Be Prepared: Now’s the Time

Building the Perfect 72 Hour Kit: 30 Items You Should Have Ready To Go

September 1, 2015                                                        

September is Red Cross Preparedness Month. You never know when a disaster might occur, so it’s important to be prepared for anything and everything. To help you, we have created a list of 30 items…one for each day of the month…that should be together and ready to go to help you survive for 72 hours—the length of time everyone should be self-sufficient during a large-scale disaster.

11 | Water: It’s the essence of life, and you’ll need plenty of it. The rule of thumb is one gallon per person per day, and enough for three days. For a family of four, that’s 12 gallons. It wouldn’t hurt to toss in some instant drink packets to add a little flavor. And if you really want to be safe, you could add a water purification pump to your kit in case you run out of bottled water, since tap and well water often get contaminated during disasters.

2 2 | Food: In many disasters, gas and electric are often knocked out, meaning you can’t cook or refrigerate food, so plan on having a selection of canned and/or ready-to-eat foods on hand. A big jar of peanut butter is a popular start. Cans of veggies, beans, peanuts, soups and tuna also work. (Keep in mind that canned foods do expire, so rotate your stock once or twice a year. And don’t forget a can opener!) Granola bars, protein bars and energy bars are good options. Or, you can purchase emergency food rations, which aren’t gourmet, but provide you with the needed nutrients and have a shelf life of five years. Eating food helps improve your mood.

33 | First aid kit / medical supplies: This is vital. Disasters are an injury waiting to happen and a breeding ground for germs. The Red Cross offers everything from basic kits to the extreme.

4 | Flashlight: When the electricity’s out and the sun goes down, it gets dark. Very dark. That means without a flashlight you’re a stubbed toe just waiting to4 happen. With the invention of LED lighting, flashlights are now small and powerful, so get one. Or two. You might also want to consider a flashlight that stands up and transforms into a lantern for general room lighting, or a headlamp that you can wear to free up your hands or to read in bed. The Red Cross Store offers a wide variety of lights, including lights that are powered by a hand crank and even lights that are activated by water.

55 | Radio: When a disaster strikes, keeping abreast of the latest news and weather is a must. Also, cranking up the tunes occasionally can help battle stress. But radios don’t work without electricity and can gobble up batteries, so make it a radio with a hand crank that generates its own power. The Red Cross Store has a variety of options, including ones that doubles as a flashlight and cell phone charger.

66 | Batteries: During a disaster, when the electricity is out, batteries are power—in many ways. So stock up on extras. And not just flashlight batteries, but some for cell phones, radios, two-way radios and whatever else needs power. Leaving the extra batteries in their original packaging, by the way, is a good way to help keep them fresh.

77 | Medications: A week’s worth of prescription medications are, of course, a must since these are usually vital to good health or maybe even survival. But don’t skimp on other basic medicines. Getting through a disaster is tough, and having a headache or upset stomach is only going to make it tougher, so create a mini-medicine cabinet with anything you typically need for a headache, upset stomach, menstrual cramps, diarrhea and whatever ails you.

88 | Cleaning supplies, part one: Disasters are dirty, so having something to clean up with is a huge help. A container of Clorox wipes is great to wipe down surfaces and kill germs—which spread like wildfire during disasters. Household bleach and rags also work well.

99 | Cleaning supplies, part two: Disasters are dirty, so having something to clean yourself with is next to godliness. Soap and a washcloth are ideal, if you can find a shower or running water. If not, baby wipes are a great alternative. They do a great job of getting rid of the grime and usually leave you smelling fresh as a daisy. Keeping a bottle of hand santizer handy is also a wise idea—getting sick isn’t a great way to deal with a disaster.

1010 | Sanitation and personal hygiene kit: Think of your bathroom and all that’s in it. A roll of toilet paper is a must. Toothbrush and toothpaste, razor, deodorant, shampoo and body wash. Travel-sized toiletries are just right. For women, don’t forget three days worth of tampons or pads.


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11 | Duct tape:
It’s the universal tool, or as comedian Red Green calls it, the handyman’s secret weapon. You can hang strips from the ceiling to serve as flypaper; make a bandage in a pinch; hold together just about anything; spin it and make a clothesline; reseal food packages; repair shoes or broken eyeglasses; write a note on it; the list goes on.

1112 | Towels: Towels aren’t quite duct tape when it comes to multiple utilitarian functions, but they can serve many purposes other than drying off after a sponge bath or getting caught out in the rain. You can roll them up and use them as pillows, wrap them around you to help keep you warm, sit on them as an extra layer of padding or while pretending you’re at the beach,mop up spills or wipe off sweat.

map13 | Maps of the area: It’s old-school, true, but you’ll be glad you have them when your smartphone dies. Just for the record, Google maps aren’t available in paper. Try your local bookstore.


1214 | Copies of personal documents:
If your home or car is damaged, you’ll want copies of insurance policies in hand. It’s also helpful to have extra copies of bank records and Social Security card to reestablish accounts. Also consider credit card numbers to cancel the cards if they’re lost or destroyed, birth certificates, passports, driver’s license, car registration. Don’t pack the originals, though, just copies. And keep them in a waterproof container.

1515 | Cash: ATMs don’t work without electricity, so forget that quick trip to the money machine up the street. Credit card machines also don’t work without electricity either, so you’ll quickly Discover your MasterCard got a Visa and has left town on the American Express. The only currency that works during a disaster is cash. Pack away about $150, which should be enough to get you through a few days, although make sure it’s a collection of small bills since the one convenient store that’s open probably isn’t going to be able to make change for a $50.

1616 | Bedding: Unless the disasters happen during the dog days of summer, chances are it will get anywhere from nippy to bone-chilling cold at some point, so make sure you have something that is going to keep you warm and dry at night, like blankets or sleeping bags. Emergency space blankets are also a nice alternative, as they are light and pack small but are made of materials that keep in body heat so you stay warm. A good night’s sleep is the best way to deal with a tough situation.

1717 | Clothing: There’s nothing quite like living and sleeping in the same clothes for several days—for you or the people around you. To make everyone happy, pack a complete change of clothing. Pick shirts with long sleeves. (You can roll up long sleeves in hot weather, but you can’t pull down short sleeves in cold weather.) Also consider adding a hat and rain gear. And make sure you have sturdy shoes since the most common injuries during disasters are foot cuts.

1818 | Mess kits: One of the most important pieces in surviving a disaster is eating. Food improves your mood. And while your food selection during a disaster may not be gourmet, that doesn’t mean it has to be uncivilized. You can still eat off of plates using knives and forks and spoons. OK, the plates may be paper and the utensils plastic, but it’s better than eating out of a can. Don’t forget paper towels. And insulated mugs also work well since you can use them for hot soup or cold drinks.

1919 | Family and emergency contact information: For most people these days, this is kept in their cell phones. Don’t risk your phone dying. Keep names and phone numbers of family members, doctors, pharmacies, insurance agents, anyone who you may need to contact in a notebook. It’s old-school, yes, but in a disaster when the power is out you often have to resort back to how things were done in the 1970s–before there were smart phones, the Internet and quite possibly fire.

2920 | Baby supplies: Going through a disaster is tough. Going through a disaster with an upset baby is a double disaster. Many parents already keep a baby bag, but if not make sure you have enough diapers and food to make it through three days, along with baby powder, wipes, pacifiers and whatever else your baby needs.

21 | Miscellaneous items: Safety pins, Velcro strips, bobby pins, rubber bands, super glue, carabiners. It’s amazing how often you need these things. Just toss some in a small bag or container and you’ll be good to go.23

22 | Sharpies: They’ll write on anything. Label plates and cups so the kids don’t argue over which one is theirs. Write on a piece of duct tape and you can leave a note anywhere. Put your name on your disaster kit and anything (and everything) else.

23 | Storage: Ziploc baggies can hold leftovers as well as keep papers or cell phones dry. Garbage bags not only provide a place for trash, but they can double as ponchos if it’s raining, an extra layer to keep you warm or a tarp if you’re sitting on wet ground. Storage containers can hold items when you’re preparing your disaster kit, and then be used as bowls to eat out of or a place to store leftovers. Plastic grocery bags are great to hold wet clothes or washcloths, or you can use the handles and string them up with some rope for out-of-the-way storage space.

2424 | Snacks: A little snack is a welcome relief during a disaster. Hard candy such as butterscotch candies and peppermints are ideal for disaster kits, since they won’t melt and taste good.25

25 | Two-way radios: During many disasters, cell phone service tends to go out along with the electricity, so a great way to keep in contact with family members is to share a couple of two-way radios. They’re small, relatively inexpensive and have a range of up to 50 miles.

2626 | Work gloves: Most disasters leave behind a mess, meaning you may have to move dirty or dangerous debris. Gloves can also double as hand warmers on cold days, pot holders if you’re cooking on a camp stove, even fly swatters if you have good hand-eye coordination.

27 | An extra set of car and house keys: When a disaster hits, you may not have time to grab your keys, so keep an extra set in your bag.

10543627_10202384639359181_6743445317021780746_n28 | Pet supplies: Don’t forget the dog and cat. Plan for three days of pet food and supplies, as well as extra water for your pets. A toy or two also helps. If you have a cat, aluminum roasting pans are inexpensive and make great makeshift litter boxes. For dogs, pack an extra leash and clean-up bags. If you can’t grab a crate, make sure you have a blanket for your pets to sleep on. It also helps to have photos of your pets in case you become separated. Medical records also help.

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29 | Entertainment:
TVs, the Xbox, DVD players—none of these things work when the electricity’s out, so unless you’re a musician or stand-up comedian, the kids are going to need something to keep them entertained. Crayons, pencils and paper work with smaller kids. Card games and puzzle books might work for older kids. Don’t forget to bring reading material for yourself.

3030 | A multi-purpose tool: These amazing little devices go beyond the basic pocket knife by including such handy tools as a can opener, scissors, a saw, pliers, screwdrivers, tweezers and files. You’ll find yourself using this more than you think.

Remembering Hurricane Katrina

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Ten years ago, the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States, Hurricane Katrina barreled its way onto land, causing devastation from Florida to Texas.  And the Red Cross launched the largest disaster response in its 134 year history, involving more than 245,000 disaster workers and volunteers who helped millions of people with shelter, food and funds to help them get back on their feet.

John Gareis and Tony Rivera of the Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross were among the relief workers dispatched to the hurricane-affected region.  They were featured this week in a story about the 10th anniversary of hurricane Katrina, aired by WKYC channel 3.

As noted in the story, the Red Cross established the Safe and Well website to let family and friends know you’re OK after a disaster.  And to help children be better prepared for future disasters, the Pillowcase Project was launched.  It teaches students in third, fourth and fifth grades how to create a disaster kit by packing essential items into a pillowcase for swift escape and easy transport in the face of emergencies.

If you are a registered volunteer who has taken the Disaster Services Overview course and are interested in presenting a Pillowcase Project to children, please call John Gareis at 216-431-3219 or email him at John.Gareis@redcross.org.  If you are not a volunteer yet, log onto redcross.org/volunteer to get started.

And as we note the tenth anniversary of hurricane Katrina, millions of people in Florida and along the Gulf Coast are breathing a bit easier, as all tropical storm warnings and watches were dropped following the weakening of what once was tropical storm Erika.  But it serves as a reminder that this is peak season for hurricanes, and the Red Cross is ready to assist, whenever and wherever needed.

Why I Volunteer: Disaster Mental Health

By: Christine, a Red Cross Volunteer in Boston (but calls NEO her hometown)

A colleague of mine, another therapist, always talks to clients about “shipwreck experiences”: those moments of tragedy where we are pushed to our limits, but learn something about ourselves and are moved to grow. That’s more than a feel-good saying or a pop-psychology mantra. In fact, it is at the core of the theory of post-traumatic growth, a counterpart to the idea of post-traumatic stress, and something that’s been found to happen more commonly than previously believed.

But how do people grow when everything around them seems to be lost? There are many pieces to that puzzle, but one of them is the support of the community. It is that support, which the Red Cross gives, and that Disaster Relief volunteers are trained to provide. These are the community responders you see on the news during times of tragedy. Perhaps they are setting up cots in gymnasiums, or preparing meals out of a truck. They are also the ones at the home fire in the middle of the night, handing out blankets and water.

My own background is in providing mental health services, and as a psychologist I work every day with people who have experienced loss – but usually months and years after the fact. When I was in grad school a professor of mine spoke to our class about the Red Cross’ Disaster Mental Health (DMH) services. This was in the years immediately following 9/11, and there were many stories about psychologists, social workers, and mental health counselors who had worked Ground Zero.

A key point, he said, was that we would unfortunately have to wait to volunteer till we were licensed and could practice independently. So, I finished my clinical training, graduated, did more coursework and training to get licensed, and in the process sort of forgot about it all.

On April 15, 2013, I was getting home just after 3 p.m. from volunteering at Mile 13 of the Boston Marathon. I didn’t understand the words I was reading when a friend texted asking me about explosions. Throughout the next hour I had people, having seen my excited posts about heading off to volunteer and my close-up shots of the course, trying to text and Facebook me about where I was and if I was ok. I, myself, was trying to keep my cool as I texted the family of friends who were supposed to be crossing the finish line. I am still grateful that all of my friends and their families were safe, but it was a long, few hours. A mini-shipwreck experience, if you will.

The next day I looked into the Red Cross DMH training. Things were chaotic, and I didn’t hear back from the coordinator. It got set aside as I dealt with people already in my practice that had been affected by the bombing. But this time I didn’t forget, and finally I made the time to apply this summer.

When I was ready, the process was actually quite easy – go through your local Red Cross website, you can walk through the process of signing up. My trainings were mostly online, and volunteer coordinators helped me along the way. I’ll actually do my last training soon, and then I’ll start attending update meetings as the year goes on. I’ll be able to give my schedule of when I can volunteer for common incidents (like house fires) and be on call for larger incidents.

Through the trainings I learned more about the Red Cross and its mission, the role of Disaster Relief, and the specifics of being a DMH volunteer. The coolest thing I learned? That there are people, mostly retirees, that are called DOVEs (Disaster Operations Volunteer Escapees) who travel the US in RVs, and wait to be called upon to travel to disaster sites. My husband is not yet aware that I am going to push for this in our retirement. Please don’t ruin the surprise!

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A photo of the author from her “grown-up” job.

Operation Save-A-Life Volunteers Help Protect Euclid Residents From Home Fires

A neighborhood in Euclid is measurably safer today than it was before Saturday.  That’s when volunteers from the Red Cross Greater Cleveland Chapter teamed up with employees from Lincoln Electric and the Euclid Fire Department to educate, check smoke alarms, replace old batteries, and install new alarms where needed.

It was the largest one-day installation event in the history of the Northeast Ohio Region.

Part of the Red Cross Operation Save-A-Life program, the Euclid Fire Safety Walk targeted homes on five streets west and north of Euclid High School on E. 222nd Street.  10 teams of volunteers fanned out across the neighborhood to go door-to-door, sharing fire safety information with nearly 700 households.

The enthusiastic volunteers were briefed by John Gareis, Regional Training Coordinator for the Northeast Ohio region of the Red Cross. Leading the dozens of volunteers from Lincoln Electric was CEO, Chris Mapes, who offered a prayer prior to the start of the walk, as volunteers gathered at the Euclid Fire Department.  Team leaders were chosen, team members were assigned, and the volunteers were dispatched, many working for several hours to make sure every house in the neighborhood was covered.

“Because smoke alarms cut the risk of death from fire in half, the efforts of the volunteers will help prevent human suffering,” according to Mike Parks, CEO of the Northeast Ohio Region.  Mike also joined volunteers, asking residents to take two simple steps that can save lives: check their existing smoke alarms and practice fire drills with their families.

Chris and Mike both worked diligently to determine fire safety needs and install smoke alarms when needed.  After seeing a group of children playing on Westport Ave., Chris traveled to the nearest Dairy Queen and bought Dilly Bars, taking them back to the kids who were grateful for the cool treats on a warm, sunny summer day.

Fire experts agree that people may have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home before it’s too late.  But a recent national survey shows more than 60% of Americans mistakenly believe they have five minutes or more to get out of a burning home.  And nearly 20% think they have at least 10 minutes to escape.  The poll also shows fewer than one in five families with children have actually practiced a home fire drill, and that nearly 70% of parents think their children would know what to do or how to escape a burning home with little help.  Those are some of the potentially deadly myths that were dispelled during the Fire Safety Walk.

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By the end of the day, 354 new smoke alarms had been installed, and many more existing alarms had fresh batteries, thanks to the dedication and enthusiasm of the volunteers from the Red Cross and Lincoln Electric.

If you would like to volunteer, or learn more about volunteer opportunities, visit www.redcross.org/volunteer.

Improvements Continue, Says Top Red Cross Executive

2016 will be the Year of Stability for the American Red Cross.  That declaration came from Sue Richter, Division Vice President, who paid a visit to the Cleveland office on Tuesday, August 18. There she shared with the region;’s leadership team many of the accomplishments of the past year, a year of “embracing changes and improvements.”

Sue, who has served as interim CEO for several Red Cross regions throughout the country, said one of the major goals of the Red Cross nationally is the expansion of Operation Save-A-Life, a program that started in Cleveland more than 20 years ago, following a spate of deadly house fires.  With the help of valuable partnerships and dedicated volunteers, over 150,000 free smoke alarms have been installed throughout the area.  Operation Save-A-Life does just that: deaths related to home fires have fallen significantly in the city of Cleveland since the start of the program, according to Mike Parks, CEO of the Northeast Ohio region.

The effort continues. Madison Township, near Mansfield, had a successful fire walk on Tuesday, August 18. In partnership with the Madison Township Fire Department, the Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter installed 114 smoke alarms in nearly 70 homes. Trained volunteers with the Greater Cleveland Chapter of the American Red Cross will be joined by partners from Lincoln Electric and the Euclid Fire Department to install free smoke alarms in Euclid this Saturday, August 22.

Meantime, Sue said that getting volunteers even more involved with all of the life-saving efforts of the Red Cross is a top priority. Red Cross leaders are working hard to identify the areas where volunteers are needed most, so that they can be deployed in the most effective way possible. “We’ve only begun to scratch the surface,” she said, when it comes to tapping into the Red Cross’ passionate volunteer force. “We’re on the right track.”

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Get to Know Us Before You Need Us: Our Service to the Armed Forces Program

The American Red Cross’ unwavering commitment to members of the U.S. military, its veterans and their families continues to grow and develop more than a century after Clara Barton first recruited nurses to support the U.S. Army. Today, the Red Cross is meeting the needs of a changing military and expanding services to veterans. Red Cross support of military members and their families enhances morale and contributes to increased operational capability in several ways.

The Red Cross provides critical services with a caring touch to men and women in all branches of the United States military, active duty personnel, reservists and members of the National Guard, and their families. Through our Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program, service men and women are eligible for three types of assistance beginning on the first day of enlistment: Emergency Services, Service to Military Families and Service to Military and Veterans Hospitals.

In Northeast Ohio we have a number of opportunities to support our Service to the Armed Forces program:

  • Casework follow up for emergency communication and financial assistance cases
  • Support Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service (VAVS) at various locations such as: Louis Stokes VA Medical Center and outpatient clinics (Akron, Canton, Cleveland, Lorain, Mansfield, Parma, Youngstown and the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery) and the Ohio Veterans Home in Sandusky
  • Represent the Red Cross at military and military family outreach events
  • Conduct family briefings at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) in Cleveland as new recruits get ready to leave for training
  • K-9 Action Team pet visitation

If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering with our SAF program apply via Volunteer Connection.

  • Current volunteers: sign in, click “opportunities”, apply
  • New volunteers: visit https:redcross.org/neo
    • Click on “volunteer” tab in left margin
    • Submit application profile and complete remaining application checklist

For general questions regarding the application process, please contact Volunteer Services at 216-431-3328 or NEOVolunteer@redcross.org.

For detailed questions about our Service to the Armed Forces program, please contact Jessica Tischler at Jessica.tischler@redcross.org or 216-426-7525.

Well, it’s a Hot One. Learn How to Beat the Heat!

With high, high Northeast Ohio temperatures expected this week, it’s important that you keep three key things in mind to beat the heat: stay cool, stay hydrated and stay informed.

Stay Cool

Here are a few ways to keep your body temperature cool to avoid heat-related illness.

  • Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible.
  • Find an air-conditioned shelter.
  • Do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device.
  • Avoid direct sunlight.
  • Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing.
  • Take cool showers or baths.
  • Check on those most at-risk twice a day.

Stay Hydrated

Your body may sweat more in these temps, which means you will be losing fluids.

  • Drink more water than usual.
  • Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink more fluids.
  • Avoid alcohol or liquids containing high amounts of sugar.
  • Encourage others (especially those at risk like people 65 and older, pregnant women and children) to drink enough water.

Stay Informed

Download the free Red Cross First Aid app to learn more about how to treat heat related illnesses. Here are a few of the warning signs:

Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms that usually occur in the legs or abdomen. Heat cramps are often an early sign that the body is having trouble with the heat.

  • Get the person to a cooler place and have him or her rest in a comfortable position. Lightly stretch the affected muscle and gently massage the area.
  • Give an electrolyte-containing fluid, such as a commercial sports drink, fruit juice or milk. Water may also be given. Do not give the person salt tablets.
Heat exhaustion is a more severe condition than heat cramps. Heat exhaustion often affects athletes, firefighters, construction workers and factory workers. It also affects those wearing heavy clothing in a hot, humid environment.
  • Signs of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale, ashen or flushed skin; headache; nausea; dizziness; weakness; and exhaustion.
  • Move the person to a cooler environment with circulating air. Remove or loosen as much clothing as possible and apply cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin. Fanning or spraying the person with water also can help. If the person is conscious, give small amounts of a cool fluid such as a commercial sports drink or fruit juice to restore fluids and electrolytes. Milk or water may also be given. Give about 4 ounces of fluid every 15 minutes.
  • If the person’s condition does not improve or if he or she refuses water, has a change in consciousness, or vomits, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that usually occurs by ignoring the signals of heat exhaustion. Heat stroke develops when the body systems are overwhelmed by heat and begin to stop functioning.
  • Signs of heat stroke include extremely high body temperature, red skin which may be dry or moist; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; rapid, shallow breathing; confusion; vomiting; and seizures.
  • Heat stroke is life-threatening. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
  • Preferred method: Rapidly cool the body by immersing the person up to the neck in cold water, if possible OR douse or spray the person with cold water.
  • Sponge the person with ice water-doused towels over the entire body, frequently rotating the cold, wet towels.
  • Cover the person with bags of ice.
  • If you are not able to measure and monitor the person’s temperature, apply rapid cooling methods for 20 minutes or until the person’s condition improves.

For more information on at-risk populations, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website: http://www.cdc.gov/extremeheat/