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

Excessive heat a reminder to enjoy the end of summer safely

Although fall is right around the corner, you’d never know it from the recent high temperatures we’ve been experiencing in northern Ohio. Many people don’t realize excessive heat causes more deaths than all other weather events. As many of us squeeze in our final summer activities in the coming weeks, remember to stay safe when temperatures rise.

June 27, 2021. Talent, Oregon. Red Cross volunteer Chuck Albin delivering water and snacks to a cooling center in Talent, Oregon. Photo by Patty Albin/American Red Cross

Hot cars can be deadly so never leave children or pets in your vehicle. The inside temperature of the car can quickly reach 120 degrees. 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. If someone doesn’t have air conditioning, they should seek relief from the heat during the warmest part of the day in places such as schools, libraries, theaters and malls.

And, don’t forget your pets! Read our recent blog on how to protect your pets during extreme heat. Also, download the Red Cross Pet First Aid app so you’re prepared in a pet emergency.

Extreme heat can often lead to thunderstorms and power outages. If thunder roars, go indoors! Watch for darkening skies, lightning flashes or increasing wind. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning. Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are likely to occur. If a severe thunderstorm warning is issued, take shelter in a substantial building or in a vehicle with the windows closed. If you are in a building, keep away from windows. Get out of mobile homes as they can blow over in high winds and do not take a bath, shower or use plumbing.

Wishing everyone a safe and enjoyable end of summer!

Keep an eye on your pets in this heat

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

Here we are, still in the dog days of summer. If you’re not sweating out heat and humidity today, you’re likely to again before we slide into the cooler days of fall.

But what about our furry friends, our dogs and cats? Do they sweat the misery of hot, humid weather?

Actually, dogs and cats do sweat to cool off. And their fur acts as insulation.

But pets rely on us, “their people,” to behave like the “alpha animals” in their lives and protect them from the worst of summer.

“The American Red Cross focuses on the welfare of human beings, but we know how important pets are to people,” said Dr. Eve Schaming,  veterinarian at Sagamore Hills Animal Hospital in Summit County.  “That’s why we want to help folks prevent heat-related issues with their animals.”

Provide plenty of fresh water. To avoid pet heat exhaustion, make sure your pets have plenty of cool, fresh water and access to shade all day long.

Never leave your pet in the car. And no, cracking the window open or parking in the shade doesn’t count! The inside of a vehicle can reach 120 degrees in a matter of minutes, which puts an animal in real danger.

And watch the humidity. Just like humans, our pets sweat or pant to cool off, but high humidity slows that process down.

The Red Cross offers these steps to treat heat stroke in dogs:

  • Get your animal out of direct heat.
  • Check for signs of shock, which include: collapse, body temperature of more than 104, bloody diarrhea or vomit, stupor, seizures or coma, excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, salivation.
  • Take your dog’s temperature.
  • Spray your dog with cool water and then retake its temperature.
  • Put water-soaked towels on the dog’s head, neck, feet, chest and abdomen; turn on a fan an point it in the dog’s direction; rub isopropyl alcohol (70%) on the foot pads, but don’t use large quantities.
  • Take your dog to the nearest veterinarian. The effects of heat stroke may not show up right away.

Pay special attention to older animals and to dogs with shorter noses (like pugs, boxers and bulldogs). They’re at greater risk for heat stroke.

Protect your pet’s paws from hot surfaces. Walk your pet in the grass or the shade whenever possible. If the pavement is too hot for your bare feet, it’s too hot for your pet’s paws! If it needs to go outside on a hard surface to “do its business,” try wetting the surface with a hose or water bottle to help cool it off.

Don’t overdo outdoor exercise. Often, dogs don’t know when they need a break, so it’s up to us, “their people,” to stop for regular shaded breaks and offer water. Try to plan your walks, hikes or runs during the cooler times of day. (Better for you too!)

Whether it’s hot or not, check with your vet to see if your pets should be taking heartworm prevention medication. Heartworm disease, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, can be fatal to both dogs and cats.

The Humane Society of the United States says fleas and ticks are another summer threat. Only use flea and tick treatments recommended by your vet; some over-the-counter product can be toxic, even when used according to directions.

You can have first aid advice for everyday pet emergencies at your fingertips by downloading the Red Cross Pet First Aid App from smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or by going to redcross.org/apps.

Pet owners can also access the Red Cross Cat and Dog First Aid online course on a desktop or tablet at redcross.org/catdogfirstaid. The 35-minute course covers:

  • How to determine a pet’s normal vital signs so you can spot something that’s out of the ordinary;
  • Step-by-step instructions for what to do if a pet is choking, needs CPR, has a wound or is having a seizure; and
  • Information on preventative care, health and tips for a pet’s well-being.

My neighbor’s dog, Nap, thanks you. And so does my son’s cat, Spike.

Northern Ohio Region weekend disaster response report: July 17-18, 2021

Over the weekend, the American Red Cross was once again very active responding to calls across Northern Ohio and assisting residents who have suffered a local disaster.

IMG_5580

During the weekend of July 17-18, the Red Cross responded to 9 incidents across the region, including home fires and flooding. The disaster team assisted 15 adults and 11 children, and provided more than $5,5000 in immediate financial assistance.

While many of us hear “disaster” and think of large events like wildfires and hurricanes, local disasters are where much of our response happens. In fact, every 24 hours, on average, the Northern Ohio Red Cross responds to three home fires, as well as floods and severe storms. Red Cross volunteers are on call and ready to respond 24/7 when a disaster strikes. After emergency personnel, these individuals are often some of the first people to be on scene at a disaster. They assess the victims’ needs and ensure they have food, clothing, shelter and other services to help take the first steps to recovery.

The Red Cross is committed to helping our community prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies. We are able to make a difference in our local communities because of the generosity of our donors and support of our volunteers.

If you would like to provide a financial donation to assist the Red Cross’ efforts to support the residents of Northern Ohio, visit redcross.org/donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. If you cannot support the Red Cross monetarily but you are interested in making an impact in your local community, the Red Cross is always looking for volunteers. To volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer to learn more and sign up.

Emergency preparedness programs remain virtual

 A variety of virtual programs being offered online to help you better prepare for emergencies

Despite pandemic restrictions being lifted in so many areas of our daily lives, our efforts to be sure you can Be Red Cross Ready remain available to you free of charge, and from the comfort of your own home.

Be Red Cross Ready is a national, standardized, FREE preparedness education curriculum for adults taught by certified presenters. The program is designed to help people understand, prepare for and respond appropriately to disasters big and small.

“We offer people good reminders about being prepared and staying safe,” said John Gareis, Regional Preparedness Manager. “It’s common sense information that people may not think about, like not opening a door when there’s fire burning on the other side.”

John said attendance numbers vary. He said 175 employees of First Energy were in attendance during one of the emergency preparedness sessions.

All you need is a laptop or smart phone to access the online classroom. This month, topics being covered include General Preparedness and Tornado Safety, Summer Fire Safety Tips, Smoke Alarm Safety, and Summer Pet Safety.

Visit our calendar of events to view the days and times for each session, and visit our website for more information on each topic.

4th of July: Red Cross issues tips for everyone to have a safe holiday

As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day this weekend, many people plan to attend fireworks displays, a backyard picnic, or just enjoy the outdoors. The American Red Cross wants you to enjoy a fun-packed, safe holiday and offers these tips you can follow over the upcoming holiday:

FIREWORKS SAFETY

The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public firework show put on by professionals. Cities and towns across Northern Ohio are hosting events with fireworks throughout the weekend. Click the links below to find a celebration near you.

While attending, stay at least 500 feet away from the show. Leave any area immediately where untrained amateurs are using fireworks. If you are setting fireworks off at home, follow these safety steps:

  • Never give fireworks to small children, and never throw or point a firework toward people, animals, vehicles, structures or flammable materials. Always follow the instructions on the packaging.
  • Keep a supply of water close by as a precaution.
  • Make sure the person lighting fireworks always wears eye protection.
  • Light only one firework at a time and never attempt to relight “a dud.”
  • Store fireworks in a cool, dry place away from children and pets.

PICNIC SAFETY

  • Don’t leave food out in the hot sun. Keep perishable foods in a cooler with plenty of ice or freezer gel packs.
  • Wash your hands before preparing the food.
  • If you are going to grill, always supervise when in use. Don’t add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited. Use the long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill to keep the chef safe.
  • Never grill indoors. Keep the grill out in the open, away from the house, the deck, tree branches or anything that could catch fire. 
  • Make sure everyone, including pets, stays away from the grill.

HEAT SAFETY

  • Hot cars can be deadly. Never leave children or pets in your vehicle. The inside temperature of the car can quickly reach 120 degrees. Check on animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat. Make sure they have plenty of cool water and shade.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays.
  • 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. If someone doesn’t have air conditioning, they should seek relief from the heat during the warmest part of the day in places like schools, libraries, theaters, malls, etc.

DOWNLOAD OUR APPS. The Red Cross app “Emergency” can help keep you and your loved ones safe with real-time alerts, open Red Cross shelter locations and safety advice. The Red Cross First Aid app provides instant access to information on handling the most common emergencies. Download these apps for free by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ in your app store or at redcross.org/apps.

Follow COVID-19 Guidelines

Remember to review the latest COVID-19 pandemic guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with your family before you head out.

We hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable 4th of July!

Vaccinated and ready to travel?

Here are some things to check before you leave Northern Ohio

By: Doug Bardwell, Red Cross Volunteer

Travel restrictions have just been lifted for those who want to go to Europe, so it appears that travel season is about to switch into high gear here in Northern Ohio.  If you are planning a trip out of the country, there are a number of points you’ll want to check to ensure that it is a safe and enjoyable experience.   

Does your hospitalization cover you when you travel?  Some only work in this country, and some only with certain health organizations. Here’s a good reference. 

Driving? Will your car insurance cover you when you cross into Canada (probably) or into Mexico (probably not). Be sure to call your agent and verify. You also need to check if you’ll be renting a car – most local policies don’t cover rentals abroad.

And don’t forget to check very specifically about your cellphone rates outside the country. Many people didn’t check first, only to find out that international rates added thousands to their cellphone bill.   

Check your credit cards. Some issue surcharges for international transactions, while others do not. Also, avoid travelers’ cash exchanges at airports, which usually offer less advantageous conversion rates than banks in town.

Be sure to notify your credit card company about when you plan to be out of town (even in this country), so your cards are not held up pending “fraud protection” while you try to prove it’s really you buying shoes in Guadalajara.

Are you up to date on your vaccinations, malaria shots, tetanus shots, etc. Let your county health care professional know where you’ll be traveling and see if any additional shots are required. Here’s the link to Cuyahoga County’s board of health, but each county should have their own.

Are there any travel advisories issued by our State Department for the countries you plan to visit? You can sign up there for travel advisories.

Before you go, photograph or scan your passport, immunization record, any important medical information and emergency numbers for your credit cards and bank. Put it on a small USB flash drive that you can hide in your socks, just in case you are robbed.  Also leave a duplicate of the information with a friend or relative who is not traveling with you.

Lastly, before you go, make a blood donation appointment.  There’s a severe shortage right now, and the need is great.  If you’ve never donated before, you can load the Red Cross Blood app on your phone, and shortly after your donation, you’ll know what blood type you are. Then, while you are traveling, rest easy, knowing your donation can save up to three lives.

Click here for a printable checklist when you start your travel planning.

Celebrate safely this July 4th!

By: Chris Chmura, Red Cross Volunteer

We usually take our summers seriously in Northeast Ohio, but this year is extra special due to COVID-19 restrictions easing and life normalizing a little. 

The Fourth of July is right around the corner, a time when people typically enjoy the summer holiday with backyard barbecues, fireworks, or water fun.  Independence Day will be different due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which could be a little tricky because of the mixed rates of vaccinated Ohioans across the region.  The American Red Cross offers safety tips you can follow to help you enjoy and stay safe during the Fourth of July.

“We know the summertime, particularly the time around the 4th of July, is a great time to get together with friends and family,” said Dr. Austin Wellock, Medical Director, Emergency Department at Summa Health System – Akron Campus. “It’s important to know there can be dangers associated with some everyday outdoor activities. Around this time each year, we see patients in our emergency departments for fireworks related injuries and food illnesses.”

As communities reopening with events, inform yourself of precautions and new regulations that are being set to attend in public settings.

If you have not been vaccinated, you may want to continue to social distance by staying 6 feet away from others, especially if you are at high risk for serious illness from COVID-19 (over age 65 or any age with underlying medical conditions).  If you are vaccinated, educate yourself about the events your planning to attend through their websites and contact numbers. 

  1. Some events may have attendees and/or working staff continue to wear cloth face coverings in public. Face coverings are most essential when social distancing is difficult.  If vaccinated, you might be free or required to wear a mask.
  2. Follow guidelines for your area when it comes to how large gatherings can be. Avoid crowds and mass gatherings if you are not comfortable.
  3. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
  4. Stay home if you are sick.

FIREWORKS SAFETY

Many of last year’s public fireworks shows were canceled across Northern Ohio last summer as communities tried to avoid holding events with large crowds. If you plan to attend a public show this year, we suggest educating yourself on the event that you plan to attend because each city/county may have different restrictions.  Each state have various laws related to personal use fireworks.

  1. Never give fireworks to small children, and never throw or point a firework toward people, animals, vehicles, structures, or flammable materials. Always follow the instructions on the packaging.
  2. Keep a supply of water close by as a precaution.
  3. Make sure the person lighting fireworks always wears eye protection.
  4. Light only one firework at a time and never attempt to relight “a dud.”
  5. Store fireworks in a cool, dry place away from children and pets.

GRILLING SAFETY

Grilling fires spark more than 10,000 home fires on average each year in the U.S. To avoid this:

  1. Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use. Don’t add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited.
  2. Never grill indoors — not in the house, camper, tent or any enclosed area.
  3. Make sure everyone, stays away from the grill, including children and pets.
  4. Keep the grill away from the house or anything that could catch fire. 
  5. Use the long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill.

WATER SAFETY

Warmer weather means enjoying the water. Be “water smart,” have swimming skills and know how to help others. This includes home pools — where young children are most at risk of drowning — and open water, such as ponds, rivers and lakes — where older children and teens are more likely to drown than any other location. With less access to lifeguarded aquatic facilities this summer, youth and teens may consider open water environments that are not designated for swimming.

  1. Talk to your children, including older youth and teenagers, about water safety. A variety of resources are available at redcross.org/watersafety and redcross.org/watersafetyforkids.
  2. If you choose to take your family to the water, make sure the area is designated for swimming and has lifeguards on duty. Once there, maintain social distancing, both in and out of the water, between you and people who don’t live with you.
  3. Wear face coverings on land, especially when physical distancing is difficult. Do not wear them in the water as it may be difficult to breathe. Don’t share goggles, nose clips, snorkels or other personal items.
  4. Designate a water watcher whose sole responsibility is to supervise people during any in-water activity until the next person takes over.
  5. Kiddie or inflatable pools can be a great way to have fun. Drain the water from the pool and flip it over after swim time is over.

DOWNLOAD RED CROSS APPS The Red Cross offers a series of free mobile apps to put lifesaving safety information in the palm of your hand. Download these apps by searching for “American Red Cross” in your app store or at redcross.org/apps.

  • The Red Cross Swim App has water safety tips and resources for parents and caregivers along with child-friendly games, videos and quizzes.
  • The Red Cross Emergency App can help keep you and your loved ones safe by putting vital information in your hand for more than 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts.
  • The Red Cross First Aid App puts instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies at your fingertips.

Hurricane season begins

June 1st is the traditional start; wildfires also become more devastating

With hurricane season just getting started, here is the 2021 Atlantic hurricane outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Above-normal storm activity for the second year in a row is being predicted. According to NOAA, the Atlantic could see as many as five major hurricanes this season between June 1 and November 30.

While we live in an area that isn’t typically impacted by hurricanes, we DO send Red Cross volunteers from Northern Ohio into hurricane zones, to help affected residents find safe shelter and to help them with their recovery when the skies clear.

We want to help anyone you may know in storm-prone areas stay safe by following a few simple steps. You can find more safety tips at redcross.org/hurricane and on our free Emergency App (search “American Red Cross” in mobile app stores).

Wildfire risk also high

While wildfires can strike at any time, we’re heading into the time of year when they are most devastating, particularly in the western U.S.

As you’ll see in this outlook, after 2020’s record-setting blazes burned over 10 million acres, extended drought conditions mean many communities across the West are again at high risk for severe wildfires this year. In California, wildfires already have destroyed about triple the average acreage that they usually do by this point in the year.

We are hoping for the best, but are ready to offer safe refuge, nourishing meals, emotional support and other essentials when blazes – and other disasters – force families to flee their homes.

Water safety saves lives: How to stay safe this summer

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff to summer. People head to local pools and beaches to splash and swim. Before hitting the water, be sure you’re water smart.

By Sam Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

Water safety goes beyond just the local swimming pool or lake—it includes rivers, backyard pools, kiddie pools, hot tubs, the ocean and even buckets. It only takes a moment for someone to drown—the time it takes to reply to a text, check the grill or apply sunscreen.

The Red Cross believes by working together to improve swimming skills, water smarts and helping others, countless lives can be saved. Make sure you, your family and loved ones:

  • Learn basic water skills so they can at least enter the water, get a breath, stay afloat, change position, swim a distance then get out of the water safely.
  • Employ layers of protection including barriers to prevent access to water, life jackets, and close supervision of children and weaker swimmers to prevent drowning.

Know what to do in a water emergency—including how to help someone in trouble in the water safely, call for emergency help and CPR.

Photo by Michael Del Polito/American Red Cross © Stock photo taken for the American Red Cross

A history of teaching lifesaving water skills

For over 100 years, the American Red Cross has been teaching people how to swim and training lifeguards through their swimming and water safety programs. The Red Cross was part of the initial effort to train people in the early 1900s when the number of people drowning was on the verge of becoming a national crisis. Many people did not know how to swim and did not have the tools or knowledge we have today about water safety. The effort was led by Wilbert E. Longfellow, a young newspaper reporter, who partnered with the Red Cross to launch a nationwide movement that resulted in a reduction of drowning deaths and allowed more people to enjoy the water safely. Since the program launch in 1914, the Red Cross has taught millions swimming and lifesaving skills.

Photo by Michael Del Polito/American Red Cross © Stock photo taken for the American Red Cross

Lifeguard training

The Red Cross also teaches lifeguard classes for certification and recertification. Courses include lifeguarding, aquatic instructor training, safety training and more.

“The most important thing that we teach in American Red Cross lifeguard classes is not the rescue skills when responding to an emergency, but the ability to recognize potential emergencies before they occur and enabling the lifeguards to prevent them,” said Phillip Hearne, aquatics director at the Hillcrest Family YMCA, where he teaches Red Cross lifeguarding classes. “The most important job of a lifeguard is prevention.”

Watch this video testimonial from Red Cross-trained lifeguards who are employed by the YMCA.

Lifeguard classes enable pools and lakes across Northern Ohio to be safer for their patrons by training the lifeguards that station these areas. They teach lifeguards vital preparation, how to respond to emergencies in a quick manner, as well as how to prevent drownings and injuries.

Whether you are looking for a summer job or are looking for a water safety/swimming class, the Red Cross trains individuals right here in Northern Ohio. Visit redcross.org for more information and to find an upcoming class. And don’t forget to stay safe this summer!


Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer