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

Friday, January 2, 2015

Giving Hope: A Local Disaster Response

One of the many goals of the American Red Cross during disasters services is to address our clients’ most serious human need. In most of the fire call cases I have been to the Red Cross provides: temporary housing, water, food, transportation, comfort kits, and referrals for food and clothing. The service that we provide to our clients addresses all serious human needs, and our clients are very appreciative for the comfort and hope that we’re able to provide.

Recently, the Kern Chapter was dispatch to respond to a house fire near downtown Bakersfield. Disaster Action Team (DAT) responders were able to gather comfort kits to meet the needs of the whole family.  As we loaded the Emergency Response Vehicle with water and comfort kits, our lead on call remembered to bring toys to comfort the children from the disaster their family had recently experienced.

Red Cross DAT responders assist a family after a home fire

My first contact with the client was via phone.  I was able to communicate with the father of the family, and I told him the Red Cross was on the way to help them out. Arriving at the scene I was able to meet the father and I gave each family member a hug and introduced my self to the family. I told them I was here to help them out. The client was stressed because he was at a loss; his bedroom was burnt to the ground. All of the clients clothes including the clothes of his children were located the bedroom that was affected due to the house fire.  The kitchen was completely affected and none of the food was saved. After completing the damage assessment, the client joined me and in the Emergency Response Vehicle and I completed the intake interview.

The next day, I was able to contact the client and do a follow up. The client communicated that they were going to live with extended family until his house got renovated. The client was able to purchase food and clothes with money that was provided. Within 24 hours, the Red Cross was able to provide all the basic needs of the family and then some. The client had a place to stay, water to drink, clothes for their kids to go to school the next day, and food. The following day, I was able to set goals with the client and also set a time frame of three weeks for his recovery plan.  The client has been very impressed with the service we provide, the client did not know ARC provided all these services and was very impressed.

Red Cross DAT volunteers respond to disasters like this every day in the Central Valley. Now you have a chance to help prevent home fires and save lives in your community.

The HFPC seeks to increase the use of smoke alarms in
neighborhoods with higher numbers of home fires.

The Home Fire Preparedness Campaign is a new initiative to install free smoke alarms in homes throughout the Valley. Join us on January 17, 2015 in Tulare or Fresno as we work to decrease death and injuries from home fires by as much as 25%.

CLICK HERE to sign up today!

Daniel Avina
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central California Region

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The First Line of Defense

Household smoke alarms are often considered the first line of defense with regard to a family’s safety during a home fire.  Families generally only have 2 minutes to escape their homes before the fire becomes life threatening.  It is for this reason, that functioning household smoke alarms are paramount in providing for the safety of one’s family.  On average, thirty-six people suffer from a home fire every day.  Tragically, seven of those thirty-six perish during these daily occurrences. Therefore, having properly maintained smoke alarms installed in a household can mean the difference between being one of the thirty-six or being one of the seven.

In a survey conducted by the National Fire Protection Association, researchers discovered that about 97% of the total U.S. population had at least one smoke alarm in their household.  However, 37% of all home fire related deaths from 2007-2011 were in homes where no smoke alarm was present.

Furthermore, an additional 23% of casualties were in homes where smoke alarms were present but had been improperly tested or maintained.  This translates to a casualty rate in households with malfunctioning or no smoke alarms that is twice as high as a household with one functioning smoke alarm.

The Red Cross recognizes the importance of having this first line of defense and has launched a Home Fire Preparedness Campaign that involves, among other aspects, free smoke alarm installations in homes without proper protection.  This month, Red Cross volunteers traveled to the community of Weldon, California to install smoke alarms for 200 at-risk homes.  In addition, these volunteers educated families on proper smoke alarm maintenance and the importance of making and practicing a family emergency plan.

If you would like to learn more or you would like to get involved in the prevention of home fire related suffering, please contact the Red Cross Central Valley Region by visiting redcross.org/centralvalleyregion.

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

Friday, December 12, 2014

'Tis the Season to be Selfless!

Ah! The holiday season is here! Shopping malls are covered with poinsettias and raging with sales, the smell of peppermint lattes is filling the air, and Christmas music can be heard almost anywhere you go. Talk shows and media outlets are filling peoples' minds with the hottest must have items to stock under Christmas trees.

As we all put time and thoughts into our holiday parties and gift ideas, we sometimes forget about the true meaning of the holidays. Bob Hope once said, “My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?” The American Red Cross truly gives back all year around and is a selfless organization.

Bob Hope performing at Lackland Air Force Base, 1990
This time of the year can be devastating for those that have lost their home and most of their belongings to fires and mudslides. On Thanksgiving, I was called out to my first disaster response call. The home, where a family of five lived, was completely destroyed. The fire was caused by a candle that was left burning during the night. All the members of the family made it out of the fire unharmed; however they lost their beloved pet Pit Bull. As we spoke to the father of the family, he was overwhelmed with grief. Once we finished taking his down his information and arranged hotel accommodations and issued him a cash assistance card for him and his family, he broke down in tears of gratitude. This experience made me see how the Red Cross makes a difference in people’s lives.

The American Red Cross of the Central California Region doesn’t only respond to disaster calls. With help from volunteers and employees, our Team Firestopper campaign has canvassed more than 6,000 homes with home fire safety information since I started my service in September 2014.  We taught more than 100 families on how they can help prevent home fires and keep their families safe in the case of a disaster.

During the holiday season, the American Red Cross supports our nation’s military forces with Holiday Mail for Heroes. The Merced chapter recently had their Holiday Mail for Heroes event at their local shopping mall where many locals came to create and send cards of thanks to the armed forces.
Volunteers sorting Holiday Mail for Hero Cards
You can make a difference this holiday season - or any time of the year - by signing up as a volunteer and find opportunities in which you can help the American Red Cross make your community a safer place!