Become a Disaster Preparedness Champion Virtually with the Red Cross!

By: Marta Rusek

As a former Girl Scout, Peace Corps Volunteer, and current Red Crosser, I can tell you that being prepared is a major asset. You never know when disaster may strike and taking steps to prepare yourself and your loved ones in advance can save you time and stress, especially if you need to evacuate your home in a hurry.

July 16, 2020. Shoreline, Washington. A 10-year-old student participates in a virtual presentation of the Pillowcase Project. Photo by Betsy Robertson/American Red Cross

The Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania also understands how essential disaster preparation is, which is why we’ve adapted our emergency preparedness programming for individuals and families into virtual event offerings. These programs, which are completely FREE, include:

The Pillowcase Project for young people in third to fifth grades
Be Red Cross Ready preparedness presentations, for participants age 18 and up

“All preparedness programs teach the audience about how to be better prepared for a natural disaster/emergency,” Regional Preparedness Manager Heather Bowman told me recently via email. “Audience members will learn that being prepared is not hard, time-consuming, or costly. With a few steps, individuals and families can be better prepared, just in case.”

The presentations are offered on multiple platforms to create as many disaster preparedness experts as possible, including Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and WebEx.

The Pillowcase Project, a program inspired by college students in New Orleans who carried their possessions in pillowcases during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, will teach students virtually about disaster preparedness using an interactive “Learn, Practice, Share” format. Students will learn about a locally relevant hazard and then how to prepare themselves practically (like what to pack if you and your family are evacuated) and how to stay calm and resilient in the face of fear. The Pillowcase Project is available in 40- or 60-minute programs. Teachers who want to learn more about the Pillowcase Project and request a training are encouraged to contact Heather Bowman at

Be Red Cross Ready was created to teach community members about different kinds of disasters as well as how to prepare for them and respond to them if they happen. This month, in honor of National Preparedness Month, the Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania is offering six virtual sessions (including three shortened lunchtime sessions):

• September 8 – 12noon EST (30-minute lunchtime lesson)
• September 9 – 2:00pm EST (1 hour)
• September 16 – 12noon EST (30-minute lunchtime lesson)
• September 17 – 2:00pm EST (1 hour)
• September 22 – 11:00am EST (1 hour)
• September 24 – 12noon EST (30-minute lunchtime lesson)

July 17, 2020. Shoreline, Washington. This 9-year-old student was among the first to participate in online Pillowcase Preparedness course. Photo by Shonda Ballard/American Red Cross

For community members who are accustomed to in-person training and concerned about the new web-based format, Bowman says not to worry. “We still deliver high quality, interactive programs, that are age specific to our audience. Participants familiar with our preparedness programs may notice slight adaptations, but the message is still the same.”

If you’re ready to become a Preparedness Champion (and be a resource to your friends and family when they run into emergencies of any size), RSVP to one of our Be Red Cross Ready events here.

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