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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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
As tornadoes began touching down around my son’s home in Nashville again this year, my mind wandered back to the massive spring tornado damage I saw there last year. It also made me start thinking more about tornado preparedness for Northern Ohio.
We live in a development of all frame homes, built on concrete slabs, with no basements. If you had asked me where I would head in case of a tornado, my answer for years would have been our interior master bathroom.
WRONG –and since I’ve started researching it, I’ve compiled a list of myths and mistakes most people make about tornadoes.
Huddle in the southwest corner of your basement because most tornadoes come from that direction. Actually, tornadoes can come from any direction, including circling back on themselves.
Basements are the safest places to be. Generally true, but consider this: when picking a location in the basement, don’t let it be under something huge on the first floor, like a piano, refrigerator or giant entertainment center which could crush you. I saw lots of homes in Tennessee where everything that didn’t blow away went straight down to the basement.
Open your windows to equalize the pressure. Wrong. Scientists suggest that just isn’t the case. Rather, it can allow more wind inside causing even more damage. Better to spend your time dragging a mattress to put over you wherever you decide to hunker down. Bicycle or motorcycle helmets are also great protection.
The average tornado warning gives you just 13 minutes to prepare. Surprisingly, that’s the best-case scenario. In Tennessee, the massive EF4 tornado hit those homes about 60 seconds after the sirens began to blare.
I don’t need a NOAA weather radio because I’ll hear the sirens. Many people have reported not hearing the sirens at all due to thunder and strong winds blowing the opposite direction, pushing the sound away from their homes.
A great safe spot is your interior bathroom with no windows. That’s what I thought until I inspected it more closely. We have a counter-to-ceiling, eight-foot-wide mirror above our vanity that could become one giant guillotine if that wall were to buckle in a tornado. Secondly, we have two glass sliding doors on a walk-in shower. Bad location.
Packing candles in your emergency bag since batteries can die of old age. Bad for two reasons. Should your house get hit by a tornado, there’s a good chance that the gas lines in your home have been compromised and you don’t want to chance an explosion. Secondly, a wind-up NOAA Alert radio/flashlight/cellphone charger like this or this, is much more useful.
Many people keep their emergency kit in the garage near their cars. A better place might be to keep the bag in your designated safe spot since you’ll probably have less time to leave in case of a tornado than you would a pending flood or wildfire.
First thing to do in your safe spot is crouch under something heavy and cover your head. Absolutely a great idea, but first, text a loved one with your exact location in the home, so should your home be hit, they could tell first responders exactly where to look for you.
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.
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.
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 clothesand aDisaster Supplies Kitin 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
Daylight Saving Time begins this Sunday, and we all know what that means: Turn the clocks ahead one hour and check every smoke alarm in the house.
That first activity isn’t necessarily fun. Who wants to lose an hour of sleep?
But the second – checking your smoke alarms – is vital! It’s a key part of keeping your family safe from one of the most common disasters, a home fire. In fact, in a typical year, the death toll from home fires is higher than the toll from all natural disasters combined.
Most of us don’t realize we have just two minutes to escape a home fire. That’s why the American Red Cross is preparing families to act quickly through our annual Home Fire Campaign.
If you think home fires only happen to “somebody else,” think again.
“In just one year, the Red Cross was called to help nearly 4,300 people who were driven from their homes by fires in northern Ohio,” said Tim O’Toole, who heads up disaster response for the Red Cross in over 31 northern Ohio counties. And that doesn’t count those who didn’t need Red Cross assistance.
You can help keep your family safe by taking two simple steps:
Think through and practice a two-minute home escape plan with your family. (Don’t forget your pets!)
Test your smoke alarms every month. (No, it’s not enough to test them a couple of times a year.)
To create a worthwhile home fire escape plan, include at least two ways to get out of every room (doors, windows) and then practice it until every member of your family, old and young, can do it in two minutes or less. Teach children what a smoke alarm sounds like and what to do in an emergency. (Don’t hide! And don’t assume it’s a false alarm.)
Working smoke alarms can cut the risk of dying in a home fire by half.
In addition to testing all alarms monthly, change the batteries once a year (if your models use batteries). Check the date on the alarms; if they’re more than 10 years old, they need to be replaced as the sensors get less sensitive over time.
In 2014, the Red Cross began its Home Fire Campaign to join with fire departments and other safety-minded organizations across the country to cut fire-related deaths and injuries by 25%.
Since then, we’ve installed more than 2.1 million free smoke alarms, reached more than 1.6 million children with preparedness programs and made nearly 900,000 households safer with safety education. Most importantly, we’ve documented more than 800 lives saved.
Please do your part, for your family and your community: Make a plan, check your smoke alarms. Visit soundthealarm.org for more information or to get involved.
Edited by Glenda Bogar, 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?”
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.
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:
Does your home have a fire extinguisher that is not expired, in an easily accessible and well known l 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
$250,000 donation to help prepare for, respond to future disasters
The American Red Cross is recognizing Akron-based FirstEnergy Foundation for supporting Red Cross Disaster Relief through the Disaster Responder Program with an annual pledge of $250,000. Thanks to contributions in advance of disasters, the Red Cross is prepared to help meet the needs of people affected by disasters big and small, anytime and anywhere across the U.S.
The gift was presented this week during a virtual check presentation.
Disaster Responder members—along with their employees and customers—pledge financial and in-kind donations in advance of disasters, powering the Red Cross with strong infrastructure, trained volunteers, innovative technology and critical resources necessary to provide relief and support to those in crisis. These annual contributions allow the Red Cross to respond whenever and wherever disasters occur, help families during the recovery process and prepare people for future emergencies.
“Every day in the face of disasters, the generosity of Disaster Responder members like FirstEnergy Foundation ensures the Red Cross can provide comfort and care to people in their darkest hours,” said Michelle Polinko, regional chief development officer at the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio. “We are extremely grateful for these contributions before disasters strike because it enables us to respond to disasters immediately and compassionately, when help and hope are needed most.”
While large disasters like hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and wildfires typically draw national attention, each year, the Red Cross responds to more than 60,000 disasters across the country—the majority of which are home fires. Generous contributions from Disaster Responder members enable the Red Cross to provide services to people in need of assistance at no cost and regardless of income.
And thanks to Disaster Responder members, Red Cross volunteers are also in their local communities every day, conducting disaster preparedness presentations virtually and giving people the reassurance and confidence to face crises of all kinds.
Other Northern Ohio members of the Disaster Responder program include the Marathon Petroleum Foundation, Inc. and the J. M. Smucker Company.
Individuals can help people affected by disasters big and small by making a gift to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Donations to Disaster Relief enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters. Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-REDCROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.