Candles can cause colossal catastrophes: Tips to ensure a safe holiday glow

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

December 7, 2020- “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

This phrase has been attributed to many people, from Confucius to Eleanor Roosevelt; but neither of them ever manned a Northern Ohio Disaster Action Team and saw the consequences of a candle left burning unattended.

Pulling up to what used to be a beautiful home in Chardon and seeing a giant hole gaping through the roof, was testament to the destructive power of lighting one little candle. In addition, one person was temporarily hospitalized and the family’s pet was lost to the fire. Not the way they anticipated starting the holiday season.

The holiday glow is something everyone loves. Here are nine tips to safely enjoy the holidays:

  1. If you want candles, make them the battery-operated kind.
  2. If you use outdoor lights, make sure the cords aren’t frayed or broken.
  3. When using decorations outside, make sure the cords are rated for outdoor use.
  4. If you get an artificial tree, make sure it has a fire-resistant label attached.
  5. If you get a live tree, make sure it’s fresh and keep it watered. If needles fall off, select another.
  6. If the stockings are hung above the fireplace, don’t light it. Find somewhere else to hang them.
  7. Check for safety labels on other decorations –- some are lead based and some artificial snow is toxic to breathe.
  8. If you climb a ladder to decorate, make sure it’s placed on secure ground and don’t climb higher than recommended.
  9. Check your home’s smoke alarms one more time before the holidays. Replace batteries if needed or replace the alarm if it’s more than 10 years old.

Okay, now you’re less likely to have a problem. How about sharing these tips with your parents or elder relatives? They are more likely to have old ornaments and lights that should have been replaced years ago. They’ll be grateful that you took an interest in their safety.

For even more safety preparation ideas, download and check out the free Red Cross Emergency app, for either iOS or Android, available from app stores. Then, light that one little battery-operated candle and have a happy holiday season!

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

December’s Be Red Cross Ready presentations focus on winter, holiday, pet, and COVID-19 safety

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer.

December 1, 2020- As I write this, our first winter storm of the season taps at the window as the wind begins to wail. Appropriately, this post concerns this month’s Be Red Cross Ready presentations. These free, one-hour, online presentations are available to everyone. They offer tips and advice on how to prevent and respond to disasters.

The American Red Cross helps everyone prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters year-round. Additionally, winter and the holiday season pose unique challenges, and we continue to face a global pandemic. The expertise offered in these presentations is designed to help.

The first presentation of the month, General Preparedness & Home Fire Safety, is offered today at 3:00 p.m. The General Preparedness portion helps families prepare for emergencies of all kinds, while the Fire Safety portion focuses on how home fires happen and steps to help avoid them. 

Many of us across Northern Ohio will face the first significant snowfall of the season this week. It is quite timely, then, that the 2nd is the date of the General Preparedness & Winter Safety session. General Preparedness will focus on preparing for all types of emergencies, while Winter Safety helps us deal with winter storms and avoid being victims. This would be an excellent, timely session to join as the snow flies. A similar session, General Preparedness & Winter Storm Safety will take place on the 10th.

To help ensure pets are safe this winter, the Red Cross offers three Winter Pet Safety presentations in December. These sessions remind dog and cat owners of potential hazards and suggest precautions that will help keep pets safe. The presentation also provides emergency care tips to take until veterinary assistance is available. Signs of a healthy pet is also discussed, so owners are better prepared to recognize health problems early.

Home Safety is critically important throughout the year, and the Holiday Season presents additional risks and concerns. To better help participants and their families stay safe, four presentations on Holiday Home Safety are offered this month. These sessions focus on avoiding mishaps during the season and offer advice on general preparedness.

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

While December is a time of gatherings and celebrations, the COVID-19 pandemic is surging, and we must all focus on reducing its spread. Three Holiday Gatherings & COVID presentations are offered this month. These sessions focus on how the coronavirus is still very much around us and what actions can be taken during holiday gatherings to keep our families 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 Prepare20. All times are Eastern Standard.

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

Safety tips to remain safe celebrating Thanksgiving during the COVID-19 pandemic

By Chris Chmura, American Red Cross volunteer

November 18, 2020- So are you planning to celebrate your Thanksgiving holiday this year over a Zoom meeting?

It sounds like a crazy idea, but that is one of the low risk suggestions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

We all must make the personal decision to cancel our in-person gatherings, greatly reduce the size of our events, and/or get creative to move forward with plans. Our Northern Ohio weather can be unpredictable to move our Thanksgiving outdoors, but it can be done.

Millions of people may still celebrate their Thanksgiving by cooking a special meal. The American Red Cross would like to offer some suggestions:

  1. Place hand sanitizer, a basket of disposable masks and disinfectant wipes by the entry door and in bathrooms for your visitors to use during your celebration.
  2. Try to limit or even avoid close personal contact like handshakes and hugs.
  3. Suggest that everyone RSVP with any food allergies, special dietary needs or cultural/lifestyle requests. 
  4. Ask your visitors to wash their hands consistently, respect each other with the recommended six-foot spacing and promote use of masks. You could lead by example to help motivate your group.
  5. Limit the amount of people in the cooking area to reduce the chance of individuals from being burned with hot appliances, reduce injury around cutting stations and help reduce the stress levels of the people preparing food. 
  6. Leverage oven mitts and items designed to carry hot plates/serving bowls vs. using dish towels, which can result in bad burns.
  7. Use prepackaged snacks, sealed drinks and individually prepare meals to avoid buffet style food serving.
  8. When using a turkey fryer, do not use frozen turkeys, which could cause hot oil to spill onto heating sources resulting in a fire. Select a safe space for your turkey fryer to control access from attendees, avoid outdoor decks that can catch fire and never cook indoors with a propane fryer. A very limited type of electric fryer can be used indoors, so you would need to consult the manufacturer’s instructions.   
  9. Limit and control alcohol consumption to safe levels. You could offer to drive your guests home, call a taxi or order an Uber when sending your invitations.
  10. Download Red Cross Apps to access useful information on first aid for people and pets to weather emergencies.
  11. Review your first aid kit, make sure your medicine is up to date, consider purchasing an Automated External Defibrillators (AED) for your home and place your supplies in a common area to be prepared. The Red Cross offers first aid kits for purchase or can help you create your own.
  12. Sharpen your CPR skills and learn more about first aid skills by taking Red Cross training.
  13.  Inform your host if you are not feeling well after attending the Thanksgiving party to keep other guests informed. 

Some families may choose to cancel their plans this year to stay safe. Donating to the Red Cross is a wonderful way to take a negative and turn it into a positive.   

Stay up to date on Red Cross disaster alerts, preparedness tips and ways to get involved. Simply provide your email address to start receiving updates. Sign up at https://www.redcross.org/subscribe.html.

Be safe, healthy and have an enjoyable holiday season.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Pushing one button could save a life – will you do it?

More than 65% of your friends won’t

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

October 5, 2020- It’s National Fire Prevention Week from October 4 – 10, and as a nation, we are woefully underprepared for an emergency. Home fires haven’t stopped since COVID-19 started, and American Red Cross volunteers still answer four fire calls per day on average in Northern Ohio.

A new 2020 national Red Cross survey shows most of us aren’t taking the steps to protect ourselves.

So, what are those things you aren’t doing?

  • Push the button to test your smoke alarms each month helps ensure that they’re working — which can cut the risk of dying in a home fire by half. Still, 65% of us don’t.
  • Practicing your escape plan twice a year also increases the odds of survival. But 70% of us don’t.
  • Escaping in less than two minutes can be the difference between survival and tragedy, according to fire experts. Yet more than half of us think we have more time.

It’s not that difficult, so how about today?

Here’s a quick to do list you might want to print out:

  1. Make sure you have smoke detectors on each level of your home, preferably inside and outside your bedrooms. If they are more than 10 years old, new batteries won’t help, they need to be replaced.
  2. Insure there are two escape paths from every room in your house. If there aren’t, seriously consider your alternatives.
  3. Have a meeting place for your family to rendezvous after a fire so everyone is accounted for.
  4. Practice emergency escape drills to make sure everyone can exit and meet outside in less than two minutes.
  5. Make sure young children recognize the sound of a fire alarm and, just as importantly, what you expect them to do if they hear one.

Many Northern Ohio fires could have been prevented

Being a disaster services responder, I hate to say it, but most of the calls I respond to in our region could have been prevented.

  • A kitchen fire that started while the cook went to watch TV.
  • A candle left in a room unattended, that the dog knocked over.
  • A child with a candle on their bedside table.
  • An electric fryer with a frayed cord.
  • A wheelchair patient smoking while on oxygen.
  • An electric heater placed too near a pile of clothes.
  • An electric heater left in the attic while away at work.

If any of those sound familiar – STOP IT!  Download the Red Cross Emergency app, tap Prepare, and then tap Home Fire.  You’ll find all sorts of helpful hints, which will benefit you and your family. Then help us prevent the tens of thousands of home fires we respond to annually by making a donation. Learn more about our fire prevention efforts and join the Home Fire Campaign.

Get emergency answers from your pocket with Red Cross apps

By Jason Copsey, American Red Cross volunteer

August 17, 2020- Preparation is the key to staying safe when disaster strikes. The American Red Cross continually promotes disaster preparedness measures, and offers a wide range of resources to help everyone stay as safe as possible during disaster season.

Red Cross mobile safety apps are powerful tools designed to place potentially life-saving resources in the palm of your hand. These free, easy to use mobile apps offer services that range from day to day useful information such as scheduling blood donations and common first aid, to disaster response information to keep you safe when you need it most.

The Emergency app is particularly helpful during disaster season, when weather is at its worst. Early warning is one of the most critical elements of any preparedness plan. With the Emergency app, users can monitor more than 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts.  The app features expert advice on what to do in case of hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, home fires, wildfires and more.

The Emergency app’s Family Safe feature allows users to notify loved ones in an affected area of an impending emergency or high-risk event. Recipients receive alert details, including specific safety recommendations, and can respond to indicate they are either safe or in need of assistance. This feature works even if the recipient has not downloaded the Emergency app.

Tennessee Tornadoes 2020

March 4, 2020. Nashville, Tennessee. Northern Ohio Red Cross volunteer, Doug Bardwell, reviews the damage caused by the destructive tornado on this neighborhood. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

The app also provides emergency first aid detail for heart attacks, heat-related emergencies, water safety information and more. Preloaded content ensures users can access guidance even if connectivity is lost.

The free Emergency App is available at redcross.org/apps. Or, you can text: “GETEMERGENCY” to 90999.

Other Red Cross mobile apps include disaster-specific tools for users who live in geographies where certain risks are more common. These apps include Tornado, Flood, Hurricane and Earthquake. Each of these offer English and Spanish language options and are available at redcross.org/apps.

To learn more about the free mobile apps offered by the Red Cross, visit https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/mobile-apps.html.

Red Cross issues heat safety tips as temperatures climb

By Jim McIntyre, Regional Communications Manager, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

June 10, 2020- It’s hot out there and the soaring temperatures can be dangerous. The American Red Cross has steps people can follow to help stay safe when it’s hot outside.

heat wave

 

NEVER LEAVE CHILDREN OR PETS IN YOUR VEHICLE. The inside temperature of the car can quickly reach 120 degrees. Other heat safety steps include:

  • Stay hydrated, drink plenty of fluids. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors as they absorb the sun’s rays.
  • Slow down, stay indoors. Avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.
  • Postpone outdoor games and activities.
  • Use a buddy system when working in excessive heat. Take frequent breaks if working outdoors.
  • Check on family, friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, who spend much of their time alone or who are more likely to be affected by the heat.

Centennial Campaign 2015

HEAT EXHAUSTION Excessive heat can lead to sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. If someone is experiencing heat cramps in the legs or abdomen, get them to a cooler place, have them rest, lightly stretch the affected muscle, and replenish their fluids with a half a glass (about 4 ounces) of cool water every 15 minutes.

If someone is exhibiting signs of heat exhaustion (cool, moist, pale or flushed skin, heavy sweating, headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness exhaustion), move them to a cooler place, remove or loosen tight clothing and spray the person with water or apply cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin. Fan the person. If they are conscious, give small amounts of cool water to drink. Make sure the person drinks slowly. Watch for changes in condition. If the person refuses water, vomits or begins to lose consciousness, call 9-1-1.

HEAT STROKE IS LIFE-THREATENING. Signs include hot, red skin which may be dry or moist; changes in consciousness; vomiting and high body temperature. Call 9-1-1 immediately if someone shows signs of heat stroke. Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the person’s body by immersing them up to their neck in cold water if possible. Otherwise, douse or spray the person with cold water, or cover the person with cold, wet towels or bags of ice.

Hurricane Harvey 2017

DON’T FORGET YOUR PETS Check on animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat. Make sure they have plenty of shade and cool water.

  • Animals can suffer heat stroke, a common problem for pets in the warmer weather. Some of the signs of heat stroke in your pet are:
    • Heavy panting and unable to calm down, even when lying down.
    • Brick red gum color
    • Fast pulse rate
    • Unable to get up.
  • If you suspect your pet has heat stroke, take their temperature rectally.
    • If the temperature is above 105 degrees, cool the animal down. The easiest way to do this is by using the water hose. Stop cooling the animal when the temperature reaches 103 degrees.
    • Bring your pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible as heat stroke can lead to severe organ dysfunction and damage.

LEARN MORE

The Red Cross has several resources for people to learn how to treat heat emergencies including online and in-person training courses, a free First Aid App and Pet First Aid App, and a First Aid Skill for Amazon Alexa-enabled devices.

Red Cross urges Northeast Ohio residents to practice and prepare for future disasters

COVID-19 social distancing measures provide opportunity to be prepared

 By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

March 23, 2020 — As individuals and families remain at home at a higher rate due to the COVID-19 outbreak and social distancing measures, the American Red Cross is urging all Northeast Ohio residents to take the time to prepare for future disasters.

Sound the Alarm Event in Capitol Heights, Maryland 2019

Here are some safety tips to practice and follow while everyone is home together:

Home Fire Safety

Home Fire Save Story Birmingham, Alabama 2019

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
  • Test smoke alarms every month. If they’re not working, change the batteries.
  • Talk with all family members about a home fire escape plan, make sure everyone has two exits out of every room.
  • Practice your fire escape plan and have everyone meet at the designated safe location. Make sure everyone escapes in two minutes or less.

Flood Safety

2002 Tropical Storm Isidore

Tornado Safety

Tennessee Tornadoes 2020

  • Talk about tornadoes with your family so that everyone knows where to go if a tornado warning is issued.
  • Ensure you have access to NOAA Radio broadcasts.
  • Prepare a pet emergency kit for your furry friends.

Thunderstorm Safety

  • Discuss thunderstorm safety and lightning safety with all members of your household.
  • Pick a safe place in your home for household members to gather during a thunderstorm. This should be away from windows, skylights and glass doors.
  • Make a list of items to bring inside in the event of a severe thunderstorm.

Sound the Alarm Event in Capitol Heights, Maryland 2019

Visit redcross.org to learn more emergency preparedness tips to ensure you and your family are Red Cross ready. Be sure to download the free Red Cross mobile apps, available in the Apple App Store or Google Play, for tools and preparedness information you need every day.

Give something that truly means something this holiday season- Give blood!

By Christy Peters, External Communications Manager, Northern Ohio Biomedical Services

December 16, 2019- The American Red Cross urgently needs donors of all blood types to donate blood or platelets and be the lifeline patients need this holiday season.

Monroe Carell Jr Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, Nashville, Tennessee 2019

The need for blood doesn’t take a holiday.

This holiday season there are thousands of patients who will be in the hospital instead of enjoying holiday parties, finishing their shopping or preparing for family gatherings. They’re counting on blood and platelet donors for their treatments.

Blood bank Campaign ceremony 2017

But a decline in donations occurs from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day when donors are busy with holiday activities and travel. Donors of all blood types, especially platelet donors and those with type O blood, are urgently needed to ensure a sufficient supply for patients.

Blood Donation in Murray, Utah 2014

Join the Red Cross at one of several holiday blood drives happening in northeast Ohio and help save lives this holiday season:

Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019

Cuyahoga Falls Holiday Blood Drive

Sheraton Suites Akron/Cuyahoga Falls

1989 Front St., Cuyahoga Falls, 44221

7 a.m.-7 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019

Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse Blood Drive

The Atrium

1 Center Court, Cleveland, 44115

8 a.m.-2 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 20, 2019

Mahoning Valley Holiday Blood Drive

Stambaugh Auditorium, 1000 5th Ave., Youngstown

Packard Music Hall, 1703 Mahoning Ave., Warren

9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Monday, Dec. 23, 2019

Hilton Garden Inn Twinsburg Holiday Blood Drive

8971 Wilcox Dr., Twinsburg, 44087

7 a.m.-7 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020

Landerhaven Blood Drive

Executive Caterers at Landerhaven

6111 Landerhaven Dr., Mayfield Heights, 44124

7 a.m.-7 p.m.

Bloodmobile Blood Drive Columbia, South Carolina 2018

During the season of giving, please make time to give the gift of life. Appointments can be made by downloading the free 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.

Safety advice for Halloween

Trick-or-treaters will be out tonight in some communities

Halloween is just days away! Masses of kids will be out in our neighborhoods, dressed as super heroes, cartoon and television characters for trick or treat fun. The American Red Cross has complied a list tips parents can follow to help keep the kids safe while enjoying the festivities.

California Wildfires 2017

  1. Trick-or-treaters need to see and be seen.
    – Use face makeup instead of masks which make seeing difficult.
    – Give trick-or-treaters a flashlight to light their way.
    – Add reflective tape to costumes and trick-or-treat bags.
    – Have everyone wear light-colored clothing.
  2. Use flame-resistant costumes.
  3. Make sure adults know where the kids are going. A parent or responsible adult should accompany young children door-to-door.
  4. Be cautious around animals, especially dogs.
  5. Walk, don’t run.
  6. Only visit homes that have a porch light on. Accept treats at the door – never go Superstorm Sandy 2012inside.
  7. Walk only on the sidewalks, not in the street.
    – If no sidewalk is available, walk at the edge of the roadway, facing traffic.
    – Look both ways before crossing the street, and cross only at the corner.
    – Don’t cut across yards or use alleys.
    – Don’t cross between parked cars.
    – Drivers – use extra caution. The youngsters may forget to look both ways before crossing.
  8. A grown-up should check the goodies before eating.
    – Make sure to remove loose candy, open packages and choking hazards.
    – Discard any items with brand names that you are not familiar with.

If you are planning to welcome trick-or-treaters to your home, follow these safety steps:

  1. Light the area well so young visitors can see.
  1. Sweep leaves from your sidewalks and steps. Clear your porch or front yard of obstacles someone could trip over. If your steps or walkways are ice covered, make sure to lay down salt- this is Northeast Ohio after all!

Superstorm Sandy 2012

Trick or treat times vary; many communities have established tonight as the night for trick or treating, including Akron, Cuyahoga Falls and Ravenna. Visit your city’s website for exact dates and times, or visit this for a pretty extensive list.

Superstorm Sandy 2012

Download the free Red Cross First Aid App for instant access to expert first aid advice right at your fingertips. Use the free app Emergency for weather alerts and to let others know you are safe if severe weather occurs. Find these and all of the Red Cross apps in smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.

Get ready for emergencies during National Preparedness Month

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

August 30, 2019- Are you ready for an extended power outage? Could you, for example, provide your family with food and water for two weeks if the unthinkable happened?

As Hurricane Dorian approaches the southeast coast of the U.S., with potentially 50,000 people in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina in need of emergency shelter, the importance of getting prepared for any possible emergency is clear.

preparedness month 1

Most Clevelanders don’t expect a hurricane. But do you remember the power grid problems that once plagued us, right here in Northern Ohio?

Think back to August 2003

Eight U.S. states and Ontario, Canada, were left without power for up to two weeks when a power grid failure started outside Cleveland, Ohio, on Aug. 14, 2003. One of the first, dire side effects in Cleveland was that people in higher elevations would only have a three-hour supply of water.

Electric pumps could not deliver replacement water to the municipal water towers. Gas pumps did not work. Elevators did not work. Traffic lights did not work. Cash registers did not work. ATMs did not work. Business came to a halt.

Stores in my neighborhood were sold out of water and batteries in less than three hours; and they only accepted buyers with cash.

It was 14 days before all 55 million affected residents had their power restored. How would you fare if that happened today?

In honor of National Preparedness Month this September, we propose five simple tips to get ready:

  1. We are so dependent on our cellphones that you really need to consider having a backup battery source. Keeping a charged, high-capacity battery pack, like one of these, can recharge your phone multiple times.
  2. Personal emergency lights like the Red Cross Blackout Buddy are always charged and can provide a nightlight option.
  3. Do you know how to open your garage door if the power goes out? Most garage doors are controlled by an automatic garage door opener, which won’t work without electricity. However, just about all have a pull chain or cord that will release the door so you can operate it manually. Learn how it works before the power goes out.
  4. If a power surge hits your home, it could fry your computer’s hard drive and you could lose all your documents and photos. Do you keep copies of important items “in the cloud” on one of the free online storage applications like Dropbox, OneDrive or Google Backup and Sync? Even if your computer is destroyed or lost, those files will always be available at a later date if stored in the cloud.
  5. Portable camp stoves come in a variety of sizes and prices. Having one on hand is great if you need to boil water for baby bottles or to make coffee or oatmeal. Many have multiple burners that can cook entire dinners. Use only outside with good ventilation.

If you’ve read this far – congratulations. To be even better prepared, watch the video, download the   and read more here. The question isn’t, “Could it happen again?” The question is, “When will it happen again?” However, the most important question is, “Will you be ready?”

Edited Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer