By: Christine Loch

Imagine you’re a nurse. It’s the middle of the night and you’re catching up on paperwork and charting. The chore feels endless, and you’ve never felt more exhausted. Then comes the dreaded call: “Code Blue, Third floor”! Your community hospital springs into action as code team members—nurses, physicians, lab technicians—respond to the unwelcome invitation. They congregate around a hospital bed and react with well-orchestrated skill as a patient fights for their life.

As a registered nurse and respiratory therapist, I no longer work the bedside, but after years of working in intensive care units and on emergency response teams, my memories of these scenes are still vivid. I recall the physical and emotional burden of this work. But I also think of the indelible legacy of the code teams who saved so many lives by providing the all-too-familiar rhythmic percussions and respirations of CPR. With CPR and AED Awareness week beginning on June 1 and running through June 7, I took some time to reflect on all the times I’ve personally witnessed these skills save lives.

There was never a time when my focus and concentration ran deeper, and I never felt a more unifying sense of teamwork and compassion among my fellow team members than when we strived to save a life. Never was there a sound that provided more relief and joy to us than the rhythmic EKG beeps signaling a restored heartbeat.

The coordination of care toward a successful outcome is not an accident—it’s the result of education and training based on decades of research. The good news is that you and any layperson can tap this body of knowledge to advance your preparedness skills. When someone experiences a potentially fatal cardiac event, it’s often the actions taken in the first critical moments that make the difference between life and death. In such a dreaded scenario, you could be the person who saves the life of a family member, an acquaintance, or even just a fellow human being on the street.

Here’s where the American Red Cross comes in: By taking a Red Cross course in First Aid or CPR and AED (Automated External Defibrillator), you play a critical role in giving a head start to our first responders and healthcare heroes.

As my fellow healthcare workers continue to humbly bear the honor and privilege to be with patients during their most vulnerable hours, let us take a moment to not only reflect on the courageous and selfless acts of our hospital teams, but also seek to understand how we can support their efforts.

February 21-22, 2018. Washington, DC CPR Classroom Stock Video and Photography Shoot 2018 Photos by Dennis Drenner/American Red Cross

Within you is a healthcare hero whose actions could save a life. You never know when a family member, friend, or even stranger may be next to you in their time of need. Take the time today to become certified in CPR/AED. You can do it from the comfort of your own home—many different courses in lifesaving skills are offered entirely online. Visit redcross.org/takeaclass for a current listing.

By: Rachael HaileSelasse

As you welcome warm weather and head out into the fresh air you’ve been missing, it’s time to relax. But don’t drop your guard too much—you’ll need to avoid virus exposure along with the usual hazards of summer. Preventing emergencies further protects your community, heroic emergency workers, and hospitals. Here are seven ways to stay safe while having summer fun.

1. Remember the “other” CDC: Cover, Distance, Clean. The American Red Cross has adopted these familiar initials to keep people mindful of maintaining safe habits. First, cover your mouth and nose completely with a fabric mask. If you cough or sneeze—even with a mask on—do so into your elbow (the “Dracula sneeze”) or shoulder. Second, maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet from others. Finally, clean your hands by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

To avoid virus exposure—for yourself and others—try to limit the number of places you go. Also, disinfect commonly touched surfaces such as car door handles, buttons, outdoor furniture, pet leash handles, keys, cellphones, and any other portable electronic devices.

2. Stay aware of seasonal risks. Some common summer hazards involve grilling, driving, and special outings.

Position your grill away from structures and flammable surfaces, and watch your pets and kids while grilling. Never grill in an enclosed area like a camper or tent! For more, check out these Red Cross grilling guidelines. When driving, be alert and calm (and sober, needless to say) at all times. Finally, before you go on that hike, bike trip, or picnic in the park, make sure you have emergency contacts and tell someone where you’re going. Don’t forget insect repellent, water, food, and a first aid kit.

3. Camp with care. Whether you’re in a backyard or the backcountry, camping is more fun when you’re prepared. That’s why first aid training is always a good idea. Pack appropriate clothing, practice fire safety, and give your itinerary to your emergency contact(s).

4. Enjoy a safe Fourth. So they canceled your local public fireworks show? Temper your kids’ disappointment with fun backyard alternatives, such as glow sticks, confetti launchers, or a piñata. We recommend leaving fireworks to the professionals, but if you must set them off, use eye protection. Never give them to children or point them toward people, animals, or objects. Fireworks can bounce off hard surfaces and injure people or spark flammable materials. Don’t try to relight a dud.

5. Be water smart. At public pools and beaches, follow official rules and maintain social distancing. (Check out this Red Cross guide to ocean safety.) Never, ever leave a small child unattended near water. Even plastic kiddie pools and buckets of water are drowning risks. When not in use, store these items empty and upside down. More on water safety here.

6. Respect the weather. Excessive heat causes more deaths than all other weather events. Do not leave a child, pet, or elderly person in a hot vehicle, even for a minute! Remember that small children and pets can’t access fluids on their own, so offer them water frequently.

Follow official weather warnings, and evacuation orders during the threat of a hurricane, flood, thunderstorm, tornado, landslide, or wildfire. Prepare an emergency kit that includes food and water for everyone, as well as medications and cell phone chargers. Don’t forget carriers and leashes for pets.

7. Keep up to date. The American Red Cross has many online resources to help you prepare, respond, and recover in the face of emergencies. Enable the Red Cross skills on Amazon Alexa-enabled devices to get first aid information, schedule a blood donation, receive warnings about an approaching hurricane or make a financial donation to the Red Cross.

By: Marta Rusek 

August 1, 2011. Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. Stock photo of the Air Force. Photo by Dennis Drenner/American Red Cross

When we think of strength and bravery, our minds may turn to the service members and veterans who put their lives on the line for our nation. That kind of reputation can make us forget that our heroes in uniform are human beings that face unique challenges in times of crisis, especially when they are isolated from loved ones or can’t connect with their military support network. To help the military community in Philadelphia during the COVID-19 Stay-at-Home Order, the Red Cross has launched an interactive online Resiliency Workshop series.  

Each virtual workshop is facilitated by mental health practitioners who, over the course of each 60-minute session, describe the warning signs and long-term impact of stress and share easy-to-remember strategies for stress management. Current service members, veterans, and family members participate online through Zoom to recreate the community connection of in-person events. Feeling connected during the quarantine is crucial, according to Bill Rodebaugh III, Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) Director for the Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania. 

“When you’re in the military, two things get you through – your training and your comrades,” said Rodebaugh. “Having your teammates around you to depend on is something that really keeps our service members going.” Knowing that loved ones are safe and okay is also an important source of encouragement, he shared. 

Though the COVID-19 pandemic is uncharted territory for us all, Rodebaugh believes military experience has endowed current service members and veterans with certain resiliency-building skills that are helpful right now. 

“Veterans know how to make lists, plan, and be good role models,” he said. “Making a list of tangible things you can do for yourself, those you live with, and in your physical space is a good place to start. Planning allows us to look at our resources and apply those to our list of concrete things we can do.” 

The ability to inspire and encourage others is an especially empowering trait, according to Rodebaugh. “Veterans know how to act and can be depended on in times of crisis.” 

These qualities are apparent in the way the Resiliency Workshops are organized, with clear lists of warning signs and ways stress can take its toll, plus wellness planning to reduce stress and promote self-care. During the workshop, participants are taught mindfulness techniques (like deep breathing), strategies for healthy communication in times of stress, ways to get a good night’s sleep (a seemingly small but monumentally important way to protect your immune system right now), and how to find positivity when you’re really struggling.   

In addition to the workshop, Rodebaugh encourages service members and veterans to recognize their limits and ask for help if they reach a breaking point during the pandemic.  

“If you find yourself experiencing something uniquely different that you haven’t experienced before and you find yourself out of balance in a significant way, seek help,” Rodebaugh said. “There are a number of fantastic organizations that assist veterans and their families, like the Philadelphia Veterans Advisory Commission (215-686-3256), the Hero Care Network Hotline (1-877-272-7337), and the United Way (211).”  


If you are interested in participating in a future Resiliency Workshop, please email  william.rodebaughiii@redcross.org. 

By: Sophie Kluthe

Health Services volunteer Will Dobnak sets out meals for residents to pick up as they entered the shelter on the first night

How do you shelter dozens of disaster victims at a time when a highly contagious virus is causing widespread shutdowns and concern? That’s the question Red Cross disaster workers had to ask themselves, answer, and then put into action after a large apartment fire in Philadelphia on May 11. 

One week later, the Southeastern PA sheltering team successfully closed what was their first COVID-19 era hotel shelter, where they provided 284 overnight shelter stays across two hotels in the city, in large part thanks to a team of dedicated health services volunteers. 

It’s fitting that the shelter, which relied heavily on the skills of its health services volunteers, wrapped up just as EMS Week, a week to honor Emergency Medical Services personnel, was beginning. EMS worker Will Dobnak, who serves as an EMT in Montgomery County, played a large role in the shelter operation as a Red Cross Disaster Health Services Lead. 

“These two roles are not dissimilar in that they are both high adrenaline, fast paced fields where people are experiencing the worst days of their lives. I started in EMS at 16 as a volunteer, and quickly fell in love with being able to use my knowledge and skills to be an element of calm in the storm,” he said.  

Will Dobnak on EMS duty in Montgomery County (pre COVID-19)

Dobnak played an integral role in the hotel shelter, as Disaster Health Services was responsible for screening all shelter staff and displaced residents for signs of COVID-19. He said he’s used to wearing masks and gloves, and washing his hands a lot, but that the social distancing aspect was something he had to keep front of mind. 

“Disaster personnel are, by nature, empathetic individuals who want to be up close and personal with our clients. COVID -19 has forced us to confront this nature within us and adapt to the changing times.”  

At this shelter, Dobnak was in charge of making sure all shelter staff and shelter residents were given masks to wear. Shelter residents were also screened every morning with temperature checks and a checkup for any respiratory symptoms. Disaster staff were screened upon reporting to the shelter for their shift, and when leaving their shift. 

Dobnak takes Regional CEO Guy J. Triano’s temperature as he enters the shelter on the first night.

Staff put social distancing markers on the floor to help keep everyone adequately spaced in common areas. Meals were served individually wrapped, and eaten in rooms, as opposed to in a cafeteria. At the end of the week, nearly all of the nearly 60 displaced apartment residents were allowed back inside their units, giving Dobnak a moment to reflect.  

“Health Services is a vital service line when it comes to recovery. Our volunteers serve each day in answering Disaster Action Team assistance calls when people who are affected by disaster need help replacing medications or durable medical equipment like breathing machines or wheelchairs and glasses,” Dobnak said. “In a shelter environment, Health Services volunteers are responsible for maintaining the health and safety of all clients and staff in that shelter.”  

A tall order, but one Dobnak and other Red Cross volunteers are committed to for this disaster response, and the ones that will inevitably arise in the future.   

By: Karen Searle

Armed Forces Day, always celebrated on the third Saturday in May, holds a special place in the heart of Red Cross Regional Service to the Armed Forces Director, William Rodebaugh iii. Before joining the Red Cross, Rodebaugh served as a Major of Infantry in the U.S. Army with multiple combat deployments under his belt, including Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as operational assignments in Uzbekistan, the Korean peninsula, and Latin America. He comes from a long line of military family members, including his father, William, who served in the Vietnam War, and his grandfather, William, who served in World War II.   

Bill Rodebaugh iii, (left) and his father, William Rodebaugh ii (right), stand next to the flags that represent the military branch they served in.

Instituted by President Harry S. Truman, Armed Forces Day is a day to celebrate all six branches of the U.S. Military.  The first Armed Forces day took place on May 20, 1950, and played an essential part in educating society about the military and the role they play in the country. John F. Kennedy declared Armed Forces day a national holiday in 1961.   

1966. South Vietnam. Good news from home does a lot to boost the morale of a serviceman stationed in Vietnam. Captain John H. Orozco, of Tucson, Arizona, waves his hat when the Red Cross notifies him of the birth of a new son. Red Cross assistant field director Morris J. Atkinson, an Oklahoman from Spencer, delivers the message.

 The American Red Cross is proud to support members of the armed forces, veterans, and their families by providing financial assistance, counseling, information services, emergency communication as well as referral services to military personnel and their families.  For veterans, the Services to the Armed Forces provides support and therapy programs, as well as a program called No Veteran, Dies Alone which is a program that meets the needs of veterans by providing presence, companionship, and reassurance to dying veterans.   

There’s even a smartphone app, called the Hero Care app, for military members, veterans, or parents of a child joining the military. It’s a one stop shop to connect people to important resources that can help them through both emergency and non-emergency situations. Get the app here.

From the origins of the Civil War battlefield, the American Red Cross has been there for military members as Founder Clara Barton would bring supplies and offer support to the soldiers during battle. Barton served as President to the Red Cross until 1904.  

“I feel so passionate about what our Services to the Armed forces division does for those who are serving and those who served. I’m so lucky to lead this local effort and have the flexibility to tailor this program to our local needs, and make it as authentic and meaningful as possible,” Rodebaugh said. 

Some of the SAF team at an Armed Forces event in Philadelphia.

But Rodebaugh is the first to admit, he doesn’t do it alone. About 90% or the American Red Cross workforce is made up of volunteers, and Rodebaugh often looks to those volunteers for support and ideas, saying they are truly the backbone of this important line of service within the Red Cross. He says he is honored to salute those serving and veterans on this Armed Forces Day, and every other day of the year as well.                               

Interested in volunteering for Service to the Armed Forces? Both in person and virtual positions area available at       https://www.redcross.org/local/pennsylvania/southeastern-pennsylvania/volunteer.html.                   

By: Kevonne Bennett 

While stuck at home, one of the rays of hope have been the actual rays of sunshine that have been warming things up as we work from our living rooms, take our walks, and exercise our baking skills. Warmer temperatures mean that people with pools and boats may be getting ready to hit the water, if possible. Now that the warmer season is on its way, it’s crucial to not only maintain your coronavirus precautions, but also be aware of common dangers of the season. 

May 15 is National Water Safety Day, and the American Red Cross wants to make sure you and your loved ones stay safe. As you gear up to return to your favorite activities, please remember these tips. 

Keep Your Distance—Even Outdoors 

Whether you’re at a re-opened beach, a park, or any other public area, be mindful of social distancing. You and your party should remain six feet apart from others to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. 

Never Swim Alone!  

Always swim with at least one buddy, and stay near a lifeguard so he or she can see you if you need assistance. If you’re at a backyard pool, make sure an adult is there to supervise any children at all times. 

Keep an Eye on the Sky  

Nothing ruins summer fun like bad weather. Before and during your swimming outing, monitor weather reports for any storm potential. Lightning can be random and unpredictable; if you hear rumblings of thunder, get out of the water immediately. 

Follow the Rules  

Listen to the lifeguards—their job is to protect you. Follow the rules of the venue, whether it’s a beach or community pool. Dive only in areas where diving is safe and allowed. Don’t let anyone engage in rowdy behavior that might put others at risk. 

Wear Life Jackets  

If you’re on a boat, make sure you and your companions are wearing U.S. Coast Guard–approved life jackets in the appropriate size. Anyone unable to swim or not entirely comfortable is encouraged to wear a life jacket whenever they’re in or around the water. 

Know How to Help  

A fun day in the water can turn into a crisis at any moment. If you see someone struggling, avoid getting into the water to help. Instead, safely throw equipment that the struggling person can grab. Alert a lifeguard. Lifeguards are trained in the safest ways to help a person in trouble. 

Learn More 

The best way to stay safe in the water is to learn the skills you need to become Water Competent. Strongly consider taking a swimming or CPR class. Select classes are available online to complete at your convenience. Go to redcross.org/watersafety to register for classes and learn more about Water Competency. 

Disaster volunteer, Will Dobnak unpacks pre-packaged dinner for shelter residents.

By: Sophie Kluthe

It’s something our disaster responders have done too many times to count, but when the decision was made to open a shelter after a large apartment fire in Philadelphia’s Tioga section Monday, in some ways, it felt like something the team was doing for the first time.  

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve had to adapt the way we provide assistance to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Disaster Action Teams have been responding virtually to home fires almost daily, while simultaneously preparing for a response for a large-scale fire that could displace a lot of people. 

On Monday, a 40-unit apartment caught fire in the Tioga section of Philadelphia, leaving dozens of families without a place to spend the night. Trained Red Cross disaster workers Heidi Dampman and Gene Maxey went to the scene to assess the situation, where they found that dozens of people would need temporary lodging and other assistance. Because of the team’s diligence and thorough preparation, about a dozen highly trained volunteers were able to jump right into action to shelter this large number of people during a pandemic.   

Volunteer, Gene Maxey, at the scene of the apartment fire.

Instead of a gym or community center where we would normally open a shelter, we have prioritized partnerships with hotels that can be used as emergency lodging to ensure social distancing with individual hotel rooms for families. Monday night, our teams essentially opened a Red Cross shelter at a hotel, providing rooms for more than 40 people who had been displaced by the apartment fire. 

Temporary lodging is just one of the forms of assistance our teams provided. Jared Issacs is a Red Cross disaster volunteer trained in emotional support, and he was fully prepared to provide a listening ear and an open heart for those who had watched their homes go up in flames just a few hours prior. 

“The level of anxiety is higher than normal. I work at a hospital, so I see it every day. To have this happen on top of the additional stresses of COVID just makes things a lot more difficult for them. We just have to be understanding,” he said.  

A large part of the team’s training included the implementation of additional safety measures, which were put into place at the hotels. All Red Cross disaster workers wore masks and gloves, everyone entering the shelter had their temperature taken, and the dinner provided was pre-packaged instead of buffet-style.  

Volunteer Will Dobnak takes CEO Guy J. Triano’s temperature as he arrives at the shelter to assist.

“It’s difficult. This time it takes a lot more planning,” said Will Dobnak, who works as an EMT by day and a Red Cross disaster volunteer by night. “I signed up to be a volunteer because this is what I love doing. I’ve been in EMS for six years and I don’t ever want to stop doing this kind of stuff.”  

As the fire victims spaced out in line for dinner, one family with two young children stepped up to pick out their hoagies. All wearing masks, Diedra Kelly was visibly stressed, having to now manage not just one crisis, but two. But when asked how she was coping, she said, “We always know that you guys take care of everybody, and we thank you for that.” 

Volunteer Debbie Tevlin hands out dinners to Diedra Kelly and her family before they retired to their room to rest.

“No matter where we respond in our county or region, I know that I’m simply helping my own neighbors. Serving and sharing meals in a shelter is simply extending a communal hug and, especially now, we could all use a warm, heartfelt hug,” said Disaster Action Team member Debbie Tevlin.  

While we might not be able to give out a hug during these times of social distancing, our teams are still providing hope and comfort, whether it comes wrapped in a Red Cross blanket, a dinner to refuel after an exhausting day, or a safe, comfortable place to spend the night, so that families like Kelly’s can start planning their road to recovery.