Emergency Preparedness for your Pets

By Sue Wilson, American Red Cross Board Member & Communications Volunteer Partner

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans years ago, it was reported that more than 10,000 people refused evacuation because they didn’t want to leave their pets behind. Some of those people, and their pets, became casualties. When reporters asked survivors who didn’t evacuate why they would risk their lives for their pets, they said things like, “They are part of my family.” Or, “My pet is my kid; would you leave your kid behind?”

It’s a situation many animal lovers understand. And a situation many community leaders have considered to save lives of both pets and people.

The truth is, if it’s not safe for you to stay home, it’s not safe for your pet either. As we recognize World Animal Day (October 4), we recommend that as you make your emergency plans for your family in the event of a home fire, weather emergency or any disaster that might require you to leave your home, it is important that you include arrangements for your pet in those plans.

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Red Cross volunteer Pat Kern with Lila in a shelter in North Carolina. Photo by Jim McIntyre/American Red Cross

While the American Red Cross has historically not allowed pets in shelters, mainly for health and sanitation reasons, they work with local and regional animal agencies that operate shelters that would keep pets and their people if not together then nearby. In our area, the Red Cross works with an organization called CARE.

“If we had a shelter opened, we would rely upon them to set up a pet shelter adjacent to the evacuation shelter,” said Debbie Chitester, disaster program manager for the Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter “They have the equipment, supplies and volunteers to do that.”

Debbie also encourages people to have a plan for their pets.

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Jordan, age 8, was able to be with his pets at a shelter in California last summer.
Photo by Virginia Becker/American Red Cross

“Think ahead to family or friends who may be able to take care of your pet,” she explained. “Talk with a vet or a boarding facility ahead of time to see if they have a plan and would be able to accept your pet,” she suggests. If a pet owner does not have any other place to take their pets, she said the Red Cross would activate the CARE team to set up a shelter for them. You can call your local Red Cross office to ask what shelters  are available for your pet if needed.

As you put your emergency plan and supply kit together for your family,make sure you have a separate one for your pet. Your pet emergency kit should include:

  • Sturdy leashes, harnesses and/or carriers to transport pets safely and ensure that they can’t escape.
  • Food, drinking water, bowls, cat litter/pan and a manual can opener if your pet eats canned food. Use plastic/waterproof bins to keep dry food dry and free of mold or bugs.
  • Medications and copies of medical records stored in a waterproof container.
  • A first aid kit.
  • Current photos of you with your pet(s) in case they get lost. Since many pets look alike, this will help eliminate mistaken identity and confusion.
  • Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavioral problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to foster or board your pets.
  • Pet beds and toys, if easily transportable.

Knowing you have a plan for your family, including your beloved pet(s), will give you peace of mind should a situation ever arise where you need  to evacuate your home. Click HERE for more information about preparing pets (and people) for emergencies.

When Waters Rise, NEO Red Cross Responds – an Update

By Doug Bardwell – American Red Cross volunteer

Combine rapidly melting snow with heavy rainfall, and there’s always the possibility for river flooding. Last February, those conditions occurred throughout the upper Midwest states.

From our Northeast Ohio chapters alone, 28 disaster staff were deployed throughout Ohio, Indiana and Michigan.  First and foremost, shelters were opened for those whose homes were in danger of flooding. A safe and warm place to stay was extremely welcomed by those affected. Health service related needs were also attended to by our other volunteers.

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Red Cross volunteers prepare to assist flood victims in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Photo provided by Monica Bunner/American Red Cross volunteer

Monica Bunner, a Disaster Action Team member from the Summit, Portage & Medina chapter, was one of the first from this area to be deployed. Originally dispatched to a moderate-sized shelter in a high school in southern Ohio, she and her team provided a warm place to stay overnight as well as a place to come during the day to warm up, shower and recharge both the body and the cellphone.

Monica recalls one of the first residents to come to the shelter (and probably the last to leave) was an elderly gentleman who needed to be woken up at 3:30 am each day.  He would then walk into town and work 16-hour shifts at a fast food restaurant. Arriving back at the shelter in the evening, he would have dinner and immediately retire, only to repeat the cycle the next day.  His resilience to the situation touched everyone who met him.

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Volunteers in New Richmond, Ohio

Another resident had been living in a trailer near the water, and as the level of the river rose, he recounted that a number of kittens living below his trailer started poking their heads up through the vents in his floor. He quickly reached down to grab as many as he could and brought them with him to the local animal shelter.  Each day he would leave the shelter and walk back to his neighborhood looking for other kittens to save. In all, he rescued eight kittens during the week Monica worked at the shelter.

After a week, Monica was reassigned to DES (Distribution of Emergency Supplies) across Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, sometimes driving as much as three and one-half hours to reach affected areas.

Red Cross volunteers like Monica respond to emergencies thousands of times each year. It is only through the generous donations of Americans that we can always be ready to respond whenever an emergency threatens.  Please consider donating today at redcross.org/neo.

“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.

 

Hurricane Harvey: Week One Recap

Northeast Ohio Numbers

  • Northeast Ohioans deployed to the affected areas: 23
  • Emergency Response Vehicles deployed to the affected areas 4 of 4 in NEO
  • Average Individual Deployment: 2 weeks

National Information

  • The Red Cross is working hard to get help to where it is needed. Access into

    August 30, 2017. Delco Center Shelter, Austin, Texas. Red Cross volunteer Caroline Pinkston colors with children staying at a shelter in Austin, Texas. Photo by Chuck Haupt for the American Red Cross

    many areas is still quite difficult, and we are partnering with the U. S. Coast Guard and the Texas National Guard to move supplies and volunteers to where they are needed most. Our first priority is keeping people safe while providing shelter, food and a shoulder to lean on.

  • Estimates indicate more than 33,800 people sought refuge in more than 240 Red Cross and partner shelters across Texas Tuesday night.
  • Six shelters are also open in Louisiana with more than 450 people.

How we respond

  • Massive disasters like Hurricane Harvey create more needs than any one organization can meet on their own. The Red Cross is working very closely with the entire response community – government agencies, other non-profit groups, faith-based organizations, area businesses and others – to coordinate emergency relief efforts and get help to people as quickly as possible.
  • The Red Cross is working dozens of disaster partners to support feeding, child care, disaster assessment and other disaster services. Some of the partners we are coordinating with include Americorps NCCC, Church of the Brethren Children’s Disaster Services, Save the Children, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and Islamic Relief USA.
  • We have trailers of kitchen supplies on the ground to support 6 kitchens, each

    August 29, 2017. George R. Brown Convention Center, Red Cross Mega Shelter, Houston, Texas. Texas Gulf Coast Region board member, Amy Gasea and event based volunteer, Emanuel Castillo, hand out hot meals to shelter residents at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Amy has been a board member since 2014 and is an assigned volunteer to the Disaster Relief Operation. Amy was originally assigned to supporting the operation in the planning function, but jumped in to assist as the Feeding Manager of the GRB Convention Center when a leader was needed. Photo by Daniel Cima for the American Red Cross

    able to produce 10,000 meals a day and 6 more trailers are on the way. We also have about 116,000 ready-to-eat meals currently on the ground with an additional 39,000 en route. More than half of our emergency response fleet – 200 Emergency Response Vehicles – have been activated for the operation. Shelters are standing by in other states, including Tennessee, Oklahoma and Arkansas, in case they are needed.

  • With blood products prepositioned in Houston and Dallas ahead of the storm, the Red Cross continues to work closely with local, state and federal authorities to deliver blood and platelets to our hospital partners in flood affected areas.
  • After the effects of the storm passes, we are offering emotional support and health services, and distributing emergency relief supplies such as comfort kits and cleaning supplies. But our work doesn’t end there; the Red Cross also plays a critical role in helping families and communities get back on their feet.

Donations

  • The Red Cross has launched a massive response to this devastating storm and needs financial donations to be able to provide immediate disaster relief. Help people affected by Hurricane Harvey by visiting redcross.org, calling 1- 800-RED CROSS or texting the word HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
  • Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from this disaster.
  • We thank everyone for their overwhelming support for people impacted by this catastrophic storm. If you are having issues with text donations, please visit redcross.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS to donate.
  • We know Americans are generous and want to do everything they can to help after a disaster. Unfortunately, collecting and sending food, clothing and other household items often does more harm than good. Instead, the best way to support disaster victims is with a financial donation.
  • It takes time and money to store, sort, clean and distribute donated items, which diverts limited time and resources away from helping those most affected. In contrast, financial donations can be accessed quickly to support those affected, and be put to use right away. With a financial donation, individuals can buy what they need and want.
  • Storing donated items can also result in thousands of dollars in warehousing, cleaning, transportation and handling fees – whereas financial donations allow us to be flexible to give those directly affected by Harvey what they need most.

Volunteers

  • Hundreds of experienced American Red Cross volunteers and employees are

    August 29, 2017. George R. Brown Convention Center, Red Cross Mega Shelter, Houston, Texas. Red Cross volunteer, Rabia Vaid comforts six week old, Anaya Rizwan. Photo by Daniel Cima for the American Red Cross

    working around the clock to provide shelter and supplies to Gulf Coast residents affected by Harvey.

  • The Red Cross appreciates the overwhelming interest of the public to volunteer. Please be patient–with the tremendous outpouring of support we are seeing, it will take some time to reach out to all those who have signed up to volunteer.
  • Please also remember that, when connecting with the Red Cross or other volunteer groups, check first to learn about current opportunities and when volunteers are needed—before traveling to the affected areas independently. Access to relief operation areas is extremely difficult and search and rescue efforts are still ongoing.
  • The effects of Harvey will be felt for a long time. Today or in the future, if you would like to volunteer with the Red Cross, you should visit the volunteer section of redcross.org to learn more about volunteer opportunities and how to apply to be a volunteer. This will allow those interested to help on large disasters like Hurricane Harvey, but also when smaller disasters like home fires happen in local communities.

Recovery Continues on East Coast

Twelve days have passed since Hurricane Matthew made landfall in the United States.  Many areas remain flooded. 26 Red Cross shelters remain open, with over 1,400 individuals seeking lodging there on Monday night.

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As waters begin to recede, the second stage of the Red Cross recovery efforts will begin. We will start to work with those affected to provide navigation through the web of assistance available to them, not just through the Red Cross, but through other organizations such as FEMA.

 

Some of our img_2537volunteers are out in communities – as conditions permit – across North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida to provide warm meals and relief supplies. Some are on the ground accessing the damages to homes (a step necessary for a family to obtain financial assistance), while others begin to meet with families and individuals to help them map out their own recovery process.

img_2526All told, the Red Cross has mobilized almost 5,000 disaster workers, 235 response vehicles, 19 partner-supported kitchens as well as truckloads of water, ready-to-eat meals, cots, blankets, kitchen items, cleaning supplies and comfort kits, insect repellant, gloves, masks, shovels, rakes, coolers and more.

Overall, Red Cross and community partners have served more than 931,000 meals and snacks, distributed more than 187,000 relief items, supported more than 19,000 health and mental health services, and provided 93,000 overnight stays in shelters.

How can you help?

MAKE A DONATION – The Red Cross depends on donations to provide immediate relief. Help people affected by Hurricane Matthew by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word MATTHEW to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from this disaster.

GIVE BLOOD – We’d also like to ask public to remember the blood needs of the Red Cross. Hurricane Matthew has already forced the cancellation of many blood drives along the East Coast, and more could be cancelled. If you’re in an unaffected area, please give blood or platelets now, so we can continue to help patients in need. Go to redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS.

BECOME A VOLUNTEER – People can make a difference in someone’s life by becoming a Red Cross volunteer. To join us, visit redcross.org/neo and click on VOLUNTEER today to learn more about volunteer opportunities and how to submit a volunteer application. To learn more about national deployment, read this story.

 

Local Red Cross Volunteers Help Neighbors in West Virginia

Thousands of Residents Affected by Devastating Floods

Six volunteers from Northeast Ohio are among the Red Cross workers assisting West Virginians affected by summer flooding.

The floods were caused by heavy rain that fell on Thursday, June 23.  More than two dozen fatalities have been attributed to the flooding, and thousands of homes have been damaged or destroyed.

“I am always in awe of the power of something so simple as water,” said Mary Williams, a Red Cross Communications Officer from the Northeast Ohio Region, who arrived in West Virginia on Saturday, along with a growing number of volunteers.

“The number of volunteers responding to this disaster is amazing,” said Charlotte Rerko, Chief Operating Officer of the Northeast Ohio Region.  “It’s people helping people at it’s best.”

Red Cross volunteers are providing support and comfort to people affected by the flooding, by operating or supporting 13 shelters for people who lost their homes or who were forced to evacuate.  Some 1,200 people had a safe, dry place to stay Sunday night.

An Emergency Response Vehicle based at the Summit, Portage and Medina Counties chapter in Akron was also dispatched to the area, to bring food and other supplies to the flood-affected residents of West Virginia.

Because it’s such a traumatic time for so many families unexpectedly forced from their homes,  Red Cross disaster mental health workers have also been sent to the area to give the residents guidance on how to prepare for the return to their homes.  And Red Cross health workers are helping to replace needed items like prescription medications and eyeglasses.

More help is on the way, with more volunteers, emergency vehicles and other supplies on the way to West Virginia.  As of Monday, there were 150 Red Cross personnel assisting with the recovery effort.

We need your help.  Entire families have lost their homes and everything they own.  Your support will help people affected by disasters big and small.  You can donate to Red Cross Disaster Relief by visiting redcross.org  or calling 1-800 RED CROSS.  Or you can make a $10 donation by texting REDCROSS to 90999.

You can prepare for floods and stay safe when they occur by following a few steps, including:

  • Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice and heed evacuation orders when given. When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground and stay there.
  • Stay away from floodwaters.
  • If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
  • Keep children out of the water.
  • Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood danger.

You can also download the free Red Cross Emergency App,  to have safety information, severe weather alerts and shelter locations available on your mobile device.