Monday, March 16, 2015

8 Ways to Make a Home Fire Drill Fun for Kids!

When visiting classrooms I often ask the children, ‘who has ever done a fire drill at school?’ Hands shoot up around the room with excitement. Then I ask, ‘who has anyone ever practiced a fire drill at home?’

Often we assume our children know the drill - get out and call 911. It’s important we not only talk to our children about our plans but that we also put them to practice. We recommend each household practice a home fire drill twice a year. It doesn't take much time and can be fun!


Here are a few ways to practice a home fire drill:

1. Sheet of Smoke: Get low and go full speed crawling.

Grab a bed sheet, open it up, with two people holding each side 3 feet above ground. Take turns crawling under the sheet of smoke (grown-ups too).

Smoke rises leaving the 3 feet closest to the ground with the cleanest air. Studies have shown you are three times more likely to be injured by the smoke, asphyxiation than by being burned in a home fire.

2. Too Hot to Handle: If it’s hot on the back of your hand, back away.

Shut all doors in the home and do a walk through with the children. Before opening the door to each room they must place the back of their hand on the door knob.

  • Let them know they are checking the temperature
  • Ask them, ‘if this handle were hot what would you do next?’
  • Help them to identify a secondary exit from each room

3. Can you do it blindfolded? Your alarms could go off in the middle of the night and smoke can make it hard to see. Blindfold family members and help them to navigate out of the house in the dark.


4. Somebody Call 9-1-1: Well not unless it is a real emergency but it’s great to practice mock 911 calls and the questions they may be asked.

  • What is your location? Emergency responders can’t be sent until they know your location.
  • What is your emergency? Help children articulate potential emergencies they may need to be prepared to phone 911.

5. Its Go TIME: Get your stop watches ready! Can you escape in less than 2 minutes? The only way to really know is to time ourselves.


6. Ready to Roll? Stop, drop, and roll that is. We all know these three little words but do the little ones in our household know when to act? (answer: when you’re on fire)

While practicing your drill at any time one family can yell out to another ‘YOU’RE ON FIRE’ whoever is called out must react immediately by stopping, dropping to the floor, and rolling.

7. You Can Do It! Building confidence is in large part the point of practicing fire drills. We want our reaction to smoke alarms to be quick and safe. Alarms going off can be scary and children may want to react in the same way they would react to other scary situations. Hiding under beds or in closets is not uncommon, Firefights know this and look in those places but time is limited and we want children to act with confidence and get out of the home safely.

Sit down with the kids and have them draw out all the times they felt strong. Maybe they had won a trophy or award for sports or playing an instrument. Maybe they felt strong when they did well in school or learned to ride a bike. Having a visual aid will help them to remember all the times they were strong and give them the confidence to overcome whatever obstacles they are faced with.

Kids participating in the Pillowcase Project

8. Go All Out: Out the windows even! It’s not every day a grown-up says it’s okay to climb out your window.  Anything this wild is bound to be fun, from the first floor that is. 

Over the years windows can get difficult to open. It’s easy to theorize the escape route but sometimes practicing it you find little dilemmas. Practice as if it were the real deal.

Check out our website to learn more fire safety tips. Comment below sharing other fun ways to educate children on fire safety or other disasters!

Korri Faria
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central California Region

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Latino Community Preparedness: Is This a Need?

Hi all!

Well, with less than four months left in my term, I thought I would give you a Latino Community Preparedness program update. Time has flown by and this program has been so well received. I mentioned in my blog back in November, that the Latino program was created to help grow the Red Cross presence in Latino communities. This program is so much more than the growth of our presence, or the growth of bilingual volunteers. This program isn't even really about the Red Cross; it’s about the people we serve.
Cruz Roja outreach in Chowchilla
I started a partnership last year with the Fresno County Office of Education, and I have extended this partnership with the Office of Education in Merced and Kern to present to the families of the Migrant Education program. When I started this partnership, I didn’t really know what the program was about, until I met some of the families. This program was designed to help migrant families, those families who work in the fields and move with the harvest. When I learned this, I thought to myself, “this population needs to not only know how to prepare their families in the event of an emergency, but they also need to know what to do when someone is injured.” Many times these families live in small spaces or in multi-family homes, so knowing how to escape a home in the event of any emergency was important for them.

My partnership with the Office of Education was only one of my ways to interact with the Latino communities around the Central Valley. I then began a partnership with the Community Food Bank. I reached out to them so I could reach the communities being affected by the drought, which again was much of the migrant population. No water, no crops, no work, no money to feed their families or to think of emergency preparedness. There are many factors that can cause a family to not be prepared or take the time to take a CPR/First Aid class; many of these families don’t have the money, the time, or even the knowledge that there are programs out there to help them.

AmeriCorps member Daniel Avina participating in the
Latino Community Preparedness Program at Kern Public Health
Now, my program is not only for the migrant community. I had to think about the Latino population that is not part of the migrant community, and do I reach them. Last year, I was placed in the spotlight and asked to represent the Red Cross on Univision’s morning show “Arriba Valle Central.” I have continued this partnership this year, but this year I have included radio and Univision events. To be honest, I didn't know if anyone was paying attention; that is until I was spotted by my friends and clients during my presentation. Positive confirmation was given after I promoted the Home Fire Campaign event in Fresno; the audiences began to call for us to go out to help their families with smoke detectors and were very thankful for this program.

AmeriCorps member Veronica Lases
participating in a Spanish radio station interview
As this year has gone by, I was noticing that I was reaching the population I really set out to reach, but was I actually helping them. My numbers were higher than last year when this program didn’t exist. I went from 222 Latinos presented to and 1,949 outreach to 670 presented to and 3,200 in outreach. But a question has lingered, “Is this program an actual need or am I making it a need?”

My answer came on February 11th when I conducted a presentation to a small group of migrant families in Fowler. As I began to talk about “Making a Plan”, I asked “does everyone here have a smoke detector?” The majority of the families shook their heads, and I gasped. I was not passing judgment, but felt this overwhelming sense of worry. So I received the names of the families that need the smoke detectors, and began to work on a plan to get them alarms.

In one instance we visited a client’s house and were instantly heart broken. They were migrant workers living in a house behind a main home, in between vineyards with no front door and so many possibilities for an emergency. We spoke with the woman and provided her with a smoke detector. When we left, we fully realizing why my program exists.

Latino Community Preparedness Program during a Mother's Symposium
The Latino Community Preparedness Program exists for those communities that feel as if there is no help for them. Yes, there is a need for Latino community outreach in the Central Valley.

If you are a Spanish speaker interested in volunteering with the Latino Community Preparedness program, click here to learn more and apply.

Veronica Lases
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Latino Community Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central California Region

Monday, March 2, 2015

Red Cross Clubs: Youth in Action!

AmeriCorps members who serve with the American Red Cross have been making a difference within their community in a variety of ways. From being present at community outreach events to responding to disaster calls, AmeriCorps members do it all!

AmeriCorps members are making a huge difference with the youth across Central California as well. The AmeriCorps members of Central California have made great efforts in partnering with local high schools and universities to create Red Cross Clubs within campuses.

Not only are students building community partnerships and are gaining useful skills by becoming members of a Red Cross Club, they are also giving back to their community.

In Santa Barbara, AmeriCorps member Clara Von Ins has established a Red Cross Club at UC Santa Barbara. In an effort to raise money for the American Red Cross, UC Santa Barbara’s Red Cross club is hosting a movie night fundraiser. Another one of Clara’s clubs, the San Marcos High School Royals will be taking their fundraising efforts to the courts as they are planning to have a student vs. teacher’s basketball tournament. The Red Cross Royals raised over $1000 at last year’s tournament and are hoping to make another slam dunk with this year’s fundraising goal!

AmeriCorps Member Andrew Basham with the Porterville Red Cross Club

Over in Tulare and Kings County, AmeriCorps member Andrew Basham has started a Red Cross Club with the Porterville High School Panthers. The Red Cross Panthers are roaring in community service as they are gearing up to help out with Porterville’s annual Spring Kid’s Festival where there will be food, carnival rides, bounce houses, and resource booths. Porterville’s club president Isaiah Mendoza is feeling the Red Cross spirit as he said, “We believe in showing our community as much support as possible.” AmeriCorps member Korri Faria has helped her Club at Lemoore High School raise money for the Red Cross through an old fashion bake sale.

Over in Fresno County, AmeriCorps member Alex Desiga has launched a Red Cross club in Clovis with the Buchanan High School Bears. The Red Cross Bears showed their appreciation to the Armed Forces by making holiday cards for veterans which were then delivered to a local veteran’s affair hospital.

The Buchanan High School Red Cross Club

Throughout Central California these clubs are making their campuses and neighborhoods stronger, more resilient communities! Starting a Red Cross Club or becoming a youth volunteer is easy as 1-2-3:

1. Click here to fill out an application
2. Attend an orientation
3. Discover how you can use your skills and strengths to support the mission of the Red Cross!

Sign up today!

Elizabeth Barragan
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central Valley Region

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Global Drop-In: Checking in with the ICRC

With so much turmoil and conflict sprouting all over the world, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has had its hands full trying to support the needs of thousands of civilians across multiple nations.  Let’s take a closer look and see just what the ICRC has been up to lately.

President of the ICRC, Peter Maurer, has recently returned from a six day long excursion to Iraq to monitor relief efforts.  Thousands of men, women, and children have become displaced as they attempt to flee violence in their region, and local Red Cross and Red Crescent chapters are working with the ICRC and lead officials of Iraq to provide basic necessities for these individuals.  The ICRC has vowed to provide shelter, food, water, and healthcare services to those individual affected by the spreading violence.


In addition to relief efforts, the ICRC seeks to preserve human dignity by insuring that international humanitarian laws and standards are being met throughout the conflict.  As a part of this mission, the ICRC will be making frequent visits to detention centers to assess the condition of detainees connected with the violence in Iraq and make sure international humanitarian standards are being met.  In addition, the ICRC is working with Iraqi officials to provide accountability for armed and security forces operating within Iraq to guarantee that they are abiding by international humanitarian law.

Finally, with so many displaced individuals, families are often broken up and separated with no means of communication.  Teams of Red Cross volunteers on the ground are doing everything they can to help these individuals reestablish communication to bring families back together.  In certain cases, these volunteers are charged with the responsibility of passing along short oral ‘safe and well’ messages between separated family members.


The ICRC is working tirelessly to help provide relief for thousands of displaced citizens.  Efforts in Iraq have jumped to the 4th largest in the ICRC’s budget, totaling roughly $78 million USD.  As a whole, one-third of the organization’s worldwide budget is used to fund operations in the Middle East.

The tumultuous situation in the Middle East demands large scale humanitarian aid now, more than ever.  The resources of the ICRC are limited, but every life changed through efforts to alleviate human suffering and reconnect families is a step in the right direction.  While the ICRC has limited power to end conflict in Iraq, it is proud to at least be able to provide solace and sanctuary to those affected by it.

Andrew Basham
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central Valley Chapter

Monday, February 9, 2015

Love and Emergency Preparedness

Love and emergency preparedness, how could these two intermingle?

I suppose, like some here in the Red Cross office, you could have a love for emergency preparedness. Or maybe being prepared for love emergencies is up your alley, such as who to call when your dozen heart shaped cookies burned and you need replacement baked goods stat.


It’s Cliff, our resident baker, you would call by the way.

My way of intermingling love and emergency preparedness is through celebrating Dia de Amor y Amistad. This translates to Day of Love and Friendship which is similar to the way Valentine’s Day is celebrated when we are in elementary school. You not only gave something special to a singular loved one, you gave a little something to each and every person in class. This is a tradition I have carried on through the years because Valentine’s Day for myself and many others is a day of love AND friendship.

So this year I am giving my loved ones and friends the gift of emergency preparedness.


This is something you too can pass on to your loved ones and friends. I am giving the special people in my life a fun love themed preparedness kit. It will have band-aids with hearts on them, a red flashlight with extra batteries of course, a CPR mouth shield (to practice mouth-to-mouth safely) and lastly some hand warmers to keep the love flame going all night long!

Alexandria Desiga
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central California Region

Friday, February 6, 2015

15 Ways to be Prepared for 2015

With the New Year now under way, we're working on keeping our resolutions. If you still haven't settled on what goals to achieve in 2015, it's not too late! A great idea is to plan to be more prepared and here are just a few ways to do so!

1. Get an emergency kit together for your car (energy bars, water, blanket, jumper cables, funnel, and first aid kit). This past year we heard of many incidents of people being trapped in their car during winter storms. These occurrences can happen anywhere at any time, having a kit in your car can be lifesaving.

2. Learn how to turn off power and gas to house. What may seem like a simple task can be daunting under pressure. Make sure multiple household members are aware of where turn offs are and when to switch them off.

3. Practice home fire drills. Is your household able to evacuate in under 2 minutes? Time yourselves to find out!

4. Test smoke alarms. Mark your calendar every month.

5. Change batteries in smoke alarms. Twice a year we change our clocks, why not change our smoke alarm batteries while we are at it?


6. Build supply of water. Having a sufficient supply of water is incredibly important. It is recommended to have, one gallon per person for a minimum of 3 days. Three gallons for each household member could fill up several carts at the grocery store. Consider adding one gallon to your grocery list each week and in no time your supply will be fully stocked!

7. Fill out an emergency contact list. It is great to have an out of area contact, phone lines can get tied up if too many people in an area try getting in contact with people nearby. You will have better luck of your call connecting if you call someone further from the disaster area.

8. Take a class. Become certified in First Aid, CPR & AED or another specialty certification. These skills are lifesaving!

9. Secure book shelves and remove items that could injure individuals if an earthquake were to happen.

10. Build an emergency kit. Have supplies gathered together to grab and go if your neighborhood is set to evacuate. Some items you may want to include: flashlights, batteries, food, water, change of clothes, blankets, toiletries, cash, coins, etc.

11. Samples of medication. Talk to your doctor about getting a sample of prescribed medication. Having a sample of your medication ready in your emergency kit will help you to evacuate quicker. Or consider storing a sample at a family or friends house.

12. Pet supplies. We must not forget about our furry friends and reptile roomies. Be sure to include them in your plans. Packing an emergency kit with food and water for them as well.


13. Make a plan. Draw out a map of your home, identifying two exits from each room to escape a home fire. Be sure everyone in the household knows the plan and where everyone will meet once outside.

14. Share your plans with neighbors. Let them know meeting locations (both for inside and outside of your neighborhood) as well as a list of emergency contacts. If a fire were to occur they can meet you at you meeting location, cell phone in hand and emergency personnel on their way.

15. Encourage family and friends to build up their kits as well. When an emergency happens we want everyone to be prepared. Help make this happen!

Korri Faria
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central California Region

Friday, January 16, 2015

My View of Fire Preparedness

I can sit here and give you statistics on why we should be prepared in the event of a home fire; 2,500 people are killed each year from home fires and 13,000 people are injured. I can sit here and tell you home fires are the biggest emergency in the United States; the American Red Cross answers a home fire every 8 minutes in the U.S. But will that convince you to prepare your family for a home fire?

You may say “yes” at the moment, but life gets busy and sometimes we put emergency preparedness at the bottom of our “to-do” list. I know I might put it on the bottom of my list and I did. Actually, it wasn’t even a thought before I was a part of Red Cross. To even try to get me to listen or even do something, I would have wanted for someone to make it real, tell me a story or an experience. That may seem silly, but tugging at the heart strings works for me.

Many times we don’t want to think “What if?” We don’t want to think about the bad things that may happen, but going into a home after something bad happens really hits hard. Some of our DAT members have answered calls where there have been fatalities, but some have been lucky enough to answer calls where it was only one room of the house that was damaged.

Last month I went on a call where the back room of the house had been set on fire; what had alerted them to the fire was the one smoke detector that worked in the home. I had a chance to speak to the woman of the house, and she said they had disconnected the main smoke detector in their home because it went off every time they cooked. I explained to them they can always move the smoke detector to another location in the home. I showed her that had it not been for the smoke detector in the back room, they could have lost the whole house.


I am always giving my friends and family tips on how they can be fire safe. I tell them to check their smoke alarms every month, make an emergency plan, and to invest in a fire extinguisher. I’m sure they must think I’m a crazy nag, but then it makes me think about all the people I meet who mention they don’t have a smoke alarm. Many of us don’t think about not having one, because it’s so normal for us to have one in our home. I guess it’s another one of those things we just don’t think about; especially when you think that a piece of plastic can save your life.

The other AmeriCorps members and I give Be Red Cross Ready presentations, and teach children emergency preparedness with The Pillowcase Project. We teach members and participants of an organization how they prepare, not just for home fires, but prepare for any emergency. We are also lead instructors during our Team Firestopper seminars; these seminars give us a chance to go into a community and teach them how to prepare their homes and families before a fire starts. We teach 6 different areas of fire prevention; get a kit, make a plan, prepare all family members, be informed, Hands Only CPR, and how to use a fire extinguisher, and at the end we give the participant a smoke and CO detector, fire extinguisher, and a surge protector. We give them what they need to be fire safe, but then what?

This month we are stepping up our fire prevention efforts. This month we have already had our Team Firestopper Fire Safety seminar in Selma, but tomorrow we will also host the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign. Southeast Fresno and Tulare teams will install smoke detectors for the residents of these communities. This will be our first of many in hopes to reduce home fire fatalities and injuries by 25% in 5 years. We are preparing three communities on fire prevention and preparedness all in the month of January.


Other fire preparedness events are taking place in the coming weeks. Visit our website for more details on how you can help empower families in your community to make smart decisions when it comes to fire safety.

Veronica Lases
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Latino Community Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central California Region