A Month of Preparedness, sneak peek into September at the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

One piece of the mission of the American Red Cross is to prevent human suffering in the face of emergencies. The simplest way to do that is to help individuals and families learn how to be prepared for the disasters that happen in our communities. When a disaster strikes, because it can and will happen, everyone will have the tools and knowledge to respond accordingly.

The month of September is National Preparedness Month. For the Red Cross and many of our partner organizations, September is the perfect opportunity to voice the power of being prepared in our homes and in our communities.

There are so many simple, quick ways to prepare for an emergency situation.

  1. Check your smoke detectors once a month and change the battery at least once a year.
  2. If you don’t have smoke detectors, install them. One in every bedroom, one outside of sleeping areas and one on every level of your home. (NOTE: carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors are not the same thing.)
  3. Make a Fire Escape Plan and teach it to every member of the household.
  4. Practice your plan twice a year.
  5. Know what emergencies can affect your area: Flooding, Tornadoes, etc.
  6. Create a 72-hour Emergency Kit filled with necessities to keep your family safe and sound for 3 days.
  7. Take a first aid and CPR course.
  8. Download the FREE Red Cross Apps through iOS or Android app marketplaces.
  9. Make your neighbors part of your emergency plan (and you become a part of theirs), especially if they are older adults or have young children in the home.

All September long, our blog will be dedicated to details ways that you can get your family prepared, so be sure to subscribe or check back often.

If you are regular reader of this blog or just happened here through Google, please, share this link with your friends and colleagues. It is vitally important that we help ourselves and each other before an emergency situation happens.

Jessica’s Red Cross story

Jessica Sandoval, a summer intern with the Lorain County Chapter, displays her Leadership Lorain certificate.

Jessica Sandoval, a summer intern with the Lorain County Chapter, displays her Leadership Lorain certificate.

Following my sophomore year as a marketing major at University of Dayton, I became involved with the Lorain County Chapter of the American Red Cross through the Leadership Lorain County Internship Program. As the Communications Specialist Intern, I was responsible for increasing Red Cross awareness and donations through effective communications, public relations and the use of social media tools.

Previous to my assignment, I knew very little about the American Red Cross, but I was quickly amazed by this incredible organization. The American Red Cross is a non-profit organization and not a federal agency. As such, it receives no regular federal funding. The Red Cross also does a lot more than host blood drives. Each region is well equipped with a Disaster Action Team, Disaster Mental Health Team, and an array of other volunteers. They also offer services to the Armed Forces—from preparing soldiers and their families for deployment to getting those same soldiers emergency contact with their families while overseas.

Based on my experience, I do not think the public is well aware of the extent to which the Red Cross helps our local, as well as national, communities.

While attending a Friday Forum at the Cleveland City Club to hear President and CEO of the American Red Cross, Gail McGovern, speak I met a volunteer who truly changed my life. The woman, who dedicates 100% of her time to volunteering, and I discussed her career in the medical field and a trip she took to India to treat patients in a poor village. I commended her on her voluntarism and expressed how I wished my future profession in the business world would allow me to help people the same way hers does. I commented that those in the medical field have the ability to go the extra mile and help people in a more profound way than any other profession. She informed me it is not an extra mile, but a different mile.

During my time at the Lorain County Chapter I helped prepare for the annual 5K Run for the Red, and have witnessed the chapter go through a merger with the Firelands Chapter. I also created several campaigns for different chapter events including Christmas in July which supported the annual Holiday Mail for Heroes and the Pillowcase Project sponsored by Disney. I contributed blogs on chapter events and also created a Social Media and Marketing timeline for the annual 5K. I also canvased for our 5K, made phone calls in hopes of obtaining donations, and spread Red Cross awareness whenever and wherever I could. As a marketing major, I believe I learned so much about my future profession as well as what it is like to work for a non-profit organization. I had the opportunity to become CPR Certified as well as take Disaster Overview and Fundamental courses.

Whether it was hearing a volunteer’s Red Cross Story, or learning something new about my major (or even myself), I was inspired every single day when I stepped over the threshold of that history Lorain County building. I could not agree more with President and CEO of the American Red Cross, Gail McGovern, when she says, “the depth and breadth of all the Red Cross does still amaze me, and it’s an incredible privilege to play a part in it.” I plan on continuing my involvement with the American Red Cross as I complete the last two years of school and well into my future.

 

The power of being prepared (at any age)…

My boys are survivalists at heart.

When they were little, each carried around a bag full of cherished things:   “Puppy” the stuffed dog, a tape measure from Papa, a wallet with a few bucks in it, a note pad, a toy car, a plastic hammer, a blanket.  Today they still carry around bags, though now it is a camel pack filled with a pocket knife, wallet, gloves, bug spray, bandana, flashlight, and first aid kit.  As teenagers they are more inclined to be prepared for an emergency.

This is not a scientific fact, but, personally, I believe that people want to be prepared. Stuffing a bag full of essentials is one way to do that.  Heck, I have a purse stuffed full with essentials, myself! This personal belief is what made me fall in love with the American Red Cross Pillowcase Project sponsored by Disney!

A Girl Scout troop colors preparedness kits during a Red Cross Pillowcase Project session.

A Girl Scout troop colors preparedness kits during a Red Cross Pillowcase Project session.

The pillowcase project is an emergency preparedness exercise that teaches children grades 3-5 about weather related emergencies, coping mechanisms, and provides them with a “bag” in which to stuff all their essentials.  Instead of an ordinary bag it is a personally decorated, canvas pillowcase. I was very excited about this project, not only as a Red Crosser, but also as a parent.  I signed up right away to be a presenter and am so happy that I did.

My first session was with a group of Girl Scouts from Wooster, Ohio.  To my surprise they were very well-versed in tornado safety.  They already knew the difference between a tornado watch and a warning.  They knew where to go and what to do.  They were very smart cookies (no pun intended)!  However, when we talked about coping mechanisms, none of them really knew what that meant. As a presenter, I was able to introduce them to new ways to deal with fear and anxiety in just a few steps through coping mechanisms like breathing with color or singing their favorite song.  These mechanisms can help on a day-to-day basis and in times of emergency.

When the time came to pass out the pillowcases, we talked about what they would put in their pillowcase.  I asked them to think about the items that they would need in an emergency.  They began to list the items like flashlight, band-aids, batteries, phone charger before they mentioned the important stuff: stuffed animals, pictures of family, and special toys.

It is very important to be prepared for an emergency physically – with all the emergency equipment – but it is equally as important prepared mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Hence the need for a stuffed animal and family photos!

This project is valuable in so many ways.  It is a fun and interactive teaching tool and the take a way is a tangible, touchable, stuffable pillowcase.  My day-to-day tasks don’t usually put me in contact with children, but this project has allowed me to reach out to the children in our community as future Red Crossers, future leaders, volunteers, and emergency personal.  I feel priveledged to be a Pillowcase Presenter.

Katie Myers-Griffith

Executive Director, American Red Cross, Ashland & Wayne Counties, Ohio.

 

Heading out to the movies this weekend?

Wildfire is a phenomena that we don’t really worry about happening here in Northeast Ohio.

However, if you are heading out to see Disney’s new movie, Planes Fire and Rescue, then you may want to arm yourself for the conversation that could follow.

In the movie, Dusty Crophopper (star of the first Planes movie) travels to Piston Peak National Park to train as a firefighter. While there he encounters and fights several wildfires.

Careless use of fire in heavily wooded areas such as a campsite at Piston Peak, combined with drought or dry conditions, dramatically increase the chance of a wildfire. Fire can spread quickly.

A Red Cross Volunteer observes first responders at a Wildfire.

When a wildfire rages, every second counts.

While first responders, like Dusty, control the fire through aerial and ground maneuvering, the American Red Cross establishes shelters and provides food and water to those who were forced to flee their homes. Shelters provide a safe place to stay and volunteers offer support and a caring shoulder. Once it is safe to return to a community, the Red Cross provides trash bags, masks and heavy work gloves to the people who start to shift through the ashes.

The Red Cross may also provide refreshments to the first responders who fight the blazes. (Cab, a cola depicted in the movie, anyone?)

Preparedness is paramount to those who live in areas susceptible to wildfire. That is why the Red Cross developed Wildfire Safety Tips and the Wildfire App.

In our communities, the Red Cross is more likely to respond to a home fire. In Northeast Ohio, we respond to an average 2.5 home fires a night. Some of the steps you can take to prevent this is your own home include:

  • Keep anything that can catch fire—like pot holders, towels, plastic and clothing— away from the stove.
  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Talk to your children regularly about the dangers of fire, matches and lighters and keep them out of reach.
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
  • Teach your children what smoke alarms sound like and what to do when they hear one.
  • Once a month check whether each alarm in the home is working properly by pushing the test button.
  • Replace batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year. Immediately install a new battery if an alarm chirps, warning the battery is low.
  • Carbon monoxide alarms are not substitutes for smoke alarms. Know the difference between the sound of smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms.
  • Ensure that all household members know two ways to escape from every room of your home.
  • Make sure everyone knows where to meet outside in case of fire.
  • Practice escaping from your home at least twice a year and at different times of the day. Practice waking up to smoke alarms, low crawling and meeting outside. Make sure everyone knows how to call 9-1-1.
  • Teach household members to STOP, DROP and ROLL if their clothes should catch on fire.

For more information on home fire prevention and safety, visit our website.

Some of the scenes in Planes Fire and Rescue may be a little worrisome to young viewers. You can assure them that there plenty of specially trained first responders ready to respond to the emergency. And organizations, like the Red Cross, are ready to respond to the people who experience a wildfire or a home fire.

Basement Flooded? Follow these four safety steps.

Mailbox in Flood WatersStep #1: Stay SAFE!

Don’t risk serious injury if your basement floods. A flooded basement can be a serious health and safety risk. If your basement floods, follow these rules to make sure your family stays safe.

  •  Avoid venturing down into the basement if possible. In a severe basement flooding situation (water covering the basement floor to a depth of an inch or more), it’s best to stay out of the basement until the water is pumped out. Standing water in your basement can contain harmful bacteria.
  • Never touch electrical wiring or fixtures. If you must venture down into a flooded basement, wear waterproof rubber boots. Avoid touching or using electrical devices (except for a battery-powered flashlight) because this puts you at risk of electrical shock or electrocution.
  • Have standing water pumped out as soon as possible.

 

Step #2: Determine the cause of your flooded basement.

Sometimes the source of unwanted water is obvious –as with a burst water line or sewer backup. In other cases, water may be leaking into your basement for different reasons. If it is not obvious what caused your flooding, contact a licensed professional for an inspection.

Step #3. Remove water-damaged items and begin cleanup.

Are there wood-framed walls finished with drywall in your basement? If so, the lower section of these walls is likely to retain moisture and attract mold –even without a major basement flood. Take precautions for safety, but begin clean up as soon as possible. Eliminate the source of the flooding first, then clean up and toss out anything that is contaminated, using bleach and similar household cleaners. Bleach is the best cleaning product to kill mold, mildew and bacteria.

Step #4. Mitigate future flooding.

There are a number of ways you can mitigate future flooding loss by installing preventive equipment and valves, raising the height of critical utilities and appliances off the floor or out of your basement entirely, and simply keeping gutters clean. Make sure the ground around your home slopes away from your foundation. Raising the electrical outlets in your basement can also alleviate electrical shorts and injury due to shock. Acquire flood insurance.

For more information, download this helpful check list and information sheet: Basement Flooding – Safety and Clean-up Checklist

Is there still wicked weather raging over your house? Learn what to do before, during and after a flood. Download the Flood Safety Checklist, check out the Red Cross Flood App (available for iOS and Android) or visit the American Red Cross Flood Safety page.