Monthly Archives: February 2014

Allergies and travel schedules have made it difficult for our family to have a pet, but that may be for the best. A few years ago, my youngest son brought home the classroom goldfish for the ten day Christmas Break. Merlin (we quickly renamed our guest) arrived looking a bit dull and tired in a plastic bag filled with water.


Horrified, we ran out to the pet store and purchased several items the owner assured us were essential for goldfish health and happiness. By the end of Merlin’s ten day visit to our home, he was living in a fish tank with a filter, a plant, sparkly turquoise bottom filler and a replica of the Taj Mahal with its own stereo system. I tell this story to illustrate how I completely understand pet inspired devotion. That’s why it’s disturbing to imagine that a pet can be at serious risk during a disaster or harmed by ordinary household items.

emergency-pet-app-infoThe Red Cross has created an essential app to help families manage risk and harm to their pets. First, there are many household dangers to pets. We all know it’s bad when our dog eats our baby brother’s shoe, but what about the house plant in the corner. The app helps homeowners identify and manage these risks for dogs and cats. It also lets pet owners know what to do if their pets lick or eat something that’s toxic.

Pet owners whose families have suffered a disaster can use the app to find a place to go after a fire or flood by locating nearby pet friendly hotels. Often, concern about what to do with their pets prevents people from evacuating. This app helps alleviate those concerns. Jen Leary, founder of the local pet disaster rescue organization Red Paw Emergency Relief, downloaded the app and says the pet friendly hotel and vet locator portion of the Red Cross app is a “game changer” for her volunteers in the field. She had already used it within minutes of downloading to assist more than one family affected by disaster.lean-know-whats-normal-dog

But if you have a pet, you definitely need to consider downloading it. The 99 cents seems like a small price to pay for an app that has so many great, potentially lifesaving features. Plus the 99 cents goes to support all Red Cross services, including disaster relief. To do that, click here or search Red Cross on iTunes or Google Play. And help ensure you’re prepared to care for you pets like any other member of your family.

I’m not sure what the app could have done for Merlin, but it seems obvious that if you are the proud family member of a dog or cat, this is information you need to have. It may save the life of a dear friend.

photo 2Posted 2/28/14 3pm

Officially, winter does not end until March 19th and the winter season is really hanging on this year.
The Philadelphia region is gearing up for yet another major winter storm, complete with snow and possible ice accumulations.

The American Red Cross
Southeastern Pennsylvania stands ready to respond to whatever comes our way. Supplies and staff are ready in case shelters are needed. Red Cross workers will be in contact with emergency management officials throughout the region leading up to, during and after the storm. The Regional Disaster Coordination Center at Red Cross headquarters in Philadelphia will continue to answer calls 24-hours a day and dispatch volunteers to respond to the everyday disasters the Red Cross handles even when there isn’t a winter storm.

For now, the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania urges residents in the area to prepare now for the weather ahead. Be sure to have enough water and food on hand in case you cannot leave your home for an extended time. Here are some links to more tips on how to prepare and respond during the storm:

Winter Safety Tips including what items to have in your home and vehicle before a storm hits.

Tips on protecting your pets during a winter storm, please don’t forget your pets.

Tips to prevent or thaw frozen pipes in your home.


Take time to download and learn more about the Red Cross mobile Apps. The first aid app, in particular could come in handy during and after a snowstorm. Any of the disaster apps like the hurricane app will provide you with shelter information, if needed.

As always, look for up to date information about responses, shelters and even tips by following our official twitter feed:  @redcrossphilly

Front of City Hall

Capture a waving Red Cross flag in a photo between March 1 and March 6? Post it to Twitter or Facebook to enter a drawing for tickets to the Red Ball!


March is designated as the month to recognize the achievements of the Red Cross locally, nationally and internationally.

In the Philadelphia area, we celebrate by flying the telltale red and white flags around Center City, and City Hall. The effect is striking in several ways: the stark red and white of the flags looks striking against the brisk blue sky of early March, they add to the grandeur of Liberty Square, and they remind one and all of the essential role of the Red Cross in our community.

City Hall is not the only place flying flags. Starting Saturday, March 1st, there will be dozens of Red Cross flags flying in downtown Media and West Chester, as well.

Flag 12

For the week leading up to our 14th annual Red Ball – the Red Cross’s grand celebration party at the Please Touch Museum on March 8 – we invite our social media community to play a modified game of Capture the Flag. If you see a Red Cross flag in your community, take a photo and post it with the location to Twitter or to our Facebook page and mention us (@redcrossphilly) and use hashtag #redcrossflag. Feel free to be creative and by all means, feel free to make them selfies. We’ll RT as many as we can.

We will enter you in a drawing for two Main Event Red Ball Tickets on March 6 for each photo you send. (Maximum of five entries.) We will select one suburban photo and one Philadelphia photo winner. They will be announced on our Twitter and Facebook feeds and the tickets will be available for pick up at the Red Ball. For details on the Red Ball, visit

While you’re snapping those photos, enjoy some of the other ways the Red Cross is celebrating. Look out for lights as well! Even coffee clutches are getting in on the action!


The beautiful Ben Franklin Bridge will be dressed in red starting March 1st. The red lights can also be seen at One Liberty Place, Hyatt Penn’s Landing, the Cira Center and on the PECO Crown Lights. Wawa coffee will sport the red and white and we all know the coffee at Wawa is HOT! Protect yourself with the help of the Red Cross. Enjoy!BenFranklinBridge

UPDATED 5:30 pm 2/13/14:
The American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania has its volunteers on standby and has established shelter team in the event sheltering is needed due to the ongoing snow storm.  But as of 5:30 pm 2/13, that has NOT been necessary.

Staff and volunteers are staffing any open county and city Emergency Operation Centers and equipment has been prepositioned throughout the area to respond to any requests for assistance or sheltering.

If shelters do open, they will be listed below by county. Information will also include an address and if the shelter is pet friendly.

You can also follow updates on twitter, by following @redcrossphilly @telesara and @dcschrader.

And if you need your sidewalk or driveway shoveled Friday morning, let Uber Philly do the work. And all proceeds will benefit Red Cross disaster relief.

Visit here for info and details.

Please keep these safety tips in mind if you do lose power during the storm.

Here are some tips to be safe during a winter storm.
Don’t forget about your pets, here are safety tips for your pets during a winter storm.
And, here are tips about preventing and thawing frozen pipes.

Thank you and keep warm.

The Red Cross

Cots set up last week at the shelter at West Chester University for residents affected by power outage. February 5, 2014

Cots set up last week at the shelter at West Chester University for residents affected by power outage. February 5, 2014

RCH and volunteers at Hatboro shelter

Red Cross Southeastern PA CEO Judge Renee Hughes visits a shelter in Montgomery County during the ice storm and power outage. February 7th, 2014


A tree knocks down power lines in Chester County, February 5th, 2014.

After any major disaster and the recent ice storm is no different, one of the most common questions I get is “How much did the disaster cost?” It’s a natural and fair question to ask. After all, the American Red Cross accepts only financial donations and people want to know where their donations are going.

RCH and volunteers at Hatboro shelter

American Red Cross Southeastern PA CEO Judge Renee Hughes (center) meets with volunteers and takes a tour of the Hatboro Horsham shelter on February 7th, 2014

In the case of the recent ice storm to hit Southeastern Pennsylvania, calculating the true cost is complicated, if not impossible. You see, most of the expenses the Red Cross is incurring during the ice storm response were incurred during the course of the last year. The Red Cross must be prepared to act immediately whenever there’s a disaster. The Red Cross does not have the luxury of waiting until donations roll-in to respond.

So the Red Cross spends much of its resources preparing. That means buying things like blankets, cots, pillows, soap, and shampoo in advance. That means paying to store those items at warehouses. That means replacing items that wear out or go bad because they have a limited shelf life. That means paying to recruit and train volunteers, who make up more than 90% of the Red Cross workforce. That means paying for technology to ensure workers can communicate more easily and can respond more effectively. That means providing its limited staff decent wages and benefits to get and retain quality employees.  This doesn’t even factor the amount of TIME spent responding to a disaster or travel costs like gas, tolls, and in some cases, airfare and hotels for outside help.  (VERY minimal in the case of this ice storm.)

(VIDEO below is a recap of Red Cross response after first 24 hours)

The Red Cross spends a lot of time going into the community and sharing safety and preparedness advice vital to reducing recovery time after a disaster, which ultimately reduces costs for everyone. But how do you calculate that?  The work of the Red Cross goes on year round. Costs are incurred year round, not just when we open a shelter or pay for food. The Red Cross is able to respond to disasters so efficiently and effectively because it puts a lot of its resources into making sure we are all ready when disaster strikes.

So what’s my point? The point is, the Red Cross relies on donations from the public year round, not just during and after disasters. The Red Cross isn’t funded by the government or your tax dollars. The generosity of individuals, corporations, civic groups, and foundations are solely what make it possible for the Red Cross to do what it does.

Wednesday, February 5th, nearly 400 cots were set up at West Chester University to help an expected influx of people who lost power.

Without donations, the Red Cross can’t be ready with 1,500 cots and blankets when an ice storm hits and 700,000 people don’t have power and may need a warm place to go. Without donations, the Red Cross can’t provide fire victims money for immediate needs like food, clothing, and shelter. Without donations the Red Cross can’t train volunteers who provide the compassion and experience shelter residents need after a disaster. In short, donations make it so when the Red Cross gets the call for help, the Red Cross is able to answer.

To learn more or make a donation, please visit

A resident at the West Chester University shelter made this cake for the Red Cross staff and volunteers in appreciation of all they do. February 8th, 2014

A resident at the West Chester University shelter made this cake for the Red Cross staff and volunteers in appreciation of all they do. February 8th, 2014

As of 2/11 at 12pm all Red Cross shelters in Southeastern Pennsylvania in response to the ice storm have closed.

Supplies and resources remain in place throughout the region and volunteers are on stand-by to respond if needed following the next storm.


Follow @redcrossphilly@dcschrader@telesara for immediate updates for all Red Cross activities in Southeastern PA.

Always an option: If people don’t wish to go to a Red Cross shelter and prefer a hotel and they have pets, we encourage them to download the American Red Cross Pet First Aid app. It includes a feature that will locate the nearest pet friendly hotels to them.

They can find it at or by searching Red Cross on the iPhone App and Google Play stores.

The Red Cross asks that you do NOT drop off supplies at the shelters. It creates major logistical problems. If folks wish to help, they can make a financial donation at

As power is restored, please take a moment to read these tips, or print this handy sheet to make sure you know what food is safe and more about how to safely get back to normal following a power outage.

CLICK HERE to learn more about what you will find at a Red Cross Shelter.

CLICK HERE for VIDEO about the Red Cross response as of 5PM 2/5.


An American Red Cross volunteer meets with two people at the Lionville Middle School shelter in Chester County. photo credit: Sara Smith/American Red Cross

Careers should be chosen by interests instead of salaries.  Although income is a determining factor when deciding on what career to go into, ultimately, I feel that most important factor when deciding on which career to follow is if you truly enjoy the work.  For me, the only way I can see myself enjoying my career is if it gives me the opportunity to directly help others and the American Red Cross has allowed me to do this during my time with them as an AmeriCorps National Preparedness and Response Corps member.

As an AmeriCorps NPRC member, our main responsibility is to go on disaster responses throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania and provide assistance to families that are affected.  For Southeastern Pennsylvania, most of the disasters we respond to are fires and we usually approach the disaster right after it occurs.  When I encounter clients, they’re usually distraught and scared for what their future holds, but after speaking with them and providing them assistance, I quickly see their emotions change from relief and joy.  It’s this change in emotion that motivates me to get up every morning and commute over an hour to come into work.  Working with those affected by disasters is a rewarding experience and makes my time with American Red Cross truly meaningful.