Winter Prep: Simple Steps to Stay Safe

Blizzards, ice storms, Nor’easters and freezing cold ­ winter can be a killer. The season can have a huge impact on travel, schools, businesses and health. Just look at what happened to Buffalo recently, where people were trapped at home and in their cars due to snow measured by the foot. Or the Thanksgiving Nor’easter that disrupted the busiest travel day of the year and left more than 400,000 people without power in the northeast. Don’t let winter hazards catch you unprepared. Follow these simple steps from the National Weather Service to stay safe this winter:

1. Know your risk

Check the forecast at weather.gov before you leave the house. Familiarize yourself with winter watches, warnings and advisories so you know what to do when the National Weather Service issues one for your area.

2. Take Action

Make sure you have an emergency supplies kit in both your home and car. If possible, avoid leaving your home if hazardous winter weather is approaching. If you must leave, make sure you are dressed for the elements and that your mobile phone is fully charged. If it’s too cold for you to be outside, it’s also too cold for pets. Make sure to provide a warm, dry place for any animals that typically stay outdoors.

To learn more about cold weather health dangers, like frostbite and hypothermia download the free Red Cross First Aid app (a 99¢ Red Cross Pet First Aid app is also available!)

3. Be A Force of Nature

Set an example and others will follow. Take to social media to post about approaching hazardous weather and tell your family and friends how you are preparing (on Twitter use #WinterPrep). Call friends, family and neighbors to alert them to dangers and encourage them to get ready for the storm. After the storm passes, check on your loved ones and neighbors. Offer assistance where you can, especially to the elderly who are particularly vulnerable. Be a Force of Nature in your hometown. Winter weather can be deadly. But with a few simple steps, you can stay safe.

Winter Driving Safety Tips from the Red Cross

While the Red Cross encourages you to stay off the road if possible, if you have to drive in snow or freezing rain, follow these tips about how to drive safely during a winter storm or what to do if you become stuck in your vehicle:

  • Make sure your vehicle is ready for winter with a window scraper, kitty litter or sand in case you get stuck, extra clothes and a Disaster Supplies Kit in your trunk. Pack high-protein snacks, water, first aid kit, flashlight, small battery-operated radio, an emergency contact card with names and phone numbers, extra prescription medications, blankets and important documents or information you may need (for a more detailed list, check out our post about vehicle emergency kits!)
  • Fill the vehicle’s gas tank and clean the lights and windows to help you see.
  • Find out what disasters may occur where you are traveling and pay attention to the weather forecast. Before you leave, let someone know where you are going, the route you plan to take, and when you expect to get there. If your car gets stuck, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
  • If you have to drive, make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions such as cell phones.
  • Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways.
  • Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.
  • Don’t pass snow plows.
  • Know that ramps, bridges and overpasses will freeze before roadways.
  • Don’t run your engine and heater constantly to help avoid running out of gas. Don’t use things like lights or the radio without the engine running so the battery doesn’t conk out.
  • If you can, move your vehicle off the roadway. Stay with it – don’t abandon it. If you have to get out of your vehicle, use the side away from traffic.

5 Years Later, Remembering the 2010 Earthquake in Haiti

by Wedley Charles, Intern at the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

January 12, 2010 I was being lured to sleep by the monotone voice of my physical education professor at Saint Cloud High School in Florida. He was rambling about the dangers that exist in the world and I decided to doodle. I was lost in my own world until he said “Disasters happen Wedley, you’ll never know when it’ll be your last day.”

I felt like a prisoner in my own mind when I arrived home. I couldn’t escape the words my professor told me. As I was walking towards my father I overheard breaking news from CNN saying there was an earthquake the magnitude of 7.0. The earthquake hit the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince, and neighboring cities.

My father, his bestfriend from Cap-Haitien, and I

My father, his best-friend, and I

My father went into an immediate panic. You could hear him mashing the buttons into the body of his phone. He was trying to contact all of his family members in Haiti, but he couldn’t reach them all. I remember him telling me stories of him growing up in a village in Cap-Haitien. The people of the village raised the children together teaching them local traditions and customs. He told me it would be his dream to have me go to his village and see his family. Now that the earthquake hit, I could no longer see those dreams.

Days later we discovered that my father lost two cousins and his wife at the time lost three family members. The deaths occurred northeast of the capital; La Gonave, Gonaives, Cap-Haitien.

The American Red Cross has supported more than 4.5 million Haitians since the 2010 earthquake. They have also contributed $98 million to improve the vital health care in Haiti. This allows families to have better access to quality medical care and clean water. $48 million dollars have been spent on job training, cash grants, and livelihood programs for the devastated communities. The Red Cross has also started programs to help entrepreneurs improve their business and marketing skills and they’ve trained nearly 10,000 people in construction techniques for emergency-ready homes. They provided safer sheltering conditions for 132,000 Haitians and upgraded or repaired more than 15,000 homes enabling them to remain safe far into the future.

Haiti 5 year Infographic

Haiti 5 year Infographic

The fundraising efforts of the Red Cross contributed $488 million for work in Haiti. The American Red Cross worked in partnership with the Haitian Red Cross and local Haitian organizations to support and sustain a permanent culture of preparedness.

Gail McGovern, CEO of the American Red Cross said “I have seen firsthand the destruction and shock in the days right after the earthquake, where people were just trying to get through the day with minimal food, water and health care. I have seen the steady progress and the return of a spirit of resiliency as Haitians have rebuilt their lives and communities. The pace of progress on the road to recovery is never as fast as we would like, but everywhere you look, there is a marked difference in Haiti, and I’m very proud of all that we have accomplished.”

Wising you a safe and happy 2015!

With the new year quickly approaching, many people will reflect on the current year and how they can improve their lives in the coming one.

With that in mind, we’ve come up with some Red Cross Resolutions that will help you, your family and your community in 2015.

#1: Get a Kit

Whether you call it your disaster kit, a survival kit or a 72-hour kit – every household should have one. This kit should include everything your family would need to survive if you needed to shelter-in-place for at least 3 days.

For an in-depth look on how to build a kit for your home and auto, take a look at this blog post (home), this one for auto or visit www.redcross.org/prepare

#2: Make a Plan

Experts agree, an individual may have as few as 2 minutes to exit a burning building.

It is important to make sure that the entire family is prepared and informed in the event of a disaster or emergency. You may not always be together when these events take place and should have plans for making sure you are able to contact and find one another.

Here are some basic steps to make sure you remain safe:

  • With your your family or household members, discuss how to prepare and respond to emergencies that are most likely to happen where you live, learn, work and play.
  • Identify responsibilities for each member of your household and plan to work together as a team.
  • If a family member is in the military, plan how you would respond if they were deployed.
  • Choose two places to meet:
    • Right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, such as a fire.
    • Outside your neighborhood (such as a relative or friend’s house in a different part of town), in case you cannot return home or are asked to evacuate.
  • Choose an out-of-area emergency contact person. It may be easier to text or call long distance if local phone lines are overloaded or out of service. Everyone should have emergency contact information in writing or saved on their cell phones.

For more information on how to make a plan for your home, visit www.redcross.org/prepare

#3: Volunteer

There are many ways to help your community with the Red Cross. You could volunteer to assist donors at a local blood drive, turn heartbreak into hope as a Disaster Action Team member, help connect emergency communications for military families or by giving your time and talents in any of the many volunteer positions available. To get started, visit www.redcross.org/volunteer

#4: Learn CPR

Would you know what to do in a cardiac, breathing or first aid emergency? The right answer could help you save a life. With an emphasis on hands-on learning, our First Aid/CPR/AED courses give you the skills to save a life.

To view local courses, visit www.redcross.org/takeaclass

#5: Give Blood

There’s no one reason to give blood. Maybe you or a family member received blood, or you think that one day you’ll be in need of it. Maybe your friend or colleague asked you to give blood. Maybe you think it’s the right thing to do. No matter the reason, your getting involved helps the Red Cross maintain a healthy and reliable blood supply.

To find a Blood Drive or donation location near you, visit www.redcross.org/blood

Operation Save-a-Life installs the 150,000th Smoke Alarm in Cleveland

It began in 1992, when five children died in a home fire. For Cleveland businessman, Sam Miller, those deaths were a wake-up call for change. The city had been experiencing 30-40 fire-related deaths each year.

That morning he called city leaders and the American Red Cross and soon the structure of Operation Save-a-Life began to take shape.

On December 19, 2014 the 150,000th smoke alarm was installed in the Erickson’s home on the west side of Cleveland.

“It is appropriate that this the home of five beautiful children,” said Sam Miller, who was in attendance at the installation, “as it was five deaths that were the catalyst for the creation of this life-saving program.”

Smoke alarms are integral in decreasing fire-related deaths. Experts agree that a family may have as few as two minutes to exit a burning home. Without the warning of a smoke alarm, the odds of getting out are severely lessened. To learn more about fire safety for your home, visit redcross.org.

In part to the efforts of Operation Save-a-Life, Cleveland has seen a continual drop in fire fatalities, which are at the lowest level in the past 100 years. So far, in 2014, there have been three.

“This program is one of our proudest achievements,” said Mary-Alice Frank, CEO for the Northeast Ohio Region, said to those gathered at the installation. Leaning down and handing the ceremonial gold smoke alarm to one of the Erickson children, she added, “May you know the sound that this alarm makes, but never have to hear it in an emergency.”

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Operation Save-A-Life is currently available to residents in Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, Euclid, and South Euclid. The alarms are free, which is made possible through the donations of community members and local businesses, and are installed by the Cleveland Fire Department. Interested community members are encouraged to call their city’s contact number for further information:

Cleveland – (216) 361-5535

Cleveland Heights – (216) 291-2291

Euclid – (216) 289-8425

South Euclid – (216) 691-4273

For more details contact John Gareis at john.gareis@redcross.org