pleaseantville-halloween-5Looking back on the events two years ago when Superstorm Sandy was covering the almost the entire eastern Atlantic Ocean, I remember feeling astonished that the storm would actually turn toward the coast and make landfall in New Jersey. Hurricanes come north, of course, but not often and not with such threatening power. Were we ready? I suspected we weren’t, because how could we be? We tend to be “ready” for events we have already experienced. Sandy was unprecedented. Still, it was incredibly comforting to be a volunteer for the Red Cross. These were the folks who knew how to prepare and they were on the job.

I wrote, soon after the storm, about a friend who had texted me “Thank goodness for the Red Cross.”  Yes, indeed, for so many reasons. Here’s the rest of my 2012 blog post:

“What a week it’s been. Our job is to take care of the important stuff: shelter, food, comfort, survival. Currently, the Red Cross is sheltering close to 9,000 people in 171 Red Cross shelters across 13 states. Wow. . . Locally, close to 200 people (196) and 19 pets stayed the night in local SEPA Red Cross shelters in Montgomery, Bucks and Philadelphia Counties.

When I was in our offices last Thursday, I peeked in on a meeting of disaster preparedness personnel on the potential for a large hurricane to incapacitate the East Coast early the following week. At that point, the encounter between Sandy and the coast of New Jersey was still purely hypothetical and only one model was suggesting the storm would not turn safely out to sea. Even so, our staff was taking the situation seriously and beginning to make the preparations necessary to provide support and shelter should the worst case scenario occur. Thank goodness they did.

Needless to say, we’ve been moderately busy since then. At the height of the storm, we were ready with 14 shelters set up in five counties. We hosted a phone bank to answer storm related questions at a local television station. Tweets, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, a Hurricane App and several media appearances by our CEO, Judge Renée Hughes, shared vital information with the citizens of Southeastern, Pennsylvania. We helped people prepare and they did. We encouraged them to “shelter in place” by staying home, staying off the streets and letting our public officials do their jobs. People listened and we made it through this.

For those forced to evacuate, we provided warmth with blankets, food, shelter and the companionship of volunteers and others in the same situation. We take comfort seriously and believe it helps everyone weather the storm. And with comfort in mind, we are proud to say that Halloween celebrations went ahead for several of our younger shelter residents at a shelter in Pleasantville, NJ. “

I remember feeling so moved by these Halloween festivities. It’s so important to help children feel a sense of normalcy when their entire world has been disrupted. I was proud to be a Red Cross volunteer on that day, and I still am.

Submitted in part by Carnelita Slaughter, Red Cross Volunteer

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Whether you are playing chaperone or getting together with friends, like me, you have probably been planning our Halloween festivities for weeks. Now it’s crunch time! Your frightful crew is gathering and your decorations are sending chills up the neighbors’ spines (you’ve done well). But you may be forgetting something…….. the greatest hazards of Halloween aren’t the spirits trying to communicate through your Ouija board or the creatures you’ll encounter throughout the night. No! There are other dangers that come with wandering around in the dark in busy neighborhood with uneven street lighting and small children. Good thing you have the Red Cross to guide you. We can’t promise you won’t suffer a tummy ache or sore feet but stick with us and you’ll celebrate many Spooktacular evenings to come!

 

  1. Look for flame resistant costumes.

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2. Try to stick with make-up instead of masks to make sure trick-or-treaters can see clearly as they walk the neighborhood.

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3. Plan your Trick-or-Treat route in advance.
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A parent or responsible adult should accompany young children as they make their way around the neighborhood.

4. Make it easy to be seen in the dark.
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Make sure trick-or-treaters have flashlights. Put reflective tape on dark colored costumes, or try to stick with light colored costumes.

5. Only visit homes that have the porch light on.

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Accept treats at the door but never go inside.

 

6. Only walk on sidewalks.
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If no sidewalk is available, walk at the edge of the roadway, facing traffic. Look both ways before crossing the street and cross only at the corner. Don’t cut across yards or use alleys. And don’t cross between parked cars

7. Be cautious around pets and other animals.
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8. Use glow sticks or LEDs inside jack-o-lanterns instead of candles.

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For more tips and information click here, and be sure to download our Red Cross First Aid App at redcross.org/apps.

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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.

 

 

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