Red Cross offers home fire preparedness tips during National Fire Prevention Week

By Chris Chmura, American Red Cross volunteer

Next week is National Fire Prevention Week and the American Red Cross wants to ensure everyone is prepared should they experience a home fire. So far in 2021, Ohio has had 95 home fire fatalities vs. 67 in 2020. 

We lost four on-duty firefighters in 2021 and the year is not over. These heroes were willing to give up their lives to help save lives of fellow Ohioans.  

Could your family escape in 2 minutes in case of a home fire?

A survey conducted for the Red Cross, shows that people mistakenly believe they have more time than they really do to escape a burning home. Fire experts agree that people may have as little as two minutes to escape before it’s too late to get out. But most Americans (62%) mistakenly believe they have at least five minutes to escape, more than twice the amount they have. Nearly 18% mistakenly believe they have ten minutes or more to get out. 

The American Red Cross urges everyone prepare by practicing their home fire escape plan and testing their smoke alarms.

1. Practice a 2-Minute Fire Drill 

Use our worksheet to draw your home’s floor plan and plot your escape routes. 

  • Practice your 2-minute drill (from home to a safe meeting place) at least twice a year.
  • Everyone in your household should know two ways to escape from each room in your home. 
  • In a real fire, remember to get out, stay out and call 911. Never go back inside for people, pets or things. 

2. Test Your Smoke Alarms Monthly

Test your smoke alarms monthly by pressing the test button. 

  • You should hear three beeps, letting you know the alarm is working. 
  • Don’t hear the beeps? Then it’s time to change the batteries if your model requires them.
  • If your smoke alarm is 10 years old, it’s time to get a new alarm because the sensor becomes less sensitive over time. 

Teach kids about preparedness

Our age-appropriate preparedness materials include engaging activities and easy action steps that youth will find both fun and effective.

Volunteer to help those affected by home fires

Join your local Red Cross to help families prepare for, respond to, and recover from home fire. The need for volunteers continues amidst a busy disaster season. Disaster action team members from the Red Cross Northern Ohio Region responded to nine local events over the weekend, all of them home fires. Several individuals were affected, including 30 adults and 7 children. The Red Cross provided more than $10,400 in immediate assistance.

Make a donation

Your financial gift allows the Red Cross to provide food, comfort and aid to those who have lost their home to fire. It also helps us install free smoke alarms and educate families on fire safety.

Be prepared before disaster strikes

Be prepared for disasters and other emergencies with a well-stocked emergency kit for your home, workplace and automobile. Choose from a variety of survival kits and emergency preparedness supplies to help you plan ahead for tornadoes, flooding, fire and other disasters.

First day of Fall brings heavy rain, a good time to brush up on flood safety

Red Cross offers important tips to prepare for and stay safe in a flood

In case you couldn’t tell by the gray skies and falling temperatures, today is the first day of Fall! And, in typical Northeast Ohio fashion, Fall is kicking off with predictions of heavy rainfall and damaging winds over the next few days. While our area is often protected from some of the most severe natural disasters, such as hurricanes and wildfires, flooding is a disaster everyone should be aware of and prepare for. Many people don’t realize, floods are among the most frequent and costly natural disasters.

As with any emergency, being prepared before disaster strikes is the most important step.  Assemble an emergency preparedness kit, create a household evacuation plan that includes your pets, stay informed about your community’s risk and response plans and ensure your family members know how to get back in touch if you are separated during an emergency. We also recommend downloading the American Red Cross emergency app which lets you monitor more than 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts.

When it comes to flooding, it’s also important to make sure you have access to a NOAA radio broadcast. These are available online or through apps you can access in the Apple Store or Google Play. You can also purchase a battery-powered or hand-crank NOAA radio in the Red Cross Store. It’s also important to find out about the area you live in and how it can be affected by flooding, specifically related to flood insurance. If where you live is prone to flooding, there are also steps you can take to protect your physical home.

When flooding is predicted, it’s also important to understand the warnings that officials share. A flood/flash flood WATCH means a flood or flash flood is possible. A flood/flash flood WARNING means flooding or flash flooding is already occurring or will occur soon and you should take immediate precautions. Once flooding has begun, the Red Cross recommends the following steps to ensure you and your family stay safe.

  • Even a small amount of water is enough to sweep you off your feet or your vehicle off the road. If you come across a flooded area, turn around and go another way.
  • Identify at least two safe ways out of your neighborhood, should you need to evacuate. When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground and stay there.
  • Return home only when officials have declared the area safe. Do not use water that could be contaminated to wash dishes, brush teeth, prepare food, wash hands, make ice or make baby formula.
  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.

When a flood occurs, the Red Cross is there to help with shelter, food and comfort. If you would like to help those affected by floods and other disasters, consider becoming a volunteer or making a financial donation.

Multiple weekend home fires keep Red Cross volunteers busy

Need for volunteers continues amidst busy disaster season

Disaster action team members from the American Red Cross Northern Ohio Region responded to nine local events over the weekend, all of them home fires. Several individuals were affected, including 30 adults and 7 children. The Red Cross provided more than $10,400 in immediate assistance.

Home fires continue to be the main disaster affecting people in our area. In Northern Ohio, the Red Cross responds to an average of 3 home fires every day. And, tragically, recent home fires in the area have resulted in fatalities. The need for home fire safety doesn’t end during a pandemic. We urge everyone to take steps to keep their household safe by installing and maintaining smoke alarms, talking with loved ones about fire safety and creating and practicing a home fire escape plan. Learn more and download resources now to help your family prepare.

The Red Cross also has a need for volunteers to assist families who have been affected by local disasters, often a home fire. From offering a caring and compassionate ear, to meeting the disaster-caused needs of individuals and households, such as lodging and clothing, and connecting them with long term recovery services, our volunteers ensure that families don’t have to face tough times alone. During the pandemic, for the safety of you and those impacted by disaster, you will mostly respond virtually to provide compassionate and immediate care and assistance to those impacted. On occasion, a larger response may require some on-scene presence and coordination with your Disaster Action Team. To sign up, visit RedCross.org/volunteer.

The Red Cross is responding to local disasters and continues to assist those affected by natural disasters across the country, including the western wildfires and Hurricane Ida. The Northern Ohio Region currently has 13 individuals from our area deployed across the country. We expect to see the need for volunteers to deploy to continue in the coming months, as hurricane season continues.

The Red Cross could not continue to fulfill its humanitarian mission without the generous support of the American public. If you are not able to volunteer at this time, consider making a financial donation to help us provide the necessary resources for those facing disaster. Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 gift. The Red Cross also has an ongoing need for blood and platelet donors. To schedule an appointment, visit RedCrossBlood.org.

Mike Parks recalls Red Cross response to 9/11 attacks

By Mike Parks, Rear Admiral, US Coast Guard (Retired)
Regional CEO, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

Family and Friends of the Northern Ohio Red Cross:  This Saturday, we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our nation.  Now known as Patriot Day, it’s a time to remember the victims and honor the brave responders.  Literally within minutes of Flight 11 crashing into the north tower of the World Trade Center, the Red Cross began mobilizing to provide immediate aid—aid that continued for years.

September 12, 2001. New York City, New York. American Red Cross volunteers receive a briefing at the site of an assistance center near the scene of the World Trade Center collapse. Photo by Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

Our massive relief and recovery efforts were funded by nearly $1.1 billion in generous donations, which were used to help more than 59,000 families affected by the terrorist attacks.  The Red Cross provided hundreds of millions of dollars in financial assistance to families that lost loved ones, injured survivors, first responders, residents of lower Manhattan who couldn’t return home, and workers who lost their jobs.  More than 57,000 Red Crossers from across the country (including several from Northern Ohio) served more than 14 million meals and snacks, opened dozens of shelters for people who were left stranded, and connected some 374,000 times with people to provide emotional support and health services.  Hundreds of thousands of individuals lined up to give blood as people from all walks of life showed up to help in any way they could.

As we remember the terrible tragedy of September 11, 2001, we come together as members and supporters of the American Red Cross to mark this day in solemn remembrance and with a renewed commitment to serve those in the face of disasters.  Large scale disasters often bring a nation together—9/11 certainly did.  Here is a short video clip that helps make that point with its stark contrast.  My sincere hope and prayer is that our nation does not have to experience another tragedy like 9/11 to unite us in the pursuit of our precious freedom as Americans.  Thank you for your tireless support of our American Red Cross—the world’s premier humanitarian organization—as we honor those that perished and salute those who preceded us in service. 

Godspeed…Mike

Reflections from two Northern Ohio Red Cross responders will be posted here tomorrow, on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

September is National Preparedness Month: Get ready now

Emergencies more frequent, larger due to climate change

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

During my time as a Disaster Action Team (DAT) member, I saw many levels of preparedness and their impact once a disaster happened, whether a fire, flood, tornado or other event. Families and communities who had prepared were much better able to respond and begin recovering than those who had not. The American Red Cross assists all in need but preparation makes a tremendous difference, especially as climate change causes more severe weather. The Red Cross Northern Ohio Region urges everyone to get ready.

While home fires remain the most frequent disaster in Northern Ohio, climate change is having an impact. Sustainable Cleveland’s Action Plan states, “… annual temperatures in the Midwest, including Northeast Ohio, have increased over the last several decades. Heat waves are becoming more frequent. Snow and ice are arriving later in the fall and are starting to melt earlier in the spring. Heavy downpours now occur twice as frequently as they did a century ago.”

For an additional perspective, I reached out to John Gareis, Regional Manager, Disaster Preparedness, Red Cross Northern Ohio Region. John said, “Disasters can happen anywhere, anytime. We urge people to prepare now and be ready if an emergency occurs in their home or in our local community.

“No one plans to be in a disaster,” John continued. “Unfortunately, so often we help families who have done nothing to prepare, and they rely on the Red Cross to help them get on their feet and begin piecing together their lives. Understanding the basics of being prepared, having a communication plan, and knowing what to do in an emergency does save lives. Helping people during disasters is at the heart of our mission, and climate change is a serious threat we are all facing. While we celebrate Emergency Preparedness awareness every September, being prepared should happen all year long. Help keep your loved ones safe — get Red Cross Ready today.”

HOW TO GET PREPARED

Help keep your family safe: 1) Get a Kit. 2) Make a Plan. 3) Be Informed.

  1. Build your emergency kit with a gallon of water per person, per day, non-perishable food, a flashlight, battery-powered radio, first aid kit, medications, supplies for infants or pets, a multi-purpose tool, personal hygiene items, copies of important papers, cell phone chargers, blankets, maps of the area and emergency contact information.
  2. Plan what to do in case you and your family are separated or evacuating. Coordinate your plan with your child’s school, your work and your community. Don’t forget your pets. If you need to evacuate, so does your pet. Know which pet-friendly hotels are in your area and where your pets can stay.
  3. Stay informed by knowing how local officials will contact you during a disaster and how to get important information.

Also consider your family’s needs and each person’s capabilities. Older adults and those with disabilities need a support network that can help in an emergency, especially during an evacuation or extended loss of power.

Speak with children about preparing for common emergencies, staying safe and what to expect before a disaster happens. The Red Cross has free programs and tools to help at redcross.org/youthprep.

Free Red Cross apps are also available.

Finally, help your community prepare and respond to disasters. You can do so by donating blood, learning lifesaving skills or volunteering with the Red Cross or other organization.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Take action this World Humanitarian Day

By Samantha Pudelski, Red Cross volunteer

August 19 is World Humanitarian Day, when we recognize those around the world who help people affected by global crises. In 2021, a record 235 million people required humanitarian assistance according to USAID. Life-threatening crises around the world such as hunger, poverty and conflict are intensifying due to forces such as climate change.

Northeast Ohio native Jenelle Eli, American Red Cross joins Ines and her neighbors in Morelos, Mexico in receiving humanitarian aid from the Red Cross in the wake of a 7.1 earthquake in 2018.

Organizations around the world, including the American Red Cross, International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) and Red Crescent Societies, provide humanitarian aid to help communities affected by intense storms, hurricanes and devastating wildfires that have increased in frequency, especially in the last few years. They also are working to provide climate-smart disaster risk reduction—helping communities reduce their risks, increase their resilience and prepare for emergencies that may happen in their region.

Annually, on average, natural hazards cause 67,000 deaths, affect 199 million people and drive 126 million individuals into poverty according to the IFRC. Climate change is causing the number of disasters to increase drastically—doubling the average number of disasters in the last 40 years.

April 7, 2020. Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas. The American Red Cross helped expand the Bahamas Red Cross home meal delivery program to include more people put at risk to food insecurity due to the COVID-19 outbreak causing government implemented lockdowns and 24-hour curfews.

You may be asking yourself, how can I help here in Ohio? There are a few things you can do:

  • Learn more about the effects of climate change and the work organizations like the Red Cross and IFRC are doing to help those who are impacted by disasters. Share what you learn with family and friends.
  • Donate to the Red Cross to help provide aid to victims of disasters and education to communities on how to prepare for future events.
  • Volunteer with the Red Cross in your community and/or consider becoming a member of the Disaster Action Team.

Read more about World Humanitarian Day here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Local volunteers and blood donors needed for busy disaster season

Many weather experts predict a destructive wildfire and hurricane season this year. The American Red Cross needs volunteers to help people who are affected by these disasters.

“We’re preparing for another extremely busy disaster season, and it’s critical to have a trained, ready volunteer workforce to make sure we can provide relief at a moment’s notice,” said Mike Parks, Regional CEO, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio. “This year’s wildfire season is already very active and dangerous because of the severe drought and dry woodlands across the west. And experts are predicting we could see 10 or more hurricanes in the upcoming weeks.”

“We’re preparing for another extremely busy disaster season, and it’s critical to have a trained, ready volunteer workforce to make sure we can provide relief at a moment’s notice.”

Mike Parks, Regional CEO, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

SHELTER VOLUNTEERS AND HEALTH PROFESSIONALS NEEDED

The Red Cross needs new volunteers to support disaster shelters. Volunteers will help with reception, registration, food distribution, dormitory, information collection and other vital tasks inside disaster shelters. Both entry and supervisory-level opportunities are available.

The Red Cross also needs volunteers who can work in disaster shelters to address people’s health needs and provide hands-on care in alignment with their professional licensure (registered nurse and licensed practical nurse/licensed vocational nurse). Daily observation and health screening for COVID-19-like illness among shelter residents may also be required. If you are an RN, LPN, LVN, APRN, NP, EMT, paramedic, MD/DO or PA with a current and unencumbered license, this position could be right for you.

Red Cross volunteer Dave Wagner looks out damage from the Dixie Fire on the outskirts of Greenville, CA, a small town that was devastated by the fire on Saturday, August 7, 2021. Many of the evacuated residents found shelter with the Red Cross in nearby Quincy and Susanville, CA.
Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

DISASTER ACTION TEAM MEMBER

Local Disaster Action Teams provide 24-hour emergency response to local disasters, particularly home fires, ensuring that those affected have access to resources for basic necessities such as food, shelter and clothing. If you are team-oriented and want to help your neighbor, the DAT responder may be just the thing for you.

Disaster Action Team members from Northern Ohio respond to a fire in Lakewood on Aug. 4, 2021.

At 1 p.m. today, the Red Cross will host a Facebook Live event where our experts will discuss the various volunteer roles and how you can get involved in helping families after disasters here locally and across the country. Tune in to learn more and get your volunteer questions answered.

Last year, the Northern Ohio Region provided immediate emergency assistance to more than 5,100 people after nearly 1,200 home fires and other disasters.

If you can’t join us this afternoon but are interested in helping your community when disasters occur, you can sign up online or contact our area offices at 216-431-3328 or neovolunteer@redcross.org.

BLOOD AND PLATELET DONORS NEEDED

Wildfires, record-breaking heat and a busy hurricane season can also impact the nation’s blood supply. On top of the toll extreme weather events take on the lives of millions, disasters can cause blood drive closures or prevent donors from being able to give safely. Eligible donors can help overcome the critical need for blood and ensure blood is readily available by making an appointment to give by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.

What you need to do to prepare for a power outage

By: Sam Pudelski, American Red Cross Volunteer

We all know weather in Ohio is unpredictable. While it seems spring has finally sprung, just a few short weeks ago heavy rain and winds tore through Northern Ohio. According to American Red Cross reports, the morning after the storm, approximately 70,000 power outages were reported across the Region.

When there is a power outage, we hope it is a temporary inconvenience. But sometimes outages can last hours, if not days. It’s important to have a plan in place so when outages occur, you and your household members have what you need and know how to stay safe.

Photo by Talia Frenkel/American Red Cross

The Red Cross has put together some tips for how to help you do just that:

  • Create a support network by identifying people who can help you stay at home or evacuate during an extended power outage. Keep a paper copy of your contact list.
  • Stay connected and alert by signing up for alert systems and apps for text alerts. Make sure you have communication devices that you can use when the power goes out, like a crank or battery radio, non-corded home phone, battery chargers/batteries for cell phones.
  • Stock food and water that is non-perishable, and plan to use coolers and ice to extend food refrigeration when the power is out for an extended period. Make sure to stock two weeks of non-perishable food and thermometers to monitor perishable food temperatures.
  • Know and plan for your personal and medical needs that rely on electricity. Take inventory of your electrical needs, and consider both backup and non-power alternatives for lighting, communication, medical devices, medicine, cooking, garage doors, locks and elevators.
  • Plan for your pets by making sure you have enough food and water for them, too.
  • Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms. Make sure smoke alarms with battery backups are on every floor and outside sleeping areas. Make sure you have one carbon monoxide detector on each floor of your home.
  • Use current surge protectors on household electronics to keep them safe in case of a power surge.
  • Plan how to decide to stay or go in the event of a power outage. Discuss how you will safely evacuate to maintain needs such as power-dependent medical devices.

Download the free Red Cross emergency app

The app allows you to monitor conditions in your area and prepare your household in the event of an outage or other disaster. Additionally, you can check on loved ones to make sure they are safe and let them know you are safe. You can download the app on the Apple Store or Google Play, or you can text GETEMERGENCY to 90999.

While we all hope power outages or disasters will not strike, preparing can help you and your loved ones have a little more peace of mind in the event you are affected by one.

Edited By: Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

Severe weather can bloom during spring in Ohio

By: Chris Chmura, American Red Cross volunteer

If you live in Northern Ohio, you know that Mother Nature likes to remind us that we can get a snowstorm late in the season, have a possible tornado at any point or even have heavy rain going into spring (out West they call it mud season). The Rockies and High Plains just experienced several feet of snow, Chicago recently reported areas with 18 inches of snow and the Northeast continues to have a heavy cycle of snow.

The American Red Cross offers tips to prepare and keep you safe during severe weather events of any kind, during any season.

Tornado Safety

Know the difference. A tornado watch means a tornado is possible. A tornado warning means atornado is already occurring or will occur soon. Go to your safe place immediately. Watch for tornado danger signs: dark, often greenish clouds, a wall cloud, cloud of debris.

  • Know your community’s warning system. Many communities use sirens intended for outdoor warning purposes.
  • Identify a safe place in your home to gather – a basement, storm cellar or interior room on the lowest floor with no windows. A small, windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the safest alternative.
  • If you have time, move or secure items outside that can be picked up by the wind.
  • If you live in a mobile home, find a safe place in a nearby sturdy building. No mobile home is safe in a tornado. If you have access to a sturdy shelter or a vehicle, go to the shelter or building immediately, using your seat belt if driving.
  • If you are outside, seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building.
  • If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter, immediately get into a vehicle and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. Remember to buckle your seat belt.
  • Stay away from bridge/highway overpasses.
  • If strong winds and flying debris occurs while driving, pull over and park, keeping your seat belt on and engine running. Put your head down below the windows, covering your head with your hands and a blanket
  • Bring your companion animals indoors and maintain direct control of them.

Flooding Safety

Turn around, don’t drown. Stay off the roads. If you must drive and encounter a flooded roadway, turn around and go another way.

  • If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
  • Head for higher ground and stay there.
  • If your neighborhood is prone to flooding, be prepared to evacuate quickly if necessary.
  • Follow evacuation orders and do not attempt to return until officials say it is safe to do so.
  • Stay away from floodwaters. Beware of snakes, insects and other animals that may be in or around floodwaters and your home.
  • Keep children and pets away from hazardous sites and floodwater.
  • If power lines are down, do not step in puddles or standing water.

Winter Storm Safety

Be prepared for storms, even in spring. Have your disaster kit ready. Details about what should be included are on the Red Cross website. When the storm begins, listen to the advice of local officials and stay in a safe place until weather conditions improve and roads can be cleared.

STAY SAFE by following these steps:

  • Make sure you have enough heating fuel on hand.
  • Stay indoors and wear warm clothes. Layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing will keep you warmer than a bulky sweater.
  • Check on relatives, neighbors and friends, particularly if they are elderly or if they live alone. Keep your vehicle’s gas tank full to keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Be extremely careful if you have to shovel snow. Take frequent breaks and stay hydrated.
  • Watch for hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia symptoms include confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. Frostbite symptoms include numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy feeling skin.
  • Don’t forget your pets. Bring them indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
  • If possible, avoid driving in the storm. If you have to drive, have a window scraper, kitty litter or sand in case you get stuck, extra clothes and a Disaster Supplies Kit in your trunk. Fill the vehicle’s gas tank and clean the lights and windows to help you see.
  • Let someone know where you are going, the route you plan to take, and when you expect to get there. If your car gets stuck, help can be sent along your predetermined route.

Avoid Home Fire Danger 

Storms can result in a high number of home fires. To avoid fire danger, remember the following:

  • Never use a stove or oven to heat your home. If you are using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs
  • Place space heaters on a level, hard surface and keep anything flammable at least three feet away. Turn off space heaters and make sure fireplace embers are out before leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Use generators correctly – never operate a generator inside the home, including in the basement or garage.
  • Don’t hook a generator up to the home’s wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.
  • If your power is out, avoid using candles to prevent a fire.

Download our apps. Download the free Red Cross Emergency App to receive emergency alerts and information about what to do in case of severe weather or flooding, as well as locations of shelters. You can find it in smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or  going to redcross.org/apps.

Edited By: Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

When the world stopped, the Red Cross didn’t

Reflections on the response to the pandemic on the one-year anniversary

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

March 2020 would prove to be one of my most memorable volunteer months with the American Red Cross. Within weeks, the world began to see signs like this everywhere.

Everywhere, except at the Red Cross.

Let’s go back to March 1, 2020. This was the day the first case of COVID-19 was identified in the United States, in New York. By then, we had heard about the 400 Americans trapped on a ship in Japan, but we didn’t really consider that the virus was a U.S. problem at the time.

Two days later, everyone forgot about that story when multiple tornadoes ripped through central Tennessee, killing at least 25 people. I recall getting the call that morning and leaving immediately for Nashville to cover the details of the cleanup effort, the sheltering and feeding of hundreds of now homeless people and the mobilization of hundreds of truckloads of supplies.

As I drove home on March 10, New York Governor Cuomo had called on the National Guard to stop traffic around New Rochelle, where 108 cases had been discovered. COVID-19 was now a United States problem.

Just one day later, March 11, the WHO (World Health Organization) would declare this to be an official pandemic with more than 120,000 cases worldwide. That started a landslide of events, and before day’s end:

  • The NBA suspended the 2019-20 season until further notice
  • The NHL paused its 2019-20 season
  • The Dow Jones Industrial 30-day average plunged 20%, ending an 11-year bull market

But what didn’t come crashing to a stop…the Red Cross. 

That same day, President of the American Red Cross Gail McGovern, issued a long memo to all Red Cross volunteers.

In it, she detailed how we would be making all sorts of changes to our day-to-day operations, but what would not change, was our mission to deliver services to those in need.

Blood drives needed to be rescheduled as many businesses closed down, but the need for blood didn’t slow down. By finding larger venues where people could be scheduled and kept socially distanced, the flow of blood continued.

Fires and disasters didn’t stop, but our Humanitarian Services division devised new ways to house people in motels instead of congregate shelters, and our Disaster Action Teams learned to respond virtually using electronic funds transfers to get money quickly into the hands of those left homeless from fires and floods. 

As the rest of the world came to a virtual standstill one year ago today, the Red Cross quickly pivoted to maintain our services to those most in need. If you’d like to help, consider becoming a volunteer or make a contribution to the Red Cross to support our ongoing mission to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies. 

Edited by Glenda Bogar, Red Cross Volunteer