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Monthly Archives: June 2020

By: Judith Weeks 

Every year on Independence Day, Americans take part in patriotic celebrations. They gather for barbecues and concerts, hit the beach, and watch fireworks under the stars. But this year—2020, year of the global pandemic—your Fourth of July will be anything but traditional. Citizens are dealing with a patchwork of social distancing restrictions and mandates, and many communities have canceled their festivals and celebrations for the entire summer.  

In this new normal, how can you come together with friends and family to celebrate the Fourth while keeping yourself safe from contagion? Well, your safest strategy of all is to embrace video conferencing and hold a Virtual Celebration. There are plenty of free tech tools out there to make this happen—Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Hangouts Meet, and more. If you’ve got kids or work from home, you’re already ahead of the curve.  

Now let’s get creative: Designate a day and time for your Virtual Celebration and send your invitations near and far (keeping time zone differences in mind). Got a friend in quarantine? No problem. Each group or individual can prepare their own picnic or barbecue and then prop up a device (laptop, tablet, or smartphone) in a shady spot by their picnic table or beach blanket. It may not be an in-person party, but in a lot of ways it’s easier—after all.

You could even take part in this year’s virtual Wawa Welcome American Celebration, which is a free, online version of their annual 4th of July celebration: https://welcomeamerica.com/ 

No matter how or where you celebrate your Fourth of July holiday, the American Red Cross has some tips for holiday safety

COVID-19 PRECAUTIONS 

To prevent virus spread, wear a mask! There’s growing evidence that masks help. (And besides, why not?) In public, stay at least 6 feet away from others. Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, because that’s how germs enter your body. And since you might’ve touched surfaces that are frequently touched by others (door handle, gas pump, ATM, shopping cart), wash your hands frequently, lathering up for at least 20 seconds. If there’s no soap and water, use hand sanitizer. Needless to say, avoid crowds and stay home if you don’t feel well. Did we mention masks? Wear a mask.  

FIREWORKS 

Many public fireworks shows are canceled this summer to avoid holding events where large crowds will gather. If you plan to use your own fireworks, check first if it is legal in your area. Never give fireworks to small children, and never throw or point a firework toward people, animals, vehicles, structures or flammable materials. Always follow the instructions on the packaging and keep a supply of water close by just to be safe.  Make sure the person lighting fireworks always wears eye protection.  Light only one firework at a time and never attempt to relight “a dud.”  Store fireworks in a cool, dry place away from children and pets.  

BARBECUE SAFETY 

Always supervise the grill and don’t grill in an enclosed area; in fact, locate the grill well away from your house, camper, shed, or other structure. Keep a fire extinguisher handy. 

FOOD SAFETY 

Keep cold food cold in a cooler with plenty of ice. (It should be stored at 40°F or below to prevent bacterial growth. ) Pack beverages in a separate container—that limits the opening and shutting of the food cooler, and also deters cross-contamination. Wash your hands before preparing and handling food. Don’t leave food out in the hot sun.  

HEAT SAFETY 

Never leave children or pets in a vehicle unattended; interior car temperatures can quickly soar to 120°F. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Avoid caffeine or alcohol. Wear loose fitting-clothing. Periodically, go indoors or take a dip to cool off. Keep an eye on your older family members. Wear sunscreen!  

WATER SAFETY 

Never, ever allow children to be unsupervised at a pool or the beach, even if they’re using floaters. Drowning can happen in seconds. If a person or child is in distress, do not enter the water, but throw them an object they can hang on to. If necessary and you’re trained, perform CPR until help arrives. 

These are just a few tips to safely enjoy your holiday and protect yourself from the coronavirus. For more, go to: redcross.org/about-us/news-and-events/news/summer-safety-tips.html 

By: Kevonne Bennett

In Early June, Southeastern Pennsylvania Region’s very own Larry Daly was one of the few Red Cross volunteers deployed as part of a special team, positioned to assist states on the ground ahead of Tropical Storm Cristobal. Because of COVID-19, where possible, disaster workers are being deployed virtually to provide support, but in certain cases, disasters are still being sent in person while following enhanced safety protocol.

Daly deployed to Baton Rouge, Louisiana as part of a jump team tasked with preparing shelter kits ahead of the storm’s landfall in the state. His day-to-day activities included working in a warehouse, supplying protective equipment such as masks and gloves. The team held meetings in the following days. Thankfully, TS Cristobal did not impact the area as heavily as predicted.

While there, the team saw minor damage in the area. Daly described the damage as mostly flooding in the bayou and countryside. “We only got some rain and wind in the area I was at in Baton Rouge,” said Daly.

Daly is a veteran Red Crosser, having deployed more than four times before TS Cristobal. His first deployment was during the Great Flood of 1993. Daly had been asked to assist with the damage assessment of St. Joseph, Missouri. The situation had been a bit unnerving as Daly recalled how the area flooded twice, requiring a second assessment. But he remained focused on “being there to help the clients.”

Even at the time of his first deployment, he had been no stranger to heroic service. Daly had been a volunteer Fireman in Abington, PA where he met a nurse volunteering with the Red Cross. She encouraged Daly to consider joining the organization as a volunteer. Daly would go on to join the Red Cross, where he has been volunteering for several years.

Although the coronavirus continues to be a risk, Daly did not hesitate to help those in need. He explained his decision to deploy in person, stating that somebody has got to do it. Daly personifies the mission of the American Red Cross to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.

The Red Cross continues to take extra measures to keep both clients and its volunteers safe. Before the Coronavirus, shelters would often have a staff of twenty people. Now due to the pandemic, Mr. Daly says that shelter staff are limited to roughly 4-6 people. Direct contact with those displaced is limited unless truly necessary.

Daly has been home for a few weeks now, and says he remains ready to help the Red Cross at a moment’s notice.

By: Huanjia Zhang  

BBQs, beaches, and pools — summer is officially here. So is the hot weather.  

In the United States, more than 650 people are killed every year by extreme heat according to the CDC. Unlike many other natural disasters, heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable if appropriate precautions are taken. Here are some useful tips to help protect you, your family, and your pets to stay safe during the hot summer weather.  

Excessive heat has caused more deaths than all other weather events. 

  • Hot cars can be deadly. Never leave children or pets in your vehicle. The inside temperature of the car can quickly reach 120 degrees. 
  • Check on family, friends, and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, who spend much of their time alone or who are more likely to be affected by the heat. 
  • If someone doesn’t have air conditioning, they should seek relief from the heat during the warmest part of the day in places such as schools, libraries, theaters, and malls. 

Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. 

  • Avoid extreme temperature changes. 
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothing.  
  • Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays. 

Slow down, stay indoors, and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day. 

  • Postpone outdoor games and activities. 
  • Use a buddy system when working in excessive heat. Take frequent breaks if working outdoors. 

Don’t forget your pets.  

  • Check on animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat. 
  • Make sure they have plenty of cool water and shade. 
  • Animals can suffer heatstroke, a common problem for pets in the warmer weather. Some of the signs of heatstroke in your pet are: heavy panting and unable to calm down, even when lying down, brick red gum color, fast pulse rate, unable to get up. 
  • If you suspect your pet has heatstroke, take their temperature rectally. 
  • If the temperature is above 105 degrees, cool the animal down. The easiest way to do this is by using the water hose. Stop cooling the animal when their temperature reaches 103 degrees. 
  • Bring your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible as heat stroke can lead to severe organ dysfunction and damage. 

Download the Red Cross Pet First Aid app and take the Cat and Dog First Aid course. 

  • The app features step-by-step instructions for cat and dog first aid emergencies and more. Users can find it in smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross, texting GETPET to 90999 for a link to download the app or going to redcross.org/apps
  • Take the Cat and Dog First Aid online course (redcross.org/catdogfirstaid) to learn what to do for bleeding, seizures, heatstroke, and your pet’s well-being. 
     
     

By: Maria Marabito and Sophie Kluthe

When COVID-19 put a halt on in-person meetings, volunteer recruiters at the Red Cross had to adapt and find new ways to connect with people who might have otherwise walked into an open house. They knew there were still people out there who wanted to volunteer and learn more about the process, so they turned to the internet to connect with those people online instead of in-person, but still in real time; and it’s been a huge success! 

In April recruiters came up with Lunch and Learn presentations using Microsoft Teams, which allows anyone with a link to join. During these virtual sessions, the team shares information with the community, and even responds to individual questions. The best part? Attendance skyrocketed, with up to 80 attendees per session, because it’s so easy for people to join from the comfort of their own homes.   

Red Cross volunteer recruiters held the first Lunch and Learn on May 7, and the next meeting is set for June 25. That session will specifically talk about Blood Drives and the volunteer opportunities they present. Some available volunteer positions include, Blood Donor Screener, Blood Donor Ambassador and Blood Donor Transportation Specialist. These volunteer positions are very flexible, requiring just one shift per month. (The current volunteer opportunity postings can be found here: https://www.redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer.html with a variety of remote opportunities available as well.)  

RSVP for the June 25 Lunch and Learn at this link : https://volunteerconnection.redcross.org/?nd=vms_public_form&form_id=8113 

Recruitment Specialist Lynn Cohen is one of the people involved in setting up these virtual meetings and said they offer an in-depth explanation of volunteering since current volunteers also participate to share their experiences and answer questions live.  

“I always think it’s nice to have the volunteer’s perspective because they are the people who are out there already doing the work and can speak first hand about what it’s like,” she explained. 

Cohen said the virtual presentations really lifted the limits on who could attend based on travel time and accessibility to transportation. Her team has had people register for the sessions from all over the country wanting to learn more about volunteering for the Red Cross.  

A screenshot from a recording of the first Lunch and Learn session.

“For live presentations, you have that geographic limitation, but doing virtual ones, there really is no limitation,” she said. 

Cohen says the greatest reward may come from knowing that your work is making a difference in the community.

“We really are a humanitarian organization and we live it and we breath it and we are making differences in people’s lives every day. I love this job, I love what I do and, I think I speak for a lot of people I know, it’s just a really great environment to work and volunteer in.”  

Questions about becoming a volunteer? Visit redcross.org/volunteer or email Lynn Cohen at lynn.cohen@redcross.org

To watch recordings of previous Lunch and Learn sessions, visit https://www.youtube.com/user/RedCrossPhilly/videos 

A Red Cross disaster workers stands along side a firefighter at a fire scene in Philadelphia.

By: Sophie Kluthe

On top of working through the challenges brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic, our disaster response volunteers have also been tirelessly keeping up with a staggering increase in calls to help those displaced by local disasters, including many apartment building fires and destructive weather. 

Last year between June 1 and June 17, we provided emergency recovery assistance to 162 disaster victims in the five counties that make up our Southeastern Pennsylvania Region. During the same time frame this year, we served 308 people displaced by disaster in the same counties, almost double the number from 2019.  

On June 3, a line of intense, fast-moving thunderstorms known as a derecho tore through communities in our region with devastating results. Winds over 80mph ripped the roof off an apartment building in Lansdale, Montgomery County, and our teams provided emergency recovery assistance, which included hotel stays, to 36 people who could no longer live there. This same storm is believed to be the cause of a fatal fire in Delaware County, where we assisted two surviving residents, and an additional seven people who were displaced by storm damage in Chester and Philadelphia Counties. In total, we helped 45 people severely impacted by these destructive storms.  

This month has also been marked by large fires, like the fire that tore through an apartment building in Northwest Philadelphia, impacting 87 units. Along with displacing dozens of people, this fire also claimed the life of an elderly woman who was unable to escape. Following enhanced COVID-19 safety protocols, volunteers Mary Harper and Fred Lehman were among those who responded to the building. In total emotional support, temporary housing assistance and other care was provided for 28 people who had nowhere else to turn. 

Volunteers Mary Harper and Fred Lehman at the scene of a large apartment building fire in Northwest Philadelphia on June 14, 2020. 

“It was clear the residents had some challenges, but were able to band together to find shelter for the night via family members or hotels. It was comforting to know they would have food and shelter for the night,” said Red Cross volunteer, Mary Harper. 

Most recently on June 15, an early morning fire engulfed a Center City row home that housed families in several units inside. Our teams worked through the process of assessing the needs of those displaced and coordinating assistance. Volunteers Larry Daly and Fred Lehman jumped into action to deliver our mission and followed safety guidelines to make sure that assistance got into the hands of the 14 people who needed our help after that fire. 

Larry Daly and Fred Lehman coordinate the distribution of emergency assistance at the scene of a row home fire in Center City on June 15, 2020. 

“Even though we volunteer in different counties and hadn’t worked together much before the pandemic, Fred and I knew that we had to work as a team and take on these new challenges. That way we can get help to the people who need it, because that’s the most important part,” Daly said.  

“It has been a very busy month with several multi-family fires.  These incidents have involved many displaced residents and the response teams that I’ve been able to work with have been phenomenal,” said Lehman. 

These are just a few of the large responses our teams have taken on since the start of June, with many smaller responses in between, in all adding up to 47 Red Cross disaster responses during the first 17 days of June. Despite challenge presented by the pandemic, and a sharp increase in the number of displaced people in need of our help, we will not stop delivering our mission.

April 24, 2020. Baltimore, Maryland. A Red Cross blood donor celebrates after giving blood during the COVID-19 outbreak at the Mount Hope Blood Donation Center. Photo by Dennis Drenner/American Red Cross

By: Huanjia Zhang

The boy was shot, losing so much blood that the paramedic failed to read his blood pressure. He was only 19 years old–the same age as me, as I will never forget–and was rushed by EMS to the trauma center in downtown Baltimore, where I was volunteering in 2016. I stood not far from him with my tight fists, hoping he stayed alive. Echoed in the background was the trauma doctor’s sharp and urgent announcement: he needs a blood transfusion, now.

Experiences like this in the span of my healthcare career have reinforced the fact that the need for blood is constant. In fact, every two seconds someone in the US needs a blood transfusion. Trauma patients, cancer patients, sickle cell patients, burn patients, and patients with chronic diseases all dependent upon blood transfusions to sustain their lives.

There is no substitute for human blood. It’s the blood and blood products that are already on the shelves that prove essential during medical operations and procedures. This blood comes from blood donors, like you. Therefore, as we mark World Blood Donor Day on June 14th, I desire to pay my respect to those altruistic and selfless blood donors.

They are the everyday heroes–normal people across all walks of life. Some stop by on their commute to and from work, some sacrifice their lunch breaks; these are the people who make blood drives successful. While it may look a little different these days, with masks and extra safety precautions, it’s still a crucial step in getting lifesaving blood to those who rely on it.

April 24, 2020. Baltimore, Maryland. A Red Cross blood donor celebrates after giving blood during the COVID-19 outbreak at the Mount Hope Blood Donation Center. Photo by Dennis Drenner/American Red Cross

Blood donations are urgently needed right now to help prevent a summer shortage as hospitals resume all surgical procedures and patient treatments that were temporarily paused earlier this spring in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s important to remember that blood is perishable and cannot be stockpiled.

If you are feeling well, please make an appointment to give by using the Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.

Giving Blood During Coronavirus

Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at Red Cross blood drives and donation centers and are required to wear a face covering or mask while there in alignment with new CDC public guidance.

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control. To ensure the health of staff and donors, precautions include:

  • Checking temperatures of staff and donors before entering a drive to make sure they are healthy.
  • Providing hand sanitizer for use before the drive, as well as throughout the donation process.
  • Following social distancing between donors including entry, donation and refreshment areas.
  • Ensuring face masks or coverings are worn by both staff and donors.
  • Routinely disinfecting surfaces, equipment and donor-touched areas.
  • Wearing gloves and changing gloves often.
  • Using sterile collection sets and an aseptic scrub for every donation.

Learn more about COVID-19 blood donation safety protocols.

By: Divya Kumar 

Blue skies, flowers, and fur babies—these are some of the surprises that have greeted veterans in Philadelphia and Coatesville lately. It happened all because of Janice Winston, Red Cross Federal Liaison and program director of the V.A. Virtual Cards program, the hard work of the V.A. Volunteer Services team, and of course, hundreds of members of the public who have donated their time, their smiles, and their art skills to create digital cards for veterans during the past several weeks.  

They say necessity is the mother of inventions, and that’s what happened here. The V.A. hospitals, along with most of the rest of the country, enforced socially-distancing procedures which closed off visitors. So, the question arose, how could the community pitch in to keep up the spirits of those who served us and who need some extra TLC during these hard times? 

“Because of the volume, we decided traditional mail would be too much for the center to keep up with, so the concept of digital cards came up,” said Winston.  

She asked the V.A. Volunteer Services team if they wanted to work on it, and sure enough they did.  

“Then we thought, wouldn’t it be nice to extend this to the whole region?”  

The project, which initially served Philadelphia, began to serve the Coatesville hospital too.  

“It’s not just adults sending in the cards, it’s also elementary school kids,” Winston happily noted. “They’re all beautiful and people have been very creative—there was a card with the Morris Arboretum…families have sent family photos and the ‘veteran’ theme has been strong. We got military seal pictures from all branches of the military, we have pictures of the American flag, and children have said ‘thank you for your service.’ It’s amazing what people have done!” 

Veterans receive the cards through an internal communication system, and there is joy all around for this successful program. A big thanks to Winston, her team, and everyone who contributed. And of course, thank you, veterans for your service, and get well soon!