, but we must test our smoke alarms regularly and change the batteries twice a year.

As Franklin writes in 1735, “In the first Place, as an Ounce of Prevention is worth a Pound of Cure” we must all be vigilant against the dangers of fire. We remember terrible disasters like the Chicago fire by taking the time to remind ourselves of this basic truth. Check your batteries, everyone! Take the time to practice an escape route from your home. And don’t carry those embers in an open shovel.

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.

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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.

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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.

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When the summer heat and humidity becomes unbearable, jumping in a pool, playing in the ocean or cooling off at the lake is a must. The cold water provides a break from the heat and a fun time for the whole family. However, fun can turn into disaster if parents and children don’t know the ins and outs of water safety. According to the CDC, an average of 10 people die in the U.S. from accidental drowning every day and 20% of them are 14 or younger.IMG_4433

To ensure the time you and your family spend in the water is nothing but safe and fun, the American Red Cross has launched a free Swim App, designed to help your family stay safe in any type of aquatic setting. Available directly from the Apple App Store, Google Play or Amazon Marketplace, the swim app teaches both parent and child the importance of water safety.

The swim app provides quizzes for parents to take on water safety in different settings, such as lakes, rivers, beaches and pools. The safety section of the app addresses water safety issues such as prevention, emergencies, where drownings occur and the importance of life jackets.
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The app also provides a progress section for children enrolled in swimming lessons. Learning how to swim is not always fun. It can be scary and intense, and much harder for some than others. The progress section of the app rewards children with a badge each time they complete a swimming level. Earning a badge encourages children to complete the next swimming level and lets parents share their child’s progress with family members and friends. The section also includes information for parents on each swimming level so you know exactly what your child has learned. It includes a skill check-list, as well as a “find a class” option.

IMG_4446The apps kid section consists of five fun lessons, including water safety in your home and helping someone in the water. Each lesson has a kid-friendly video as well as a “learn about the rule” section.  After watching the video and learning about the rule, kids can take a quiz to show that they understand the lesson.  They may just learn something that could save a life!

Drowning can happen in less than one minute and is the second-leading cause of accidental injury death for kids and sixth for people of all ages. With the swim app, parents gain knowledge that will keep them and their kids safe, and kids are able to learn, in their own way, the importance of knowing how to swim and water safety.

IMG_4450The American Red Cross has helped reduce accidental drownings by almost 90% nationwide in the last century. Earlier this year, the American Red Cross launched the drowning prevention campaign. A national campaign aimed at reducing the drowning rate in 50 cities by 50 percent over the next five years.

The American Red Cross is the gold standard for aquatics training and offers a variety of swim course’s, such as the learn-to-swim course, parent and child aquatics and preschool aquatics.

 

 

It was shortly after the celebration of America’s Birthday ended when a devastating fire ripped through the 6500 block of Gesner Street in Southwest Philadelphia. The raging fire destroyed or damaged 10 homes, leaving 42 residents without a place to stay. Sadly, 4 children did not escape the fire. This was a tragedy that stunned the entire community.

Red Cross workers, some who had just worked nearly 20 hours at the Wawa Welcome America events along the parkway, responded to assist a neighborhood in grief. Volunteers provided blankets, water, hugs, support, comfort and counsel in the early hours of July 5th. A reception center was set up nearby at Bartram High School where more than 2 dozen residents registered. By Sunday afternoon, Red Cross had provided financial assistance to 10 families, 33 people… 18 of who are in our care staying at Red Cross House.

rco_blog_img_GesnerThe Red Cross will continue to provide assistance to other families who may come forward in the days to come and will continue to support those families in grief over the loss of these children.

We have been inundated with requests to help, so here are the ways you can help:

First, please consider making a financial donation to local disaster relief to allow the Red Cross to have resources constantly available to respond to disasters like this one and to continue to provide support to the families affected by the Gesner Street fire. You can d this by calling 1-800-RED CROSS or by clicking here.

For those wishing to donate material items specifically to the affected families, many partners are coordinating these efforts. Here is a short list of places to contact or take items:

Christ International Baptist Church
2210 South 65th Street
Philadelphia. Ph:215-729-0214

Community Support Center
Connell Park
6401 Elmwood Ave
Philadelphia, PA

Liberian Association of Pennsylvania, Inc.
1155 South 54th Street
Philadelphia, PA
Ph: 215-651-9322

Saving Grace Orphanage
4918 Baltimore Ave
Philadelphia, PA
Ph: 215-779-5726

First Baptist Church of Paschall
7100 Woodland Avenue
Philadelphia, PA
Ph: 215-724-3294

(This list will be updated as more information becomes available)

Also, consider joining the Red Cross as a volunteer to respond to disaster like this one. We are always looking for dedicated people. You can learn more and sign up by clicking here.

 

 

9590186550_1f869dbf4a_oAfter what seemed like a winter that wouldn’t end, it’s finally SUMMERTIME!!!

That means kids are out of school, long weekends at the shore, and backyard parties are in your near future! BBQ picnics are a way to casually get together. But before you take out the burgers, buns, and condiments, remember these safe grilling tips to keep your home and family safe this summer season:

  • Propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors.
  • Always supervise a BBQ and make sure everyone, including pets, stay away from the hot grill.
  • Keep the grill away from the house, deck railings, tree branches, or anything that could catch fire. Hot grease or ashes could spill from the grill onto a wooden deck or into dry leaves or grass and catch fire.
  • Be ready to close the lid and turn off the grill to cut off the fuel if necessary.
  • Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill. Be sure to clean after EVERY use.
  • Keep a fireproof pan under the grill to catch falling ashes or grease.
  • Trim excess fat from meat to avoid flare-ups.
  • Use long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill and keep a set of oven mitts handy just in case.
  • Have a kitchen fire extinguisher nearby just in case a flare up gets out of hand and be sure to call the fire department if an emergency occurs.

 

Some special tips for using charcoal grills:9587392889_46c47cc132_o

  • There are several ways to get the charcoal ready to use. Charcoal chimney starters allow you to start the charcoal using newspaper as fuel.
  • Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited.
  • If you do use starter fluid, only use charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire.
  • Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away of heat sources.
  • There are also electric charcoal starters, which do not use fire. Be sure to use an extension cord for outdoor use
  • When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container.

rco_blog_img_GrillAnd don’t forget these tips if you are using a propane grill:

  • Be sure to check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year:
  • Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose. A propane leak will release bubbles If your grill has a gas leak that you detect by smell or the soapy bubble test, and there is no flame, turn of the gas tank and grill.
  •  If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again.
  •  If the leak does not stop, call the fire department.
  • If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. DO NOT MOVE THE GRILL.

All set! Now take those kids outside and away from their video games and computers and have yourself a nice family BBQ. Happy grilling from the American Red Cross!

 

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