Tag Archives: national preparedness month

By: Sophie Kluthe 

September is National Preparedness Month and in light of recent widespread flooding from Hurricane Isaias, the American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania encourages everyone to get ready for emergencies. 

We are going through a challenging time as we navigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 is likely to be with us for a long time, and that is why we must prepare a little differently for other disasters that may affect our community. It might be difficult to think about, but with several hurricanes and tropical storms making landfall in the U.S. already this summer, and one severely impacting the Philadelphia area, being prepared for disasters is of utmost importance for people of all ages. 

Disasters can cause sudden challenges like knocking out power, blocking roads, disrupting the response of emergency services, and causing stores and pharmacies to close for an extended period. Preparing for emergencies is a little different this year, but the three basic action steps remain the same for everyone: Build a KitMake a Plan and Be Informed. Assemble two kits of emergency supplies (a stay-at-home kit and an evacuation kit) and a one-month supply of prescription medication. Include personal hygiene items, cleaning and disinfectant supplies and cloth face coverings. Some supplies may be hard to get due to the pandemic, and availability may worsen in a disaster, so start gathering supplies now. Download the free Red Cross Emergency App for safety tips (search “American Red Cross” in app stores). 

Tips for making your plan 

Disasters can force people to leave their homes, even in areas under stay-at-home mandates. By having an emergency plan your family can react quickly if a disaster strikes. 

  • Ask friends or relatives outside your area if you would be able to stay with them. 
  • Check and see if they have any COVID-19 symptoms or have people in their home at higher risk for serious illness. If they do, make other arrangements. 
  • Check with hotels, motels and campgrounds to see if they are open and if pets are allowed.  
  • Due to the pandemic, stay current on advice and restrictions from your state and local public health authorities as it may affect your actions, available resources and shelter facilities. 
  • Learn first aid and CPR skills so you’ll know what to do until emergency help arrives. 
  • Download the free Red Cross Emergency App for weather alerts and information on what to do before, during and after disasters. 

Prepare Virtually 

Build confidence by learning simple steps you can take now, to help prepare and protect your family. Hosted by the American Red Cross, Be Red Cross Ready is a FREE preparedness education curriculum for adults taught by certified presenters via any virtual platform. The program is designed to help people understand, prepare for and respond appropriately to disasters. To sign up for one of six free online preparedness sessions visit 

  • September 8 -Lunch time lesson (30 minutes) from 12-12:30pm 
  • September 9 – (1 hour) from  2-3pm 
  • September 16 -Lunch time lesson (30 minutes) from 12-12:30pm 
  • September 17 –(1 hour) from 2-3pm 
  • September 22 –(1 hour) from 11am-12pm 
  • September 24 -Lunch time lesson (30 minutes) 12-12:30pm 

Additional resources for preparing during the COVID-19 pandemic are available at   

September is National Preparedness Month, the perfect time to get your household ready for an emergency. The American Red Cross Eastern PA urges everyone to make sure they are prepared for a disaster and not wait until an emergency occurs and it’s too late.

“This is the time of year when hurricanes, floods, wildfires and other large disasters can happen,” said Guy Triano, CEO of Red Cross Eastern PA region “You should take steps now to be ready if an emergency occurs. It’s critical that all members of your household know what to do.”

BE READY TO EVACUATE Whether the emergency is a home fire or something bigger like a hurricane, the situation may force you to leave your home. There are ten steps you can take now to be prepared if the emergency makes it unsafe to remain at home:

  1. Follow the instructions of officials and evacuate if told to do so.
  2. Leave early enough to avoid being trapped by severe weather.
  3. Remember you may have to get out on foot depending on the type of disaster. If you don’t have a car, or can’t use your vehicle, plan on how you will leave the area.
  4. If you have a car, keep the gas tank full if an evacuation order is possible. Don’t let the tank go below half full in case gas stations are unable to pump gas.
  5. Decide where you would go and what route you would take to get there. This could be a motel, the home of a friend or relative a safe distance away, or an evacuation shelter. Download the free Red Cross Emergency App to find shelter information and weather and emergency alerts for more than 35 different situations.
  6. If you have time, let someone out of the region know you are evacuating and where you are going. Leave a note saying when you left and where you plan to go.
  7. Wear sturdy shoes and clothing that provides some protection.
  8. Be alert for road hazards such as downed trees, flooding, etc. Do not drive onto a flooded road.
  9. Practice evacuating your home twice a year. Grab your emergency kit and drive your planned evacuation route. Include an alternate route in a different direction in case one is impassible. Make sure you have locations and maps saved on devices such as cell phones and GPS units and on paper.
  10. Don’t forget your pets. If it’s not safe for you to stay home, it’s not safe for them either. Prepare a phone list of pet-friendly motels and animal shelters located along your evacuation route. Keep in mind only service animals are usually allowed in shelters


THREE EASY STEPS Getting prepared is easier than it sounds. There are three basic steps:

  • GET A KIT. Pack the following items in an easy-to-carry container – a gallon of water per person, per day; non-perishable food; flashlight and hand-crank or battery-powered radio; extra batteries; sanitation and personal hygiene items; copies of important papers; extra cash and any medical or baby supplies family members may need. See full details here.
  • MAKE A PLAN. Have all members of your household help devise your emergency plan. Consider what emergencies could happen where you live; what to do if you are separated and how will you let loved ones know you are safe. Find full details and easy-to-use plan templates here.
  • BE INFORMED. Learn what disasters are common to your area. Find out how local authorities will let you know an emergency is happening. Make sure at least one household member is trained in first aid and CPR in case help is delayed during a disaster. You can also download the Red Cross First Aid App at to have instant access on how to handle common first aid emergencies. Learn how to get fully informed about emergencies here.

rco_blog_img_PREPARESeptember is National Preparedness Month, and it’s important to remember that emergencies can happen anywhere and at any time. Most of us have plans in place at home for emergencies like illness or natural disasters, but is your workplace prepared for these events? There’s a good chance that your employer has emergency procedures like building evacuation in place and has an easily-accessible first aid kit and automated external defibrillator (AED). However, your co-workers may not be aware of how to respond to emergencies or use equipment like an AED. The American Red Cross can help your workplace prepare for emergencies through services like safety assessment, training, and certification programs.

You can always find emergency preparedness information at, but the following programs can help your workplace better respond to emergencies.

American Red Cross Ready Rating Program 

The American Red Cross Ready Rating™, a first-of-its-kind membership program designed to help businesses and organizations become better prepared for emergencies. Membership is free, and the program is self-paced. After joining, members complete a 123-point self-assessment to find areas of improvement for emergency preparedness.

Workers learn tips and best practices for emergencies. Most importantly, members make a commitment to improve their readiness score each year in a continuing process.m10643684_241x164-learning-aed

Employee Training

The American Red Cross provides flexible training options for workplaces that meet OSHA, corporate, and other regulatory standards. From on-site employee CPR and First Aid training, to access to community classes, employers can work with employees to find the best training options based on their needs.

Instructor Training

If your workplace has a designated emergency response or health and safety team leader, they can benefit from receiving training from the American Red Cross. After completing Red Cross training, your workplace instructor can lead their own training sessions on emergency response topics like First Aid/CPR and other areas that are relevant to your field.

download workplace safetyFor more information on all Workplace Safety Training and Preparedness Programs available through the American Red Cross, see the online catalog here.

Prepare Blog Photo

By Caroline Hroncich, American Red Cross Volunteer and Villanova student

As a senior in college, I have come to think of this time in my life as a stepping-stone between childhood and adulthood. You are given freedom, but are not yet required to be completely independent. We often don’t realize how much we rely on our universities to provide us with essentials. Personally, I did not realize how much I relied on my school until Superstorm Sandy hit.

Until Sandy, I had never thought about what I would do in the face of a disaster at college. I have distinct memories of my 19-year-old self, perched atop my bunk bed, listening to rain pound the window. The lights flickered frequently, threatening to die; all I had to eat was a bag of tortilla chips. I was completely unprepared. The school lost power, the dining hall could not be kept open, and my friends and I found ourselves confined to our dorm rooms while the storm raged around us. After talking to my friends who attend other universities, I realized this was not an uncommon experience.

While universities are equipped to deal with disasters, it is equally as important for students to prepare. During my junior year, a major snowstorm hit, leaving me (I was now living in an on-campus apartment) without power. Being without light meant there was a mad rush to purchase battery-powered lamps, leaving many students without alternative options to light their apartments. I lost most of my refrigerated food. The school urged everyone to go home, but since I did not live a convenient distance, that was not an option. A few of my friends considered going to a nearby hotel for the night.

rco_blog_img_CollegePrepAs a freshman, I laughed at my parents when they insisted I keep things like a flashlight in my dorm room. Now I realize how truly important those things are. Keeping items like a flashlight, extra batteries and a small portable lamp in your dorm are essential when it comes to emergency preparedness. Even food is important to keep in your room, just in case the dining halls are unable to serve you. My experience has definitely taught me that as we go about our busy college lives it’s important to stop for a second and think about if we are truly prepared.

— Cross-posted from the American Red Cross of Greater New York’s Blog




Make a Plan Photo

If there is a disaster, do you have a plan in place for your household? You’ve spent some time getting your emergency kit together. You have the water and non-perishable food. You have the battery operated weather radio. You have the first aid kit and the blankets. Now what? Where will you go?

Last year, several hours before Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast, I got a call from my brother. He lives about four miles away, in a similar neighborhood, but his house is in a creek valley. In fact, an inlet from the Wissahickon Creek runs right behind his house, and he worries about flooding when there is a storm with the potential for enormous amounts of rain. He was a nervous wreck on the phone. “Can we come over?” he asked. This was a fairly big ask. I have three teenagers; he has three children under seven. That’s a lot of children in one house. “Sure,” I replied with some trepidation. My newly “Red Cross Aware” self had made some fairly extensive preparations for the storm. My plan had not considered my brother’s family. In fact, we had never talked about the possibility of sheltering them before. I paused on the phone, trying to figure out a good way to say that my emergency planning did not include another family of five. Then, I said, “You are welcome, but please bring some water and food in case we lose power for a significant amount of time.”  “Huh. . .?” he replied.

It had not occurred to him that in leaving his house to shelter elsewhere, he would need supplies. He did not think that the place he might choose to shelter, while safe from flooding, would be equally vulnerable to blackouts, lack of heat and water pump failure. He had not made a plan, and he was not prepared. After thinking it through, he chose to drive his family south to his mother-in-law’s house near Washington D.C. The storm looked as if it would mostly miss the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, and he decided they would be safer there for a couple days.

This last minute plan worked out well for them. The roads south were still open and clear of traffic, and they were able to find the shelter they needed in a safe area.  Even so, it turned out they could have stayed. The Philadelphia Area was incredibly lucky, and our house lost power for a very short time.

Still, I invite you, dear reader, to consider how things could have turned out very differently: the storm might have taken a different path, stranding his car somewhere in Delaware; or State Troopers might have made him turn back somewhere along the way; or he might have come over to our house with his family and experienced a prolonged blackout with dwindling supplies. In other words, it’s important to make a plan.

Make a plan photo 2The American Red Cross has great suggestions for things to consider as you make a plan for your family in case of disaster. For instance, it had not occurred to me how my family members, now perpetually separated from one another during the day, might be apart when a disaster strikes. How would we find one another? According to the Red Cross, I should meet with my family to discuss the potential for separation, choose meeting places nearby and far away, and designate a person for everyone to call outside of the disaster area, and possibly out of state. If you might have to evacuate, like my brother, make sure you plan where you will go, who you will shelter with, and what you will need when you leave your house. Clearly, he and I need to talk. I need to take into account that I have family members nearby that may need to evacuate.

And it goes without saying . . .please, all the brothers and sisters and cousins and everyone, get that emergency kit together. It could make an enormous difference.

— Submitted by Sarah Peterson, Communications Volunteer

September! What a great month. The weather is fine. Tired parents get a break from school age children. At the end of summer, we refocus our energies and prepare for the change in seasons. And sometimes, the seasons change rather dramatically, which is why September is National Disaster Preparedness Month.

The American Red Cross is recognizing this important time by sponsoring the fantastic and funny television advertisement above. In the ad, a young couple discusses the husband’s unusual choices for their Emergency Supply Kit. Eschewing a battery powered radio, he includes pancake batter, practical joke items and gummy worms instead. Over at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), assisted by the American College of Emergency Physicians, they are piloting an online game called Disaster Hero, to help people of all ages learn to prepare for an emergency. These are great initiatives, and I encourage any and all savvy citizens to watch the ad, giggle, play Disaster Hero, share it with your family members and enjoy. And after you are done enjoying. . .create your freakin’ emergency kit, already, and stick that thing in the trunk of your car, for goodness sake!

We are serious, people.  Someone clever wrote the script for that ad. We hired real actors, who spent days shooting it. There were cameramen, and set designers, and prop people and all the other craziness that goes into making a decent piece of televisual media. The American College of Emergency Physicians hired game designers who thought hard about how to make Disaster Hero appealing and educational. We’ve put in a lot of effort here. Now it’s time for you to do the same.

It’s easy. It’s so easy, even my chaotic, disorganized family of several teenage boys managed to get this done. Here’s what’s in our Emergency Supply Kit:

Water—one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
That means we have 2-3 five gallon tanks per person stored in our house at all times that can be moved to the car if necessary. It’s also possible to sterilize old milk jugs and use tap water.

Food—non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
Oatmeal, canned beans and rice—because these items are easy to store, healthy and filling. Nuts and peanut butter – because these items are very high calorie and great for large, hungry boys. Also, whole wheat crackers, lots and lots of energy bars, dried fruits. We included some canned tuna, for protein. As far as canned veggies, we could only agree on peas and carrots so that’s what we have. My sons may have included a bag of gummy worms. They seemed to feel that one item should lighten the mood.

We have several in our kit. Each boy wanted his own.

Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible) and extra batteries
I know it’s hard to imagine losing the ability to access info with your smartphone, but networks become overwhelmed in an emergency.

First Aid Kit – Anatomy of a First Aid Kit
This is essential for helping ourselves and others.

Medications (7-day supply) and medical items
Tylenol or Ibuprofen, as well as other medications. In our case, an extra inhaler goes in the kit as well.

Sanitation and personal hygiene items
Ladies take note! Also, TP, TP and more TP. Paper towels are a great idea as well. Don’t forget to include some of those wonderful cheap plastic bags from the grocery store. We all have like 300 of them in a drawer in the kitchen, don’t we? Our kit also includes garbage bags.

Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies), family emergency contacts, extra cash and a good area road atlas
Do it. Get it done. Zip it in a seal-able plastic bag, and keep it in a place you can grab it if you need to take it in your car. I don’t recommend keeping this info in your car all the time.

Emergency blankets
We have a few because there are so many of us, and they are all for me because, as the only one without gobs of testosterone coursing through my veins, I get the coldest. Okay, that might be an overstatement, but you never know when you might need to be warm in your car.


That’s ours, now go make yours. It takes a couple hours, and it’s time well spent.

Posted by Sarah Peterson, Communications Volunteer

Doppler Radar over Maryland on Friday June 30, 2012

This is a hard one, folks. None of us wants to think our family will face a serious situation such as a fire or weather related calamity. But the truth is that part of preparation involves making a plan and involving everyone concerned in the details.

I was thinking about disaster preparation this past June when I awoke in the middle of the night to a cacophony of wind that sounded like an enormous freight train was passing ten feet from my bedroom window. Our family was staying at my parent’s house on the Maryland Eastern Shore for the weekend, very near the town of Cambridge. Shocked by the noise level, I reached for my smart phone and pulled up a satellite map. What I saw surprised and alarmed me; the entire length and breadth of the Chesapeake Bay was covered in the bright red that these maps use to indicate a severe weather event. Usually, this type of map display looks more like a thin series of green bubbles interspersed with red to indicate thunderstorm activity. I had never seen a broad swath of red, as if the state of Maryland was wearing a sash across its center. I have always enjoyed the fury of summer storms. Thunder and lightning have never been frightening. This time, I was afraid and it was a terrible feeling.

My fear was for my family. We never talked about what we would do in a weather emergency while visiting grandparents. We had some good conversations when Hurricane Irene came through the Philadelphia area – our house has a basement, we have an emergency kit, each person had a role. The house in Maryland has no basement, just a crawl space. Tornadoes are rare in this part of the world or, at least, they used to be. The red on the map looked exactly like the kind of event that could harbor – if not tornadoes – than winds of enormous destructive force. I lay there and listened for the uptick in wind tone that would tell me I had to gather everyone in the house and find an interior room. It would be difficult; none of us had ever contemplated such a situation before and everyone would be alarmed and confused. We had never discussed anything like this. My parents, children of a time with gentler weather patterns, do not have an emergency kit that consists of more than some bottled water, a flashlight with dubious batteries and a candle. Thank goodness the wind stayed at a dull screech and we were lucky.

According to the National Weather Service, what occurred in Maryland on Friday, June 30th,  2012 is referred to as a derecho. Before it came to scream outside my bedroom window, it had already brought serious destruction to cities on the Western Shore: Baltimore, Washington, DC and extensive suburbs. We now know that thousands of people in those metropolitan areas lacked power for the entire week following the derecho, during one of the most serious heat waves of the year.

We live in a time of changing weather patterns. Places that used to be “safe” from severe weather might no longer be able to claim that distinction. When I spoke to my family the next morning, I did not focus on my fear or the increased risk. Instead, we talked matter-of-factually about “the plan” if something like this happens again. We picked an interior room, we talked about how to turn off utilities and  we made a list for a new emergency kit. We involved everyone in the discussion, from my 68 year old parents to my four –year-old nephew. Everyone felt empowered. We all felt less anxious. It was time well spent.

I urge you to check out what the American Red Cross has to say about making a plan and disaster preparation. Be safe; be prepared.

Some things in Jennifer’s kit

If an unexpected natural disaster was to hit our area would you and your family be prepared to survive for a few days?  Many people including myself would probably NOT be prepared; we would be scrambling and going crazy trying to figure out everything we would need.  September is National Preparedness Month and we want everyone to be prepared. There are several great things that the American Red Cross suggests everyone should do and they are all listed on our website under the plan and prepare section. (Click here)

For me personally one of the easiest ways to be prepared is to make a kit. (And this does happen to be the first step of being Red Cross Ready) I remember last year when Hurricane Irene was approaching, I ran around the house making sure we had all the essential things we would need in case of a power outage. When the power did go out for several hours, me and my family sat in one area with some of these things in front of us on the floor.  If every household had a kit this would make life so much easier and we could focus on some of the other things that we need to do.

Here are some of the essential things to remember for your kit:

  1. Your supplies should be stored in an easy to carry bag that you can use in the house or to take with your incase of evacuation.
  2. It should also be somewhere that is accessible to all members of the family.
  3. Batteries, flashlight, battery-powered radio, non-perishable foods, water and first aid kit are the first things that usually come to mind.
  4. We also need to include phone chargers, list of medications, copies of personal documents for each family member, personal hygiene items, blanket, multi-purpose tool, map of the area and cash.
  5. The American Red Cross suggests that the kit include at least 3 day supply for evacuation and two week supply for home.

My mission during the next couple of weeks is to make my own kit and inform as many people as I can about making one for their family. Many of the essential items most of us already have in our homes, now all we have to do is put it all together. SO BE PREPARED AND MAKE A KIT.

Get more tips HERE on what should go into your “Go kit”.

-Jennifer Ingram
volunteer guest blogger