Stay safe during the Arctic blast

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

According to Accuweather, the coldest air of the season has arrived, with single digit low temps overnight tonight. Breezy and cold conditions are forecast for tomorrow night, with wind chills in the single digits. The Northern Ohio region of the American Red Cross offers tips and resources to stay safe during this arctic blast.

As we stressed in our winter safety preparedness article, it is helpful to assemble an emergency preparedness kit and create a household evacuation plan that includes your pets.

Keep warm and informed

  • Stay indoors and wear warm clothes as much as possible. Layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing are best.
  • Eat regularly and drink fluids. Food provides the body with energy to produce heat, and fluids prevent dehydration. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, however. Caffeine accelerates symptoms of hypothermia while alcohol slows circulation; both can cause dehydration.
  • Layer clothing when outside, and wear mittens or gloves and a hat. Frequently change wet clothing.
  • Protect your lungs from severely cold air. Cover your mouth, avoid taking deep breaths, and minimize talking.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia and frostbite.
  • Walk carefully on icy ground.
  • Make sure animals are safe and have access to non-frozen water and shelter.
  • Keep informed by listening to local radio, NOAA radio, or TV stations.
  • Check on relatives, neighbors, and friends, particularly if they are elderly or live alone.
  • If you need to evacuate, know your route and destination. You can check here for a Red Cross shelter.
  • Download the free Red Cross Emergency App.

Vehicle safety

  • Have emergency supplies in your vehicle, including blankets, warm broth in a thermos, water, food, and plastic bags for sanitation.
  • Make sure your phone is charged.
  • Let someone know your route, destination, and ETA.
  • If you become stranded, staying in the vehicle awaiting assistance is often best. Trouble signs like a brightly colored cloth or raised hood can help.
  • Running the engine for about 10 minutes each hour can help keep you warm. Keep the exhaust clear of snow.
  • Turn on an overhead light when the vehicle is running to be seen.
  • Light exercises and movement help keep up circulation.

Home safety

  • Take caution with home heaters, fireplaces, and candles. Keep anything that gives off heat at least three feet away from flammable materials, never plug more than one heating appliance into an outlet, and never leave heaters and flames unattended. Heating equipment is involved in one of every six home fires.
  • Also be careful with generators. Keep them outside and away from windows to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and follow safety instructions. More information on generator safety is here.
  • Prevent frozen pipes. Opening cabinet doors lets warm air circulate around plumbing and cold water dripping through a faucet served by exposed pipes can help prevent freezing.

Additional winter storm safety information is here. Stay safe, warm, and when help is needed, we are ready.

Red Cross issues call for volunteers

Help needed as winter increases the risk of home fires
Support also needed for Red Cross Blood Program

Winter weather has arrived and with it an increase in the number of home fires. The American Red Cross of Northern Ohio is recruiting new volunteers to help respond to these local emergencies by supporting people in their time of greatest need.

Nationally, the Red Cross has already responded to more than1,900 home fires since 2022 began, providing assistance to more than 6,500 people. In the Northern Ohio Region, trained Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) members have responded to 60 home fires so far this year, helping 215 people impacted by a fire in their home.

LOCAL RESPONSE HELP NEEDED DAT volunteers help families with their immediate needs after a fire in their home and offer support during a very difficult time. As a DAT team member, you will provide emotional support, access to financial assistance and information to help families begin to recover. DAT team members respond to emergencies to provide immediate compassion and care. Training will be provided.

Home Fire Response

“Our Red Cross volunteers support their community and neighbors in need each and every day by responding to local emergencies,” said Mike Parks, Regional CEO, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio. “We need more help so no one faces this heartbreaking situation alone.”

Ruth Davidson Gordon – Red Cross Volunteer Blood Donor Ambassador

BLOOD SERVICES VOLUNTEERS ALSO NEEDED The Red Cross also needs volunteers to support blood collections as the country faces an ongoing critical need for blood products and platelets. Blood donor ambassadors play an important role by greeting, registering, answering questions and providing information to blood donors throughout the donation process. Blood transportation specialists provide a critical link between blood donors and blood recipients by delivering blood to hospitals in our communities.

Blood Transportation Specialist

COVID-19 AND STAYING SAFE The need for volunteers is constant and continues to evolve as the Red Cross navigates the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The safety of everyone is our top priority and our guidelines reflect the latest CDC safety recommendations. COVID-19 vaccination is required for in-person volunteer roles beginning February 15, 2022. When considering volunteer opportunities, review the CDC guidance for people who are at higher risk for severe illness, consult your health care provider and follow local guidance.

Please consider joining the Red Cross as a volunteer today and bring help and hope to people in need. Vaccination verification required for in-person roles. Find out more at redcross.org/volunteertoday.

Red Cross: National blood crisis may put patients at risk

Dire situation facing blood supply, those in need of blood transfusions
Donors have the chance to help save lives, win trip to Super Bowl LVI

The American Red Cross is facing a national blood crisis – its worst blood shortage in more than a decade. Dangerously low blood supply levels are posing a concerning risk to patient care and forcing doctors to make difficult decisions about who receives blood transfusions and who will need to wait until more products become available.

Blood and platelet donations are critically needed to help prevent further delays in vital medical treatments, and donors of all blood types – especially type O − are urged to make an appointment now to give in the weeks ahead.

In recent weeks, the Red Cross had less than a one-day supply of critical blood types and has had to limit blood product distributions to hospitals. At times, as much as one-quarter of hospital blood needs are not being met.

Pandemic challenges
The Red Cross continues to confront relentless challenges due to COVID-19, including a out a 10% overall decline in the number of people donating blood as well as ongoing blood drive cancellations and staffing limitations. Additionally, the pandemic has contributed to a 62% drop in blood drives at schools and colleges.

“Winter weather across the country and the recent surge of COVID-19 cases are compounding the already-dire situation facing the blood supply,” said Mike Parks, Regional CEO, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio. “Please, if you are eligible, make an appointment to give blood or platelets in the days and weeks ahead to ensure no patient is forced to wait for critical care.”

Make an appointment to give blood or platelets as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800- 733 2767).

Get in the game; help save lives
The Red Cross and the NFL are partnering this January, during National Blood Donor Month, to urge individuals to give blood or platelets and help tackle the national blood shortage. Those who come to give blood, platelets or plasma in January will automatically be entered for a chance to win a getaway to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles. Visit RedCrossBlood.org/SuperBowl for more information.

Who donations help
Dylan Fink of Stow, Ohio was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in September 2019 at just 14 years old. Because of his chemotherapy treatment, Dylan’s blood counts were drastically low. Over the course of his 100 days in the hospital Dylan needed nine blood transfusions and 11 platelet transfusions. In May 2020, Dylan was able to “ring the bell” at Akron Children’s Hospital, marking his remission.

“In the cancer world, I don’t think people understand how much blood product is needed andjust how important it is,” said Krista Fink, Dylan’s mom.  Read more about Dylan’s story here.

Blood drive safety 
Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including face masks for donors and staff, regardless of vaccination status – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive. 

Volunteers needed
In addition to blood donors, the Red Cross also needs the help of volunteers to support critical blood collections across the country. Blood drive volunteers play an important role by greeting, registering, answering questions and providing information to blood donors throughout the donation process. Blood transportation specialists – another volunteer opportunity − provide a critical link between blood donors and blood recipients by delivering blood to hospitals in communities across the country. To volunteer to support Red Cross blood collections, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.

Red Cross responds to weekend home fires, works to make homes safer

Volunteers install smoke alarms, assist people during their darkest hours

A dozen weekend fires kept responders busy in Northern Ohio, as firefighters throughout the region worked hard to prevent loss of life and property, while Red Cross volunteers assisted nearly 3-dozen people who were chased from their homes.

In Toledo, fire affected residents living in an eight-unit apartment building on Friday, January 7.  See coverage of the response here.

In all, 35 people were assisted by the Red Cross, which distributed more than $9,200 in immediate financial assistance, to help residents find safe shelter, food, clothing, and other immediate needs.

Red Cross volunteers provide refreshments for Akron firefighters battling a blaze at the former Lawndale School on 01-10-22. Photo credit: Teresa Greenlief, American
Red Cross volunteer.

Red Cross workers also helped about 40 Akron firefighters on Monday morning, as they battled flames in an abandoned school building, providing snacks and hot beverages on a bitterly cold morning.

On Saturday, several Red Cross
volunteers and the Cleveland Fire Department fanned out in the city’s Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood to install free smoke alarms and provide home fire safety information to residents.  This followed a fatal home fire in the area last month.

“People don’t stand a chance if there’s no alarm to warn them about a fire,” said homeowner Juan Ramirez, while Red Cross volunteer Benjamin Cutler installed several new alarms in his Franklin Avenue home.  Volunteer Ellen Braun briefed Mr. Ramirez about keeping him and his family safe, including information about testing smoke alarms every month.

“We walk right under it (smoke alarm) every day. You just don’t think about it,” he said.

Marc Ruckel of West Clinton Avenue said he was grateful that the Red Cross was helping him check smoke alarms off his to-do list.  “It’s something I needed to do,” he said, adding, “I just never got around to it.”

Northern Ohio residents can visit soundthealarm.org/noh to request a home fire safety visit, which includes free smoke alarm installations.  Due to the ongoing pandemic, appointments to fulfill smoke alarm requests may be delayed.

For additional photos, visit our Flickr photo album here.

Donate blood or platelets now to help patients avoid delays in care

As we welcome 2022, the American Red Cross blood supply has now dipped to the lowest level in more than a decade and could force hospitals to hold off on essential blood and platelet transfusions for patients in Northern Ohio and across the country.  

The troubling decline of the Red Cross blood supply, which supports about 40% of the nation’s blood needs, comes at a time of year when donations typically fall. Holiday get togethers, school breaks and winter weather often lead to lower donor turnout, potentially further compounding the situation. The critical role of blood and platelet donors has been celebrated each January for nearly 50 years during National Blood Donor Month. If you’ve never given blood before or if it’s been a while now is the perfect time to start helping save lives!

The need for healthy blood donors is also important as Northern Ohio, like many communities across the country saw a significant rise in COVID-19 cases during the month of December. If you are feeling healthy and well, please consider sharing your good health by giving blood. If you received the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine or booster there is no deferral time to give blood. Additionally, there is also no deferral after a flu vaccine, as long as you are symptom-free and feeling well the day of donation.

Once again, the Red Cross is partnering with the NFL to thank donors during the month of January. Come to give blood or platelets Jan. 1-31 and you’ll automatically get a chance to score an exciting Super Bowl LVI getaway in LA for you and a guest! Plus, the Red Cross will give you a shot at a home theater package and $500 e-gift card in January. Terms apply; visit RedCrossBlood.org/SuperBowl for more information. 

Potential donors are urged to schedule an appointment now by using the Red Cross
Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733- 2767). If there is not an immediate opportunity to donate, please make an appointment in the days and weeks ahead to ensure the Red Cross can replenish and then maintain a sufficient blood supply.

Northern Ohio Red Cross Disaster Response Teams assisted over 500 people this Holiday Season

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross Volunteer

In Northern Ohio and nationwide, the American Red Cross was exceptionally active this holiday season, as it was for the entire year.

Between November 22, when this year-to-date post was published, and January 2, 2022, Northern Ohio Disaster Action Teams (DAT) responded to 181 incidents, assisting 542 people.

 34 of these incidents, assisting 100, were over the Christmas weekend.
 Another 34 incidents, assisting 110, were during Thanksgiving week.
 Nine incidents occurred over the New Year holiday weekend, with 41 people assisted.

Canton Shelter

Responses included:
 Fatal fires in Toledo, Cleveland, and Akron.
 A home explosion in Toledo, and large multi-family fires in Maple Heights and Toledo.
 A parking garage collapse in Lakewood, which led to the evacuation of a large
apartment building. The Red Cross provided meals and snacks to residents and first responders following the collapse.
 A shelter opening in Canton, where for two days, the Red Cross helped provide meals and a place to stay to families who were temporarily displaced.
 Eight Northern Red Cross staff members and volunteers deployed to Kentucky following deadly tornadoes.
 Installation of 50 free smoke alarms.

To illustrate DAT’s effectiveness, Tom Revolinsky, Disaster Program Manager for the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio said, “Dave Huey (volunteer) and I went on a multi-family late night fire where one family’s apartment was destroyed and another was heavily damaged, and an 11-year-old girl had critical injuries. When Dave and I spoke with family members, the appreciation and relief in their voices that the Red Cross was there to help brought back into focus the importance of our mission.

Tom also spoke of the importance of fire safety and ongoing efforts.

Maple Heights fire 12/21

“Responding to fatal fires is the most difficult thing we do,” Tom said. “To help prevent these tragedies, the Red Cross installs free smoke alarms. During installation, families are educated on fire prevention and assisted in developing an escape plan. In early December we installed 50 smoke alarms, making 16 homes safer, in the Aetna Road area of Cleveland where a fatal fire occurred in early November. On January 8th, we are installing smoke alarms with the Cleveland Fire Department in the W. 54th street area of Cleveland where twins tragically perished in a fire in early December. Smoke alarms save lives.”

Jani Memorich, a volunteer Disaster Action Team (DAT) leader, spoke very highly of fellow DAT members and their dedication.

“Awesome work done by awesome people,” Jani said. “We are truly blessed in Northern Ohio to have such a dedicated team working with DAT. As a DAT responder and someone who has deployed to other states for disasters, I get to tell the Red Cross story from my perspective as a volunteer. This brings awareness to people who may never have needed the services of the Red Cross and only vaguely understand all we do.”

Jani also expressed hope that more will volunteer, saying, “Hopefully through our own volunteerism we can inspire others to take up the mantel. There is so much work to be done and so few who actually do it. That is my hope for 2022, that more people give of themselves, to help mend others.”

If you are able, please consider volunteering with the Red Cross, either as a DAT member or in another capacity. Information can be found here.

Up your game: Resolve to volunteer!

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross Volunteer

As we come to the end of another year, many of us are thinking about what we can do to make the next year better.

Resolve to lose (or gain) weight? Resolve to spend more wisely? Resolve to be on time?

How about, resolve to volunteer?

The American Red Cross has a wide variety of volunteer opportunities that pay off big time in “job satisfaction.”

“It’s a rewarding experience when you can help somebody,” said Paul Grygier.

Paul Grygier

Paul began his volunteer career as a Disaster Action Team (DAT) member, responding to home fires and other emergencies in Wyandot County, where he lives. In that role he brings compassion, safe accommodations and financial assistance to meet disaster-caused needs. “DAT is a good way to help people in their time of need,” he said.

Dotty Dolwick of West Park, in Cuyahoga County, finds her satisfaction as a blood donor ambassador, welcoming donors, being sure they’ve read important pre-donation materials and answering questions at a couple of blood drives a week.

“It’s a good way to get out with people,” the retired nurse said, adding that she likes the flexibility Red Cross offers its volunteers. “You get to kind of pick and choose where you go, when you go.”

Paul also leads his Red Cross chapter’s Sound The Alarm campaign, which strives to save lives by installing free smoke alarms in every home that needs one (or more). “I’m basically a mechanic,” he explained. “It’s easy for me to do. I like to help the older people who can’t get up on ladders.”

Dotty Dolwick

The Pillowcase Project is another of Paul’s favorites. He gives the Red Cross disaster preparedness presentations to third- through fifth-graders. “You know you’re reinforcing important lessons in an organized fashion,” he said, hoping those messages will spring to mind if the youngsters ever need them.

To explore all the volunteer roles the Red Cross has to offer, visit redcross.org/volunteer or contact your local chapter.

As for me, I wear a few hats with the Red Cross: Communicator, blood donor, chapter board member and financial supporter. These are all volunteer roles.

Eilene Guy

I enjoy spreading the message about what the Red Cross is doing to help people prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters large and small. Like a lot of other Red Cross activities, it’s something I can do from home; at a time of heightened COVID concern, the Red Cross has modified its activities to keep its staff, volunteers, and those we serve safe.

Serving as a board member and supporting the organization financially may be low-profile activities, but they’re vital for this organization with a big role in our society.

And don’t get me started about how rewarding it is to know that every time I donate blood, I could be saving up to three lives.

Dr. Paul Biedenbach

My ear, nose and throat doctor spotted my Red Cross socks and said proudly that he had just made a Power Red donation, giving two units of red blood cells at one sitting. “They even let me know where my blood is going,” Dr. Paul Biedenbach of Sandusky said. “It’s kinda cool.”

He realizes that giving the gift of life isn’t a casual act: “People need to make an effort, to register in advance. It’s not as easy as just walking into a donation site. But it’s so important.”

As someone said recently, “If I don’t do this, who’s gonna do it?”

So please, make it a happy new year and resolve to volunteer!

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Community members come together to give back this holiday season

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross Volunteer

The American Red Cross of Northern Ohio held holiday blood drives across the region, providing an opportunity for donors to give the gift of life for people in need during this holiday season.

Hailee Horstman, Blood Donor

The drives were held between December 14th and December 23rd at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, the Hilton Garden Inn in Twinsburg, the Sheraton Suites Akron/Cuyahoga Falls, the Hilton Garden Inn in Perrysburg and Stambaugh Auditorium and Packard Music Hall in Youngstown.

Daniel Salmons, Blood Donor

The Red Cross put the call out to the public, encouraging them to donate at our holiday drives, and our community members answered. Across all of the holiday blood drives, 1,240 pints of blood were donated to provide critical help for patients across the region.

Each donation can help up to three patients awaiting a blood product – red blood cells, platelets, or plasma. That means more than 3,700 people will possibly benefit by the donations made at this year’s holiday blood drives.

Lee Holmes-Blood Donor

Blood donations help patients in our community of all ages, including accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those battling cancer, among others. In fact, every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.

The need this year is high, as pandemic challenges and concerns, along with the typical winter lulls, have resulted in historically low levels of blood supply. If you haven’t had a chance to donate—don’t delay. We are calling all eligible donors this January as part of National Blood Donor Month to roll up their sleeves and donate. To find an upcoming blood donation drive near you, click here.

More relief workers from NOH head to tornado-stricken KY

Many will spend the holidays away from home to help others

Two more disaster workers – volunteers – from Northern Ohio left their homes today to head to Kentucky, where they will join the American Red Cross disaster relief operation in Kentucky.

Al Irwin and Barb Gabel departed from the Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley chapter headquarters Monday morning, December 20th, in an emergency response vehicle (ERV), fully aware that they will be spending the Christmas holiday away from home.

Al Irwin and Barb Gabel

“It’s the first time in forever I haven’t been with my kids,” Barb said. “They understand. They know this is what I really want to do, so I’m going to celebrate when I get home.”

Al shared similar sentiments. “Especially at this time of year, I can’t even imagine what they’re going through,” he said. “Anything we can to to help alleviate their pain, I’m all in.”

Today, some 470 trained Red Cross disaster workers from all over the country remain on the ground in multiple states, providing shelter, meals, comfort and support after last week’s devastating tornadoes that left behind a heartbreaking trail of destruction. Our hearts go out to all those whose lives have been forever changed by these deadly storms.

  • In Kentucky, hundreds of people remain displaced, and the Red Cross is working alongside state officials and other community organizations to support those staying in emergency shelters and other temporary accommodations, such as state park lodges and hotel rooms.
  • With the help of partners, the Red Cross has served more than 28,000 meals and snacks, distributed more than 16,700 relief items, and provided more than 3,800 individual care contacts to help people with medical or disability needs, as well as emotional and spiritual support during these challenging times.

This will be the third time Al has been part of an ERV crew at a disaster. He expects to be loaded with food, water, and critical supplies when they arrive at their destination in Kentucky, and to then drive into impacted areas to bring much needed relief to people who have suffered so much.

“Anything I’m feeling right now, they have it much, much worse,” Barb said. “Anything I can do to ease their pain and make them happy, I’ll do it.”

Ho Ho Ho – No No No

By Doug Bartwell, Red Cross Volunteer

Everyone knows that being prepared for a holiday is the key to truly enjoying it. Conversely, a lack of preparation, not only creates stress, but it also creates accidents. And who needs that on a holiday?

To that end, here are a dozen to-do’s and don’ts, (mostly don’ts) that will make your holidays more merry.

Decorations to avoid if you have pets

Holly, poinsettia, and mistletoe – they are all poisonous to your dog.

As mentioned last month, real candles can be a danger if pets can get near them. Cats can get most anywhere, BTW.

Silver icicle strands are so interesting to pets who like to play with it, but it is a choking hazard for them.

You need to provide live trees with a good supply of water , but cover it so pets aren’t tempted to drink. It can get stagnant easily, and could contain bacteria that will make your pet sick.

Low-hanging ornaments are a temptation for pets. Save that lower space for presents under the tree.

Best practice, if possible, would be to set a pet fence around your tree and gifts.

Serving suggestions

In case you’ve not had dogs before, they love chocolates; but chocolate is extremely toxic and dangerous for them. Teach your children and guests not to offer them to your pups.

If you spike your eggnog, be sure to put a warning label on the bottle or serving pitcher. My dad’s friend poured a big bowl for his dog, and by the time my dad saw him, the poor dog was bouncing off the walls. (True story)

Meal prep and cleanup

Avoid the temptation to buy that big bird a week ahead of time. Many stores let you order in advance and pick up your order from the store just a day or two before your holiday. Saves worrying about adequately defrosting a big bird in time, and keeps a fresh bird from spoiling.

Don’t use the same cutting board for poultry and veggies or fruit, unless you sanitize vigorously between. Avoid bacterial contamination, which could cause your family to get sick.

Keep guests out of the kitchen, especially during flu season. Serve light appetizers elsewhere to keep them from snitching “tastes” of the food as you are carving. Most likely they haven’t washed their hands before tasting.

Reheat your leftovers to 165 degrees throughout or until steaming hot. Soups, sauces and gravies should be brought to a rolling boil for one-minute before re-serving.

Speaking about food safety, the American Red Cross offers all our disaster team members a great food safety course – for free. We could use more team members ready to respond to disasters, and would love to have you join the team. You can learn more here.