Think S-A-F-E-T-Y as you trim your tree this year

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in Northeast Ohio. While the dusting of snow is lovely, and while we are all busy getting ready for the holidays, we need to be aware of the potential for home fires during this season.

decorations-home-fire-engThe National Fire Protection Association warns us that Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are the three days most likely to experience fires started by candles.

Consider that Northeast Ohio experienced 14 fires just over Thanksgiving weekend alone.

The American Red Cross wants people to stay safe from home fires—the nation’s most frequent disaster—by testing their smoke alarms and practicing their home fire escape plan with free resources at redcross.org/homefires. In addition, you can follow these 10 simple safety tips as you put up lights and ornaments:

  1. Check all holiday light cords to make sure they aren’t frayed or broken. Don’t string too many strands of lights together—no more than three per extension cord.
  2. If you are buying an artificial tree, look for the fire-resistant label. When putting it up, keep it away from fireplaces, radiators and other sources of heat.
  3. If getting a live tree, make sure it’s fresh and water it frequently to keep it fresh. Bend the needles up and down to make sure no needles fall off.
  4. If using older decorations, check their labels. Some older tinsel is lead-based. If using angel hair, wear gloves to avoid irritation. Avoid breathing in artificial snow.
  5. When decorating outside, make sure decorations are for outdoor use and fasten lights securely to your home or trees. If using hooks or nails outside, make sure they are insulated to avoid an electrocution or fire hazard.
  6. If using a ladder, be extra careful. Make sure to have good, stable placement and wear shoes that allow for good traction.
  7. Don’t use electric lights on metallic trees.
  8. Don’t forget to turn off all holiday lights when going to bed or leaving the house.
  9. Keep children, pets and decorations away from candles.
  10. If hanging stockings on the fireplace mantel, don’t light the fireplace.45180555475_4b8c6fc3dd_z

Every eight minutes, donations to the Red Cross help someone affected by a disaster—most often, home fires. You can help save lives by making a financial donation to support our mission, signing up to become a volunteer or taking steps to protect your own family from home fires. Visit redcross.org to learn more.

Don’t stop now.  Also check out our tips for Cooking Safety and Travel Safety.

Also, as you continue to prepare to decorate your house, here is a video on holiday decorating safety tips you can watch with your family to ensure everyone can enjoy the holidays safely:

Travel tips to get you safely to your Thanksgiving celebration

By Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

thanksgiving-travel-safety

 

Thanksgiving is a special holiday that brings people together to give thanks and celebrate their blessings. Relatives gather around the table to enjoy their family’s version of the traditional Thanksgiving feast. Each year, millions of people drive to spend Thanksgiving with family and friends, making it one of the busiest times for road traffic.

 

If you are headed “over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house,” as the childhood song goes, prepare in advance to ensure a safe visit. The American Red Cross offers 10 tips to help you stay safe if you are traveling by car:

  1. Make sure your car is in good condition for a road trip.
  2. Pack an emergency preparedness kit, supplies and a first aid kit in the trunk.
  3. Share travel plans with a family member or friend.
  4. Check the weather before departing and along your route. Plan for travel around any storms that may be coming.
  5. Be well rested and alert.
  6. Buckle up, slow down and don’t drive impaired.
  7. Follow the rules of the road and use caution in work zones.
  8. Give your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions such as cell phones.
  9. Make frequent stops. During long trips, rotate drivers. If you’re too tired to drive, stop and get some rest.
  10. If you have car trouble, pull off the road as far as possible.

‘Tis the season . . . flu season. So if public transportation is part of your travel plans, keep this in mind. From luggage to seats, everything that you touch is likely touched by someone else. Follow these tips to help avoid the spread of germs.

  1. Handle your own belongings.
  2. Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  3. Carry hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes with you. You can use them to wash your hands or wipe down surfaces, such as armrests.
  4. Bring your own pillows and blankets. They can act as a shield against the seat itself.

To find out what supplies you should have on hand in an emergency preparedness kit, the Red Cross offers this checklist and quiz to test your knowledge: https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/survival-kit-supplies.html.

You can also download the free Red Cross Emergency App to help you monitor severe weather and emergency alerts.

Whichever road leads to your Thanksgiving destination, these Red Cross tips and tools can help keep you and your loved ones safe.

Safe travels!

Red Cross continues response to disasters in Northeast Ohio, even with ongoing relief efforts around the world

Weekend disasters affect dozens of residents in all 5 Northeast Ohio Chapters

 

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

The American Red Cross continues to respond to disaster relief efforts around the world, including responding to the California wildfires and Saipan following Super Typhoon Yutu.  Even with relief efforts underway far and wide, the Red Cross continues to respond to needs of residents right here in Northeast Ohio.

41870691712_5b3ee65587_zOver the weekend, the Red Cross responded to 17 incidents in all five chapters in Northeast Ohio, assisting 64 residents, and distributing more than $12,300 in immediate financial assistance to help people in their darkest hours.

 

The Lake to River Chapter was particularly hit hard.

Disaster workers in the Lake to River Chapter, which serves Ashtabula, Columbiana, Jefferson, Mahoning and Trumbull Counties, responded to seven incidents ranging from home fires to power outages, provided more than $4,700 in aid and opened a shelter for two-nights in Columbiana County for residents displaced from last week’s winter storms.

One particular case in Mahoning County, involving a grandmother, a mother and her five children, highlights the commitment the Red Cross has to serving the needs of residents in Northeast Ohio. As Karen Conklin, executive director of the Lake to River Chapter states, “What we do to help people in our community and the difference we make every day is amazing. Over the weekend, a fire started in the attic while the family was at church. Two adults and five children lost everything. While the family has a hard road to recovery, we responded with much more than a debit card. We gave them kindness, respect and hope. It was another mission moment I won’t soon forget. Because of the Red Cross and our volunteers, this family has begun the road to recovery. Without us they would be alone at their burned-out residence as the fire department rolls up their hoses and drives away. We are the difference.” IMG_5580

The Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross is prepared 24 hours per day and seven days a week to prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. However, we are unable to serve the 22 counties and 4.5 million residents of Northeast Ohio without the tremendous dedication of our volunteers, which make up 90 percent of our workforce. Our volunteers are truly the face of the Red Cross. If you are interested in making an impact in local communities, the Red Cross is always looking for volunteers. To volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer or contact our Volunteer Services Department directly at 216-431-3328 or NEOvolunteer@redcross.org.

We also rely on the generosity of Northeast Ohio residents to continue to offer disaster relief and to provide support in a time of need. If you would like to provide a monetary donation, visit redcross.org/donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Blood drive volunteer serves as ambassador inspiring others to volunteer and give lifesaving blood

By Ifat Gazia, American Red Cross Volunteer
Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

 

Mariann Pete1A 77-year-old American Red Cross volunteer from Ashtabula, Ohio, Mariann Pete likes to help people and be there for them during their emergencies. Marianne started volunteering seven years ago with her primary duties focused on managing blood donors at Ashtabula County Medical Center (ACMC) in Ashtabula County. An inspiration for people of all ages who consider volunteering part-time, Mariann has volunteered since 2002 two to three times every month with her weekly hours ranging between four to five.

In 1980, Mariann’s son needed expensive blood transfusions. Her friend became a donor. “It was my friend who came forward to donate his blood to my son. Transfusions at that time would have been otherwise unaffordable for me,” she said.

While reflecting on her volunteering experiences, Mariann added, “The practice of volunteering is very rewarding, allowing me to meet different people as well who come to ACMC hospital for their blood transfusions or donations. It is a good thing that I get to interact with all of them. The staff is also nice in the hospital and over the years I [have gotten] to know most of the people working there.”

Photos by Paul Wadowick, American Red Cross volunteer

“Mariann Pete is very well-known and respected by all in her community,” said Tara Dragon, Red Cross Account Manager. “She welcomes all donors with a loving, caring smile, volunteering with all of her heart.  She is a great help to myself and to the American Red Cross in making a difference in her community, and to the lives of recipients and donors.  I want thank Mariann personally for all that she does.”

Other than volunteering at ACMC on a routine basis where she registers the donors and sometimes manages the canteen, Mariann also volunteers at blood drives in different schools and churches in and around Ashtabula County.

There is a critical need for blood donor ambassadors like Mariann in Ashtabula County, and for blood donors throughout Northeast Ohio to help replenish the lifesaving supply during the severe blood shortage currently being experienced. Their efforts are vital as the Red Cross heads into the difficult holiday blood collection season. Visit redcross.org/neo for more information and to complete a volunteer application.  And to make a blood donation appointment, visit redcrossblood.org

 

 

 

Red Cross volunteer who provided service in Vietnam War among those to be honored this weekend in nation’s capital

By Sue Wilson Cordle, Summit, Portage, Medina Chapter board of directors member. Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

Jackie Otte is the Regional Volunteer Lead for the American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Services team and has been a Red Cross volunteer for the last 26 years. That in itself is significant; but it is just one aspect of her commitment to the organization.

1883jo Jackie Christmas Card 1968 copyIn the late 1960s, Jackie served with the Red Cross in Vietnam. She explained, “There were two national Red Cross programs serving the military during the Vietnam War: SMI, Service to Military Installations, and SMH, Service to Military Hospitals.”  Jackie served in both areas doing casework and recreational therapy.

“When I received orders for Vietnam in the spring of 1968, the patients I worked with told me not to go— that I would forever be affected. However, I was an idealist and did not turn down orders.”  She was assigned to the 2nd Surgical Hospital in Chu Lai, about 50 miles south of DaNang.

This weekend, her contribution for those years and many more will be recognized at the American Red Cross Headquarters in Washington, D.C., with a Legacy Award. This award recognizes Red Cross staff and volunteers, like Jackie, who have served side-by-side with members of the United States armed forces in combat zones.

After her service in Vietnam, Jackie was stationed in Germany. “I am the daughter of a veteran and my service in military hospitals has given me a life-long desire to give back to our military personnel and veterans. I am still working part-time as a social worker in a hospice program,” she said. Jackie is very involved with We Honor Veterans, the national hospice organization that recognizes vets at end-of–life and trains staff on end-of-life issues faced by combat vets.

Jackie, who is originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, comes from a Red Cross family. Her father, a World War II vet, served the Red Cross as a board member at both the local and national levels until his death. Jackie learned while planning his funeral that her dad used to read her letters from Vietnam at Red Cross board meetings. While in Washington this weekend for Veterans Day-related events, she’ll stay with her nephew, who is a former Red Cross employee, and his wife, a current Red Cross employee. Red Cross roots spread wide in her family.JackieOtte2

Jackie also plans to visit the Vietnam Veterans Women’s Memorial on its 25th anniversary. “I was the Ohio volunteer coordinator for the Vietnam Women’s Memorial,” explained Jackie. “I made a lot of appearances to educate others about the memorial and raise funds to build it.”

Jackie said she is looking forward to seeing old friends, both from the Red Cross and military. “It has been 50 years since we were there and we aren’t getting any younger. Many may not be with us in the near future.”

The Red Cross legacy of service to members of the military began when founder Clara Barton provided comfort on the battlefields during the Civil War. Since then, American Red Cross staff and volunteers have served in every major military combat or conflict operation around the world. They are among a select group who have proudly worn the Red Cross emblem to provide care and comfort to members of the United States armed forces, their families and our veterans. And Jackie is a member of that select group who will be honored this weekend.

In Jackie’s words, “These ceremonies are always moving for all involved. It will be an honor to take part in a ceremony like this for recognition for combat Red Cross staff.”

Congratulations, Jackie, and thank you for your years of dedication and service to the Red Cross, our military and our veterans.

You are a true hero.

Sept. 11 experience moves resident to become avid Red Cross volunteer

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

Sept. 11, 2001 made significant impressions on most every adult living at the time. It certainly did for Susie Muetzel, an American Red Cross volunteer with the Lake to River Chapter.

Susie Muetel

Susie Muetzel

“At the time, my husband was a Cleveland firefighter and I was working for the clerk of Cleveland City Council,” said Susie. “After being told we needed to evacuate the building, as I drove home, I recall seeing the plane that was Flight 93 flying overhead when all planes were supposed to be grounded. I recall feeling sorry and helpless and terrified. Within a couple hours, I determined that I was never again going to feel like there was nothing I could do. There was no way I wanted that feeling of helplessness.”

Shortly thereafter, Susie saw on TV that the Red Cross was looking for volunteers. She still remembers making the call and talking with Disaster Specialist Debbie Chitester, who now serves as the Disaster Program Manager for the Summit Portage and Medina Counties Chapter.  Debbie helped Susie her get her initial training. On October 1, she began her volunteer service. She wasn’t able to deploy to New York or Pennsylvania back in 2001, but since then, she has deployed to countless hurricanes and floods, working in an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) and offering meals to those affected. She most recently responded to Hurricane Florence.

Susie&Sue

Susie Muetzel, left, and Red Cross volunteer Sue Wisdom

Locally, between national disasters, she keeps very busy with her chapter, covering four of the five counties along the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. “Here at home, I’m a DAT (Disaster Action Team) leader, the DAT Coordinator and weekend AOC (Administrator-On-Call),” said Susie.

That could be the most rewarding part of her volunteer work, explained Susie. “I recall one weekend when we had back-to-back fires, each with fatalities. When we go to a fire and are able to provide some degree of comfort to someone who has lost everything and is desperate for help, that’s extremely rewarding.”

If someone is looking for volunteer opportunities, take it from Susie, “You get so much more out of it than you could ever possibly give. It sounds cliché, but it’s true. When you come home from helping someone, even in the middle of the night, you know that you did something good and really helped them. If you have that empathetic heart, it fills you up in ways that you never dreamed of.”

To explore the various volunteer possibilities open to you, visit https://neoredcross.org/volunteer/ and begin your online application.  There is a critical need for volunteers to join the Disaster Action Team in the Lake to River Chapter, which includes Ashtabula, Trumbull, Mahoning, Columbiana and Jefferson Counties.  Residents there can get more information by calling the chapter at 866-319-7160.

Beyond national hurricane relief efforts, the Red Cross continues to respond to local disasters in Northeast Ohio

By: Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

IMG_2066Currently, the most visible work of the American Red Cross is its response to assist in the relief efforts in the Southeast United States following Hurricanes Florence and Michael. However, even with 23 disaster relief workers deployed from this region to assist with the hurricanes, the Red Cross continues to respond to disasters here in Northeast Ohio.

The Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross, which serves 22 counties and 4.5 million dunham ave 2 residents, has continued to be very active responding to calls across local communities. This past weekend, disaster relief workers responded to eight calls from home fires to storm damage in Canton, Cleveland, Fairlawn, Lorain, Sandusky, Sheffield Lake, South Euclid and Willard. They assisted 23 adults and 10 children and provided nearly $8,700 in aid.

IMG_4123The Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross is prepared 24 hours per day and seven days a week to prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. If you are interested in making an impact in local communities, the Red Cross is always looking for volunteers. We can provide support to our communities thanks to the work of our tremendous volunteers, which make up 90 percent of our workforce. To volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer or contact our Volunteer Services Department directly at 216-431-3328 or NEOvolunteer@redcross.orgIMG_1758

We also rely on the generosity of Northeast Ohio residents to continue to offer disaster relief. If you would like to provide a monetary donation, visit redcross.org/donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.