Monthly Archives: September 2013

Does your home have a working fire alarm?  Do you have an escape plan in the event of a fire?  Did you remember to turn off the stove?

Growing up in the suburbs near Trenton, New Jersey, I found questions like this a nuisance because fires in my area were a rare event.   It was not until I began school at Temple University that I started to appreciate why my school engraved fire safety tips into our minds.  During my years at Temple, I would often hear a sound unfamiliar to me when I lived in the suburbs; the sound of a fire truck siren.  To my surprise, it was not uncommon to see a fire truck racing down Broad Street three, four times a week.  Now, working at the Red Cross as an AmeriCorps NPRC member, I’ve seen first-hand the effects of fires on the people of Philadelphia and the importance of fire safety.

Firefighters and damage 3


September was National Preparedness Month, and one of the things we all need to prepare for is fires.  Fire is an unforgiving chemical process that will continue to spread and be fatal if not accounted for.  Of the 74,000 disasters Red Cross responded to this past year, 93 percent of them were fire related.  In fact, fire kills more Americans each year then all the natural disasters combined.  As National Fire Safety Month begins, it is essential for everyone to take steps to help protect their homes and the people they care about.

Common house hold items are often a source of fire; anything from the stove in the kitchen to the space heater used to warm up the house during those cold winter nights are all potential fire hazards.  Even things we cannot see like the wiring behind the wall can cause fires.  It is important to learn more about these items in order to prevent fires from occurring.

The most important way to help save lives in the event of a fire is that first alert to a problem.  This is why it is essential to install and maintain all smoke alarms throughout the house.  Smoke alarms can help notify people a fire is occurring and help them escape before the fire spreads to all available exits in the house. The next thing you must do is have and practice your escape plan. In fact, the Red Cross recommends having at least two ways out of every room in your house.  At Temple, that meant investing in a fire ladder for myself. My second way out was through a third story window, so I had a ladder ready, just in case.

Preparing and planning for fires can protect what you love most.  Please take the time to visit to learn more about fires in order to prevent them and prepare for them in the event that a fire does occur in your home.


This Sunday, my beloved Philadelphia Eagles play the Denver Broncos. And believe it not, that has created somewhat of a quandary for me. Normally, it’s a no-brainer as to where my loyalties would lie. I’m a lifelong Eagles fan. (It took years of therapy to make that admission BTW.) But being in the disaster business, and working for the Red Cross in particular, it’s not that cut and dry — to the point where I’m actually asking myself, what should my rooting interest be?

I have nothing against the Broncos. I really like Peyton Manning and I like seeing him succeed. Colorado is beautiful. I don’t get to visit it to go skiing nearly enough.  I also have some wonderful Red Cross colleagues in Colorado. But this is the Eagles and if they have any hope of making the playoffs, they need to pull off an upset. So here’s my quandary.

Anyone who has been keeping up with the news, knows Denver and the state of Colorado have been through a lot this summer (and the last year for that matter.) (KUSA-TV story via USA Today). The past few weeks I’ve seen incredible footage of homes being wiped away by flooding, all on the heels of terrible wildfires the past two summers. I’ve read and heard the stories of families who lost their homes to wildfires last summer, just to see them get washed away by flooding this summer. My colleagues in Colorado have friends and neighbors who were directly affected. My heart breaks for the thousands of people who must start over.

Now I realize a football game won’t fix any of that. I realize that it is, in fact, just a game. But history has shown us that sports can play a big role in healing cities and communities affected by tragedy. Think of the impact sports had on New York City (and the country) after 9/11. Who wasn’t pulling for the Yankees in that World Series? Just a few short years after Katrina, no one could deny the positive impact the Saints winning the Super Bowl had on the city’s psyche and economy. After Sandy, the Giants helped NY and NJ mentally recover, at least for a few hours every week. Everyone was a Red Sox and Bruins fan in the weeks following the Boston Marathon bombing. Rooting against those teams was almost sacrilege.

Which brings me back to this Sunday’s Eagles game against the Broncos. If the Eagles were playing the Cowboys, I admit, it may be a different story. I don’t think I could ever bring myself to root for the Cowboys, no matter the circumstance. That’s just a fact of life of someone from Philadelphia. But Denver is a different story.


So what should I do? Let my lifelong love of the Eagles trump my genuine wish for the Broncos, in a small way, help the people of Denver feel better? Or toss my lifelong loyalty aside, this once, and root for a Broncos victory?

Ultimately, I turned to my Red Cross colleagues in Colorado for the answer. I saw through their tweets, photos, videos, and stories that demonstrated very clearly that the people of Colorado “got this.” With the help of agencies like the Red Cross and their fellow citizens, Coloradans are showing an unbelievable and inspiring resilience. Their ability to absorb what has happened and vow to overcome it, with no complaint, is remarkable.

Just like folks in New York, New Orleans, and Boston, Coloradans showed me that they don’t need me to root for their football team in order to feel loved and supported. Adversity brings out the best in us. It  brings out our selflessness. It brings out our love. It brings out our humanity. Those qualities make us winners and Colorado has plenty of all of them.

Go Eagles.

As an AmeriCorps National Preparedness & Response Corps (NPRC) member for the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania, we live in two different worlds—one of AmeriCorps and one of Red Cross. In addition to our daily duties here at the Red Cross (for whatever rotation we may be in), we are expected to fulfill the goals of an AmeriCorps member. These responsibilities emphasize two specific values that are at the heart of the AmeriCorps program: membership and service.

To ensure our involvement in these principles, we spend a day devoted to these core values, as we alternate between a Membership and a Service Day every month. While Membership Day is devoted to spending time with our fellow AmeriCorps NPRC members, Service Day is dedicated to give back to our community. These days allow us to step out of our current rotation and spend time together, strengthening our membership by participating in an activity we enjoy or by giving back to the community through service.

For our August Membership Day, we decided to explore Philadelphia, visiting Franklin Square and Chinatown. Franklin Square, one of Philadelphia’s five original squares designed by William Penn in the 17th century, consists of a gorgeous fountain, carousal, and a mini-golf course. As a group we decided to enjoy a game of mini-golf, a historic Philadelphia themed 18-hole course. We then walked over to Chinatown, indulging in the culture and food. Membership Day was a perfect opportunity for us to spend time together, for we are often busy with our own rotations and aren’t able to interact with each other.

In September, we decided to dedicate a day to service. We spent this day at Bartram’s Gardens located right along the Schuylkill River. Originally the home of botanist John Bartram in the 18th century, this beautiful land consists of gardens, a farm, and an orchard right outside of the city. During this service day, we participated in a monthly volunteer event dedicated to maintain and beautify the orchard. Spending a gorgeous day along the river getting our hands dirty in the soil, we were excited to give back to these historic gardens.

Stepping out of our role at the Red Cross, my fellow AmeriCorps members and I were able to not only spend time together, but also give back to our community through service. These experiences are an amazing opportunity for us to get in touch with core AmeriCorps values and we are excited to plan future Membership and Service Days!


Walk Run Photo 2

On your mark, get set, GO!! . . .over to the Philadelphia Zoo on Saturday Morning October 5th for the annual Red Cross Walk/Run! The American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania hosts this crazy fun event to honor the thousands of heroes who help others in an emergency.

Officially referred to as the Red Cross Walk and Run to Save Lives, the walk/run is a 5K event that will take participants around and through the fantastic Philadelphia Zoo. Along the route, there will be water stations and motivational cheering sections. There will even be benches for those who need to rest every now and then.

You can join the event as an individual, or even better, as a team. All you need is two or more classmates, co-workers, family members or friends to receive a kit filled with ideas about how to prepare for the event. Some teams have corporate sponsorship and raise enormous amounts of money. Mere mortals might ask friends to match their donation. Prizes will be awarded for the top three individual fundraisers, as well as the top fundraising team and the top fundraising school.

 Don’t be intimidated by the word run. Participants can move through the course at whatever speed works best. If that means running, shuffling, toddling or veering off course because of a bad case of hippo amazement, we welcome the effort.

That said, the top male and female finishers will win prize money with $250 dollars going to first place, $150 to second place, and $75 to third. Also, awards will be given to the top male and female finishers in the following age groups: 19 and under, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59 and 60 and older.

Here’s why you should come: Have you ever waved to a giraffe in the midst of your everyday exercise routine? Have you ever passed a zebra? Have you ever stopped to admire a beautiful bird or felt swifter than a leopard? Ever felt superior to a sloth? There are so many fascinating things to see and do at the zoo; it would be hard to pay attention to walk/run itself.

This is a perfect outing for young families. Get out of the house and enjoy this amazing autumn weather; come and push a stroller or two around the zoo for the Red Cross. Participants are invited to stay and enjoy the zoo for as long as they wish after the race.

In addition to the animals, large and furry Fred Cross and Ernie the ERV will be on hand to play with little ones. No longer parenting little ones? The race is a great opportunity to reconnect with a teenage. You’ll both be facing forward, so conversation should be easy. Sadly, pets are not allowed at the zoo… but there will be plenty of animals there to keep you company along the route.

The Walk and Run helps to raise funds for Red Cross House and local families left homeless by a fire, flood, or other disaster. It supports programs and services to help our community prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. People are invited to “participate in honor of the hero who saved your life, a family member’s, or a friend’s – to honor the thousands of heroes who, trained by the Red Cross, are ready to help save your life.” The Red Cross would like to extend its gratitude to participants who make it possible to answer the call for help, one family at a time, whenever and wherever disaster strikes.

Blog posted by Communications Volunteer Sarah Peterson.

Make a Plan Photo

If there is a disaster, do you have a plan in place for your household? You’ve spent some time getting your emergency kit together. You have the water and non-perishable food. You have the battery operated weather radio. You have the first aid kit and the blankets. Now what? Where will you go?

Last year, several hours before Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast, I got a call from my brother. He lives about four miles away, in a similar neighborhood, but his house is in a creek valley. In fact, an inlet from the Wissahickon Creek runs right behind his house, and he worries about flooding when there is a storm with the potential for enormous amounts of rain. He was a nervous wreck on the phone. “Can we come over?” he asked. This was a fairly big ask. I have three teenagers; he has three children under seven. That’s a lot of children in one house. “Sure,” I replied with some trepidation. My newly “Red Cross Aware” self had made some fairly extensive preparations for the storm. My plan had not considered my brother’s family. In fact, we had never talked about the possibility of sheltering them before. I paused on the phone, trying to figure out a good way to say that my emergency planning did not include another family of five. Then, I said, “You are welcome, but please bring some water and food in case we lose power for a significant amount of time.”  “Huh. . .?” he replied.

It had not occurred to him that in leaving his house to shelter elsewhere, he would need supplies. He did not think that the place he might choose to shelter, while safe from flooding, would be equally vulnerable to blackouts, lack of heat and water pump failure. He had not made a plan, and he was not prepared. After thinking it through, he chose to drive his family south to his mother-in-law’s house near Washington D.C. The storm looked as if it would mostly miss the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, and he decided they would be safer there for a couple days.

This last minute plan worked out well for them. The roads south were still open and clear of traffic, and they were able to find the shelter they needed in a safe area.  Even so, it turned out they could have stayed. The Philadelphia Area was incredibly lucky, and our house lost power for a very short time.

Still, I invite you, dear reader, to consider how things could have turned out very differently: the storm might have taken a different path, stranding his car somewhere in Delaware; or State Troopers might have made him turn back somewhere along the way; or he might have come over to our house with his family and experienced a prolonged blackout with dwindling supplies. In other words, it’s important to make a plan.

Make a plan photo 2The American Red Cross has great suggestions for things to consider as you make a plan for your family in case of disaster. For instance, it had not occurred to me how my family members, now perpetually separated from one another during the day, might be apart when a disaster strikes. How would we find one another? According to the Red Cross, I should meet with my family to discuss the potential for separation, choose meeting places nearby and far away, and designate a person for everyone to call outside of the disaster area, and possibly out of state. If you might have to evacuate, like my brother, make sure you plan where you will go, who you will shelter with, and what you will need when you leave your house. Clearly, he and I need to talk. I need to take into account that I have family members nearby that may need to evacuate.

And it goes without saying . . .please, all the brothers and sisters and cousins and everyone, get that emergency kit together. It could make an enormous difference.

— Submitted by Sarah Peterson, Communications Volunteer