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By: Dave Skutnik and Sophie Kluthe 

More than a week after Hurricane Isaias left devastating flooding in Southeastern Pennsylvania, the American Red Cross is assisting people in the next step of their recovery, transitioning from the shelter back home or into a new place to stay.  

Montrell Headen holds his 2-year-old son, Trent, as he talks to Regional Red Cross CEO Guy J, Triano before leaving the shelter.

After about a week in a hotel shelter, Montrell Headen, his wife Tiffany and their two children picked up their cleanup kit and comfort kits as they prepared to check out. These items are some of the more than 1,300 relief supplies the Red Cross has provided so far in this recovery effort, along with more than 2,200 overnight shelter stays for displaced residents. 

Montrell and his family leave the hotel shelter with a Red Cross cleanup kit, and comfort kits in hand. They’d stayed in the shelter for about a week after their home flooded due to Hurricane Isaias.

Headen said the damage to his family’s home in Eastwick was so extensive that they were going to stay with loved ones while they look for a new place to live. 

“It’s kind of hard for me and my family. My wife was in the hospital for 15 days so that was hard on us with the pandemic and the flood. But we’ve been trying to maintain. The Red Cross has been helping us out pretty good. Feeding us breakfast, lunch and dinner,” he said.  

Headen said having a safe place to stay in the days after the flood allowed them to focus on their next steps, and that he appreciated the warmth and kindness of the shelter staff. 

“They’ve been great. Nice people. I love the Red Cross.” 

Headen is one of more than 350 people the Red Cross provided emergency shelter for in the widespread flooding that occurred regionwide after Hurricane Isaias. Together with community partners, the Red Cross served more than 3,300 meals and snacks, and more than 100 Red Cross workers have been providing around-the-clock care and comfort to displaced families.  

Jennifer Nesbitt also lived in the Eastwick neighborhood of Philadelphia and said this is the third time they’ve dealt with major flooding. She and her daughters were staying in another Red Cross shelter, and said the August 4th flood not only brought physical damage, but emotional stress as well.  

“My home, looking at the water line, it was close to six feet of murky water,” she said. “It impacted me, I was very impacted. Not only looking at my home, but emotional feelings because we’ve been there before.” 

Jennifer Nesbitt talks to Red Cross shelter worker, Susan Weiss, about her plans for the next few days of recovery.

Adding to the toll, the Coronavirus pandemic, which Nesbitt said had a large impact on her family.  

“My daughters and I, we have been quarantined since March, in our home, because I’m immune compromised, and I have a special needs daughter that’s immune compromised. So this is the most I’ve been around anyone since March,” she said. 

Despite living through circumstances that many people will only read about, Nesbitt says she has been able to find some positives, pointing to the people who volunteered their time and effort to provide support to those displaced. 

“The Red Cross came along and they were our saving grace because they offered us lodging, and food, and comfort of a conversation in listening to what we were going through. So I want to commend the Red Cross very much, for being there for us. And everybody’s been doing it with a smile,” she said. 

Red Cross support doesn’t end when people leave the shelter. Each family leaves with comfort kits containing personal care items to get them through the next few weeks. They’re also given a cleanup kit with supplies to help them clean and disinfect flooded homes. Each family is also set up with a recovery specialist who helps them plan next steps and connect them with other organizations that specialize in solving problems, like where to get new furniture, or assistance with looking for new housing.  

Red Cross shelter worker, Ed Smith, helps organize cleanup kits to be given to families as they leave the shelter.

This Red Cross Disaster operation is far from over. And with a permanent presence in Southeastern Pennsylvania, the Red Cross will continue its mission of alleviating suffering and caring for communities in this region.  

By: Dave Skutnik and Sophie Kluthe 

It’s been nearly a week since Tropical Storm Isaias tracked through Southeastern Pennsylvania, causing widespread flooding and even tornadoes. Another round of storms Friday evening only added to the problems, causing new evacuations in part of the area. 

Since the storm the American Red Cross has received more than 200 calls for assistance from local residents impacted by flooding. Preliminary damage estimates show more than 500 homes in Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties received at least some flood damage. Teams have been out assessing this damage, and the Red Cross will use that information to provide personalized recovery plans this week to those impacted by Isaias. 

Aaron Fields conducts damage assessments in Philadelphia’s Eastwick neighborhood after flash flooding from Tropical Storm Isaias.

And as of Monday, August 10, there were still more than 350 people staying in Red Cross shelters at hotels throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania. Ensuring people have a safe place to stay if they can’t return home after a disaster is a critical part of our mission. The coronavirus pandemic puts additional stress on families seeking shelter, which is why we’ve prioritized individual hotel rooms to keep families safe. 

As the scope of the recovery effort broadens, the Red Cross has called in help from all over the country, and now has at least 95 dedicated Red Cross disaster workers providing care and comfort to those affected by the flooding. They are helping in shelters, serving meals, distributing clean up supplies and providing health services in shelters. 

Ron and Debbie Brandon have been staying at one of the Red Cross shelters since they had to leave their home in Delaware County last Tuesday because of flooding. These shelters are staffed all day, with Red Cross workers providing information and helping to coordinate meals, snacks, and distribute comfort items like toothbrushes. 

“They’re very helpful,” Ron Brandon said.  

Ron Brandon picks up his individually packaged dinner from the Salvation Army at one of the Red Cross shelters.

As they picked up their dinner Friday night, they said the Red Cross came through to provide the essentials during their time of need.  

“I just don’t know what we would do without them,” Debbie Brandon said. “You couldn’t’ meet nicer people.” 

Debbie and Ron Brandon picked up diner before heading back to their room at the Red Cross hotel shelter.

It’s thanks to the dedication of Red Cross disaster workers, who are mostly volunteers, and community partners, that help is getting to where it’s needed most. Responding to disasters is a team effort. Together with The Salvation Army, the Red Cross has been able to serve about 1,400 meals to those staying in its shelters.  

Many have already begun the arduous task of cleaning up what the flood waters left behind. This includes debris, mud, and contaminated flood water. The Red Cross has provided more than 500 cleanup kits to help with this process. These kits include a broom, mop, gloves and disinfectant, and have been distributed to impacted residents by the Philadelphia Fire Department.  

Michele Green received one of these kits over the weekend while scrubbing out her home in the Eastwick neighborhood of Philadelphia. She said that “everything from the back door to the front door” was flooded. 

Michele Green steps away from cleaning for a moment to accept a Red Cross cleanup kit and talk to a firefighter.

Regarding the cleanup kit Green said, “This will help us out, we’ll have plenty of stuff to clean,” noting that the process would likely take days, if not weeks.  

Additional clean up kits continue to be distributed through the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management at Penrose Elementary School, 2515 S. 77th St. in the city. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, August 10. 

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted each and every aspect of this disaster response. All Red Cross disaster workers are wearing masks at all times, disinfecting often, and social distancing as much as possible. Those who can work virtually are doing so to limit the potential spread of illness.

Susan Poulton, who is trained in healthcare services, takes shelter worker Nancy Delucia’s temperature at a Red Cross shelter.

In Red Cross hotel shelters, masks are being distributed to displaced residents, meals are being served in individually packaged servings, and trained healthcare volunteers are screening everyone who enters for symptoms of COVID-19. The safety and well-being of Red Cross workers and the people they serve are of utmost importance.  

By: Dave Skutnik and Sophie Kluthe

More than 300 displaced residents woke up in Red Cross shelters as disaster workers kicked off the fourth day of the response following Hurricane Isaias in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Our teams have been busy providing care and comfort, hundreds of hot meals and snacks, and recovery support to those impacted by the flooding. 

Red Cross Disaster Worker Greg Faber checks in with Ron Brandon, who is staying at a Red Cross shelter after
his home in Delaware County flooded Tuesday.

Since Tuesday, the Red Cross has received over 200 calls for assistance, and as the response has grown, so has our team of trained Red Cross disaster workers. As of today, August 7th, more than 75 trained Red Cross disaster workers from all over the country were part of the recovery effort in Southeastern Pennsylvania. That team includes workers physically in the region, and those who are supporting the effort virtually from as far away as California, Oregon, and Florida. 

Red Cross damage assessment workers have been out in hard hit areas, getting eyes on the impacted homes, and gathering information about homes that were affected by flooding. Our teams will use that information to help families create individualized recovery plans. In addition, Red Cross cleanup kits are being distributed at two city locations to help residents clean up and disinfect their homes after Tuesday’s devastating flash flooding.  

Red Cross worker Aaron Fields conducts disaster assessment work in the Eastwick neighborhood of Philadlephia.

Jessica Wright was cleaning mud and flood debris out of her garage Friday morning, saying this was the worst flooding she’s experienced in that area since Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Wright said a family member had to come home and wade through flood water to get inside and rescue their dog. 

 

While cleaning mud and debris out of her home, Philadelphia resident Jessica Wright said this was the worst flooding she’s experienced in 20 years.

Isaias is just the latest storm in an already very busy start to the 2020 hurricane season. Across the country the Red Cross has responded to the call to help after Cristobal, Douglas, Hannah and Isaias brought wind damage and flooding. That’s why the Red Cross needs volunteers to help staff shelter reception, registration, feeding, dormitory, information collection and other vital tasks to help those we serve. We have both associate and supervisory level opportunities available.   

In addition, if you are an RN, LPN, LVN, APRN, NP, EMT, paramedic, MD/DO or PA with an active, current and unencumbered license, the Red Cross needs your support. Volunteers are needed in shelters to help assess people’s health. Daily observation and health screening for COVID-19-like illness among shelter residents may also be required. RNs supervise all clinical tasks.  

More information on volunteering is available by visiting redcross.org/volunteertoday. Be sure to review the CDC guidance for people who are at higher risk for severe illness, consult your health care provider and follow local guidance. Our number one priority is the health and safety of our employees, volunteers and the people we serve. 

By: Sophie Kluthe

Firefighters work to put out a large fire at the Ashwood Apartments in Chester County.

As firefighters were still working to extinguish hot spots, Red Cross disaster workers were already in full swing of a disaster response operation late last week when a large apartment fire in North Coventry, Chester County, displaced approximately 150 people. 

Trained Red Cross disaster workers Janice Thomas and Elizabeth Stinson coordinate the first stages of the Red Cross response at the Norco Fire Station.

After getting the call from the fire department the night of Thursday, June 30, Red Cross disaster teams immediately started coordinating to get volunteers Janice Thomas and Elizabeth Stinson out to the area to start meeting with displaced residents, and coordinating with local agencies for the recovery effort as other Red Cross disaster workers arrived to help. The team set up at the nearby Norco Fire Station, where residents started to trickle in.  

Executive Director of the Delaware Valley Chapter Jennifer Graham assists at the reception center, taking to residents and coordinating to replace lost medications.

While some volunteers met with residents to create a list of urgent medications that needed to be replaced, others worked on a plan to provide temporary lodging, and find out how many people needed a place to stay the night. A shelter team quickly set up at an area hotel to get ready to welcome displaced residents, with the Red Cross providing emergency shelter for dozens of people.  

Volunteer Debbie Tevlin quickly works to set up a shelter at a local hotel for those displaced by the fire.

The Red Cross has COVID-19 specific precautions in place to ensure safety remains top priority, including individual hotel rooms to allow for better social distancing between families. In addition to providing a safe place to spend the night, Red Cross volunteers also screened those entering the hotel for symptoms of COVID-19, and distributed masks. In total, more than 90 people from this fire have received Red Cross recovery assistance. 

Volunteer Will Dobnak prepares to conduct health screenings and distribute masks to people arriving at the shelter.

The Red Cross has been working with other local community organizations to help plan for the long term recovery of those displaced. 

A sign points displaced residents to the Red Cross shelter, where dozens stayed in the aftermath of the Ashwood Apartments fire.

By: Sophie Kluthe and Dave Skutnik

Tuesday, August 4, residents in every county in the Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania Region felt the disastrous effects of Hurricane Isaias as it churned its way up the East Coast, leaving many unable to return to their homes because the damaged caused by the storm. The storm brought the most severe impacts from a tropical system to the area since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The American Red Cross stepped in to makes sure that as many people as possible received support, including a safe, dry place to spend the night.  

Isaias brought torrential rainfall and flooding, damaging winds and even two tornadoes. Despite being affected themselves, American Red Cross disaster workers answered dozens of calls for help, opening several evacuation centers for people whose homes were flooding.  

Red Cross Volunteer Pat Alexander prepares to talk with displace residents while helping to staff a reception center in Delaware County.

By the evening hours, the Red Cross moved more than 130 residents safely to hotels, including one that is pet friendly. Hotels are being used instead of more traditional shelters like school gyms due to COVID-19 to keep people safe and socially distanced.  

Wednesday morning at one hotel in Philadelphia, Pamela Frazier came down from her room to the front desk. She had spent the night at the Red Cross hotel shelter because her Darby apartment building had been flooded out. 

“You saw it happening before your eyes,” she said about how quickly the water rose, covering roadways and sinking cars. 

Pamela Frazier, who was displaced by flooding, talks with Red Cross shelter volunteers Nancy Delucia and Eileen Moran.

Frazier said that when she arrived the night before, she met Red Cross volunteers Eileen Moran and Nancy Delucia who welcomed her and helped her check into her room for the night.  

“They’re fantastic. The personality, attitudes,” she said. “Everything we needed they were right there.” 

Talking to those same volunteers Wednesday morning, she got updated information and information about her stay. 

“Thank you for everything,” she said to them, before heading back to the elevator.  

Having been previously flooded out of her own home years before, Moran said she understood the devastation people were experiencing. She said that she tries to help the local community by volunteering. 

“We don’t just provide housing, we provide kindness. That’s a big part of what we do,” Moran said. 

Red Cross Volunteer Eileen Moran takes inventory of snacks at one of the Red Cross shelter locations.

After a disaster like Hurricane Isaias, the Red Cross will tailor our services to meet the needs of each community. Local volunteers will provide critical, on the ground relief to their neighbors and we’ll offer some services virtually—including health and mental health services. 

Health Services volunteer, Susan Poulton, checks in with people staying at a Red Cross shelter. Poulton also screened everyone for symptoms of COVID-19.

Anyone who needs Red Cross help should call 1-800-RED-CROSS. 

By: Marta Rusek

Most of the articles that appear in our blog for the Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania are written by our talented team of volunteers. On Blogger Day, we’d like to introduce our dedicated blog writers and share why they volunteer for the Red Cross, plus some fun facts about them!  

You can learn more about volunteering at redcross.org/volunteer.

Sam Antenucci  

I decided to become a volunteer with the Red Cross after my first blood donation. Being afraid of needles, I was very nervous for my donation, but everyone made me feel so comfortable and welcomed during my appointment, I knew I wanted to do more! I loved writing, so Red Cross gave me the opportunity to become a blogger.  I was born and raised in Roswell, New Mexico, so getting the chance to volunteer has been a wonderful way for me to give back to the Philly community and meet amazing people along the way. 

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Kevonne Bennett 

I began volunteering with the Red Cross to stay productive during the stay-at-home order. I thought it would be a great way to develop my writing skills while contributing to a good cause. My first experience with volunteering was planting trees with my classmates in middle school. 

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Maria Marabito 

I started volunteering for the Red Cross because I wanted to contribute and do something good during the pandemic. I felt so helpless at the start of it but volunteering has made this feeling begin to go away. The Red Cross makes it very easy and safe to volunteer, which I am grateful for. 

Fun fact: I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland for a year. Loved it! 

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Marta Rusek  

I decided to volunteer with the Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania because I was looking for a new way to use my writing and public relations skills for good, and I met a member of the Red Cross team at a nonprofit job fair who made the volunteer community sound like something I really wanted to be a part of! Before I became a blogger for the Red Cross, I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in The Gambia in West Africa, and I worked in Sesame Workshop’s international division in New York City (being co-workers with Elmo and Grover were my favorite office perk).  

In addition to being a member of the Blog Team, Marta also serves as SEPA’s Blog Lead. 

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Sukripa Shah 

Working as a Red Cross Southeastern PA Communications Volunteer has provided me with a robust  platform to engage with like minded individuals who share a passion to help and spread positivity through the art and power of writing. I am always learning something new on my writing assignments that has tremendously helped me in my professional career. Recognizing the impact volunteers have on other individuals’ day to day lives through their inspiring, selfless contributions, and being able to articulate their stories through writing is a unique experience that I recommend every aspiring communications professional should engage with. Not only that, my volunteer experience has boosted my leadership skills and introduced me to newer opportunities that compliment my professional development.  

Sukripa is also SEPA’s Volunteer Engagement Lead. 

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Judith Weeks 

I volunteered for the American Red Cross in 2005 and was deployed to the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. I was so impressed with the Red Cross and how it was able to operate with volunteer leaders in a clearly fluid and often chaotic situation. I have continued as a Disaster Responder deployed to San Diego Fires; Kansas, Wisconsin, and Baton Rouge Floods; and local fires and disasters in the Central New Jersey Chapter, Delmarva Chapter, and now the SEPA Chapter. I am now using writing skills I learned as a senior marketing manager for major life sciences companies, and my 15 years experience to tell the American Red Cross story about its dedicated volunteers and humanitarian service it provides to those in need. 

By: Sophie Kluthe  

Red Cross Volunteer Larry Daly coordinates with an ACLAMO director at the organization’s weekly feeding mission in Norristown.

COVID-19 and its reverberations have hit Southeastern Pennsylvania especially hard. For vulnerable families, job insecurity and food insecurity loom large, and the prospect of hunger is a real concern. To ensure that no family goes hungry this summer, the American Red Cross is partnering with community groups to put help food on the tables of folks who are navigating difficult times.   

Over the past several weeks, Red Cross volunteers have assisted ACLAMO Family Centers, a Norristown nonprofit, with its weekly food distribution. ACLAMO (Accion Comunal Latinoamericana de Montgomery County) allocates hundreds of meals each week, and the volunteers help set up, pack, and distribute bags and boxes full of food for participating families. 

 

In Chester County, Red Cross volunteers put on their logistics caps and rolled up their sleeves to move 20,000 pounds of food to local organizations for distribution—all in one day.   

Barbara Schlenger-Faber was one of those team members. The mission involved plenty of planning—and then plenty of muscle was needed to move pallets of food from a warehouse into trucks and vehicles for further distribution. 

“I really enjoy the physical work,” Schlenger-Faber said. “I had a career that was pretty much in front of the computer. I like just getting into it.”

She echoes a common Red Crosser sentiment, “The idea that we’re doing things locally feels good. I know there’s so many people in need, and one of the things I find gratifying about the Red Cross is the chance to give back.”

  

None of that work would have been possible without volunteers like Schlenger-Faber and the dozens of others who’ve donated their skills and time at these events week after week. 

“As we all navigate through an ever-changing environment, food sustainability has become an increasing concern, particularly for school age children. We are so thankful for the Chester County Food Bank and ACLAMO for their work in supporting local families, and we’ve been inspired by their commitment. Our alignment brought our missions together in a new way, mobilizing our volunteers to support a bigger purpose,” said Jennifer Graham, executive director of the Red Cross’s Delaware Valley chapter, which encompasses Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties.   

“Our volunteers are the backbone of the work we do,” Graham said. “I am constantly amazed at their strength, perseverance, and commitment to the communities we serve. Whether it’s a large-scale disaster or a local need, they always answer the call—and through their volunteer service, particularly on these missions, they’ve provided not only physical but also emotional support with their camaraderie, smiles, and enthusiasm for lending a hand when and where it’s needed most.” 

For more on how the Red Cross is supporting families impacted by COVID-19, visit https://www.redcross.org/virtual-family-assistance-center.html.

April 26, 2020. Onalaska, Texas. Liesa Hackett of The American Red Cross does damage assessment in Onalaska, TX, on Sunday, April 26, 2020. A powerful tornado damaged hundreds of homes in the community earlier in the week. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

By: Marta Rusek

Hurricane season arrived fast and furious at the Jersey Shore late last week with Tropical Storm Fay. As many community members in our area cope with unemployment and housing insecurity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the threat of a natural disaster could not come at a worse time. That’s why we are gearing up to ensure that emergency support is available for communities impacted by hurricanes when they happen.  

“As we saw with Tropical Storm Fay last week, hurricane season is here, and we need to be ready. The coronavirus pandemic will make it challenging to deploy trained disaster volunteers from certain parts of the country should an emergency occur,” said Guy Triano, CEO of the American Red Cross Southeastern PA Region. “Train now to be a Red Cross volunteer and answer the call to help when the need arises.” 

To keep our volunteer workforce safe as we help impacted communities during COVID-19, additional safety precautions have been put in place and the Red Cross has developed special training for disaster volunteers going into the field.  

April 17, 2020. Monroe, Louisiana. While observing social distancing due to the Covid-19 pandemic Sandra White of the American Red Cross checks on Lottie Jones at a hotel for people affected by a tornado in Monroe, LA on Friday, April 17, 2020. Lottie is one of hundreds of residents who needed shelter after the storm. Normally the Red Cross would set up shelters but due to the Covid-19 pandemic and social distancing guidelines they have been providing people with individual rooms in various local hotels. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

We are especially seeking volunteers to help out in our shelters for displaced families (which will be set up if emergency hotel lodging is not available in the affected area). Volunteer support is needed for shelter reception, registration, meal preparation and distribution, dormitory, information collection, and more.  

The Red Cross is also in urgent need of medical professionals and first responders to provide on-site healthcare and support (including imparting important health information and replacing medications). If you are a registered nurse (RN), licensed practical nurse (LPN), licensed vocational nurse (LVN), advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), nurse practitioner (NP), emergency medical technician (EMT), paramedic, medical doctor (MD), doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO), or physician assistant (PA) with an active, current and unencumbered license, your expertise is needed. We also have positions available for Certified Nursing Assistants, Certified Home Health Aides, student nurses and medical students. 

To register or learn more about volunteering for the American Red Cross, contact our volunteer recruiters: Ned Bloom at 570-417-5608 Ned.Bloom@redcross.org or Monica Wildes at 215-299-4803 Monica.Wildes@redcross.org.  

Nearly every second of every day, the American Red Cross is needed—to provide a warm blanket to home fire victims, to ensure life-saving blood is available to a mother giving birth, and to arm communities and individuals with preparedness training. The generosity of Ready 365 members during the 2020 fiscal year made a lifesaving difference for people in our community and beyond.  

The following companies were proud supporters of the Ready 365 program during fiscal year 2020, and helped the Red Cross prevent and alleviate suffering down the street, across the country and around the world 365 days a year:

Platinum Level: FMC, West Pharmaceutical Services Inc. 

Gold Level: AmerisourceBergen, CHUBB, PECO 

Silver Level:  Allstate Foundation, Asplundh, Comcast Foundation, Morgan Properties, Tanner Industries, The Gordon Charter Foundation  

Bronze Level: Essity,  Lincoln Financial Foundation, The Fresh Grocer 

During Fiscal Year 2020, the Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania:

  • Responded to 589 home fires or other local disasters and provided emergency assistance to 2,937 people.
  • Installed 2,698 free smoke alarms and made 90 homes safer.
  • Collected 115,753 blood donations from volunteer donors.
  • Trained 429 students through The Pillowcase Project.
  • Trained 37,815 people in first aid, CPR, AED and other lifesaving skills.
  • Provided 2,888 services for military members, veterans and their families.
  • Engaged 1,876 volunteers to deliver the Red Cross mission throughout the region.

For more information on the Ready 365 program, visit: https://www.redcross.org/local/pennsylvania/southeastern-pennsylvania/about-us/community-partners.html

For more information on Red Cross Corporate Partnerships, please contact Mary Ann Milner at 215-405-8530 or via email at MaryAnn.Milner@redcross.org

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