Monthly Archives: May 2013

I’ve never really known the huge impact a hurricane can have on a community until Hurricane Sandy this past October. It was devastating to see people lose their homes to the storm. It never affected me when I was little, but it definitely does now. When you’re younger your parents do everything for you, think and act on your behalf, and you just follow their lead. Now that I’m 20 years old and living on my own, I’ve come to realize I am not prepared for the fast-approaching hurricane season, and would not know what to do in case of an emergency. Not only is it National Hurricane Preparedness Week, but Hurricane season officially begins June 1st and runs through November 30thThe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)predicts an active season. NOAA estimates between 7 and 11 Atlantic hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), potentially above average. This definitely caught my attention and is making me take the steps to be fully prepared this upcoming season.

There are Red Cross ready online tools, a downloadable app and web-based training modules available. Preparing ahead of time is the best way to be ready for any emergency or weather disaster.

With the hurricane season nearby, it is important to prepare early and make sure everything you need is available and ready. The Red Cross encourages three simple steps for at-home preparedness. They are, get a kit, make a plan, and stay informed.

The kit should comprise of gallon of water per person, per day, non-perishable food, a flashlight, battery-powered radio, first aid kit, medications, supplies for an infant if applicable, 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.  All of these tips and advice can be found on the American Red Cross website,

(NBC 10 reporter Tim Furlong detailed some of this during a recent live shot in Ventnor, NJ.)

Following that advice is what I’ll be doing to get ready for this upcoming Hurricane season. Staying informed is important, and you should be aware of the community evacuation plan, local shelters nearby, but also be aware of flooding in nearby areas. For families, preparing for a Hurricane is a little different, in that the amount of supplies increases and there is a need to sit down as a family and make a plan, so everyone understands what to do in case of emergency. Keeping up with the emergency information is very important during Hurricane season, and when a Hurricane hits, it is important to have a battery powered radio accessible.

Another way to get prepared, and a more convenient way, is to use the American Red Cross Hurricane app. It is full of everything you need to stay prepared during a Hurricane. There is a toolkit with a flashlight, strobe light, alarm, and there is also an “I’m Safe” option, which allows you to post to social media websites of your safety. There are also Prepare, Test, Hurricanes, Shelters, and More tabs, which all provide information on what to know during a Hurricane, and how to handle emergency situations. The Prepare tab has a Right Before section, a During, After, Plan Ahead, and Make a Plan section, so you’re always ready. There is an active storm tracker and shelter map, showing where all the nearby shelters are during disaster relief. The App is a great way to access information on your smartphone and will be more than useful this upcoming hurricane season; I know I’ve already downloaded it!

– Written by Erin McGinn


We are very proud of the work the Red Cross does here in Southeastern Pennsylvania, but also across the country. But we already know we do great work. We are grateful when that work is recognized in the media locally and nationally. Below are links to just some of the many news stories about Southeastern Pennsylvania’s response to the Oklahoma tornado. We will add more as we deem appropriate.

6ABC is at the airport as American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania volunteer Joe Cirillo leaves for Oklahoma City (05/26/13)

Fox 29 profiles the American Red Cross tornado app

6ABC summarizes the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania’s initial response to Oklahoma tornado

NBC 10 profiles the two SEPA workers leaving to help with Red Cross Oklahoma relief efforts

CEO appears on Fox 29’s Good Day Philadelphia.

Extensive story about Red Cross response on national news outlet Ebru TV that features Southeastern Pennsylvania Red Cross

NBC 10 story on Southeastern PA Red Cross volunteers on their way to help out

6ABC story on Southeastern PA overall response, including tornado app explanation

CBSPhilly story about volunteer leaving from the airport.

Philly Daily News article about volunteer deploying to Oklahoma

WJLA TV in Washington, DC did a feature on the national American Red Cross disaster operations center. But one of our staff members and frequent blogger here, is helping with Oklahoma relief there. You’ll see her a few times in this clip. She’s the one wearing the hat

OK tornado 2Today, the two mile wide tornado that touched down for 45 minutes in the suburb of Moore, just south of Oklahoma City, is on everyone’s mind. Here, at the Southeastern, Pennsylvania offices of the Red Cross (SEPA), the phones will ring all day with questions about our response to this horrific event.

Here’s what the American Red Cross is doing:

Employees and volunteers are being deployed to the area from chapters all over the country to help with the relief efforts. Some employees, my supervisor Sara Smith included, will go to the American Red Cross National headquarters in DC to assist with the enormous task of disseminating information about relief efforts through traditional and social media outlets. SEPA expects requests for people with expertise in mental health and other health services. We may also get a request for equipment.

On the ground, emergency responders are working hard to assess the needs of the Moore, Oklahoma community. While crews continue to search for survivors, decisions are being made about the number of shelters to open and the needs of the people in the path of the storm.

OK Tornado 1Here’s what will happen next:

The American Red Cross will assist in opening the necessary shelters. This will allow us to shelter homeless individuals, serve tens of thousands of meals, distribute thousands of personal care comfort kits, and provide hundreds of thousands of materials needed for cleanup efforts such as tarps, ice chests, rakes and cleaning supplies.

We will provide basic first aid and mental health support services to thousands of people injured by the storm.

We will stay for as long as necessary, even if it takes a year or more for the community to get back on its feet.

This is what we do. We are experts at the following:

  • Mass Care – Services are offered to communities or groups of people including sheltering, mass feeding and direct distribution of relief supplies.
  • Family Services – Red Cross caseworkers provide free disaster assistance to individuals and families on a case-by-case basis such as debit cards, used for purchasing clothing, groceries, medication, and other needs.
  • Disaster Health Services Trained nurses and paraprofessional personnel provide emergency and preventative health services to disaster victims and workers. 
  • Disaster Mental Health Services – Trained and licensed workers provide emotional and mental health assessment, supportive counseling, and referrals to those affected by disaster.
  • Welfare Inquiries – The Red Cross acts as a liaison to connect those affected by a disaster with their family members both in and out of the affected area.
  • Spiritual Care –To help heal emotional wounds, trained counselors and clergy are available to meet with victims at disaster scenes and throughout the recovery process.

I know I speak for all Red Cross workers when I say we feel enormously fortunate to be able to help. All our services are free of charge and made possible by the generosity of our donors. Our hearts go out to people of Moore, Oklahoma  and all other communities affected by extreme weather this month. We will do everything possible to ease their burden.

– By Sarah Peterson, volunteer


As the days get warmer, my thoughts turn to sweet summer treats like ice cream. Today, I tried a new flavor from the Walgreens Delish Brand called “Maple Macadamia Mash Up” and it was delicious. I was in love after the first spoonful because the flavor combinations are amazing. Even though I only had a small cup just to try it, I immediately wanted more. Hours later, the delicious blend of Macadamia Nuts and Maple Syrup stayed with me, and I couldn’t wait to get back to Walgreens and buy out their freezer.

Before today, I didn’t know anything about this ice cream or its creator Trace Adkins. Trace is one of country music’s most versatile and accomplished entertainers and a contestant on Donald Trump’s All Star Celebrity Apprentice. This reality show, currently in its 13th season, has brought back 14 popular, business-savvy, celebrity contestants for a chance to raise money and awareness for the charity of their choice. The celebrity winner will have the honor of delivering a $250,000 bonus check to their designated charity. Trace Adkins is playing for the American Red Cross. Last year, while Adkins was away from home, his house caught fire and burned. The American Red Cross looked after wellbeing of his family during this crisis. Adkins feels deeply grateful to the Red Cross volunteers who were there for his family and he is proud to represent such a “noble” organization.

Trace and the ice cream

On the Sunday May 12th episode of the show, Trace Adkins and his opponent Penn Jillette who are finalists, we asked to create a unique ice cream flavor for the Walgreen’s Delish Brand. In addition to creating an ice cream flavor, the contestants and their teams had to design the carton, create a 60 second promotional video, and sell tickets to a VIP event for their ice cream. Please support Trace Adkins and the American Red Cross by buying Maple Macadamia Mash-Up Ice Cream. You can also tune in on Sunday May 19th and watch the live Season Finale of All Star Celebrity Apprentice to see who wins. Based on his ice cream, I’d say Trace Adkins has this one in the bag.

Trace eating ice cream

— Submitted by SEPA Red Cross Communications Volunteer Jennifer Ingram

RCH Sign-31

One can’t help but be moved by the quiet and unassuming miracle that is Red Cross House – the one-of-a-kind short term disaster recovery center that graces University City, on the corner of 40th Street and Powelton Avenue. Although I’ve been volunteering in the Public Affairs Department for more than a year, Tuesday was my first visit to the House. Our group of employees and volunteers was there to help serve lunch to the residents.

After a tour, my co-workers and I quickly got into the spirit of things and, with the help of the kitchen staff, washed hands, donned aprons and positioned hairnets. (Hairnets are a purely utilitarian device – meant to keep one’s pesky hairs from floating down into food. Sadly, they are not for the fashion forward.) However, once “hairnetted” in solidarity, we began welcoming current Red Cross House residents to a satisfying luncheon of lasagna, salad, macaroni and cheese and Salisbury steak. Our chef, Darryl Cook, serves three meals a day to an average of 30 clients. He’s had a very busy late winter as the House had over 100 residents for several weeks at a time. Our luncheon service was quiet by comparison; we served a handful of adults and three beautiful children.  After a short time, we were able to sit down and sample Chef Cook’s food for ourselves. FYI – he makes a mean lasagna.

I’ve heard a lot about Red Cross House in the year I’ve been volunteering, and I’ve written countless blogs and articles that mention its 26 private hotel-style suites, its casework offices, training rooms and counseling services, its outdoor playground and laundry facilities, and its heartbreakingly empty storage lockers. I already knew it was a special place, but I was amazed at the feeling of warmth evident during our visit. The foyer is surrounded by a colorful mural of happy and hopeful Philadelphians and there is cheerful artwork throughout the facility. The rooms are immaculate and private, with separate bathrooms. There is a children’s room, a den with a large television, a comfortable library and an up to date computer center.

RCH Pink Room-21

These amenities make Red Cross House a model facility, not just because it is bright and orderly, but because it communicates tremendous respect for its clientele. The message to people in our area who have suffered a house fire or other disaster is – you matter. You are worthy of our care and concern. You deserve the assistance of your community to get back on your feet and recover. Red Cross House’s recognition of its clients’  humanity and agency, despite their state of desperate need, is why it is successful. I, for one, feel enormously proud that it was built here, in Philadelphia.

Submitted by Communications Volunteer Sarah Peterson

Did you know?

May 8th, is World Red Cross Red Crescent Day. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is celebrating 150 years of humanitarian action.

How did it all begin?

In 1859, a man named Jean Henri Dunant, also known as Henry Dunant was appalled at the fate of wounded soldiers on both sides of the battle between French and Austrian forces at Solferino. His attempts to help inspired two ideas about a humanitarian response to assist the victims of armed conflicts. He believed that armies should be obliged to care for all wounded soldiers and that a national society should be formed to support military medical services. With the help of the Public Welfare Committee in Geneva, Switzerland, Dunant was able to enact his vision of a national society and by October 1863, an international conference was convened to spread his humanitarian vision to countries all over the world.

The conference adopted the emblem of a red cross on a white background so that medical personnel could be easily identified on the battlefield. The Ottoman Empire adopted the red crescent in the 1870’s, as it was more in keeping with their Islamic faith. In December 2005, an additional emblem – the red crystal – was created alongside the red cross and the red crescent.

Now, the ICRC plays a vital role in helping victims of war, conflict and disaster all over the world. It has a permanent mandate to help prisoners, care for the wounded and sick, and assist civilians affected by conflict. According to the ICRC website, every day Red Cross workers ease the pain and disruption of war by:

  • Providing medical assistance for war wounded, displaced people and others affected by armed conflicts
  • Educating others about international humanitarian laws
  • Exchanging messages between members of families separated by armed conflict
  • Helping discover the fate of missing family members
  • Providing emergency relief such as water, sanitation, food, shelter

The ICRC is at work in 92 countries and has a staff of almost 13,000 people. The mission is enormously challenging. There has been a proliferation of new weaponry and military technology sometimes outpaces humanitarian law. Disintegrating nations spawn multiple military factions that are new to the task of warfare and unaware of the international humanitarian laws that govern their actions.

Despite these challenges, the ICRC is committed to remaining a neutral actor in these conflicts in order to assist innocent civilians, children, the wounded and sick and detainees deprived to basic human rights.

The idea of an organized humanitarian response to war and disaster was an important step forward for those who believe that the relief of unnecessary suffering is part of a civilized world.

In fact, here is the story of an idea…
This film, combining colourful animation with recent images, brings to life the history of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement from Henry Dunant and the Battle of Solferino through to today. The film explains the meaning of the Geneva Conventions, the universal humanitarian principles underlying the Movement’s efforts and the general activities carried out by the different components, the ICRC, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the National Societies, as they work together to help those in need.

Below is what our volunteer Emery Graham wrote for while deployed with public affairs to Illinois for 10 days helping with flooding there. He’ll post some personal observations in the days ahead.



American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania public affairs volunteer Emery Graham, on deployment, working on an article and his photos at the Illinois flooding Disaster Operations Center

The American Red Cross helps families during the first days after a disaster and continues helping families and communities develop long term recovery plans. In the first few days after the flood waters receded from the Millpoint trailer park, in Sprayland, IL,  debris was everywhere and the Red Cross provided rakes, shovels, and clean up kits to help the families begin to bring order to their surroundings.

Suzanne Neal and Ricardo Colon, Red Cross volunteers, have brought shovels and rakes to Jenny Sarver’s home. Jenny offered her home as  the central pick up point for other families in the area. Jenny’s son Shaun, and his dog Angel, watched as Ricardo brought equipment onto the front porch. Shaun thought the flooded river was fun because he caught lots of fish and his first leopard frog. Jenny showed her appreciation with a big hug for Suzanne.

To date, in the Illinois flood areas, Red Cross volunteers have provided more than 39,000 bulk items  and over 64,000 meals and snacks to affected families and individuals. Your support is vital in this effort and words of appreciation and gratitude are constantly voiced by the many individuals and families helped by your donations.

Illinois flooding couple

Valarie Trigg: ” Thank God for good neighbors. It has been a great help to have a warm meal. It really means a lot that the Red Cross is here.”
Millpoint, Spring Bay, IL

Here’s link to more Illinois flooding photos, including several by Emery.