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Safety Tips

By: Caitlin McLafferty

One of the most essential tools to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus is a mask. Many coronavirus patients show no symptoms of the virus – however, they are still able to infect others. A mask helps reduce the spread of the corona virus across communities and can help protect those we love most. The Red Cross also encourages mask-wearing as a way to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Face Coverings - What to Look for Illustration

In a July 14 press release, Center for Disease Control (CDC) Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield stated, “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.”

Dr. Redfield’s statement is supported by previous studies from the SARS outbreak. “Universal Masking to Prevent SARS COVID 2 Transmission-The Time Is Now,” published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reported that, “the more individuals wear cloth face coverings in public places where they may be close together, the more the entire community is protected.”

The evidence for wearing a mask is clear, but for some there is some confusion on what type of mask is recommended.

In the clinical setting, N95 respirators are used for healthcare providers to treat coronavirus patients. Surgical masks are disposable and filter large particles, but are not as tight fitting as N95 masks, which filter 95% of large particles.

In community settings, cloth masks are recommended since they stop the virus from spreading to others through droplets. Therefore, a mask should be worn to cover one’s nose and mouth. When the mask is not covering both the nose and the mouth, the mask cannot serve as a barrier to prevent droplets from spreading. Masks should consist of multiple layers to help filter droplets and particles. According to The University of Pennsylvania’s Environmental Health and Radiation Safety website, masks that have valves are not recommended since the mask does not prevent air from escaping the mask, hence defeating the purpose of wearing a mask.

It is not recommended to touch a mask while it is being worn, and if a mask needs to be touched, hands should be washed before and after adjustment. The Mayo Clinic recommends washing a mask with soap and water or even in the washing machine.



Together through social distancing, frequent hand washing, and cloth masks can drastically reduce community infection rates. The CDC, governor’s offices across the U.S., well-known research universities, and leading hospitals are constantly updating their sites with the latest information. By staying updated on leading information, everyone can do their part to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The Labor Day holiday is fast approaching, signaling the unofficial end of summer and time for that last hurrah of summer fun. The American Red Cross has steps everyone can take to help stay safe over the long holiday weekend.

TRAVEL SAFETY Many families see the holiday weekend as their last chance to travel and celebrate the end of the season. Many will hit the road sometime over the three-day holiday weekend. The Red Cross offers these travel tips to help keep you safe on the highway:

  • Find out what disasters may occur where you are traveling and how you would get information in the event of a disaster (local radio systems, emergency alert systems).
  • Pay attention to the weather forecast for your destination.
  • Buckle up, slow down, and don’t drink and drive. Designate a driver who won’t drink.
  • Be well rested and alert; give your full attention to the road.
  • Use caution in work zones.
  • Observe speed limits.
  • Make frequent stops.
  • Be respectful of other motorists.
  • Clean your vehicle’s lights and windows to help you see, especially at night.
  • Turn your headlights on as dusk approaches, or during inclement weather, and don’t overdrive your headlights.
  • Carry a Disaster Supplies Kit in your trunk.
  • Don’t let your vehicle’s gas tank get too low.
  • If you have car trouble, pull as far as possible off the highway.
  • Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive. If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route. 

RIP CURRENTS If a trip to the beach is part of your weekend plans, remember the possibility of dangerous rip currents which are responsible for deaths on our nation’s beaches every year, and for most of the rescues performed by lifeguards. For your safety, be aware of the dangers of rip currents and remember the following:

  • If you are caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Once you are free, turn and swim toward shore. If you can’t swim to the shore, float or tread water until you are free of the rip current and then head toward shore.
  • Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist near these structures.

GRILLING SAFETY Perhaps your plans include an old-fashioned barbecue at home. The Red Cross offers these steps you should follow to use that backyard grill safely:

  • Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use.
  • Never grill indoors – not in your house, camper, tent, or any enclosed area.
  • Make sure everyone, including the pets, stays away from the grill.
  • Keep the grill out in the open, away from the house, the deck, tree branches, or anything that could catch fire.
  • Use the long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill to help keep the chef safe.
  • Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using grills.

The Red Cross hopes everyone enjoys their Labor Day weekend and stays safe whatever their plans may be. For more information, visit redcross.org/prepare.

Back-to-School-Safety-FEAT

Summer vacation for students is coming to a close as local schools open their doors for the new school year. The American Red Cross has these safety steps to help make your student’s trip back to the classroom a safe one.

American Red Cross Eastern Pennsylvania Regional CEO Guy Triano suggests looking over the safety steps with the entire family. “While you’re making that list of school supplies the kids will need, talk with them about school bus safety and getting to school by car, bike or on foot. Keeping all students safe is the primary concern for everyone. But there are special steps for parents of younger kids and those going to school for the first time,” he says.

  • Make sure the child knows their phone number, address, how to get in touch with their parents at work, how to get in touch with another trusted adult and how to dial 9-1-1.
  • Teach children not to talk to strangers or accept rides from someone they don’t know.

SCHOOL BUS SAFETY

  • If children ride a bus to school, they should plan to get to their bus stop early and stand away from the curb while waiting for the bus to arrive.
  • Board the bus only after it has come to a complete stop and the driver or attendant has instructed you to get on.
  • Only board your bus, never an alternate one.
  • Always stay in clear view of the bus driver and never walk behind the bus.
  • Cross the street at the corner, obeying traffic signals and staying in the crosswalk.
  • Never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.

GETTING TO SCHOOL BY CAR, BIKE, ON FOOT

  • If children ride in a car to get to school, they should always wear a seat belt. Younger children should use car seats or booster seats until the lap-shoulder belt fits properly (typically for children ages 8-12 and over 4’9”), and ride in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old.
  • If a teenager is going to drive to school, parents should mandate that they use seat belts. Drivers should not use their cell phone to text or make calls, and should avoid eating or drinking while driving.
  • Some students ride their bike to school. They should always wear a helmet and ride on the right in the same direction as the traffic is going.
  • When children are walking to school, they should only cross the street at an intersection, and use a route along which the school has placed crossing guards. Parents should walk young children to school, along with children taking new routes or attending new schools, at least for the first week to ensure they know how to get there safely. Arrange for the kids to walk to school with a friend or classmate.

DRIVERS, SLOW DOWN!

Drivers should be aware that children are out walking or biking to school and slow down, especially in residential areas and school zones. Motorists should know what the yellow and red bus signals mean. Yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is getting ready to stop and motorists should slow down and be prepared to stop. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign indicate the bus is stopped and children are getting on or off. Drivers in both directions must stop their vehicles and wait until the lights go off, the stop sign is back in place and the bus is moving before they can start driving again.

Written by Bryan Myers

Flooding has been a major concern throughout Pennsylvania this summer, especially in the Central and Eastern parts of the state. After several rounds of thunderstorm on August 13th, communities began to flood and houses became inundated with water. Montgomery County’s Department of Public Safety reported that the Pennsylvania Turnpike was closed between Valley Forge and Norristown. The Schuylkill Expressway and PA Turnpike were also shut down due to flooding in the county. Portions of Berks, Delaware, Lackawanna, Schuylkill, Susquehanna and Wyoming counties were particularly hard hit.

The Red Cross responded to the historic flooding in Delaware County by opening an evacuation center at the Darby Recreation Center for flood victims. Throughout the region, dozens of people fled the floodwaters into Red Cross shelters, which were opened in coordination with community partners.

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As water levels receded, the Red Cross focus shifted to distributing emergency supplies, serving meals and working one on one with affected families.  In the first week alone, Red Cross volunteers served more than 2,100 meals and snacks and distributed hundreds of clean up kits and other flood related supplies.

Five emergency response vehicles were deployed to the hardest-hit areas where volunteers could hand out food and emergency supplies door to door. Disaster Assessment teams were sent out to traverse neighborhoods while caseworkers went door to door to talk with affected families, providing more than 75 of them with assistance.

flooding

To be prepared for flood emergencies, the Red Cross recommends assembling an emergency preparedness kit and creating a household evacuation plan. You should ensure that you have access to NOAA radio broadcasts and keep insurance policies in a safe-deposit box or with pictures on a flash drive. Remember to take precautionary measures for your pets by downloading the Red Cross Pet First Aid app.

Home protections might include raising your water heater or electric panels to higher floors, the addition of flood barriers around your house and waterproofing the walls in your basement. Check with your local municipality about the availability of sandbags prior to a flood watch or warning.

You can read more about flood safety from the Red Cross by visiting the Red Cross Flood Safety website. Stay up to date with the latest alerts with the Red Cross Emergency App for iPhone or Android.

Philadelphia’s Office of Emergency Management offers flood safety awareness with an outline of flooding hazards. At the state and federal level, a Pennsylvania Flooding Recovery Guide is also available.

The Fourth of July holiday is here and many of us will enjoy the outdoors, watch fireworks or host a family picnic. The American Red Cross wants everyone to enjoy their holiday and offers safety steps they can follow.

The Independence Day Holiday is a great time for summer fun and the Red Cross wants to make sure everyone stays safe during their celebration. It’s also a time when the number of people giving blood drops, but the need for blood donations continues. We are also asking that everyone consider giving blood over the holiday.

Firework Safety

The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public fireworks show put on by professionals. Stay at least 500 feet away from the show. Many states outlaw most fireworks. Leave any area immediately where untrained amateurs are using fireworks. If you are setting fireworks off at home, follow these safety steps:

  1. 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.
  2. Keep a supply of water close by as a precaution.
  3. Make sure the person lighting fireworks always wears eye protection.
  4. Light only one firework at a time and never attempt to relight “a dud.”
  5. Store fireworks in a cool, dry place away from children and pets.

PICNIC SAFETY

  1. Don’t leave food out in the hot sun. Keep perishable foods in a cooler with plenty of ice or freezer gel packs.
  2. Wash your hands before preparing the food.
  3. If you are going to cook on a grill, always supervise the grill when in use. Don’t add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited. Use the long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill to keep the chef safe.
  4. Never grill indoors. Keep the grill out in the open, away from the house, the deck, tree branches, or anything that could catch fire.
  5. Make sure everyone, including the pets, stays away from the grill.

 

Written By Sam Antenucci

The  2018 Hurricane Season, June through November, has arrived. Last season we, as a country, saw how hurricanes impacted Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. Red Cross volunteers dispatched to four southern states to aid in the recovery by mobilizing resources and help residents impacted by the storms. For Hurricane Irma victims, the Red Cross provided over 550,000 overnight shelter stays, 1.5 million meals and snacks, and provide 52,600 health and mental health services! Similarly, with Hurricane Harvey, the Red Cross provided immediate financial assistance to more than 575,000 households, 4.5 million meals in Texas and Louisiana, provided 435,000 overnight shelters, and offered 127,000 mental health services to those affected.

Hurricane Harvey 2017

A Red Cross worker assesses Harvey damage and standing water levels in Texas

However, even with all the great strides made in recovery, the devastation in these areas is still in effect going into the new hurricane season. For this reason, the American Red Cross wants to emphasize the importance of keeping you and your family safe this hurricane season.

NOAA’s forecasters predict a 70-percent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 5 to 9 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 1 to 4 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher). An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which 6 become hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes.

infrared goes-16 harvey

Image: Infrared GOES-16 as Harvey hits Texas coast. CTSY: NOAA

While the predictions are concerning, there are tips you and your loved ones can do to prepare for the season. Right before hurricane and tropical storm announcements, it is recommended that you stay up-to-date with your local news and officials, National Weather Service and Red Cross with changing conditions. It is also advised that families create evacuation plans with well-marked destinations and local emergency shelters listed. In addition, a fully stocked emergency kit can aid in keeping your family safe and prepared before the storm hits.

During a hurricane, stay indoors! By avoiding any beaches, riverbanks, or contact with flood waters, you can help protect you and your family from any contaminated water and prevent being knocked over by fast-flowing waters. If caught on flooded roads, the Red Cross advises getting out of the car as quick as possible and move to higher grounds.

After the storm has passed, make sure you and your loved ones register on Safe and Well, a website designed to help communicate with family during disasters if cellular communication is not an option. Just like before, keep listening to local news stations and/or weather radios for updates on the storm and instructions for returning home.

With the new hurricane season quickly approaching, you and your family can be prepared! For more safety tips and resources, visit the Red Cross’s hurricane safety page and download the free Emergency app.

 

Summer is finally here and many of us will travel, grill delicious food and cool off in the pool or at the beach. The Red Cross wants everyone to enjoy the summer and be safe at the same time, so we are offering these 20 safety tips people should follow.

DRIVING SAFETY

  1. Be well rested and alert, use seat belts, observe speed limits and follow the rules of the road. Clean your headlights and turn them on as dusk approaches or in inclement weather.
  2. Don’t drink and drive. Have a designated driver available.
  3. Give your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions such as cell phones.
  4. Use caution in work zones. There are lots of construction projects underway on the highways.
  5. Don’t follow other vehicles too closely.

WATER SAFETY

  1. Ensure that everyone in the family becomes water competent. That is, learn to swim well, know your limitations and how to recognize and avoid hazards, and understand how to help prevent and respond to emergencies around water.
  2. Adults should actively supervise children and stay within arm’s reach of young children and newer swimmers. Kids should follow the rules.
  3. Fence your pool in with four-sided fencing that is at least four-feet in height and use self-closing, self-latching gates.
  4. Wear your U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket always when on a boat and if in a situation beyond your skill level.
  5. Swim as a pair near a lifeguard’s chair – everyone, including experienced swimmers, should swim with a buddy in areas protected by lifeguards. If in a location with no lifeguards, such as a residential pool, designate a “Water Watcher” to keep a close eye and constant attention on children in and around the water.

BEACH SAFETY

  1. If you plan to swim in the ocean, a lake or river, be aware that swimming in these environments is different than swimming in a pool. Be sure you have the skills for these environments.
  2. Swim only at a beach with a lifeguard, within the designated swimming area. Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards and ask them about local conditions.
  3. Make sure you swim sober and that you always swim with a buddy. Know your limitations and make sure you have enough energy to swim back to shore.
  4. Protect your neck – don’t dive headfirst. Walk carefully into open waters. Watch out for and avoid aquatic life.
  5. If you are caught in a rip current, try not to panic. Signal to those on shore that you need assistance. Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Once you are free, swim toward shore. If you can’t swim to the shore, float or tread water until you are free of the rip current and then head toward shore.

GRILLING SAFETY

  1. Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use. Don’t add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited.
  2. Never grill indoors – not in your house, camper, tent or any enclosed area.
  3. Make sure everyone, including pets, stays away from the grill.
  4. Keep the grill out in the open, away from the house, deck, tree branches, or anything that could catch fire.
  5. Use the long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill to keep the chef safe.

 

Written by Randy Hulshizer

It’s almost that time of year again! For many, the upcoming warm, humid summer months are a time to head to the beach for a cool dip in the ocean, kick back with a glass of lemonade or iced tea in a shady backyard, or simply find a cool, air-conditioned place to relax. Instinctively, people tend to choose activities that alleviate discomfort from the heat, but sometimes the heat and humidity are so bad that the weather service and local governments issue warnings to  ensure people understand that heat is not only uncomfortable—it can be dangerous.

Despite the frequent and clear warnings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 681 people die in the U.S. each year due to heat-related factors. The majority of heat-related deaths occur in individuals over the age of 65 and most are preventable.

Hurricane Matthew 2016

Photo by Daniel Cima

The reason for the high number of elderly deaths due to heat are three-fold. First, as the human body ages, it becomes less adaptable to sudden changes in temperature or other environmental factors, such as humidity and air pollution. Second, many people over the age of 65 have chronic medical conditions or take multiple prescription medications, both of which could affect the body’s ability to adapt to environmental changes. And third, many people over the age of 65 simply ignore the warnings.

According to a 2007 survey of more than 900 individuals over the age of 65, only about half heed excessive heat warnings. Some individuals stated that, although they knew that “elderly” people were at higher risk of heat-related conditions and death, they did not consider themselves “elderly,” and therefore the warnings did not apply. In addition, most reported that they had access to air-conditioning, but about a third of them said they didn’t turn it on because it cost too much.

The Red Cross encourages everyone, especially the elderly, to pay attention to the warnings and take appropriate action: stay in air-conditioning if possible; drink plenty of water; stay out of the sun; wear lose-fitting, light-colored clothing; don’t engage in strenuous activity; and get plenty of rest. If you know someone over the age of 65, check on them occasionally to be sure they are weathering the heat safely.

Driving in a winter storm presents its own unique challenges. The Red Cross has steps people can follow to get their vehicle ready for winter as well as what they should do if they are caught in a winter storm.

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DRIVING IN WINTER: While the Red Cross encourages you to stay off the road if possible, if you have to drive in snow or freezing rain, follow these tips.

• Fill the vehicle’s gas tank and clean the lights and windows to help you see.

• Pay attention to the weather forecast. Before you leave, let someone know where you are going, the route you plan to take, and when you expect to get there. If your car gets stuck, help can be sent along your predetermined route.

• If you must drive, make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions such as cell phones.

• Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways.

• Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.

• Don’t pass snow plows.

• Know that ramps, bridges and overpasses will freeze before roadways.

If you become stuck in the snow or icy conditions:

• Stay with the car. Do not try to walk to safety.

• Tie a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) to the antenna for rescuers to see.

• Don’t run your engine and heater constantly to help avoid running out of gas. Don’t use things like lights or the radio without the engine running so the battery doesn’t conk out.

• If you can, move your vehicle off the roadway. Stay with it – don’t abandon it. If you have to get out of your vehicle, use the side away from traffic.

• Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes won’t back up in the car.

• Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running to help rescuers see the vehicle.

• Keep one window slightly open — away from the blowing wind — to let in air.

WEATHER ALERTS AND FIRST AID TIPS: People can download the Red Cross Emergency App for instant access to winter storm tips and weather alerts for their area and where loved-ones live. Expert medical guidance and a hospital locator are included in the First Aid App in case travelers encounter any mishaps. Both apps are available to download for free in app stores or at redcross.org/apps.

Written by Sam Antenucci

I was anticipating a rowdy crowd, after all the Eagles just won their very first Super Bowl. My group of friends and I ventured into the massive crowds around the Art Museum and were immediately overwhelmed with the sheer volume of Eagles fans. People of all ages gathered around, cheering to see their sports heroes paraded around after their victorious win against the Patriots.

parade crowd

Before we descended into the sea of green jerseys, we set a meeting point at a local café on Fairmount Avenue. The Red Cross suggested that groups traveling to the parade designate a meeting point in case anyone got lost in the shuffle. The Red Cross also ran a reunification center at 30th Street Station, assisting families separated by the frenzy of the parade.

With our phones at our side, we linked arms and made our way down as far as we could to see the parade. I was pleasantly surprised by the courtesy and energy of the crowd. Even through their excitement, a please and thank you went a long way. As my friends and I descended into the masses, we had several groups of people help find a good spot for us to see the parade by clearing paths to the procession.

We got as far as we could, when we decided to stay near a mother and her three children. When I asked them how they felt about the crowds, they told me that everyone was very courteous and looked out for each other. The mother told me how she didn’t any trouble getting her young kids to a nice spot to see the parade. Another woman and her friends stood ahead of us and began to explain that even though Eagles fans have a reputation for being a rough fan base, everyone was here to celebrate an amazing victory with their favorite team. That sense of community filled all of Philadelphia and it was apparent in the lively energy of the crowd. Whether you were a stranger or not, the sense of family, community, and security was felt by all that day.

trash truck

We found ourselves thoroughly enjoying the parade. We made sure to stand guard and watch after the woman’s children, making sure they wouldn’t get pushed around within the crowds and had a decent view of the show. Once the Eagles arrived on the busses, cheering and waving to the crowd, the fans reciprocated their excitement with cheers. Cell phones flew into the air to take videos and pictures. To be a part of this historical event was an honor that nearly all Philadelphians had the chance to experience as one united community!

While the parade was certainly new and exciting, it is always important to exercise caution when venturing out in crowds. In case you get separated from your group, make sure to let a local police officer know and establish ahead of time a meeting point everyone can go too. Take only the necessities like your cellphone, a small sum of money, water, snacks, and your I.D. card. Most importantly, as a community event, look out for one another, especially the elderly and the children. We are one giant community celebrating the marvelous victory of the Eagles. Philly reintroduced the meaning of our wonderful city’s name; the city of brotherly love.