Red Cross partners with TeamSmile at Progressive Field Event

On July 15, the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio partnered with TeamSmile to present the Pillowcase Project to nearly 300 children. The event, organized by TeamSmile, featured a group of local dentists, hygienists and educators who volunteered their time and talents to provide free dental care to underserved children during the one-day event at Progressive Field.

The children were moved through stations that included a preliminary exam, x-rays, cleaning and other work deemed necessary. While waiting for their turn in a dentistry chair, each child had the opportunity to learn more about being prepared for a disaster through the Red Cross Pillowcase Project.

“The ability to partner with TeamSmile presented the perfect opportunity to give back to our community by teaching the children who participated in the program how to be prepared for an emergency,” said Steve Trisler, Regional Disaster Officer for Northeast Ohio.

The Red Cross Pillowcase Project, sponsored by Disney, is a preparedness initiative created for children ages 7 to 11. It teaches the basics of how to stay safe during an emergency, what to have in an emergency kit and how to cope during an emergency. The program is fully customizable to the region; in Northeast Ohio the Red Cross teaches children about home fire safety, tornado safety, flooding safety and winter weather safety. At the end of the course each child is given a pillowcase and the opportunity to illustrate their own emergency kit needs.

TeamSmile is the nation’s premier oral health advocacy group. They partner with sports organizations across the nation to promote the message that oral health care is vitally important to long-term health.

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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.

Northeast Ohio rolls out the Disney Pillowcase Project

The Pillowcase Project, presented by the Red Cross and the Walt Disney Company, teaches students grades 3-5 about emergency preparedness.

The Pillowcase Project, presented by the Red Cross and the Walt Disney Company, teaches students grades 3-5 about emergency preparedness.

Thanks to a grant from the Walt Disney Company, the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio is now able to present The Pillowcase Project. The program provides disaster preparation education for third through fifth grade students. Kids learn how to create a disaster kit by packing essential items into a pillowcase for easy transport in times of emergency.

The project grew from stories of Loyola University students who packed their emergency belongings in a pillowcase during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The New Orleans chapter first developed the program and it has grown to include more than 59 Red Cross Regions.

In addition to preparing an emergency pillowcase kit, students will learn about geographic-specific hazards and practice resilience-coping skills. The program ties in to educational standards. During the class, kids will receive and color their own Disney pillowcase.

We are currently training presenters. If you are a registered volunteer (who has taken the Disaster Services Overview course) and are interested in being a presenter, please call John Gareis at 216-431-3219 or email John.Gareis@redcross.org.

Not a volunteer…yet? Get started today at redcross.org/volunteer.

Interested in hosting a presenter in your class or scout meeting? Call John Gareis at 216-431-3219 or email John.Gareis@redcross.org.