Winner Declared for DCS Holiday Door Decorating Contest

By John Bernard,  Crossroads Division Disaster State Relationship Director

(Editor’s note: The winner of the annual Northeast Ohio Region Disaster Cycle Services (DCS) Holiday Door Decorating Contest has been announced by a panel of judges…make that judge.  We found the insightful comments of John Bernard, the Crossroads Division Disaster State Relationship Director so entertaining that we are including them, along with photos of all 10 doors entered in this year’s competition.)

#1. SOOOO close to the automatic win.  Most innovative use of Solo cups. Three dimensional effort.  Trunk looks like real wood.  BUT, the theme was diluted by the Star Wars wrapping paper, then Santa head and stocking.  Shoulda stuck to the Star Wars theme with the movie coming out, maybe Santa with a light saber, ”May the force….of giving….be with you.”

 

door #1

Door #1

 

#2.  Gingerbread house.  VERY nice.  Stuck to the theme. Obvious work went into the lights, the window with “frosting” behind it. You know, you were this close to the auto-win. Ginger bread Disaster Responder holding a comfort kit woulda done it!

 

door #2

Door #2

 

 

door #3

Door #3

 

 

#3. It’s a lovely door and recognizes the season appropriately but is rather minimalist.  Was this done by some Disaster Program Specialist that was 12 cases behind in review and had to plan a Disaster Action Team meeting that evening?  I can see it now; ”FINE – I’ll decorate my door, Renee (Palagyi, Senior Disaster Program Manager).”

 

door #4

Door #4

#4. North pole.  Mail box for letters, elf, Santa, sleigh, presents. However, there is a lot of door left brown. At least tape up some printer paper and call it snow. 

#5. What kindergarten class was forced into making those paper rings?  Child labor laws and the Geneva Convention prohibit this kind of tyranny!  Seriously, though, a very cute door but why not, “Oh, Tannenbaum?”

 

door #5

Door #5

 

 

door #6

Door #6

 

 

 

#6.  Obviously, a lot of scissor time went into this one.  Simple but the message is immense.  Question, why isn’t the dove carrying a smoke alarm?  You know we gotta install about a jillion of these things, right?

 door #7

 

 

 

 

#7.  What….in…the…name of Clara?  Set aside the fact that there is a funky wreath with Mickey up in there, set aside someone thinks Zack (McAvoy, Disaster Program Manager, Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter) would end up on the “nice” list, and even set aside THE SIZE OF SANTA’S HEAD, there is … a…. fire… in this decoration.  ……A…..FIRE!  You know we are anti-fire in this organization, right?  I mean, Anti-Fire is like our Unofficial Eighth Fundamental Principle.  Does Santa set fires? No.  Did Smokey the Bear sneak in and set it? No, not his gig.  So, the home owner in this scene left an UNATTENDED FIRE burning in a residential structure…obviously with people at home. Might as well deep fry a turkey in the living room while you’re at it.

8. Absolutely gorgeous wreath, except for cutting off an elf’s leg and sticking it on there.  You barbarian.  “Oh, I got an idea, I’ll decorate my door with the body parts of those I slay in battle.”  What, you get your decorating tips from Game of Thrones?  Well, at least you aren’t trying to BURN DOWN A HOUSE LIKE SOMEBODY WE KNOW!  [Coughing…number7].

door #8

#9.  The Charlie Brownest Cubicle in All the Land Award goes to #9.  That being said…..wrapping paper? That’s it?  Owner of #9 has a vast canvas at his/her disposal and could have highlighted every holiday with room to spare! Heck, the owner could have drawn out the entire DR structure, the IAPs, STREPs and 5266s needed to respond to the fire that #7 is trying to start.

 

door #9

Door #9

 

 

door #10#10. Frosty the Snowman!  Simple design that’s fun and happy!  Obviously, not the resident of one home that shall remain nameless. You know the one; it’s the SEVENTH house on Burned to the Ground Lane.

And the winner is…wait a second, I’m not done with you #7.  I looked closer; Mickey Mouse toys and a Mickey Disaster Preparedness Activity Book.  Did….did a Preparedness person do this door? Are you telling me that someone that specializes in preventing Home Fire Disasters, someone leading the Home Fire Campaign, actually put a FIRE in their decoration?  We have an nation effort, have installed more than 1 million alarms, raised hundreds of thousands of dollar to keep this…campaign…going….wait a second. #7, it’s all about job security for you, isn’t it?  In that case, well played.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the winner is #2, the Gingerbread Door! (Decorated by Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Disaster Program Manager Debbie Chitester.)  It stayed on theme, didn’t try to do too much, struck the right balance between too much and too little, and obviously, wasn’t ON FIRE (looking at you, #7).

It has been my pleasure judging your doors and my comments are all in fun. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!  May your holiday be filled with joy, rest, good food, and as few disaster calls as possible.

Veteran Police Officer Returns from CA Wildfire Response

Gets Emotional Describing the Devastation Following His First Red Cross Assignment

When Angel Morales signed-up to volunteer for the American Red Cross, he figured it would take six months before he’d be ready to help people suffering from major disasters.

It was more like six days.

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Red Cross volunteer Angel Morales speaks to the Greater Cleveland Board of Directors on December 12, 2017

“Can you go out to California?  We’ve got wildfires there.”  That’s what Angel says he heard when Emily Probst, Regional Disaster Workforce Engagement Manager called, less than a week after his initial training as a disaster responder.

“I took a two-day course.  It was very good. They gave me the basics for sheltering, feeding, and what they call mass care,” Angel recently told members of the Greater Cleveland Board of Directors. “They said in the classes ‘be ready to do whatever they need you to do to fill in.’  I wound up working at a warehouse, very left of center from what I’ve been doing administration-wise. It was a hands-on kind of job.”

Angel currently serves as the Deputy Chief of Police for the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority.  Before that, he led security for the Cleveland Browns, after spending more than 25 years with the Cleveland Police Department, “retiring” as Deputy Chief in 1999.

“I think everybody understands that retirement is just a transition to something else. So, I try to give back.  And I wanted to do hands-on rather than be a boss all the time, so I figured ‘let me start fresh with the Red Cross.’”

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Red Cross volunteer Angel Morales

Despite all his years in law enforcement, Angel says the devastation he experienced in California touched his heart. “In a wildfire, it’s different from a hurricane or a storm. Everything is devastated. There’s nothing. It’s burnt to the ground.”  He teared-up as he continued, “You can see me get emotional about it. People lose everything, it just touches your heart. You feel it. It doesn’t matter where you come from, you feel the devastation in your heart.”

Still, he calls the two-weeks he spent helping people impacted by the wildfires a great experience.  And he commends all the volunteers he met and worked with, people from all across the country and from different walks of life.

“They really make a great contribution.”

The Red Cross is always looking for volunteers to train, so that they can help people affected by disasters big and small, near and far, from wildfires in California to home fires in your community.  Visit redcross.org/neo and click the “volunteer” tab to start the application process.

Is That Your Christmas Tree On Fire?

By Doug Bardwell,  American Red Cross Communications and Disaster Services Volunteer

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As popular as artificial trees are, almost everyone loves the smell of a real tree during the holiday season. But, to make sure your holiday memories are nothing but wonderful, take a couple minutes to make sure your tree doesn’t cause the unexpected.

Your lovely tree can turn deadly in just seconds

Don’t let it happen to you or your loved ones.  Here are seven simple hints to keep in mind:

  1. Choose a fresh tree that you cut yourself, if possible. If not, shake the tree aggressively before buying and don’t select one that drops its needles while shaking. That’s a sure sign that it’s drying out already.
  2. If you didn’t cut the tree yourself, cut an additional two inches off the bottom of the tree to open its pores, so that it can absorb fresh water.
  3. Use a sturdy stand to prevent tipping, and make sure that the stand can hold an adequate amount of water to keep the tree as fresh as possible. Make a scheduled time to add water every day.
  4. Keep the tree at least three feet away from any ignition source, such as fireplaces, heaters, candles or high intensity lightbulbs.
  5. Use only UL-rated light strings on your tree and no more than the manufacturer’s recommended number of sets plugged together. Discard any lights with worn or frayed cords.
  6. Make sure the tree and cords do not extend into or across doorways or paths of egress.
  7. Make sure your smoke alarms are working properly and always turn off any Christmas lights before going to bed each night.

Out of control in 20 seconds – you won’t believe the speed or intensity of this fire

Watch this one-minute video from the National Fire Prevention Association showing how quickly a spark or small fire can ignite your beautiful tree.  In less than 20 seconds, you better be out of there. (You have discussed a family escape plan with your children haven’t you?)

As the video points out, a dry tree ignites faster than newspaper.  Protect yourself this season and enjoy the happiest of holidays.  If you need a smoke alarm installed in your home,  visit this page to click on your county of residence to request a free home fire safety inspection and free smoke alarm installations in your home..

When It’s Not Easy to Respond

By: Renee Palagyi, Senior Program Manager Disaster Cycle Services

Today as I put together our internal daily report, I was struck, as I am many days, by the number of fire fatalities in our region. We have had 18 fatalities since our fiscal year began in July. This compares to seven in the same time frame last year.

We always hope the number will decrease each year. There is not an easy or accurate explanation for such a change. We know that we are being notified of more cases and being called to assist in areas where we previously had no requests. We know that many of our counties have aging housing which probably includes old electrical wiring. We know that as we move into the colder months, fires increase with the use of unsafe heating.

Of course, those facts do nothing to ease the burden when horrible things happen to a family. Our Disaster Action Teams, those dedicated volunteers who go out to each fire call we receive, provide immediate assistance and our professional mental health and health service volunteers work with the families to aid in recovery.

One piece our daily report never covers is the third piece of the “Disaster Cycle”. Our response and recovery work receive attention through our work on large-scale or individual disasters. But the third arm of the cycle, preparedness, is where our mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering all begins.

The home fire preparedness campaign is one way that we, and each of our communities, can address the loss of human life in a truly constructive way.  Do smoke alarms save lives? Not by themselves. The bigger piece of this entire campaign is the education which MUST happen to ensure safety in the home. That education may occur during the installation of alarms, with young children during a “Pillowcase” presentation in schools or youth groups, or it may be a Red Cross presenter speaking to a service group such as Exchange, Rotary or Kiwanis. Regardless, there are key points which can make a difference, which can possibly save the next life.

A few simple facts:

  • Cooking fires account for 43% of all home fires
  • Smoking is the leading cause of fire-related fatalities
  • Adults over 65 are more than twice as likely to die in home fires compared to younger adults
  • Nearly two-thirds of all fire-related deaths occur in homes with no functioning smoke alarms
  • Almost one-quarter of smoke alarm failure is due to dead batteries
  • Smoke alarms should be tested monthly
  • All smoke alarms should be replaced after 10 years of use
  • Every family should develop and plan escape plans, with two different exits, in case of fire
  • Families need to exit the home within 2 minutes of smoke alarm sounding

To learn more about our program to help save lives in Northeast Ohio, or to learn how to join our mission, visit http://www.redcross.org/local/ohio/northeast/home-fire-safety.

“I Never Thought I’d Be the One”

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

Maybe it wasn’t a tornado, but the damage done in Twinsburg by random microbursts looked almost as devastating.  The most troublesome of all was the strike which knocked down a 30,000-volt power line on Liberty Road, along with six transmission poles.  4,000 Homes were plunged into darkness during the storm.

Upon hearing that First Energy estimated power wouldn’t be fully restored for three or four days, a Red Cross shelter was quickly established at the Twinsburg Community Center.  Cots were set up, snacks and warm drinks were available and best of all, it offered a place to warm up, as temperatures began to dip into the 20’s and 30’s.twinsburg shelter

“This is rather remarkable,” related one woman.  “I’ve been contributing to the Red Cross for years, assuming that the money would go to assist people; but now, seeing what you all are doing here, now I know for sure that my donations have been well spent.”

“Are you employees or volunteers?” That was a recurring question from many of those staying at the shelter.  When they found out that 90% of us were volunteers, the usual response was something akin to “Well, God bless you for all that you are doing.”

Carrying in two trays of sub sandwiches donated by the local Subway shop in Twinsburg, many people were pleasantly surprised to find that there was no charge for the meals served three times a day. And on hearing that Subway had graciously donated that meal, I’m certain that Subway is going to have a number of appreciative new customers in return.Shelter app

“I never thought I’d be the one receiving help from Red Cross,” said another. “I watched the big disasters in Texas and Puerto Rico unfold on TV; but never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d be spending a night in a Red Cross shelter. Thank you so much be being available and ready wherever you are needed.”

If you ever find yourself in a weather-related power outage, it’s easy to find the closest shelter to you by checking the Red Cross Emergency app available for iOS and Android phones.

 

So Much Has Happened…

reneeBy: Renee Palagyi, Senior Program Manager for Disaster Cycle Services in NEO (pictured on the left)

So much has happened since yesterday afternoon.

Yesterday, we were notified of the need for leadership staff to deploy to the tragedy in Las Vegas.

Since I have background in mass casualty, and am a registered nurse, I said that I would go to Las Vegas, if needed.

I called my husband to say, “what do you think?” As usual, he was more than supportive of what my feelings were regarding where I could be most useful.

Then the waiting began.

My first experience in mass casualty was without much training and it was difficult, in more ways than I thought possible. Red Cross has come a long way in how we provide care, not only for the clients but for our own workforce, in these large-scale tragedies. I kept looking over my training, making sure that I was ready for what could, potentially, lay ahead.

It was hard to get to sleep last night with so many thoughts moving through my mind. First, and foremost, was the horrific loss of life in Las Vegas. I know, from past work, that even two deaths can be a challenge to work through. I thought of the many people who knew and loved the more than 50 people who had died. I am always concerned if I am “up to the task,” but in these circumstances, being adept is critical. I wondered if I could be supportive and compassionate while not getting personally involved. I wondered if I had the right volunteers in place, here at home, to cover the work I already do each day and the special things on my schedule. I wondered if people would be upset that I was leaving while they were staying behind. I wondered if I would sleep at night (since I don’t sleep well when I’m away)…lots and lots of thoughts!

I think I looked at the clock every hour…………and I still hadn’t been assigned to the job!

This morning I got the email I had hoped for around 7 a.m. As part of the checks and balances process of deploying with the Red Cross, you are not confirmed to the assignment until you have been cleared by a disaster mental health specialist (DMH). Each operation is given hardship codes – special codes that help us determine what potential physical or mental hazards exist on the ground and what volunteers could experience. For this operation, one code is “extreme emotional experience”. So I had to face questions such as:  have you experienced a recent death of a close friend or family member? Have you ever worked in a situation of this type? What type of support system do you have?

Once I spoke with the DMH screener, I made my airline reservation. I called my husband to tell him the time of my flight tomorrow and we planned to have a great dinner tonight. I sent a note to my four adult children so they can start asking questions for which I have no answers.

I doubt that I will sleep again tonight.

My flight is at 9:45a.m., and I will be in Las Vegas at 11:15 a.m.

Prayers and thoughts are appreciated for those on the ground, and for all who will do this work.

 

Help for Hurricane Victims is Music to Our Ears

Bravo!

On Friday, September 8th, members of the Cleveland Orchestra and Credo Music, along with students from the Cleveland Institute of Music and Oberlin Conservatory of Music performed together at the famed Severance Hall in Cleveland.

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Conductor James Feddeck, a graduate of Oberlin Conservatory,  led the musicians through six compositions, including Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, and the American Red Cross March.

Henry Peyrebrune, Executive Director of Credo Music, said, “When the Credo Music staff first considered the idea of this concert, we decided to go for it – first, because it’s the right thing to do, and second, because it would be a turbo-charged fulfillment of our mission to develop young musicians for a lifetime of using their musical gifts to serve those around them.”

100% of the income from ticket sales will go to disaster relief, in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  That’s in addition to the generous donations made at the venue and online.  Funds raised total about $20,000.

Mike Parks, CEO of the Northeast Ohio Region, thanked the audience and the musicians for their support of the Red Cross.  IMG_4494

“We have dozens of volunteers on the ground in Texas,” Parks said from the stage.  “Your donations will help give them the resources they need to fulfill our mission, which is to prevent and alleviate suffering.”

The concert was made possible thanks to the generous support of The Musical Arts Association, The Kulas Foundation and the John P. Murphy Foundation.

And thanks to the time and talent of the musicians who filled the stage at Severance with the sound of a full symphony orchestra.

Theirs was a unique and welcome donation indeed.