Thanksgiving Weekend No Holiday for Red Cross Responders

(note: The American Red Cross is lucky to have some incredible people on our boards of directors.  They’re all volunteers and many choose to help out in other ways as well.  One of these board members, Brenda Lorenzi, will be contributing to this blog over the coming weeks.  This is her first entry and I hope you’re as glad to have her here as I am.)

Thanksgiving Weekend No Holiday for Red Cross Responders
by Brenda Lorenzi

While families around Southern California relaxed with turkey and leftovers, five incidents kept Red Cross volunteers busy, starting on Wednesday, Nov. 23 and through the holiday weekend.

Four families, including five children were displaced from their homes because of fires, one in Orange County, two in Riverside County and one in San Bernardino County.  The Red Cross helped with food, clothing and temporary housing for those who needed it.

Additional volunteers were called upon when a major gas leak was detected in Hemet causing the temporary evacuation of 30 individuals.  In response, the Red Cross sent a canteen that helped provide food and beverages.

For information on how you can help with future disaster relief efforts, please visit www.redcross.org.

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Gobble gobble!

I don’t know about you, but I look forward to Thanksgiving every year. I love it when my family members put aside our crazy schedules to come together. I’m very thankful to have my amazing and dedicated Red Cross family.

But it wouldn’t be a Red Cross blog post without a few preparedness tips. So before you stuff that turkey or candy those yams, take a moment to ensure you’re Red Cross Ready:

  • If you’re traveling, take note of the hazards (snow, heavy rains, etc.) in that area and prepare accordingly. Visit Preparedness Fast Facts for an extensive list of topics in various languages.
  • Check the weather forecast to assist not only in your packing, but also in your planning.
  • To stay informed of current emergencies, I like the Red Cross Shelter View app for iPhones. FEMA has an app for Android phones and can send text alerts to any mobile phone.
  • Take a moment to prepare a winter storm plan. Stock extra blankets and warm clothes in your emergency kit.
  • Inspect fireplaces, be careful with space heaters, and keep an eye on your stove, and make sure all of them are in good, working order. Keep anything flammable away from these and any other heat sources.
  • And for the love of Pete, please don’t deep fry your turkey. Or, if you must, take proper precautions, lest you receive an impromptu visit from the local fire department.

Finally, I would like to wish you a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving, from my family to yours. Now, go enjoy some turkey!*

*or tofurkey 🙂

What does the Red Cross do?

This is a question I pose every time I give a preparedness presentation in the local community. The most common answer is blood services, followed by disaster relief. While these are very important functions, there is so much more the American Red Cross does on a regular basis, even when there aren’t emergencies.

My first encounter with the Red Cross – at least, what I can remember – is when I was a little girl. My mom used to send my siblings and me to Minneapolis over the summer to visit our grandparents. They had a huge swimming pool and, because my mom insisted we learn water safety, my grandparents enrolled me in Learn to Swim classes offered by the local Red Cross chapter.

So what does the Red Cross do?  And how was it formed?  You may know that the American Red Cross was founded in 1881 by Clara Barton, motivated by her experiences and humanitarian work during the Civil War. Since then, it has grown into a volunteer-led organization funded by the generosity of the American people, with the intent to “provide relief to victims of disaster and help people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.”

In a regular segment, I will begin to explore the American Red Cross functions, from Preparedness Education to Service to the Armed Forces, and introduce you to some of your local SoCal Red Crossers.

SNOW!!

Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to be along the east coast for a snow storm.  That’s right, I said lucky.  I love the snow and always have. One thing I did not love, however, was realizing I was woefully unprepared for it.

I work for the American Red Cross.  I have a disaster kit in my car and under my desk.  I should have known better, but apparently my common sense was on vacation too.  It’s one thing to realize you don’t have gloves (check!) or that your Uggs aren’t waterproof (check!), but it’s another to find yourself in an unfamiliar building when the power goes out.

My friends and I were lucky – the power came back on within a few minutes. But there were many times on the trip that I found myself wishing I had some preparedness items… just in case.

So here’s my suggestion to you, based on personal experience: At a minimum, keep a small flashlight in your bag or attached to your keychain. Here’s a more extensive earthquake and tsunami-specific list from the Travel Channel, but many of the tips could apply wherever you go.  Good luck and happy trails.