Monthly Archives: July 2013

Being superstitious is part of human nature. I think we’re all born somewhat superstitious – some far more than others. If you walk on sidewalks with your head down so as not to step on a crack or you never take the elevator to the 13th floor, in my book, you qualify as someone who is really superstitious.

Baseball players are more superstitious than most. My favorite baseball superstition is when a pitcher is working on a no-hitter late in the game and the announcers are not permitted to say the phrase “no-hitter” while broadcasting for fear that saying it will lead to a player getting a hit. Now that’s hardcore superstition. As silly as it may seem for a broadcaster to ignore the biggest story line of a game, I totally get it and support it.

I don’t have that many superstitions overall. But probably my craziest and most ridiculous is my superstition about Foursquare, the social network where you “check-in” at places so others can see where you are. Well guess what, I always check-in as I’m leaving because, granted it’s VERY UNLIKELY, in case there’s someone looking to assassinate me, they’ll always be one step behind me.

If you defy a superstition, people worry you could “jinx” something.  Basically, cause something bad to happen.  With that in mind, it probably doesn’t surprise you to learn that people at the Red Cross have lots of superstitions. But there’s one in particular I want to highlight. It comes to mind because of what the last few days have been like for us here at the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Wednesday morning 7/24 I recall being in the elevator at our headquarters in Center City with two other people. In the normal routine of asking “How’s it going,” someone used the Q word. Let me tell you, that is a major NO-NO around here.  I’m afraid to even use the word in this blog. (Think Shhh! And you’ll know what the word is.) Almost everyone knows not to use that word. And anyone who doesn’t and mistakenly does use it, is quickly wrapped in gauze and tape from head to toe and made to watch Red Cross training videos from the 1950s on a loop for hours in a small room. (Trust me, I speak from experience, after that, people never make that mistake again.) The damage, however, was already done. It was now only a matter of time.

Just hours after that conversation in the elevator, a fire ripped through a home in Chester, Delaware County. Three children were killed. All fires are horrible, but when three children die, it takes the horror to a new level.  The Red Cross has been at the scene multiple times and meeting with family and members of the community ever since to help as well as promoting fire safety. Incidents like that really take not only a physical toll, but an emotional one as well.

LevittownARCPhillyarrivesonscene_073013Two days later, a massive 4-alarm fire broke out at an apartment complex in Levittown, Bucks County.  More than two dozen Red Cross volunteers and staffers worked most of the night and into the wee hours of the morning helping dozens of people displaced. We were out there again the entire following day helping people with food, clothing, lodging, prescriptions, and other essentials. It was a long and busy 18 hours.

Back of Collapsed houseThen on Monday 7/29, as the Red Cross was participating in an event related to the Levittown fire, a house exploded in South Philly. Several surrounding homes collapsed and an entire neighborhood had to be evacuated. The Red Cross once again had to mobilize quickly to assist dozens of people. We set up an evacuation center, met with more than 50 displaced residents, and helped any way we could. Many of the people that helped in Levittown and Chester also helped in South Philly.

Outside of a hurricane or major weather incident, we don’t see this many high-level disasters during an entire summer, much less over 4 days. It was almost an entire summer’s worth of disasters in less than a week.

Can I blame the use of the Q word during that elevator ride? Yes, I can. I have no factual basis for that conclusion. But this is superstition we’re talking about. It’s bigger than facts. It’s bigger than reason.

In a way the Red Cross is its own worst superstition enemy. That’s because in addition to responding to disasters, we help people prepare for them. We hold workshops, we create mobile phone apps, and we hand out preparedness information every chance we get. We cover you before and after. So if you really think about, if you believe in superstition, preparing for disasters is akin to “asking for it.” Maybe, but that’s the chance we’re willing to take.

All kidding aside, we know unfortunately disasters happen. They are never convenient. They’re rarely ever predictable. We cannot control when they strike, but we can control what we do to get ready. Superstitious or not, you must take the threat of disaster seriously.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to also knock on wood.

One way the American Red Cross supports veterans in our community is by funding a horse therapy program at Thorncroft Equestrian Center in Malvern, PA. Through a partnership with the Coatesville Veterans Affairs Medical Center, veterans living in their Community Living Center can learn to ride horses. The program was originally funded by a grant from the Defense Department (as seen on this story on 6 ABC), but once it ran out, the American Red Cross took on sole funding of this valuable therapy.


The benefits to horse therapy are immense for the four veterans that participate once a week. Alex, Ray, John, and Bob have a wide range of health conditions and medical limitations, and most are confined to a wheelchair. Recreational therapist, Ellen Barnes, says “one of the biggest benefits is that the veterans feel so loved by the volunteers at Thorncroft and their commitment to their learning.” An increase in balance and confidence are substantial benefits as well. Horse therapy can also be considered a form of exercise, working mostly on their core and their endurance, which is something the veterans don’t get the chance to do since they spend most of their days alone in their rooms.


Ray, who is a Vietnam Era vet, has severe physical and medial limitations and originally couldn’t make it even 5 minutes on the horse, but now he can’t wait to ride. He goes the full 30 minutes, and even rides with his hands off the saddle.  At 94, Alex, a World War II veteran, is legally blind and in a wheelchair, yet rides the horse with ease and with a smile spread across his face. According to Ellen, “this is something the veterans look forward to every week,” and it is definitely apparent when watching them ride. Not only does the horse therapy provide physical treatment, but also emotional support as well, which is important to the veterans’ welfare. It gives them a chance to connect with others and is a release from their health limitations.


For these men, coming to Thorncroft has sincerely improved their lives and their well-being. It gives the veterans something to look forward to and the American Red Cross sees the benefits of this program and is proud to support it.

Swimming and water activities are some of the most popular summer activities enjoyed by people of all ages. The water is one of the best ways to cool off on a hot summer day. But, whether you are home, in a public pool or at the beach we all need to be aware of water safety. About 8 years ago while on vacation, two of my cousins drowned in a hotel swimming pool. They were both adult males’, a father and son goofing off, having fun with other family members in the pool. The day instantly turned tragic when the son slipped under the water. While attempting to rescue his son, the father too became a victim of the tragedy. Everything happened so fast, there was nothing that could be done to save them, and no life guard on duty. When I first heard this news, I just couldn’t believe what had happened. Thinking of the physical build of my cousins, I never imagined something like this happening. In most cases when hearing of avoidable casualties like this, you usually hear of it happening to young children. But my story shows that drowning doesn’t discriminate. Since this incident, I am much more cautious in the water. Sometimes I am so cautious that I can’t even enjoy myself. Most people don’t think about the importance of keeping safe until they are personally affected. I hope that sharing my personal story along with these water safety tips will make others more aware of the importance and prevention of other incidents like this from happening. These water safety tips came be used in various swimming environments. So before heading out into the water, take the time to go over them with your family to ensure everyone is safe.

  • Learn How To Swim

Knowing how to swim is extremely important when it comes to water safety. It can not only save your life but you can save the life of someone else.  The Red Cross offers swimming lessons, water safety classes as well as first aid and CPR for people of all ages. Swimming lessons not only teach you how to swim but you also learn how to float – a valuable life-saving technique to use in the water.

  • Stay in Designated Areas

When in a public pool or at the beach, swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards. Know your limits; don’t go in water that’s so deep you can’t touch the bottom.  It is also important that you have a swim buddy, never swim alone.

  • Never leave a young child unattended in the water or in the care of another child.
  • Wear a life jacket and make sure that it is sized appropriately.
  • Remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Avoid drinking alcoholic or caffeinated beverages.
  • Protect your skin and limit the amount of direct sunlight. Be sure to put on sunscreen with a protection factor of at least 15.

The Signs of Drowning Drowning is the most common cause of water death. It usually happens quickly and silently. It is the second-most common cause of accidental death in children ages 1 to 14, and the sixth leading cause of unintentional injury death for people of all ages. Drowning is the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in liquid.  When most people are drowning they are unable to alert others. When a person is drowning his or her mouth sinks below and reappears above the surface of the water. There isn’t time to exhale, inhale, and call out. It usually takes a drowning person up to a minute before they go completely under water. The most important indicator that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they are actually drowning. You can call out to the person; if they respond they are probably ok, if no response, immediately try to get the person out the water.
Click here for more tips and additional information.

This post submitted by Communications Volunteer Jennifer Ingram.

m19074810_Volunteer-AppTake heed, everyone! The American Red Cross has a new App for your mobile devices, and it is awesome in its power and scope. On July 18, 2013, the Team Red Cross App will be available for download at your friendly neighborhood App store, and, if you are serious about helping your fellow humans, you should download it immediately.

Although, I’m sort of old school when it comes to social networking stuff (when I was a whippersnapper, the internet was for guys in thick glasses sitting by enormous mainframes), I am really impressed by potential for the Team Red Cross App to harness the power of volunteers. Recently, when tornadoes hit south of Oklahoma City, thousands of local residents contacted the Red Cross to ask how they could help. In the future, people in the area of a serious disaster will be able to download the Team Red Cross App onto their devices and use it to learn exactly how they can help. The app will provide short orientations for those who are willing to help stock warehouses, move supplies, set up cots, serve food in shelters and otherwise support those who were driven from their homes by a disaster. In addition, the app will link volunteers to other opportunities to serve elsewhere or in the future and inform volunteers about First Aid classes they could take to expand their skill base.

Sounds good, right? Well, here’s why this app is a fantastic development. It will allow users to share their involvement with the Red Cross through their own social networks and thereby act as ambassadors for Red Cross volunteerism in their communities. We know that people are influenced by the activities and interests of their friends, and if a person you care about passes on information about how easy it is to volunteer, you may be moved to do their same. Users will be able to earn badges on the app as they learn more and do more for others. And it’s from this pool of committed people that the American Red Cross will be able to recruit long term volunteers, encourage blood donations in high need areas, and even give people the opportunity to donate money. Even if they can’t volunteer, app users will be able to share preparedness information and content with those affected by a disastrous event.

Finally, it will give the media, which is often inundated with requests for how individuals can help in the wake of a serious event, a place to send people for information. Over one fifth of Americans have already used an American Red Cross App (for hurricanes, tornadoes or earthquakes) on their mobile device. In our busy lives, we are not always near a television or radio, but many of us own a smartphone or tablet from which we can access the information we need to prepare ourselves and to help others.apps-in-emergencies-infographic1

So please, go to the App Store immediately and download the Team Red Cross App. It’s free! Tell your friends. Help spread the word. Be an ambassador for the most efficient way to fight disaster since the invention of the water hose.  The Red Cross needs you.

American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania Chief Communications Officer Dave Schrader spent a week assisting with the national Red Cross response in Arizona. Here are videos detailing just a fraction of what the Red Cross is doing to help a community deal with a disaster and tragedy all at once.
These videos are also featured on The American Red Cross Disaster Online Newsroom.

Red Cross to Provide Shelter to Firefighters Attending Yarnell Memorial

Red Cross Cares for People and Their Pets

Red Cross Response is 2-Pronged

The 4th of July is only a day away! Who doesn’t love this holiday? We celebrate the founding of our nation, we get together with friends and family, we grill delicious food and, if we are really lucky, we get to see an awesome fireworks display.
Sadly, this summer of 2013, the weather is not cooperating. For the last week, we have been experiencing intermittent heavy rain along with lightening and thunderstorms. This weather pattern is supposed to continue throughout this week as well. Although the pattern may clear at the end of the week, some of us could be spending the Fourth dodging thunderstorms. Therefore, it is very important to know some basic outdoor weather safety tips when it comes to thunder and lightning. Despite the weather, the American Red Cross wants everyone to have a safe and enjoyable holiday.
The safest place to be during a lightening storm is inside an enclosed building. If you can’t get to shelter, below are tips to keep your safe.
1. Avoid small shelters and pavilions in open areas that may attract lighting strikes
2. Do not try to hide under trees, but if trees are you only shelter choose the smallest tree possible.
3. Avoid bodies of water such as swimming pools, lakes, ponds, rivers, and oceans
4. Avoid being on high ground, and near tall objects or metal objects such as fences, wires, bikes, construction equipment and wires.
5. Distance yourself at least 15 feet away from other people in the area to prevent lightening bolts from jumping from one person to another.
6. If you are in the immediate area of lightening, crouch down with feet together and head down to prevent the possible attraction to lightning strikes.
7. When driving, if possible, pull off the road to avoid being blinded or startled by the lightening. Do not get out of your vehicle and make sure all windows are rolled up.
If someone is struck by lightening they usually lose consciousness. After a person has been struck, no electrical charge will remain in their body, and they can safely be handled without shocking others. Intense electrical shock can stop a person’s heart, and proper CPR can be critical until emergency helps arrive.
Basically, it’s important to use common sense. Check local media for weather reports and be informed. If the weather looks frightful, move your celebration inside or, at least, near to a sturdy shelter. Stay safe and Happy Fourth of July from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Red Cross.

~posted by communications volunteer, Sarah Peterson

Dave Schrader visits a memorial to the 19 lost fire fighters in Prescott, AZ.

Dave Schrader visits a memorial to the 19 lost firefighters in Prescott, AZ.

Follow along as American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania Chief Communications Officer, Dave Schrader documents his deployment to Arizona to assist with the national response to the wildfire and firefighter tragedy there. Click on the links to watch Dave’s VLOGs from Arizona.

July 6 – Farewell Prescott

July 6 – Signing off the Job

July 6 – Branding Disaster Response

Emergency Response Vehicles from all over support the response in Arizona.

July 5 – Hello Mr. Senator

Dave with Senator John McCain at Prescott High School

July 5- Animal Therapy for Red Crossers

Dave’s new friends

July 4 – Independence Day in Prescott

July 4 – Inside to the fire Line

Fire crew from Minnesota performs a show and tell for media tour.

July 4 – Close to the fire Line

July 4 – Brainstorming

July 4 – Striving for the Big Time

July 3 – Hail Storm in Prescott

July 3 – Stopping to Edit

July 3 – Inside the Disaster Operation Center

July 2 – Attending a vigil

Vigil at Prescott Highschool