March is Red Cross Month because #HelpCantWait

By: Eilene Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed March “Red Cross Month” in 1943, he called on Americans to join a movement that was providing vital services to the nation’s war effort.

“I request that during that month (March) our people rededicate themselves to the splendid aims and activities of the Red Cross,” FDR declared.

During World War II alone, the American Red Cross recruited more than 104,000 nurses for the armed forces and sent more than 300,000 tons of supplies overseas. It launched a national blood donation program to support U.S. armed forces; by the end of the war, it had collected more than 13 million pints of lifesaving blood!

FDR knew the Red Cross could muster Americans for a heroic cause.

That’s still true today, because #HelpCantWait.

As COVID-19 continues to upend our lives, families across the country rely on the Red Cross for lifesaving blood, comfort and care after disasters, support for the military and veterans, and lifesaving training and preparedness skills.

With nearly 140 years of experience under its belt, the Red Cross knows how to pivot to meet unprecedented challenges – and this past year has been no exception.

New guidelines are in place to ensure the safety of Red Crossers – 90% of them volunteers – as well as those receiving services. And Americans have stepped up, just as they did in FDR’s time: Last year, more than 70,000 people across the country became new Red Cross volunteers, including more than 550 in Northern Ohio.

And we still need more folks to join us.

“We have plenty of opportunities for blood donor ambassadors to greet donors, take their temperatures and brief them on how to donate safely,” said Gail Wernick, who heads up volunteer services for the Red Cross in northern Ohio.

“And we need more blood transportation specialists to drive blood products from collection sites to our processing labs or to hospitals where patients need them.”

Unfortunately, there’s never a break from home fires and other local disasters, so the Red Cross is always looking to train more Disaster Action Team members to provide comfort and care to those in distress. Now, that’s being done virtually so volunteers can “respond” from the safety of their own homes.

August 30, 2020. Cameron, Louisiana Pamela Harris of the American Red Cross looks out on a home destroyed by Hurricane Laura in Cameron Parish, LA, one of the hardest hit areas, on Sunday, August 30, 2020. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

Hero Care caseworker volunteers also help from home, fielding calls from military and veterans’ families for Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces aid.

March is the ideal time to step up and “do your bit” as we all battle through this coronavirus siege. If you’re healthy, there’s no better feeling than giving the gift of life with a blood donation. Those who have recovered from COVID-19 are especially needed for their convalescent plasma, which is being used to treat acute COVID cases.

March 31, 2020. Washington, DC Blood donation at Dr. Charles Drew Donation Center during COVID-19. Photo by Jeanette Ortiz-Osorio/American Red Cross

If you can’t give time or blood, you can support Red Cross disaster relief activities financially on Giving Day, March 24. Every eight minutes, the Red Cross responds to a home fire or other disaster. A gift of $95, for example, will feed a family of three for a day and provide blankets and other essentials when they need them most.

To learn more about volunteering here in northern Ohio, reach out to Melanie Collins at melanie.collins4@redcross.org or 330-204-6615. To schedule a blood donation, check out redcross.org/blood or download the free Red Cross blood app from your app store. And to make a financial gift, go to redcross.org/donate or call 1-800-REDCROSS.

Be Red Cross Ready presentations focus on tornado, home fire, flood, and storm safety

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

The clatter of my typing is accompanied by a low, bellowing wind. I look through the window at snow and ice, reflecting on the isolation and challenges of the past year. Realizing it is almost March and spring a few weeks away is a welcome thought. As pleasant as spring can be, however, it also brings thunderstorms, floods, and tornadoes. We must be prepared for them, just as we need to be ready for home fires and other disasters that can happen at any time.

I spoke with John Gareis, the Red Cross’s Northern Ohio Regional Manager, Individual Community and Disaster Preparedness, who leads these presentations. He said people often neglect or disregard preparedness, as many have an impression that “It won’t happen to me.” However, the COVID-19 pandemic and other events in the past year have shown we must all be prepared.  In the Be Red Cross Ready presentations.  “How prepared are you?” John asks. “How prepared were you last year, when COVID-19 first hit the world, and we were told to shelter in place? Think of the hardships that you may have gone through. What could you have done to alleviate your discomfort and the isolated situation?” Continuing, John asks, “What would you have done differently, and what can you do to avoid similar situations now?”

John Gareis, Regional Manager, Individual Community and Disaster Preparedness for the Northern Ohio Region of the Red Cross (Photo taken prior to COVID-19)

To help prevent, prepare for, and respond to disasters, the American Red Cross offers a series of “Be Red Cross Ready” presentations. These free, one-hour, online presentations are available to everyone.

Be Red Cross Ready presentations are designed to help answer these questions and be better prepared, as disaster can happen to every one of us.   

March opens with the first of four sessions on General Preparedness & Tornado Safety. These presentations provide information and suggestions on being better prepared all types of emergencies. They also include tornado safety information with steps you can take to protect you and your family.

The first of four General Preparedness & Home Fire Safety presentations is on March 3rd. They will cover being prepared for all types of emergencies as well as fire safety preparedness, including how home fires happen and steps you can take to avoid them.

Are you ready to put your knowledge to the test? If so, the two Test Your Preparedness Knowledge sessions are for you. These fun, interactive presentations will test your knowledge on a variety of safety questions, such as: How Prepared are you? Would you know what to do if a fire broke out in your home? What kind of risk does carbon monoxide pose? If a tornado was sighted, where do you go? How well do you understand your smoke alarms? You will test your skills and learn a lot.

There are three sessions on Smoke Alarm Safety in March. They will discuss everything you need to know about smoke alarms, including proper installation and location, maintenance, and what to do if they sound off. The presentations include tips to avoid home fires and steps of an evacuation plan.

The March 23rd presentation is on General Preparedness & Flood Safety. Flooding, which occurs when water overflows onto normally dry land, is a threat to some parts of the U.S. and its territories nearly every day of the year and is always dangerous. The flood safety presentation will discuss the signs to know if a flood is eminent, and the safety actions you and your family can take to stay safe.

A General Preparedness & Thunderstorm Safety presentation is offered on March 25th. Every thunderstorm produces lightning and thunder. They are also associated with dangers such as hail, strong winds, and tornadoes. In addition, heavy rain can cause standing water and flash flooding. This presentation will discuss the signs that storms are eminent and actions that can keep you and your family safe.

To join any of these presentations, please register by clicking the date and time of the topic in which you are interested. The password is Prepare21. All times are Eastern.

Additional safety tips and resources are available at redcross.org and the free Red Cross mobile apps.

Building a blood supply as diverse as the community it serves

Just as people have different hair or eye color and come in all shapes and sizes, they also have different blood types. While most blood types fall into one of the four major groups: A, B, AB and O, some people have rare blood types. Because of their rare blood types, these patients need a more diverse blood supply.

Red blood cells carry markers called antigens that determine one’s blood type. There are more than 600 known antigens, some that are unique to specific racial or ethnic groups. For example, U-negative and Duffy-negative blood types are two types unique to the African American community. When treating patients who have these rare types, blood from donors of the same ethnic background is less likely to cause complications.

November 22, 2020. Portsmouth, Virginia. Grove Church Blood Drive 2020. Photos by Jared Beasley/American Red Cross

This is especially important for patients who have chronic blood disorders that require regular blood transfusions. Glinda Dames-Fincher, of Mayfield Heights, has lived with sickle cell disease for more than 60 years. Sickle cell disease is the most common genetic blood disease in the U.S. and it largely affects those of African and Latino descent. It causes red blood cells to be hard and crescent-shaped instead of soft and round. As a result, blood has difficulty flowing smoothly and carrying oxygen to the rest of the body. Blood transfusion is a known treatment for patients with sickle cell disease.

“As part of my treatment, I receive monthly red cell exchange transfusions. I receive two pints of red blood cells during each of these transfusions,” said Dames-Fincher. “I have received regular blood transfusions for the last 20 years to help manage my sickle cell disease. Without donated blood, sickle cell patients face sickle cell crisis, and other complications such as strokes, organ failure, chronic wounds, and shortened lifespan.”

The need for blood is constant and all eligible donors are encouraged to give and help meet the need. Whether blood is needed for a chronic condition, such as sickle cell disease, a surgical procedure or a large-scale emergency, it’s the blood already on the shelves that helps save lives.

To find a blood drive near you and make an appointment, visit RedCrossBlood.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or download the free Red Cross Blood Donor App. Visit Red Cross Blood & Diversity to learn more about the need for diverse blood donors.

Solon Community Center leads the way in hosting blood drives

Other hosts needed to serve vital role during challenging times

By Olivia Wyles, American Red Cross volunteer

One of the first things that comes to mind when someone mentions the American Red Cross is blood drives — and rightly so, as the Red Cross provides about 40% of the entire nation’s blood and blood components. However, only about 3% of age-eligible individuals donate blood on an annual basis. Unfortunately, that number has dropped even further in the last year due in part to a lack of blood drive sponsors.

You may recall having the opportunity to donate blood when you were in school. But the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many schools and businesses no longer being able to host blood drives as more and more locations close and/or restrict access to their facilities. Furthermore, finding spaces that are large enough to host Red Cross blood drives while accommodating social distancing has been a challenge. This is a major barrier for the Red Cross, as our blood drive hosts play an absolutely critical role in maintaining a sufficient blood supply by providing opportunities for people to give to others in their local community. More than 80% of the total blood donations are made at blood drives hosted by our volunteers. Our blood drive hosts play an absolutely vital role in helping the Red Cross ensure that blood is available for patients in over 2,500 hospitals throughout the nation.

Solon Community Center has stood out as a leader for not only continuing to host blood drives over the past year, but for even adding additional blood drives to its schedule. Solon Community Center has been a partner of the Red Cross since 2004. Even amidst the pandemic, it was able to collect 1,095 pints of blood in 2020, which has the ability to help save up to 3,285 lives. The persistent dedication of Solon Community Center staff to host blood drives, combined with the constant support of its local blood donors, have served as an exemplary model for other current and potential blood drive hosts who can also advance the Red Cross mission to provide lifesaving blood for those who need it.

Health and safety is a priority for the Red Cross. All of our blood drive hosts follow the highest standards of safety and infection control while we do our jobs. Some of these protocols include temperature checks for both staff and donors prior to entering a blood drive, mandatory face masks, easily-accessible hand sanitizer at every step of the donation process, and social distancing wherever possible. Lastly, we also urge donors to schedule appointments prior to arrival to ensure that we can manage the flow of donors at blood drives.

So what are you waiting for? Your organization or company could be our next blood drive host and help the Red Cross bring lifesaving resources to those who greatly need them. For those interested in hosting a blood drive, please visit https://www.redcrossblood.org/hosting-a-blood-drive/learn-about-hosting/why-host-a-blood-drive.html.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Local realtor puts heart into home buying experience by supporting community charities

By Chris Chmura, American Red Cross volunteer

The Coronavirus Era has challenged us all with our daily lives. But one thing that is certain is that we are learning to adapt with new habits and fresh ideas.

Melissa Utterback is one of those people. She is a successful realtor for the Danberry Co. in Western Ohio. For more than 40 years, Danberry Realtors has been one of the most successful residential real estate brokerages in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan. Melissa has been in the real estate business for 20 years, 13 at the Danberry Co. Melissa loves that her personal and professional passions for helping others, supporting her local community and providing her customers with an incredible home buying experience are all possible as a Danberry realtor. 

Recently, Melissa successfully sold a property for Rachel Hepner-Zawodny, executive director of the American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio. They were wrapping up the paperwork when Melissa asked Rachel a question. “Which charity would you like to donate a $100 from the Heart of the Home program?” Rachel selected her local American Red Cross. Melissa has donated blood in the past. But this was one extra way for her to give back.

At every closing, her client can select from one of four charities to which she will contribute $100 of her own money.

Melissa’s new Heart of the Home program is inspired by the important role of charities in her local community. At every closing, her client can select from one of four charities to which she will contribute $100 of her own money. She wants her company to be simple to understand, offer a fun element to the home buying process and hopes to “inspire her customers to continue to support their charity of choice.”

Melissa has been giving back for years through Danberry’s charities (for details on the company’s charitable efforts, visit https://www.danberry.com/danberry-charities). Melissa’s company’s culture is based on charity for community. She came up with the creative idea of Heart of the Home to help her community even more in these tough times.

The Heart of the Home program is based on the premise of authentic connections to customers, friends and peers. She has discovered that this new idea has resulted in being very fulfilling personally and gratifying for customers. 

We thank Melissa for creating the Heart of the Home program designed to support her local community, putting in the hard work to build this fun charity perk for her customers and helping the American Red Cross. 

Melissa is in the process of building her social media platforms for Heart of the Home and can be reached at https://www.facebook.com/melissautterbackdanberry or by calling (419) 787-8311.

Are you interested in following Melissa’s generous lead and donating to the American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio Chapter? If you would like to donate or volunteer to help those in need or take a lifesaving class, visit https://www.redcross.org/local/ohio/northern-ohio/about-us/locations/northwest-ohio.html.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Busting common myths about donating blood

By Samantha Pudeslki, American Red Cross volunteer

Have you always assumed you can’t donate blood? You’re not alone. There are a lot of people who may think they cannot donate, but actually can. Here are a few of the most common myths around blood donation restrictions and the facts you need to know.

Myth #1: You can’t donate blood if you have a tattoo and/or body piercing.

Fact: You can donate blood if you have tattoos and/or body piercings. If you recently had a tattoo and it was applied in a state-regulated/licensed tattoo facility using sterile needles and the ink was not reused, you may not have to wait to give blood. Those who are certain a sterile needle was used for a body piercing also may not need to wait. Otherwise, you must wait one year after receiving a tattoo or body piercing.

Myth #2: You can’t donate blood if you take regular medications.

Fact: In almost all cases, medications won’t disqualify you as a blood donor. Instead, your eligibility is based on the reason the medication was prescribed. As long as the condition is under control and you are healthy, blood donation is usually permitted. If you are unsure, visit our eligibility page at RedCrossBlood.org..

Myth #3: You can’t donate blood if you are a diabetic.

Fact: Diabetics who are well controlled on insulin or oral medications are eligible to donate.

Myth #4: You can’t donate blood if you have had cancer.

Fact: It depends on the type of cancer and your treatment history. Those who have had leukemia or lymphoma, including Hodgkin’s disease and other cancers of the blood are not eligible. With most other types of cancers, you are able to donate blood if it the cancer has been treated successfully and it has been more than 12 months since treatment. Cleveland city councilman Kevin Conwell is once again a regular donor, after winning a battle with cancer. Read his story here.

Myth #5: I am too old or too young to donate.

Fact: You must be 17 years old or 16 years old with parental/guardian consent to donate blood, if allowed by state law. There is no age limit for older adults as long as you are healthy and meet the other criteria.

Myth #6: You can’t donate blood if you have travelled outside of the U.S.

Fact: While there are some travel restrictions in place, they are very specific to the location and time period that the individual spent there. If you have questions about eligibility, you can call 866-236-3276 to speak with an eligibility specialist about your travel.

For more facts around the blood donation process, visit the American Red Cross FAQ page. Ready to donate? Visit our website to find an upcoming drive near you.

If you are someone who is unable to donate blood, there are other ways you can support the cause! The Northern Ohio Region of Red Cross relies on volunteers to help with essential tasks like registration to make sure blood drives run smoothly. To learn more about volunteer opportunities in Northern Ohio, click here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Combat the cold safely at home and in the kitchen

By Chris Chmura, American Red Cross volunteer

Luckily, our Northeast Ohio winters have been pretty mild over the past few years. Although, we are currently headed into some very cold weeks with local news reporting temperatures with daily highs of low 20s, teens and single digits at night. So now is a good time to review how you plan to keep your home warm during the remainder of the winter and to take note of some statistics and American Red Cross tips.

  • As many of us stay close to home, we are spending more time cooking. Be careful because the number one cause of U.S. home fires is cooking, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

It’s cold outside and many may be resorting to alternate sources of heat to keep your home warm. Be cautious since heating sources are the second leading cause of home fire deaths. We recently wrote about space heaters in our blog: https://nohredcross.org/tag/space-heaters/.

The American Red Cross offers these steps to help keep you and your loved ones safe:

HOME HEATING SAFETY

  •    Does your home have a fire extinguisher that is not expired, in an easily accessible and       well known l[1] ocation?
  • Have furnaces, chimneys, fireplaces, wood and coal stoves inspected, cleaned and maintained to get you safely through the rest of our Ohio winter.
  • If using a space heater, look for a model that shuts off automatically if the heater falls over. Place the heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface in the home. Get into a daily routine of inspecting your heater’s cord, power source, and free of items that can catch fire.
  • Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves or fireplaces.
  • Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended. Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.
  • Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
  • Cut down on heating costs. Insulate the home by installing storm windows or covering the inside of windows with plastic to keep cold air out.
  • Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
  • Be very alert of safely using temporary construction propane heaters to heat your home. Review your heater’s safety manual for key information on operation. The number one issue is carbon monoxide buildup.
  • Keep fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
  • Test batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Develop a fire escape plan and practice it with everyone who lives in the home. Don’t forget to include your pets in your plan!
  • The American Red Cross store has a wide variety of tools, guides and emergency kits to help you be prepared. Check out the items at https://www.redcross.org/store.

COOKING SAFETY

  • Keep an eye on what you fry! Never leave cooking food unattended. If you must leave the kitchen, even for a short period of time, turn off the stove. Keep a clean cooking area because oil can catch fire very easily. 
  • Move items that can burn away from the stove. This includes dishtowels, bags, boxes, paper and curtains. Also keep children and pets at least three feet away.
  • Avoid wearing loose clothing or dangling sleeves while cooking.
  • When frying food, turn the burner off if you see smoke or if the grease starts to boil. Carefully remove the pan from the burner.
  • Keep a pan lid or a cookie sheet nearby. Use it to cover the pan if it catches on fire. This will put out the fire. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
  • Turn pot handles to the back of the stove, so no one bumps them or pulls them over.
  • Use a timer to remind yourself that the stove or oven is on. Check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving home to ensure all stoves, ovens and small appliances are turned off.

The Red Cross responds to more than 60,000 disasters every year and most of these are home fires. In a typical year, home fires kill more people in the United States than all other natural disasters combined. Please take these two steps now to help keep your household safe: Check your smoke alarms every month and practice your home fire escape plan at least twice a year.

Visit redcross.org/fire for more information and download the free Red Cross Emergency app (search “American Red Cross” in app stores).

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer


Local blood donors give more life by giving blood at annual Give from the Heart Blood Drive

By Christy Peters, American Red Cross

For many, the Valentine’s Day holiday means finding the perfect card and picking out the best chocolate heart to share with someone special. But for blood donors across northern Ohio, this holiday means a longstanding tradition of giving love by giving blood at the annual Give From the Heart Blood Drive.

On Tuesday, February 9, donors from across northeast Ohio helped save lives by donating at the Cleveland Marriot East in Warrensville Heights. As is the case with so many traditions during the pandemic, the event was slightly different than in past years. One thing that had not changed was the commitment of so many to take an hour out of their day to help someone in need.

Red Cross blood donor Sylvia Stewart-Lumkin

“I believe that everything I have is from the Lord. That includes my time, talent, treasure and my body,” said Sylvia Stewart-Lumkin, a donor from Cleveland Heights. “This is my way to give of myself to help someone in need.” Sylvia has given at this event before and is also a regular donor at Mt. Gillion Missionary Baptist Church.

Latisha Bowen of University Heights also gave on Tuesday and is type O positive. “I started donating blood in college. This is my third donation in the last year,” she said. “I’ve just always donated blood.”

Red Cross blood donor Latisha Bowen

For Meredith Reinhard, this blood drive marked the first time she’s given blood. “As a first year PA student beginning in May, my goal for 2021 was to give back and go through the experience of donating blood,” she said. “I love that I get to save three lives and find out my blood type!”

Red Cross blood donor Meredith Reinhard

The Red Cross typically has a difficult time keeping the blood supply strong during the winter months when inclement weather and seasonal illnesses can impact donors. This year the pandemic adds in another challenge in meeting the constant need for blood products. Thanks to the 212 blood donors who came to give Tuesday, 208 pints of blood were collected for patients in need. That means up to 624 people may be helped, as each unit of donated blood can potentially help three people.

For those who were not able to give on Tuesday, the Red Cross continues to host blood drives throughout the region. You can find blood drives near you by visiting RedCrossBlood.org and searching by your zip code or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Individuals can also download the free Red Cross Blood Donor App, which makes it easy and convenient to schedule and manage donation appointments and track the lifetime impact of your donations.

For more photos from the 2021 Give from the Heart blood drive, visit our Flickr album.

Northern Ohio has a new, lifesaving bloodmobile

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

It may not transform into a spaceship or submarine, but the Northern Ohio region of the American Red Cross has a state-of-the-art, high-tech new bloodmobile to help save lives.

Thanks to the generosity of several sponsors, listed below, the new bloodmobile will collect approximately 28,000 units of blood over the next 10 years. As each unit helps up to three people, that equates to as many as 84,000 patients. These include those who have been in accidents, women giving birth and children with blood disorders.

To help illustrate the importance of bloodmobiles, more than 80% of all blood donations are made at mobile or organization-hosted blood drives. In addition, bloodmobiles are vital in reaching donors near homes, workplaces, schools and community-based locations.

Nationwide, the Red Cross holds more than 500 blood drives each day. Each year, more than 4.5 million units of blood are collected from nearly 2.6 million generous donors. Providing about 40% of the nation’s blood supply, the Red Cross is the single largest supplier of blood and blood products in the U.S.

Vehicles have long been a vital part of the Red Cross’ mission, from the wagon Clara Barton used as an ambulance in 1898, to the current fleet of bloodmobiles, emergency response and other vehicles used to reach those in need.

The new state-of-the-art bloodmobile, based in Cleveland, is 40 feet long and 8.5 feet wide. Designed to provide a safe, convenient and comfortable donor experience, the bloodmobile contains three health history booths where donor eligibility screenings are conducted and five beds where blood is drawn. It features advanced technology, iPads on each donor bed, a canteen and sofa area, climate control and a spacious interior.

The new bloodmobile provides the Red Cross with better access to new and harder-to-reach communities where the most needed blood types can be collected. It also better enables blood donations at corporations, community partners and organizations with limited space.

The new bloodmobile serving Northern Ohio is sponsored by:

  • The Ahuja Foundation
  • The Albert M. Higley Co.
  • Allied Witan Co.
  • Applied Industrial Technologies
  • ArcelorMittal USA
  • BakerHostetler LLP
  • Cleveland-Cliffs Inc.
  • Diebold Foundation
  • DiGeronimo Companies
  • Ernst & Young
  • FirstEnergy Foundation
  • George H. Deuble Foundation
  • The G. R. Lincoln Family Foundation
  • Highland Consulting Associates, Inc.
  • Hylant Group
  • Lincoln Electric Company
  • The Lubrizol Corporation
  • McDonald Hopkins
  • MCPc
  • The MetroHealth Foundation
  • Oatey Company
  • Oswald Companies
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP
  • Rockwell Automation
  • Steris Corporation
  • The Timken Company
  • The Timken Foundation of Canton
  • United Way of Greater Cleveland
  • Willis Towers Watson
  • WKYC

To help meet the critical need for blood, sign up for a blood drive at a location near you at redcrossblood.org/give or call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Photo credit: Brian Selecky, American Red Cross


Stay safe during the Arctic blast

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

According to the National Weather Service, the coldest air of the season will arrive this weekend, and after a brief warm-up, will return by the middle of next week, with below-zero wind chills possible. High winds are also expected, with gusts as high as 32 mph tonight. 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.

Now that a winter storm is arriving, here are some tips.

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.