Deployment Diary: Seeking Shelter, Finding Inspiration

Last night, more than 9,000 people stayed in 171 Red Cross shelters across 13 states. The night before that number was 11,000… and I was one of them.

The most rewarding aspect of my job is that I get to assist on disaster relief operations.  On Monday night, I rode out the storm with some new friends at a high school in Pottstown, Penn.

One of those new friends came to the shelter with his wife, sons and dog (there was an area set up for pets) after the storm had blown out the windows in his home.  But he wasn’t your “average” shelter resident… he was also a Red Cross volunteer.

About 15 years ago, Charles Reith lost his home in a fire and the Red Cross helped.  Soon after, he and his daughter became volunteers – and they still volunteer today.  Even though a disaster was hitting home for the Reith family yet again, they were still concerned with helping others.

Charles sat at the registration desk almost all night, helping to welcome others who had also been affected by the storm.  His daughter spent the night working at a shelter nearby.

There’s something special about people who volunteer, but there’s something genuinely amazing about Red Cross volunteers.  It is honor to work alongside them.

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Halloween Safety Tips

Halloween is only two days away! Are you ready for it? And I’m talking more than just having candy and costumes. I mean, have you gone over trick-or-treating rules with your children? Well lucky for you, the Red Cross is here with some clever safety tips (bonus: they rhyme.) for you to keep in mind for the upcoming holiday:

Halloween comes but once a year, bringing joy with a healthy dose of fear. Before you go trick-or-treating this eve of All Hallows, be sure it’s these rules you do follow:

1. Wear well-fitted costumes and shoes to avoid trips, falls, or even a bruise.

2. Alone is something you never want to be when the ghosts are out and the ghouls roam free. (Walk in groups or with a trusted adult, never alone.)

3. Costumes and jack-o-lanterns are quite fun, but make sure you always walk, never run.

4. Halloween is a time for fun and treats, so be safe and stay out of the street. (Stay on sidewalks and don’t hide or walk between parked cars.)

5. Swords, knives, and similar accessories of the costume variety, should be short, soft, and flexible so you don’t cause anxiety.

6. To a lit candle, never get too near, so catching fire is never something you fear. (Be aware of lit candles and luminaries.)

7. Candy and treats are very sweet, but make sure a grown-up checks your goodies before you eat. (Make sure to remove open packages and choking hazards.)

8. Whether you’re dressed as a bear or a park ranger, accept treats at the door, but please don’t go into the house of a stranger.

9. Trick-or-treating happens at night, so never be caught without your flashlight.

10. Everyone needs to be seen in the dark, even witches and hags, so fasten reflective tape to costumes and bags.

11. Crazy wigs, fake teeth, and huge clown feet- whatever you’re wearing, please look both ways before crossing the street. (And only cross at corners or at established crosswalks.)

12. You may visit many homes on Halloween night, but only visit those with a bright porch light.

13. Ditch the masks that can cover your eyes; use face paint instead for your Halloween disguise.

14. If you are going trick-or-treating in a group, make sure and plan a safe route. (Make sure parents know where you are.)

15. Scary monsters are a Halloween feature, be on the lookout for all sorts of creatures. (Be cautious around strange animals, especially dogs.)

Santa Ana Winds May be Coming, but the Wildfire App is Already Here

Santa Ana winds are expected tonight and with them a red flag warning, which means that there is also a high risk of fire danger.  Although we all hope that no fires occur, the Red Cross has released a free smartphone app to help everyone be aware of the risks and have a plan in place in case they do.

The Wildfire app, which can be found on iTunes and on the Google Play store, features interactive tools to help you prepare and let your friends and family know that you’re safe.  One of the most interesting things about the app, at least in my opinion, is a quiz on the wildfire history of the user’s location.

I knew that Orange County is a fairly high-risk area – I work for the Red Cross, how could I not? – but I had no idea that there have been more than 2,100 wildfires within 100 miles. As a comparison, there have “only” been 1,200 earthquakes within 250 miles.

Those stats, and today’s red flag warning, are not a reason to panic, but they should be an incentive to prepare.  Download the app, take a look at our preparedness tips, and, at the very least, please know how to evacuate and what items you truly would hate to lose.

Preparedness Playlist 1

Even though September was National Preparedness Month, here at the Red Cross we never stop thinking about preparedness. And yes, even though we are dedicated to disaster preparedness and response, it is not just us. There is an element of disaster awareness nearly everywhere we look, or listen (it shows up a lot in songs), and that should be enough for us to be prepared for anything. So while you are going around your home, getting everything ready for a disaster, check out the songs that inspired this blog post:

  1. Natural Disaster-Muse
  2. When the Levee Breaks-Led Zeppelin
  3. We Didn’t Start the Fire-Billy Joel
  4. Rock You Like a Hurricane-Scorpions
  5. In From the Storm– Jimi Hendrix
  6. Rain-The Beatles
  7. Five Feet High and Rising-Johnny Cash
  8. Smoke on the Water-Deep Purple
  9. Natural Disaster-Plain White T’s
  10. Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On-Jerry Lee Lewis

Puppets Teach Preparedness Skills to Kids

(note: the following was written by Suzanne White, grants manager for the Red Cross serving Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties)

Believe it or not…20 kids, 8 to 11 years old, were sitting in a side room at the bowling alley.  No fidgeting, no talking, just rapt attention to information about Disaster Preparedness.  Ok, maybe they cheated a little.

Thanks to the support of Bandai, Disney Resorts and Disney VoluntEARS, the Schnurmacher Foundation, Southern California Edison and the Employees Community Fund of Boeing California, Red Cross Youth Services in Orange County, California is able to offer hundreds of kids a Sesame Street Preparedness Puppet show.

Young people learn about preparedness at a Red Cross preparedness puppet show.

And I kid you not…these kids are really paying attention and singing along with the lyrics like “…stay low, roll out!”  I say – whatever works!  The point is to get them to remember how to stay safe in any situation.  The point is to save lives.  Thanks Sesame Street!

If you are interested in scheduling a preparedness puppet show, please email preparesocal@oc-redcross.org.