Lightning Safety Awareness Week: If thunder roars, go indoors!

By Alana Mauger

Thunderstorms are not uncommon this time of year, but that’s no reason to be complacent. Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which means every thunderstorm is dangerous. For that reason, the National Lightning Safety Council designates June 19-25 as Lightning Safety Awareness Week – the perfect time to review some important safety tips.

According to the National Weather Service, there is no safe place outside when a thunderstorm is in the area. If you can hear thunder, you’re close enough to be in danger from lightning. Move inside at the first clap of thunder and stay inside at least 30 minutes after the last thunderclap. Don’t wait to seek shelter until the storm is overhead or it starts to rain!

Here’s more tips to keep your family safe:

Be Red Cross Ready Before a Storm

  • Learn about your local community’s emergency warning system for severe thunderstorms.
  • Discuss thunderstorm safety and lightning safety with all members of your household.
  • Pick a safe place in your home for household members to gather during a thunderstorm This should be away from windows, skylights and glass doors that could be broken by strong winds or hail.
  • Make a list of items to bring inside in the event of a severe thunderstorm.
  • Make trees and shrubbery more wind resistant by keeping them trimmed and removing damaged branches.
  • Protect your animals by ensuring that any outside buildings that house them are protected in the same way as your home.
  • Get trained in first aid and learn how to respond to emergencies.
  • Put together an emergency preparedness kit.
  • Review our Red Cross Thunderstorm Safety Checklist.

Be Vigilant When a Storm is in the Forecast

  • Listen to local news or NOAA Weather Radio for emergency updates. Watch for signs of a storm, like darkening skies, lightning flashes or increasing wind.
  • Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are likely to occur. Many people struck by lightning are not in the area where rain is occurring.
  • If a severe thunderstorm warning is issued, take shelter in a substantial building or in a vehicle with the windows closed. Get out of mobile homes that can blow over in high winds.

Be Safe During a Storm

  • Shutter windows and close outside doors securely. Keep away from windows.
  • Do not take a bath, shower or use plumbing.
  • If you are driving, try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle. NEVER drive through a flooded roadway.
  • If you are outside and cannot reach a safe building, avoid high ground; water; tall, isolated trees; and metal objects such as fences or bleachers. Picnic shelters, dugouts and sheds are NOT safe.

Learn more about thunderstorm safety at redcross.org.

World Refugee Day 2022: ‘Whoever, Wherever, Whenever – Everyone has the right to safety’

By Alana Mauger

The American Red Cross joins communities and organizations around the globe to commemorate World Refugee Day on June 20th, an international day designated by the United Nations to celebrate the strength and courage of people who make the difficult decision to flee their home countries to escape conflict or persecution.

The core message of this year’s campaign states that every person has the right to seek safety – whoever they are, wherever they come from and whenever they are forced to flee.

  • Whoever – Seeking safety is a human right. People forced to flee should be treated with dignity. Anyone can seek protection, regardless of who they are or what they believe.
  • Wherever – Refugees come from all over the globe. The right to seek safety is universal. Wherever they come from, people forced to flee should be welcomed.
  • Whenever – Whenever people are forced to flee, they have a right to be protected.

According to UNHCR: The UN Refugee Agency, 89.3 million people worldwide, 41% of whom are children, were forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations or events disturbing public order in 2021.

As part of the world’s largest humanitarian network, the American Red Cross partners with Red Cross and Red Crescent teams to provide aid and hope to migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in accordance with our seven fundamental principles: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality.

Check out the links below to learn more about our work.

Philadelphia attorney Terri Booker advocates for sickle cell awareness

By Jackie Faiman

Terri Booker shared her story during a press conference ahead of a sickle cell blood drive sponsored by Philadelphia Commissioner Omar Sabir in February. Photo by Alana Mauger/American Red Cross

Terri Booker was 11 when a routine blood test revealed that she had sickle cell disease (SCD), but even as a toddler she felt its pain. “It is like someone gripping your arm and twisting it in two opposite directions.”

SCD affects approximately 100,000 in the United States. People with SCD have abnormally shaped hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to bodily tissues. The affected cells become crescent-shaped instead of rounded and are more likely to get stuck in blood vessels, obstructing blood flow. This can lead to severe pain, inflammation, and in extreme cases, tissue and organ death.

Booker has struggled with periodic pain attacks, or crises, and has undergone regular transfusions, laser treatment on her eye, and hip surgery. “It’s a constant battle with your body,” she says. Through it all, she has learned and adapted. She knows to stay hydrated, to avoid extreme temperature or altitude changes, and to rest when she feels run down. If she takes a vacation, she makes sure there is a hospital nearby.

SCD disproportionately affects people of African heritage, and Booker posits that this is one reason the disease is still poorly understood and under-resourced. Although all newborns in the U.S. are supposed to be screened for the disease—to develop SCD a baby must possess the sickle cell trait from both parents—many people are not diagnosed until there is a crisis. Many doctors are not well trained in what to look for and how to treat patients in crisis.

Booker notes other challenges in identifying and addressing the disease. Bias can play a role; she tells of a Caucasian family where all three children were diagnosed with SCD, but only after repeated denials by their doctor, who believed it only presented in black people. Many SCD patients arrive at the emergency room seeking relief from severe pain, only to be received by a physician reluctant to dispense adequate pain medication.

Now in her late 30s, Booker has harnessed her experience with SCD to serve as an advocate for greater public awareness of it. She helped lobby Congress to pass the Sickle Cell Treatment Act of 2018 and advocates for expanded research and treatments. She emphasizes the importance of donating blood, that it can save the life of a person with SCD.

Booker is optimistic, noting that the prognosis for a young person with SCD today is so much better than it was two generations ago. She urges people to learn more and seek resources and community for the disease through the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America. “The pain is real, believe us,” she says, but adds, “I am hopeful that medicines will be created to make our everyday lives better.”

Editor’s Note: June 19th is an important day for celebration and awareness. It marks Juneteenth, our newest federal holiday and a day of reflection and pride that commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States. It’s also World Sickle Day, established by the United Nations in 2008 and commemorated every June 19th to increase awareness about sickle cell disease – the most common genetic disorder in the U.S. 

National Kitchen Site Management Boot Camp trains 21 volunteers ready to deploy to disasters

By Judith Weeks

Volunteers from the Southern Baptist Convention and American Red Cross prepare food in a field kitchen at West Chester University on Saturday, June 11, 2022. Photo by James Jones / American Red Cross

As more hurricanes, wildfires, tornados, and floods are occurring, the American Red Cross needs Kitchen Site Managers for deployment. Feeding is a critical component of the Mass Care Team who provide shelter and food for those evacuated during a disaster or need a place to go after a disaster

Recently, the Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA) Region hosted the first National Kitchen Site Management Boot Camp at West Chester University.. This “hands on” training gives volunteers the experience they need to qualify for Kitchen Site Manager. Twenty-one Red Cross volunteers from around the country arrived for this training event. They participated under the guidance of instructors, asking questions, and in this simulation, learning from mistakes while experiencing the workflow of a field kitchen.

Jeff Banks, Senior Red Cross Disaster Program Manager, directing the operation, explained “this program is focused on developing Kitchen Site Managers.” Banks intends to bring it to other sites around the country. Laurynn Myers, National Program Manager, was observing the kitchen and workflow. Instructors Nanci Banninger and Brian Gerber were closely watching the activity, evaluating trainees.

Program participants carry prepared food to ERVs for delivery to homeless shelters and soup kitchens in the region. Photo by James Jones / American Red Cross

The Southern Baptist Convention, a major feeding partner with the Red Cross brought their portable kitchen to cook meals. SEPA Logistics delivered supplies and equipment. Steve Thomas, Logistics Lead, explained, “Logistics are the Roadies for the Red Cross. First in Last Out!” The group assembled at the parking lot for orientation and assignments. Meals ready to go and ERVs (Emergency Response Vehicles)  delivering them by 11 a.m. was the objective. Volunteers were organized and Johan Reyes was designated Kitchen Site Manager.

A field kitchen is a complex operation with all steps of the workflow happening simultaneously. The Southern Baptists were busy preparing barbeque chicken, green beans, rice and fruit. Volunteers were sanitizing cambros (insulated container for keeping food hot or cold), placing cooked food containers into the cambros, labeling them, then loading on the ERVs. ERVs with drivers were lined up, waiting for direction to the loading area by yard dog Andy Aerenson,

The kitchen was running smoothly until Gary Mills, manager for the Southern Baptist Kitchen, determined meal preparation had slowed by 30 minutes. Additional hands were needed. Red Cross volunteers jumped in helping with preparation. Soon, the food preparation operation was back on track and it was announced the first ERV was delivering meals at 11 a.m.! The boot camp experience was a success!

A loaded ERV prepares to deploy from West Chester University. Photo by James Jones / American Red Cross

Twenty-one new Kitchen Site Managers from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Rhode Island, Texas, and Alabama are fully trained and ready to deploy to any disaster where a field kitchen is needed.

For volunteer Ana Gallagher, this was a great opportunity. She enthusiastically said, “feeding is my passion, and this is the right place to learn!”

View more event photos on Flickr.

Give blood in honor of World Blood Donor Day

By Alana Mauger

Donating blood is an act of solidarity. Join the effort and save lives.

Each year on June 14, the American Red Cross joins blood collection organizations around the world to celebrate World Blood Donor Day, which recognizes the importance of a safe and stable blood supply and the donors who make it possible. This year’s slogan draws attention to the important role voluntary blood donations play in saving lives and enhancing solidarity within communities. The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling on people around the globe to give blood during the month of June in a gesture of that solidarity.

GET INVOLVED

Nearly 2.5 million people volunteer to give lifesaving blood and platelets every year with the Red Cross. You can help:

  • Be a voluntary blood donor and an inspiration to others.
  • Commit to being a regular donor and give blood throughout the year.
  • Encourage your friends and family to become regular blood donors.
  • Volunteer with us to host a blood drive or serve as a Blood Donor Ambassador or Blood Delivery Driver.
  • Share info about World Blood Donor Day and blood donation on your social networks.

SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT

Blood donations decline in late spring and early summer – especially during holiday weeks, like Memorial Day and Independence Day – but the need for blood and platelet transfusions doesn’t take a summer break. Generous blood and platelet donors are critically important in ensuring lifesaving care is available the moment patients need it. To schedule an appointment to donate, download the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Mission Moment: Red Cross House provides support and joy after a disaster

By Terri Seydel

Yasmeen Atkerson and her daughter Zuryi on Easter at the Red Cross House. Photo by Mary Noll/American Red Cross

A home fire on April 9th could have been a life-altering day for Yasmeen Atkerson and her family. Thanks to working smoke detectors, alert family members, and the quick work of Philadelphia Firefighters, her family escaped safely.

That evening as she was struggling to find hotel accommodations, Yasmeen received a call from the American Red Cross asking what she needed. She explained that she needed to find housing for herself, her 6-year-old daughter, her disabled mother, and her significant other.

Fortunately, there was availability at the Red Cross House in Philadelphia. This facility is a one-of-a-kind disaster recovery space in America that offers housing, basic needs, and support to disaster victims. The goal of the Red Cross house is to provide resources in a safe and comfortable environment while victims develop a recovery plan in the aftermath of a disaster.

Yasmeen’s family stayed at the Red Cross House for ten days, including the Easter holiday. While Yasmeen appreciates the shelter’s meals and other resources, she is especially thankful to the Red Cross volunteers for making the Easter holiday special for her daughter by providing an Easter basket and taking the time to color eggs with her.

Yasmeen and her family are glad to be back in their home now but will always remember the Red Cross house.  The thoughtfulness of the volunteers added cheer to an otherwise stressful situation and the support helped them to navigate disaster recovery planning.  

Families like Yasmeen’s are the inspiration for the Red Cross House which serves more than 300 families per year. Each family is assigned a caseworker to help them create and implement a recovery plan while also providing basic needs such as meals, access to medical help, and computers. Additionally, special attention is given to children with a playroom, a playground, and stuffed animals to call their own.

Volunteers and donors are the heart of what makes the Red Cross House possible. You can learn more about the Red Cross house HERE.

You can help save lives with Red Cross CPR/AED training

By Sam Antenucci

June 22, 2018. Washington, DC. CPR stock photos by Roy Cox for the American Red Cross.

I remember the first time I received CPR training as an undergraduate student. I did not quite know what CPR entailed, but I knew it was an important skill to learn in an emergency. In the American Red Cross CPR course, I first learned what a cardiac arrest is. Cardiac arrest is more than just chest pain; the heart ceases to beat.

After we learned more about the anatomy and physiology of the heart, we got to practice. We broke out the CPR manikins and learned the proper placement for hands and how to deliver effective breaths when delivering compressions. The golden rule was to push fast and hard on the chest for 30 sets of compressions with two breaths in between each set.

After mastering adult CPR, we moved on to child CPR, talked about critical differences between adults and children, and focused on how to apply an automated external defibrillator (AED) for both age groups. It was an invigorating 4 hours with plenty of individualized practice. We left feeling capable of handling a cardiac emergency from thereon.

It has been many years since my first CPR course, and in that time, I have become an EMT and taught CPR to new EMT students. Though it is one of the first skills we learn as EMTs, it is one of the most important because it can be the difference between life or death for a person in cardiac arrest. My students bring me stories of successful CPR attempts and instances where they had to perform CPR outside of a hospital. The techniques they have learned and refined have helped save someone’s life outside of our classroom. Thanks to the rigorous training a CPR class provides, they feel more capable of handling a cardiac emergency.

In support of the National CPR and AED Awareness Week, the Red Cross urges everyone to become CPR certified. According to the American Heart Association, more than 475,000 Americans die from cardiac arrest each year. A more frightening statistic is that 90% of those who have an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest will die. However, bystander CPR can double the odds of survival if performed immediately!

Within one course, you could be the difference in saving someone’s life. If you are interested in bringing down the above statistic, the American Red Cross CPR classes are designed with a busy schedule in mind! Courses are offered on weekdays and weekends with many different modalities that best suit your learning styles. These include instruction in-person, online or hybrid. You can get the skills and confidence needed to perform this lifesaving intervention when needed the most, regardless of which type of course you take.

For more information on the courses offered in your area, you can search for classes through the American Red Cross’s CPR training website.

Hurricane season is here! Get prepared; volunteer now

By Alana Mauger

The Atlantic Hurricane Season started on Wednesday, June 1 and runs until November 30, and another active season is expected. In fact, the first tropical storm or hurricane of the season is possible in the Gulf of Mexico late this week. The American Red Cross urges everyone to make their preparations now and is issuing a call for more people to volunteer to respond to these emergencies.

For the seventh consecutive year, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is predicting above-average Atlantic hurricane activity, continuing the trend of more frequent and intense climate-driven disasters. The forecast calls for 14 to 21 named storms, of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes, including 3 to 6 major hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or higher.

HOW TO GET READY

Last month, communications volunteer Terri Seydel shared some important steps you can take to prepare for hurricanes. These include:

  • Creating an evacuation plan – Plan what to do in case you are separated from your family during an emergency or if you need to evacuate.
  • Building an emergency kit – Include a gallon of water per person, per day, non-perishable food, a flashlight, battery-powered radio, first aid kit, medications, supplies for infants or pets, a multi-purpose tool, personal hygiene items, copies of important papers, cell phone chargers, extra cash, blankets, maps of the area and emergency contact information.
  • Staying informed – Find out how local officials will contact you during a disaster and how you will get important information, such as evacuation orders.
  • Downloading the free Red Cross Emergency app – Have severe weather safety information right at your fingertips.The Emergency app provides real-time weather alerts and tips on how to stay safe during severe weather and countless other emergencies. Search “American Red Cross” in app stores or go to redcross.org/apps.

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED

You can also help the Red Cross prepare for hurricane season by getting involved — and getting trained now — before hurricanes strike our region. The relentless pace of severe disasters has created additional and ongoing emergency needs, especially for families who have been displaced year after year by extreme weather events. As the growing number of climate disasters threatens lives on a near-constant basis, the Red Cross is growing our volunteer capacity to respond to these emergencies.

The need to help during disasters has never been greater — join us to provide relief and hope when it matters most. Visit redcross.org to sign up now. These are our most-needed disaster volunteer positions:

  • SHELTER SUPPORT: Help at a shelter during a large disaster either locally or across the country by welcoming and registering residents, serving meals, setting up cots, distributing blankets and personal hygiene kits, and providing information and other assistance to people in need. Training and travel costs are covered by the Red Cross.
  • HEALTH SERVICES: Use your professional skills as a licensed health care provider to deliver hands-on support, including care and education, to people staying at a shelter during a large disaster either locally or nationwide. Travel costs are covered by the Red Cross. Qualified licenses include RN, LPN, LVN, EMT, Paramedic, MD, DO, PA, NP and APRN.

  • DISASTER ACTION TEAM: While big hurricanes get the most news coverage, smaller disasters such as floods, tornadoes and home fires are no less devastating to those affected. Join a Disaster Action Team to help local families in need by providing food, lodging, comfort, recovery assistance and other support.
  • DUTY OFFICER: Volunteer from home to dispatch local Red Cross volunteers to meet with families impacted by home fires and other disasters so they can provide temporary relief such as a safe place to stay, food and clothing.

Visit our volunteer webpage to get started today!

Volunteers place American flags on veterans’ graves to commemorate Memorial Day

By Judith Weeks

American Red Cross volunteers at Woodlands Cemetery on May 14, 2022.
Photo by Frances Schwabenland/American Red Cross

On a Saturday morning Red Cross volunteers assembled at the Woodlands Cemetery to place flags on graves of military veterans. Jaime Boris, SAF-IS (Service to the Armed Forces Regional Program Manager) was busy organizing maps, bundles of flags, and providing instructions for teams. Bernadine Salgado, Grave Gardener for the Woodlands Cemetery and Red Cross SAF volunteer helped organize the event.

The Woodlands Cemetery, a National Historic Landmark District, was established in 1840 as a Victorian Cemetery and Arboretum. This gem of Philadelphia Parks is hidden near the VA Hospital in University City. How appropriate for a resting place for our vets. These veterans served our country in conflicts since the Civil War.

Red Cross SEPA CEO Guy Triano, who was placing flags, commented “this is a wonderful experience to say thanks at the time around Memorial Day. This flag placing tradition is from the commitment to our fallen by Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross.” After the Civil War, Barton led the effort to mark graves of 13,000 fallen soldiers at Andersonville, Georgia.

Photo by Frances Schwabenland/American Red Cross

As volunteers dispersed in teams, Bernadine led me to the grave of Emily Bliss Souder, a Volunteer Army Nurse. On July 15, 1863, she arrived at the Gettysburg battlefield. Souder was one of many nurses who assisted the wounded and dying. Her series of poems and letters brought forth emotions of this historic battle. Did Souder and Clara Barton cross paths? We will never know.

Bernadine next brought me to the grave of Marie Hidell, a Navy Nurse at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital during the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918. She worked day and night caring for soldiers stricken with this flu. She became ill with the flu and lost her life. Marie Hidell was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for service and devotion to duty.

Ranga Radhakrishnan and his daughter Rheeya Sudhagar place flags on May 14. Photo by Frances Schwabenland/American Red Cross

 A volunteer at an early age can be a volunteer for life. Ranga Radhakrishnan brought his daughter Rheeya Sudhagar. With a big smile, Rheeya, a member of the Red Cross Youth Organization, said she wants to be involved in the community. Li Gao volunteered along with her daughter Aspen Zhuang, sharing this experience.

Sydney Dixon was placing flags in honor of her parents, whose graves are in Arlington National Cemetery. She could not go to Arlington, but she could participate in this event to honor of her father’s service. She proudly told me he was a Tuskegee Aviator during WWII.

Barbara Turner’s brother served two tours of duty with the Air Force in Vietnam. When her father was terminally ill, Red Cross SAF brought him home from Vietnam so he could be with his father before he passed. “The Red Cross did it. They got him home!” she said. This is her way of giving back.

American Red Cross volunteers at Lower Merion Baptist Church Cemetery on May 21, 2022.
Photo by Dave Skutnik/American Red Cross

On the following weekend, Red Cross volunteers placed flags on the graves of approximately 270 veterans at the Lower Merion Baptist Church Cemetery in Bryn Mawr. According to the church’s website, the cemetery opened in 1811 and includes the graves of 19 Continental Army soldiers16 veterans of the War of 1812 and 28 Civil War veterans. A full list of the more than 3,000 people buried at the cemetery is available from the Lower Merion Historical Society.

Placing flags on the graves of veterans is a sign of respect, a time for community service, and remembrance of history and those who served our country.

Red Cross hero Thurston Perry Moon brings water safety to new heights in Philadelphia

By Erica Silverman

American Red Cross lifeguard guard and blood donor Thurston Perry-Moon. Submitted photo

Trainees line up, get ready to jump in the water, and the whistle blows! Swim 300 yards, tread water for 2 minutes without hands, swim 20 yards to retrieve a 10-pound weight from the bottom of the pool, then swim with the weight back to the starting point in under 1 minute and 40 seconds. This is the first test Red Cross trainees must pass on their way to becoming certified life guards, administered by Red Cross hero and Lifeguard Instructor Thurston-Perry Moon.

“I train each lifeguard to save lives,” said Moon, who initially became a certified lifeguard through the Red Cross in 1999.

“I became involved with the Red Cross, since their training has the highest standards in providing adequate care for a drowning victim or other water emergencies,” he said.

Moon, a Philadelphia native, has been a Red Cross Lifeguard Instructor (LGI) since 2010 in Philadelphia and Southeastern PA.

He holds about 12 training sessions every spring and summer across Southeastern PA, training between 50 to 100 guards per season.

“It’s a very diverse group [of trainees], all ages, ethnicities, and different backgrounds,” said Moon.

May is Water Safety Month, which comes at a perfect time as swimmers, campers and people of all ages are gearing up for summer fun in the water. The American Red Cross plays a key role in this national campaign, providing education and training in water safety, and swim lessons.

“The most successful lifeguard candidates start out taking Red Cross swim lessons; this is an important pipeline,” explained Moon, a father and middle-School math teacher in Philadelphia.

You can download the free American Red Cross Swim App, as a companion to the Learn-to-Swim program. The app keeps the swimmer motivated and provides the latest in water safety guidelines.

Moon serves a Red Cross trainer in several roles.

“I also hold CPR and first aid training courses so community members can help someone who is a victim of a gunshot wound,” he said.  He is currently fundraising to continue these efforts to combat increasing violence.

He makes whole blood donations about 5 times per year and continued throughout the pandemic.

Moon comes from a long line of heroes.

His grandfather, Joseph Mander, 41, died in the Schuylkill River while trying to save the life of a child, Paul Waxman, 7, who had fallen into the river in 1952. Mander held the boy above the water, but suddenly both were pulled under and downed. A plaque near the river commemorates Mander’s heroic efforts.

“This empowered me and my family to make water safety a priority in our lives,” said Moon.

Trained lifeguards are prepared for rapid response in case of a water emergency.

The mastery test at the end of the training includes two written tests for CPR and first aid skills, an in-water aquatic rescue test, and the candidate must demonstrate proper execution of CPR on dry land, according to Moon.

To find out more about training opportunities visit this link.