Tag Archives: sepa

Duty Calls
Friday “Deployment Day” (August 24) started at 4:00 a.m. in Uniontown, Pennsylvania and ended
11:00 p.m. in Clearwater, FL. The convenience of our transportation system – over 1200
miles traveled, all in a day – by car, by taxi, by plane.
On Thursday, while taking granddaughter #1 to school in western Pennsylvania, I
received the call to be in Tampa, Florida on Friday. After surveying granddaughter’s
room, shopping for supplies, dining and two trips to Walmart, I start debating with
myself when to return home. My road warrior and wise granddaughter suggested that I
stay overnight and leave at 4 AM and travel the 5 hours back to Philadelphia in the wee
hours of the morning. I was hesitant, not liking to take to the road without some daylight
driving but she talked me into it, “Gramma J you need some rest before you get on the
highway”. I smile, I stay, and I am extremely glad I took her advice. After a good
day/night with my grandbaby  I arrived about 10:00 at my favorite Hampton Inn chain
to get a few hours of sleep.
At 4:20 a.m. on Friday, a little off my schedule, I start out from Uniontown to take the
journey east across Pennsylvania – a woman and my thoughts on the road in the dark with
my music. I feel rested and excited about being deployed. It takes over a half hour to
get to the Turnpike as I travel on a local road through small towns to get there. After
finally entering the turnpike I feel like I am on my way.
It’s dark and lonely driving in unfamiliar territory so early in the morning but duty calls.
I am on automatic pilot driving down the highway listing to State of Grace, my favorite
soothing world music. I realize I pass the exit for the September 11th Flight 93 Memorial
and bow my head in respect and gratitude to those who gave their lives that our nation’s
capital would be safe on that horrific day. I remember my visit to the memorial but that
is a story that I may tell on September 11th.
This trip started out with me and a couple of cars on the highway but that didn’t last for
long as I begin to realize “tractor trailers” rule the road in the wee hours of the morning.
I see trucks with unknown names and some very familiar to me in my life. With nothing
to do but drive and think I marveled at how goods are transported across our nation and
acknowledge how grateful I am to these drivers for taking over the roads, sleeping in
herds on the side of the highway and contributing to our state economy at the “The
Travelers Oasis” – the Breezewood exit.
My ears are popping as I travel the steep up and down hills on the turnpike. I drive
through four mountains along the way. As I enter the “Mighty Alleghenies” I remember
Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and his soaring reference to this
mountain range. Passing through the Tuscarora, Kittatinny and Blue Mountains, all a
part of the Appalachians, I ponder how rural the land is in the middle of the state in
contrast to my urban Philadelphia.
Around Chambersburg I start to see the sun peaking through the clouds. As I travel
farther east the sun is getting higher and higher and I know I am getting closer to home. I
am mesmerized by the sun rising straight before me for miles and miles along the
highway. I wonder how many times in my lifetime I will get to watch the sun rise over
this much time. I am grateful for the experience and thanking granddaughter #1 for this
unexpected gift. It is a beautiful sight to behold.
As I look at the time the clock starts ticking louder in my head as I remember all the
things I have to accomplish to be at Chapter by 4:00 and airport for 6:05 flight. Panic is
starting to set in and I am not home yet. I decide to make a “quick” stop and move on.
Unfortunately, I know the plane won’t wait for me even if I am traveling on behalf of the
Red Cross. In my mind I start counting SEPA shirts, pants, shoes and whatever is in
going in the suitcase. Now I know I have to wash two loads of clothes, put out the trash
and recycle, visit my friend’s mom in the nursing home in Darby (now a tradition before
I travel), run errands at the bank, cash in lottery (tickets expire the end of August),
Walmart, post office, hair salon…and I have to get the family set up and pack my
suitcase and carryon bag. Finally, I am off the turnpike and safely home in 4 hours and 40
minutes. Good timing so far.
It is time to get “kitty kat” Tiger Rose prepared for my leaving. This is when I tell her I
am going to Tampa, FL today to help the people affected by the coming storm. She
suspects something may be happening when I run in the house and go straight to the
laundry room. She looks at me with those wide eyes and says “AGAIN MOM”. “You
just came home from West Virginia, went to DC and North Carolina, took my niece to
school and your leaving today? I have to talk to SEPA staff and Aunt Carol’s Mickey
and Minnie (her kitty kat SEPA cousins) and anyone who will listen about this.” I
remind Miss Tiger Rose that we talked about my volunteer duties and she is a Red Cross
brat. Tiger snuggles up and tells me to be safe and send kat meows to her. Whew!!! That
went better than I thought.
It’s now 3:00 and I call the cab per Elizabeth’s (RDCC) expert advice and expect the cab
to arrive around 3:20… timing still good. At 3:20 I get the call my cab is on the
way…3:30 no cab…panic is setting in again. After two calls to the cab company and a
short interesting conversation with the dispatcher and manager my cab arrives at 3:40.
Driver Mourad kindly apologizes for the delay (not his or my fault). We discuss my
timetable; he says East River Drive, I say Expressway. I am the customer, get my choice
and I am in trouble – gridlock on the Schuylkill. Mourad nicely reminds me who is the
expert and takes the exit onto the West River Drive as I sit humbled by his knowledge or
my lack of as the minutes tick away to my 6:05 flight.

Janice being interviewed minutes before driving to the airport to leave for her deploymen

My excellent cabbie gets me to chapter by 4:15 and I am relieved knowing that Elizabeth
has my voucher waiting at the door and Pete has checked me in and printed a boarding
pass. All I have to do is sign my papers and off I go to airport to arrive by 5:00 or so I
thought. Enter my expert PR team, Dave and Sara, who tell me that our local CBS news
station would like to do an interview. The clock is still ticking in my head but this is
Dave and Sara I like to say yes to my PR teammates.
Sign my papers but no CBS team. We start to the van were Bryan is waiting. Bryan
always helps me out at the Chapter with anything I need so I know he will get me there
on time. We wait, Sara calls, and Dave deserts as he has more stuff for the day. We are
looking at the time and now we are all in full panic mode. Should I stay or should I go?
Lucky for me Sara gets an update that the news van is close. We wait and we watch.
Finally, the van pulls up and Sara gives the cameraman the sense of urgency in getting a
quick interview. With one take and plenty of apprehension I am filmed and on my way.
As Bryan waves goodbye to the cameraman I laugh and ask him “who is really leaving
town”. Bryan and I decide that it will be close but I will have enough time to get to the
airport and if not there will an “OH NO” moment. This time there is a consensus to use
the Expressway and traffic is kind to me and flowing smoothly. Even the one lane Platt
Bridge traffic is cooperating.
I reach the airport with time to spare and I am on my way…maybe. I talk to airport
customer service gentleman who tells me to be at my gate at 5:45. I get directions and go
over to Terminal D to replace earphones I bought when I deployed to West Virginia. On
the way back to Terminal B I look at my watch, calculate I have more time than I really
do and decide to stop for my first meal of the day and take it on the plane. It is 5:40 and I
am regretting the decision. I get to the gate and no one is in the seating area but the
gatekeepers smile, look at the manifest, take my ticket, and let me on the plane.
I am on my way on US Airways 575 leaving at 6:05. The steward takes my bag and puts
it in the overhead bin above row 13. I am in row 11 with an empty bin above me.
Hmmm! Buckled up, ready and waiting and waiting and waiting. So many planes taking
off we leave at 6:50. I eat my very tasty crabcake and lament that I cannot stomach the
stinky broccoli and sticky rice. I listen to State of Grace again. My seatmate asks the
steward if there are any free crackers. Unlucky for us, he refers her to the food for sale
menu. I am still hungry so I purchase an enticing box of chocolate cookies for 3.00.
Imagine my surprise when I open the box and count 6 small cookies. My smart seatmate,
after seeing my meager amount of cookies, passed on the 5.00 crackers she expressed an
interest in when I bought my cookies. The steward is disappointed he doesn’t get
additional sale – he knows why. I can tell my seatmate is hungry so I share my cookies
with her and chat to pass the time.
As we starting our descent to the runway, I am thinking – is it my imagination or is this
plane really flying this fast coming onto the runway. Not my imagination – we are
speeding down the runway, the plane is shaking, the wind is roaring and I am holding on
wondering if this plane is ever going to slow down. It does, I exhale and we taxi
normally to the runway.
I arrive in Tampa late but very happy to be stopped on the ground. Now that the plane
has landed I look back to plan my next move to get my luggage from row 13. Already
passengers are standing and look very eager to get off the plane. I come to the sad
conclusion that I will have to wait until everyone leaves this very large tube before I can
get my luggage. Unexpectedly, a nice guy takes my bag out of the overhead container
and says I will see you in the terminal. I am puzzled but grateful. Happily I find out he is
Ken, one of our chapter Health Services responders. So glad I traveled in my SEPA shirt
Next stop is the Avis car rental counter where I meet up with other volunteers from
across the country. I get a car with my SEPA partner and two other responders from
California and New Jersey. We start out to a hotel in Clearwater. All the navigation
technology states it is a short trip. One missed exit and we are almost an hour getting to
the hotel, arriving about 11:00.
Finally, my last stop – the hotel! When we get to the front desk, following Red Cross
policy, New Jersey responder and I become roommates. We grab some fruit and water
from the welcome desk and look for our room. I am hoping that this partnerships works
as I am tired and ready for sleep. After laughing about our trip from the airport and all
the water we crossed, we discuss what we like and don’t like, times for lights on/lights
off and find out we are compatible – what a relief! Finally I can lay my head on a pillow
and say good night.
300 miles in a car, 12 miles in a taxi, 1000 miles on the plane. 19 hours later I am on the
ground on DRO 710-13 ready to help the people of the state of Florida.
To be continued…

-Janice Winston
a veteran volunteer with SEPA Chapter is deployed south to assist with sheltering for those affected by Isaac


As the temperature (slowly) rises I’m reminded of my home state of Texas. Now Texans are no strangers to heat advisories, warnings and their ilk. Our summer temperatures usually stay between 90-105 degrees. Heat related hospitalizations and even deaths are a sad yet common occurrence there.

The excessive heat advisory issued this week has been a top news piece recently but all of this hubbub seems a bit over the top. I’ve been assured by many Philadelphians that it does get very hot and humid here but I still have my doubts. This is probably the first summer I’ve been able to wear a light sweater outside!

I play Ultimate regularly so I do spend quite a bit of time outside and it’s definitely a muggy heat but nothing like the scorchers we have in Texas. I’m from the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) region so our climate tends to be bone-dry, like walking into an oven (as opposed to a steam room.) Last year’s summer saw the worst drought in recent years. It got so bad in places that critters would get stuck where the ground had cracked.

So as a survivor of many a Texas summer here are some of my personal tips to help keep you cool and sunburn free this summer.

  1. One thing that commuters tend to forget is that your left arm is exposed to the sun for however many minutes (or hours) you’re stuck in traffic. Cover up! My mom keeps a long sleeve button down in the car and throws that over her left arm when she drives for long periods of time.
  1. Umbrellas are great for rain but they also provide portable shade! Yes you may get funny looks but it beats melting in the sun!
  1. Personal water misting fan. Carry everywhere. (The link is not an endorsement to buy that specific product. Just an example!)
  1. Sunglasses and lip balm with UV protection are essential. It’s definitely possible to get sunburn on your eyes and lips. I’ve done it. It hurts. Learn from my mistakes.
  1. Speaking of sun protection, you can never say enough about sunscreen. Apply a thick coating and wait for your skin to absorb it before heading out the door. Some limbs that get commonly forgotten: the ears, the back of the neck and the tops of your feet (if you like to wear flip flops but don’t like the flip flop tan line!) Ladies, there are a lot of makeup options that have sunscreen too so no excuses! And reapply often.
  1. Cowboy hats are not just a bold fashion statement but a very practical way to keep the sun out of your eyes and off your neck!
  1. Keep your clothes in the fridge. Sounds weird but it feels really nice to slip into cold pajamas after a long hot day!
  1. Most people tend to eat cool things in the summer like salads and ice cream but eating spicy food actually helps cool you down. You sweat more when eating spicy food which helps to cool your body. Add a fan and you’re in business!
  1. If you do a lot of outdoor activities plan ahead and throw water bottles in the freezer. Take them out when you’re ready to head out and you should have ice cold melted water when you need it!
  1. If after all of these tips you still manage to get sunburned do not take a hot shower! Use lukewarm water (or cold water if you can stand it) pat your skin dry and use burn relief gel. The aloe variety is my favorite. It’s especially nice when you get some cool air on the burn.

Hope y’all find these tips useful! Have a safe and happy summer!

Heat accounts for the most weather related deaths in the United States. Although we have been lucky enough to have cool summer temperatures this season, these next few days are calling for temperatures of close to 100 degrees. And if you’re like me, you love seeing that big yellow sun on the weekly forecast, but its important you don’t let the sun get the best of you. I had an experience myself with minor heat exhaustion.

A few weeks ago, on a particularly hot Friday, I did the normal college student summer routine, which doesn’t include much but working out and relaxing outdoors. I started my new summer job later that evening and didn’t take into consideration the long hours spent in the sun mixed with working on my feet could end in heat exhaustion. As a result I became dizzy, weak, and even sick for the next couple of days. Now I know there are many things I could have done to prevent this.

In the heat, the first and most important step is to stay cool. Although this may seem obvious, it is crucial to prevent heat cramps, exhaustion and even stroke. Wear lightweight clothing and stay indoors with an air conditioner when possible. Plan strenuous outdoor activities like lawn care or exercising for the coolest parts of the day.

The next tip is to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and avoid alcoholic beverages and caffeinated fluids if possible. Be sure to eat small meals and snack more often to keep your energy levels up. If you have access, go to the pool or beach for the day to cool off. If you do choose to spend long hours outside, use proper sun protection for your skin and reapply as you sweat or go in the water. This is important even if you don’t burn easily. Ultra violent rays are dangerous to all skin types.

Also, check in frequently on small children and pets, as they are more susceptible to heat stroke. Be sure they have the proper amount of shade and fluids and never leave your pet in the car on a hot day even if it is just for a few minutes.

For more on how you can be prepared and what you should do during a heat wave look at our checklist and be Red Cross ready.

Tuesday, the American Red Cross of Southeastern PA hosted its 30th annual Citizen of the Year breakfast. This year, we were thrilled to give the award to our friend and partner of many years Wawa CEO, Howard Stoeckel.

The Citizen of the Year Award honors an individual who has shown commitment and compassion to the entire community without regard to race, religion, gender, or status in times of need. Howard Stoeckel is the perfect recipient of the Citizen of the Year Award because of his commitment to his community and the American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

While the Red Cross is dependent on the generosity of individual donors, our corporate partners are also essential to the success of our mission. Their sponsorship of fundraising events such as The Red Ball, the Red Cross Walk and Run, and our annual Red Cross Cup golf outing provides us with important resources for our work and maintains our profile in the community.

Mr. Stoeckel and Wawa helped the Red Cross meet its goals in another essential area: blood donation. Over the last eight years Wawa has hosted 584 American Red Cross Blood Drives, collecting more than 21,000 units of blood and helping to save approximately 65,000 lives across our region. Wawa’s efforts over the last year helped generate more than 4,700 units of blood being donated to the American Red Cross. Those 4,700 units of blood gave a second chance to more than 14,200 hospital patients across our region. Mr. Stoeckel supports his employees’ extraordinary gift to their community. He says, “Wawa’s long-standing partnership with the American Red Cross is one of the most meaningful ways we contribute to our communities.  We are so proud of our associates’ efforts to host blood drives throughout the year, to volunteer their time and to donate blood.”

Howard Stoeckel and the Wawa Corporation represent the epitome of corporate partnership and responsibility. Wawa employees and associates give back to their communities in a very elemental way. Mr. Stoeckel reminds them that one pint of blood can assist as many as three people. He writes, ” I am truly proud to say that at Wawa, our world is large one, filled with endless possibilities due to the caring nature of our associates and our customers.” His personal commitment to social responsibility influences others to act accordingly and give their time, energy and life’s blood to their community. His dedication and that of his employees yields spectacular results

Today we recognize Howard Stoeckel for all he does for the American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Please join me in thanking him and congratulating him as the 2012 American Red Cross Citizen of the Year.

It can take less than three minutes for a young child to drown in water.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Most young children who drowned in pools were last seen in the home, had been out of sight less than five minutes, and were in the care of one or both parents at the time.” As pools open all over the region this Memorial Day Weekend, we at the Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA) urge you to take precautions.

Here’s a story for you. Let me preface this by saying that I’m a highly devoted mother. I can’t say I practiced attachment parenting with my three sons but they practiced attachment child-ing on me so it all amounts to the same thing. So, moving on, we were vacationing at a hotel with a small beach and a pool and one climbed up from the beach to the pool via a steep stairway. Consequently, one always arrived at the pool from the beach slightly breathless and disheveled as well as carrying numerous water and sand toys, towels and other essentials. In addition, the climb was spent urging the small boys ahead of me to “hold on the rail”, “keep going”, “watch where you step” and “be careful!” It’s no wonder that my first instinct, upon reaching the pool deck, was the to find a lounge chair and unburden myself.

Well I don’t really know how long the unburdening took, but when I turned around my three year old was sinking fast. The wide expanse of blue in the deep end sidetracked him on his way to the kiddy pool and he jumped right in. I didn’t hear him hit the water. I didn’t hear his subsequent struggle. I needed to see what was happening to understand that a serious emergency was underway. Thank goodness I hadn’t decided to re-apply sunscreen while continuing to look the other way. My fellow pool visitors were reading, drinking, sleeping and sunbathing. They had not noticed either and, like most hotels, the pool was unguarded.

Most pools that children drown in are unguarded. Most are in the back yards of residential homes. Some are baby pools containing three inches of rainwater. Small children are curious. They will find the water and try to play in it. After all, baths are fun!

Here at the SEPA Red Cross, disaster prevention is part of our mission. Please consider taking the following precautions while enjoying the water:

  • Consider designating a responsible person as a lifeguard for small swimmers.
  • Don’t depend on rubber inflatable devices, such as “floaties” to keep children safe
  • Put up a fence around a larger pool and install an alarm.
  • Set clear guidelines for the use of diving boards and pool toys.
  • Make sure baby pools are empty or supervised and limit access to above ground pools by blocking ladders, etc.
  • Learn how to respond to a water emergency.
  • Please follow this link to the national Red Cross site.

These are simple steps but they can prevent a horrible tragedy.

My son is now a handsome 14 year old with lots of lip for his mother, but I’ll never forget how quickly he was in danger in the water. Every parent should give water priority in the collection of hazards that threaten our children. If you are a parent or caregiver, “child drowned” is a very sobering Internet search but may be a five-minute journey worth taking as a new summer season comes upon us.

Three woofs and a meow for the Red Paw Emergency Response Team!

 The goal of the Red Cross is to alleviate suffering. Our volunteers commit to helping all survivors of fire or natural disaster: human and animal.

Although we have more than a century of experience assisting humans, our commitment to help our beloved (and furry) companions is the work of an extraordinary Red Cross volunteer, Jennifer Leary. Jen is a Philadelphia fire fighter and long time emergency response volunteer with the Red Cross in our region.

After years of helping disaster victims, she became frustrated that there was not a system for helping their pets as well. Too often, she witnessed an injured animal left to suffer and sometimes die from lack of appropriate treatment, care and intervention.

In response, she started the Red Paw Emergency Relief Team. When a fire or other disaster occurs, first responders inform Red Paw of any pets on the scene. Red Paw arrives prepared to treat injuries, provide transportation to veterinary hospitals or simply provide shelter for pets whose owners are unable to do so after a fire or natural disaster.

This work is so important! Not only is it deeply humane, it recognizes the special bond between humans and their pets. Red Paw understands that a pet may have a significant role to play in its owner’s healthy recovery from a traumatic event. In addition, our domestic animals are totally dependent on human care for their survival. We should not abandon them in the face of disaster.

That’s why it’s fantastic that Red Paw now has 501c3 status as a non-profit and can raise money to support its work. Currently, Jen Leary’s home acts as a temporary shelter for canine and feline victims of disaster. Red Paw is trying to raise money to create a facility that will serve as a temporary shelter for our pets. They also need a space to rest and recuperate until they can rejoin their owners or be adopted by a new family.

Take note, all ye animal lovers! It’s time to raise funds! On June 22, from 8-11, Red Paw is holding a party at Finnegan’s Wake. Tickets will be $40 in advance and $45 at the door. Come celebrate Red Paw’s success and help it grow!

For more information on Red Paw or the beautiful animals pictured here follow this link.

Ever heard of Wave Board Basketball? Neither had I until I caught my kids playing it in our driveway on a warm evening a few weeks ago. Like any responsible parent, I try to limit my use of profanity unless absolutely unavoidable but sometimes I find the word “bleeping” comes in handy in a pinch. Such as, in the case of the Wave Board Basketball incident, “Where are your BLEEPING helmets?!!!” Just saying. . .  Which brings me to the topic of this SEPA Red Cross blog. Summer Safety.

Summertime . . .and the livin’ is easy . . . and slightly more risky. . .which sadly doesn’t really fit with that lovely tune but is true nonetheless. Enjoyment of outdoor, athletic pursuits is what summer is about for most of us and our beautiful city, Philadelphia, offers so many opportunities for warm weather recreation. Fairmount Park makes us rich in bike trails and hiking paths. Smaller city parks offer basketball hoops, playgrounds, skateboard parks and soccer fields. Our own neighborhood streets and driveways host street hockey, jump-roping and, apparently, Wave Board Basketball. Everybody get out and run around! It’s fun. Just please remember to take a few precautions so we all stay safe and healthy.

Wear your helmets. It’s that simple. Be helmeted on your bicycles, wave boards, skateboards or any other apparatus that rolls you around at high speeds. Used children’s helmets are easy to find at garage sales. As with the oxygen mask on the airplane, helmet your children first before helmeting yourself. Our heads are incredibly fragile and brain injury can be absolutely devastating.

Respect the temperature and humidity. Here, in the Philadelphia area, we have several summer days where temperatures reach the high 90’s. That’s hot and attention must be paid. Small children, the elderly and the chronically ill are most susceptible to extreme heat but everyone should be aware of the risk of heat stroke. If you feel dizzy or nauseous while being active on a hot sunny day, find some shade, a cool drink and rest for a while. If you start feeling cold and goosebumpy even though the beach or pavement is like a frying pan under your feet, find a cooler venue to recuperate. Plan your activities for the early morning or evening when the sun is less intense. Watch out for your friends and keep your elderly neighbors in mind. The heat is great when you climb out of the pool but it can be very harmful.

Use sunscreen. That’s a no-brainer in families like mine who are so pale we’re almost translucent, but the truth is everyone should be using sunscreen. The sun is very powerful and it’s beaming all kinds of ultra-violet light at us, especially at the beach, on the water or any place where shade trees are scarce. Even if your skin does not burn, it’s still on the receiving end of that radiation infusion. Protect yourself. Protect your children. Don’t forget to reapply every couple hours if you are swimming or sweating!

Drink water, but not too much. It’s very important to stay hydrated. We are humans, not lizards and when we start to shrivel from dehydration, we become quite ill. By the same token, we can hurt ourselves by drinking too much so don’t overdo it. Water is an essential accompaniment to all summer activities. My family owns about 20 different water bottles that fit awkwardly in a cabinet over the kitchen sink and sometimes fall on my head when I open the door too forcefully. My children love this.

Be safe in the water. Make sure kids learn to swim. It’s an essential life skill. The Red Cross offers lots of opportunities for swim instruction in our region. Wear life jackets on boats. Made sure the people you care about are safe in and around the water.

Summer is a fantastic time of year. The American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania hopes you enjoy it safely!

How to Blog for the American Red Cross – Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter

We love to hear from our volunteers in the field. Tell us about your experience! Your stories will help others understand what it means to be a volunteer at the SEPA Chapter of the American Red Cross. Your readers may even feel moved to lend us a hand. Try inspiring someone else with a story of your own.

Here are a few guidelines for ARC-SEPA guest blogging:

  1. Don’t be afraid! If you had any experience at all as a volunteer with the Red Cross you are guaranteed to have a story to share. It’s the nature of our work. It’s dramatic.
  2. Your story does not have to be current. Recently we worked with a blogger who was writing about the hurricane/flood response in the summer of 2011. This is an opportunity to share the kind of work we do and why it’s so important.
  3. Make sure to include lots of details. Don’t just say you drove an ERV in the middle of the night. Tell your reading public how cold or warm it was, how you were feeling and what you were thinking. Describe the event you responded to and the people you helped but make sure to protect the privacy of those involved.
  4. Use straightforward language, without a lot of adjectives or ornamentation to describe your experience. Let your verbs do the work. When talking about a serious incident or event, it’s best to keep things simple and clear. Your reader will bring his/her own emotions in response to your writing.
  5. Include pictures, if you took any, when you send in your information. Make sure the people in the pictures agreed to let you publish the picture. Again, take care not to invade anyone’s privacy.
  6. The Red Cross has your back. If you are worried that you are not the best writer, speller or grammarian in the world, our crafty editors have access to reference books that can help.
  7. Dave Schrader, the head of our Communications Department, provided an excellent example of this sort of blogging when he recorded his experiences at several disasters on April 9th, 2012. Check out our blog,, to read his account of his extraordinary day.

Got an experience you want to share? Please consider submitting it to our blog. Send submissions to Sarah Peterson at

Good luck and we look forward to hearing from you!

We do inspiring work here at the Red Cross SEPA chapter. We spend our days helping others in need and according to our colleague, Terry Johnson, it’s “the best job in the world.”

Several Red Cross employees had the opportunity to explain the fulfillment that comes from doing “our kind of work” to several children who visited the office of the SEPA chapter for national “Take your Child to Work Day.” Upon arrival, they were greeted by Fred Cross and fed a delicious, “office kitchen” cooked breakfast of eggs, French toast and bacon. Our CEO, Judge Hughes came in toward the end of the meal and gave an enthusiastic welcome to all participants.

Next on the agenda was a tour around the building with Kevin Wilkins and Dianne Fingar. After a quick visit to Judge Hughes’s office, the kids toured The Bridge and learned about disaster response. The red phone, our direct line to the Philadelphia Fire Department was an object of fascination and served to emphasize the importance of our role in responding to fire disasters in our community. Next, the kids examined the detailed (and extremely fascinating) maps of the region on the wall next to The Bridge and learned which areas are subject to floods during heavy rain. After a short tour of the lunchroom, they received official Red Cross volunteer vests, worn by responders in emergencies. Dianne explained the purpose of Red Cross house and how the SEPA Red Cross is proud to provide a shelter for fire victims who do not have another place to stay.

Eventually, we found our way down to the vehicle well and the young people inspected a few emergency vehicles and heard which ones respond in different disaster situations. Terry Johnson proved an excellent guide and fervent promoter of the emergency responder role. He was proud of the ERV fleet and it’s capacity to provide essentials to those who have lost everything. We learned that the Red Cross has 30,000 cots for disaster response in our region. Amazing!

Later, the kids joked and laughed at a pizza lunch with Judge Hughes. She quizzed our visitors about favorite sports teams and was shocked to discover that allegiance to our home town teams was not as strong as she assumed. One brave twelve year old, Ricardo, stood firm in his loyalty to The Raiders despite her teasing. Sixteen year old, Lawrence, talked about his experience as a volunteer fire fighter, and Linda, 14, showed everyone a picture of her bass guitar, which is shaped like a daisy. Everyone agreed it was very cool.

One of the most moving scenes of the day was watching the kids learn how to provide citizen CPR, basic first aid. They tried very hard to get it right as they practiced creating a basic sling and bandaging one another. It was a reminder of how everyone, young and old, appreciates learning how to be useful in a time of need.

What is the Red Cross doing for the victims? This question is asked at disaster sites worldwide. Just stop and think about that for a minute. Worldwide. And consider, a Red Cross volunteer representative must be there to provide an answer. This is essential because when we hear of a disaster we think – what can I do? We experience the human impulse to help others in need. When we learn what the Red Cross is doing to help the victims, we feel comforted. The Red Cross is our proxy when we cannot be there ourselves.

But how do we receive this information? The volunteers at the scene are often too busy meeting the extraordinary needs of victims to speak with those whose job is to share information with the general public. That’s why, in addition to traditional volunteers, the Red Cross needs exceptional people who are willing to communicate with the media and answer that question – What is the Red Cross doing for the victims?

This is such an important role in any disaster response that the American Red Cross conducts trainings for Public Affairs Volunteers so that they are prepared to answer The Question.  In the training materials it states,

The mission of Disaster Communications is to ensure that vital relief and recovery information is shared in a timely and accurate manner with both internal and external audiences on a disaster relief operation.

Why is this so important? The public needs to know what is being done so citizens can help the Red Cross by volunteering themselves or sending donations to support our work.

Here’s the tricky part. Disasters happen in the middle of the night. People who do public affairs and communication in the middle of the night require special skills. In a state of shock, concern and interrupted sleep, they must maintain a professional demeanor, be articulate, answer questions with complete knowledge of the facts and convey confidence in Red Cross activities. These volunteers play other vital roles like protecting victims from media intrusion, or brokering interviews with victims or volunteers when appropriate. Discretion is the key.

For anyone interested in acquiring experience in public relations, being an on-call 6pm to 6am public affairs volunteer for the Red Cross is a fantastic opportunity to gain diplomacy skills, get to know local media persons, and develop communication expertise while providing a crucial service. We are always looking for new faces to add to our on-call team. Please consider giving it a try. Encourage a friend.

Think, the next time you hear the words, “The Red Cross is on the scene providing food and shelter to the those whose homes where destroyed.” That’s what the Red Cross is doing for the victims. What are you doing for the Red Cross?