Monthly Archives: January 2013

1Hey, people of our Philadelphia region! Did you know that the current fleet of American Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles is undergoing a redesign process?

This week, the American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA) will play host to the newly designed prototype of our Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV). The new prototype will stop in Philadelphia as part of its journey to Red Cross Chapters all over the country. The idea is to allow chapter employees and volunteers to provide feedback on its design and make any recommendations for changes once they have used the vehicle in the field.

American Red Cross ERVs have become an iconic symbol of our disaster relief services. In 1898, Clara Barton used a wagon as an ambulance for her work on the battlefield. Later, the organization used club mobiles to serve WWII soldiers. Before standardization began in the 1980s, the Red Cross used converted bread trucks, station wagons and pickup trucks painted with our iconic logo to deliver meals and other essentials after disasters. The current “ambulance design” was first used to support people affected by tornados in Western Pennsylvania.

Wise readers familiar with the current design know that it resembles a large box on wheels and is slightly unwhieldy to drive. The new model will lighten up, resembling the more agile service vehicles sometimes seen in densely packed European cities. Still, the key to it all will be whether these vehicles help our trained responders meet the needs of our clients in a timely and humane way. The national fleet of 320 ERVs is now more than 10 years old and is challenging to maintain. Once the new design is chosen, the Red Cross plans to completely replace and expand the existing fleet over the next ten years.

 ERV_Prototype_Response1.31.13 019

As always, the Red Cross will make changes with an eye toward efficiency and the bottom line. The new ERV’s will be less expensive to purchase and maintain. According to my colleague, Sara Smith, who rode in one this morning, the new design emphasizes comfort, fuel efficiency, storage and connectivity. They provide enough space for our trained responders to meet with clients inside the van, away from the scene of the disaster. I know our volunteers will appreciate the opportunity to take clients away from water or smoke and shelter them immediately.  The ERVs will also include an external dynamic messaging system, allowing responders to share real time information with others.

SEPA is excited to take part in this testing process. We will be seeking to discover if the new ERV’s features — such as a loading/unloading system, enhanced technology and a back-up camera – meet the needs of people who turn to our chapter for help after disasters.  This new model may not be “the one”  but it’s really great get the chance to take it for a spin.

–       Submitted by Sarah Peterson (Communications Volunteer)


DSC_0168_7138In the early morning hours of January 23nd, there was a serious house fire in East Norriton, Montgomery County. Since my volunteer role at the SEPA Red Cross began, I’ve been in the habit of checking the local news each morning. That’s how I saw the interview with the Montgomery County fire chief where he explained that the recent cold snap created some special challenges for the responders. It took a while to find a working hydrant. Water froze on contact with everything it touched: the grass, the pavement, the house. The hoses froze to the pavement and could not be moved once the fire was extinguished. Two fire fighters were hurt slipping on the ice. Two residents were hurt jumping out of a second floor window. It is safe to say that 10 degree temperatures made a terrible situation even worse, but the fire fighters were there to do their job and they deserve our admiration and respect.

The American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania was also there. Volunteers rose in the middle of the night to be at the scene and care for residents forced out into the cold. They were there with financial assistance for food, clothing, shoes and winter coats to four people affected by the fire. Frozen hoses are not the only challenging consequence of a cold snap. Cold and fire are old friends. When heating bills become high and un-payable, people take risks to create heat. Stove burners are turned to high, a space heater overloads a socket, and an oven is turned to 500 degrees and left open.

In the last few frozen days, our volunteers responded to 10 fires in all five Southeastern, PA counties. We helped 48 people who were forced out of their homes. In every case, Red Cross volunteers were there side by side with fire fighters to do the other half of the work: care for the people involved.

These volunteers are extremely special people. Most of us are good at caring for our family and friends; very few of us are good at caring for strangers in 10 degree temperatures at 2:00 in the morning. But still Red Cross volunteers are there. We were there this week. Our volunteers are dedicated middle of the night risers, unstoppable on ice and determined to provide relief. We will see our region through the winter months, no matter how cold it gets


Below is a video of a separate fire response, this one Friday evening 1/25/13 in N. Wales, Montgomery County. It further underscores the point made above.

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Already feeling shaky about the New Year’s resolutions you made in the wee hours of January 1st to friends and family who will never hold you to them? Not keeping those dates with the treadmill? The Red Cross has a list of easy resolutions to keep. We promise that following through on the list below will make you a healthier, happier, safer and more effective member of your community.

We challenge you to resolve to be Red Cross Ready. There are several ways to be Red Cross Ready, and these are some of the top ten. Even though the year has already started it’s never too late.

  1.    Make an Emergency Kit

This is important and can make an enormous difference for your household. Get other family members involved and use the list on the Red Cross website to guide the process.

2.      Download Red Cross Apps

The Red Cross’s new Hurricane App is incredibly useful and comforting. I loved having all that important information on my phone when Sandy hit Philadelphia in November. The download takes 30 seconds and we have several apps with a wealth of information. Check us out!

3.      Become a Red Cross Volunteer

There is nothing more rewarding that helping others in need. Enough said.

4.      Learn CPR

It usually takes a single day to get your certification. Not really much time when you think about what you are learning to do. Imagine having the ability to save a life in a medical emergency. Is that a worthwhile skill? You bet.

5.      Make sure there are working smoke detectors in the house

Our area has lost four people since January 1st to home fires where no working smoke detectors were found. Interviews with neighbors in the wake of these fires revealed that those who died were valued elderly members of their communities who had been living in their houses for decades. The solution is to care more for one another. Check your own smoke detectors. Help your neighbors check theirs.

6.      Talk with family and make an emergency plan

Talk about escaping your home during a fire. Designate a meeting place on the outside. Talk about what to do if you are asked to evacuate during a hurricane or flood. Having a plan relieves anxiety and will serve you well when confronted with a real disaster scenario.

7.      Know your region and what types of natural disaster may occur

This is a simple as knowing what to prepare for. For instance, if you know you are in a flood zone, you can prepare for evacuation.

8.      Inform others of being Red Cross Ready

Again, care for your neighbors. Encourage your neighbors to visit the Red Cross website. The more people prepared for a potential disaster, the stronger the community as a whole.

9.      Attend a Red Cross training class

We can help you learn to be a fantastic lifeguard, an excellent babysitter, an outstanding caregiver, a skilled nurse’s aid and a strong swimmer among other useful skills. Check it out!

10.  Give Blood

This involves lying down in a relaxed state for around 45 minutes. Anyone feeling capable of that?

— Posted by Jennifer Ingram and Sarah Peterson


If you were someone who viewed a news program, went online, listened to your car radio or (in a more retro mode), read your newspaper this morning you already know that one of the more breathlessly delivered headlines was about  the aggressive nature of this season’s H3N2 influenza virus. One compelling story, perused in my paper copy of the New York Times (yes, I’m way, way retro) was about a doctor who recently treated a “manly” construction worker who arrived in her office burning with fever and curled into “the fetal position”.  I liked this story because I’ve never lost my respect for the utter fearsomeness of this annual plague since the last time I caught it several years ago. It doesn’t always matter how strong and healthy you are – it will bring you low. It will storm your battlements and lay waste to your defenses. So please take the following information very seriously.  As always, the Red Cross of Southeastern PA is looking out for you.


First, take steps to get a flu shot if you haven’t already. Go. Now. Walgreens. CVS. Your doctor. A clinic. So many options. . .

Too late? Be aware of the early signs of flu. They are as follows:

  • High fever
  • Severe body aches
  • Head ache
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy nose
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in small children)

These are important clues that it’s time to crawl into bed with a box of tissues, a nearby pitcher of water and a drinking vessel, some cough medicine and drops, some ibuprofen or acetaminophen (remember, no asprin for kids!)  and the will to sleep for several days in between catching up on reading or TV . Please do this until you are fever free for 24 hours.

For those who are at risk for complications such as the very old, the very young, pregnant women, asthmatics, and the immune-compromised, these individuals are encouraged to obtain an anti-viral medication such as Tamiflu or Relenza from a medical professional within 48 hours of the onset of their symptoms.  These medications work to reduce the severity of symptoms and the likelihood of complications.

It’s incredibly important for all flu sufferers to keep drinking water. Try using a straw if a sore throat is getting in the way.

Be on the lookout for symptoms that require a call to the doctor. They are:

  • Fast breathing, trouble breathing or bluish skin color.
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen (adults).
  •  Confusion or sudden dizziness.
  • Not drinking enough fluids, not being able to eat, or severe or persistent vomiting.
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough.
  • Not waking up, being so irritable that the child does not want to be held or not interacting (children).
  • Fever with a rash (children).
  • No tears when crying or significantly fewer wet diapers than normal (children).

If you are the caregiver for an elderly parent, a small child or “manly ” husband, there are several steps you can take to protect your household. It’s smart to designate a sick room and keep the sick individual away from other members of the family. Wipe down frequently used surfaces (bathroom doorknobs come to mind) with disinfectant. Clean dishes with hot water and soap and use regular laundry detergent for clothing. Wear gloves when cleaning up bodily fluids and used tissues. Better yet, put a small plastic bag inside a dust bin and deposit tissues there.  Ideally, the sick family member should wear a mask when around others.

Don’t forget, the first defense against influenza is careful hand washing.  Keep scrubbing!

More information about how to help protect loved ones during this flu season is available on

— Posted by Sarah Peterson, Red Cross Volunteer