It is time to prepare for spring and summer storm season

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

May 1, 2020- Everyone around the world is understandably focusing on COVID-19 and this new normal we are living. But as we approach the spring and summer storm season, it is important to prepare because emergencies don’t take breaks.

Spring and summer in Northern Ohio ushers in tornado and flood season. This year’s tornado and flood season has already begun to make an impact in the United States.

In what some are calling the deadliest tornado season since 2011, the American Red Cross is responding across multiple states impacted by ongoing severe weather. Hundreds of tornadoes have been reported across the eastern half of the country in April, most of these occurring in the southeast.

Texas Tornadoes 2020

While taking increased precautions during the current public health emergency, the Red Cross is providing shelter, warm meals and emotional support for those with immediate needs after a disaster. Red Cross disaster workers, many of whom are working virtually, are also connecting affected residents to additional community resources to support their recovery.

More than 1,100 people displaced by storms and tornadoes across the Southeast spent Sunday night in 393 hotels across Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. This shelter is made available with the help of our valuable hotel partners and community stakeholders. Overall, more than 13,900 hotel stays have been provided to residents displaced by tornadoes and storms since nationwide COVID-19 social distancing measures were put into place.

The Red Cross has provided more than 45,600 meals and snacks. We are working closely with our hotel partners to ensure distribution follows social distancing and safe food handling protocols.

Texas Tornadoes 2020

To ensure everyone across Northern Ohio is prepared, here are some tornado safety tips:

  • Identify a safe place in your home where everyone, including pets, can gather during a tornado: a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor away from windows.
  • Make sure you have access to NOAA radio broadcasts, through streaming a NOAA radio station, or downloading a NOAA radio app in the Apple Store or Google Play.
  • If you are in a high-rise building during a tornado, pick a hallway in the center of the building.
  • In a manufactured home, choose a safe place in a nearby sturdy building.
  • Make a list of items to bring inside in the event of a storm.

While not common in Northern Ohio, spring and summer also means hurricanes. May 3 to May 9 is considered National Hurricane Awareness Week. Forecasters are warning of an active hurricane season in 2020. Experts are predicting that we could see 20 named storms this year in the Atlantic, making 2020 the second most active season in terms of number of storms.

Texas Tornadoes 2020

If you or a loved one are at a location when a hurricane hits, here are some hurricane preparedness tips:

  • First, talk with your family about what to do if a hurricane strikes. Discussing hurricanes ahead of time helps reduce fear, particularly for young children.
  • Protect windows with permanent storm shutters or one-half-inch marine plywood.
  • Identify a place to store lawn furniture, toys, gardening tools and trash cans.
  • Be prepared to evacuate quickly.
  • Make sure you have plenty of clean water for drinking.
  • Fill bathtubs and sinks with water for flushing the toilet, washing the floor or cleaning clothing.
  • Turn off propane tanks and unplug small appliances.
  • When the hurricane makes landfall, be sure to stay indoors.
  • Avoid contact with floodwater.

For more tips, download the hurricane safety checklist.

Texas Tornadoes 2020

Regardless if you are preparing for a hurricane, a tornado or any other storm, be sure to download the Red Cross Emergency App for instant access to weather alerts for the area and where loved ones live. The Emergency App and all Red Cross apps are available for free download in app stores or at redcross.org/apps.

Spring tornado safety tips with recommended precautions to keep older adults safe

By Jason Copsey, American Red Cross volunteer

April 3, 2020- As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves daily, the American Red Cross faces a spring storm season unlike any other in recent memory. Amidst the dramatic changes everyone is experiencing in their day-to- day lives, some things remain the same: Spring will bring storms, and the Red Cross will be ready to help those impacted by them.

Tennessee Tornadoes 2020

As always, preparation is a critical responsibility we all share. April, May and June are the peak months for tornadoes in the United States, with each month bringing hundreds of events across the country. Although tornadoes are most common in Plains states, they can occur anywhere, at any time.

Last year, an EF2 tornado (with wind speeds of 111 to 135 miles per hour) touched down near Shelby, Ohio, traveling 17 miles across Richland County and leveling multiple homes. Red Cross volunteers provided shelter and assistance to those displaced by the storm.

Tennessee Tornadoes 2020

The Red Cross recommends a number of precautions to keep safe during a weather event that could produce a tornado, including:

  • 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.
  • Move or secure items outside that can be picked up by the wind.

While preparation is critical for everyone, recent research indicates older adults are more vulnerable during weather events compared to other age groups.

Tennessee Tornadoes 2020

A report produced by members of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council and the American Academy of Nursing Policy Expert Round Table on Emergency/Disaster Preparedness for Older Adults identified several factors contributing to the heightened vulnerability of older adults, including:

  • A greater prevalence of chronic conditions, multi-morbidity, cognitive impairment and medication concerns during disasters.
  • A greater dependence on assistive devices (i.e. walkers, glasses) and support requirements, from caregivers and others, during disasters.
  • Likelihood of social isolation.
  • Potential for psychological distress.
  • Gaps in how prepared the caregivers of older persons are, especially those who care for older adults with dementia.

Tennessee Tornadoes 2020

Improving disaster preparedness among older adults, as well as response efforts, is even more important as we move into a 2020 spring storm season dramatically impacted by COVID-19. To help address this need, the report offers recommendations such as:

  • Older adults who are reliant on mobility aids should remove or minimize barriers affecting their ability to evacuate and should take steps to ensure their safety within their surroundings.
  • Programs that provide essential community services and assistance with daily living activities for older people (financial, medical, personal care, food and transportation) should develop plans and protocols related to responding adequately to the needs of their clients during emergencies and disasters.
  • Local governments should leverage data sources, such as registries, that identify at-risk individuals to enable emergency responders to more easily prioritize their search and rescue efforts following an emergency.
  • Healthcare professionals and emergency response personnel should receive training on providing geriatric care relevant to their discipline and how best to assist both older adults and their unpaid caregivers during disasters.

Many more tips to keep yourself and your family and loved ones safe are available at www.redcross.org.

You can also download the Red Cross Emergency App for instant access to emergency alerts, lifesaving information and ways to contact family and friends. Download the app for free in the Apple or Google app stores or at redcross.org/apps

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Vaccines, healthy choices, tissues and the crook of your elbow: Tips to stay safe during flu season

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer 

January 31, 2020- We are in the midst of the flu and respiratory disease season, schools in Northeast Ohio are closing due to student illnesses, and there are concerns about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (see the link below). The Northeast Ohio  Region of the American Red Cross offers information and recommendations to help keep you, your family and those close to you safe.

Flu safety is especially important for those at high risk for flu-related complications, including children over 6 months, pregnant women, those living with a chronic medical condition, anyone living with or caring for someone at high risk, and those age 50 or older. If you are at high risk, update your vaccinations each year as directed by your physician.

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According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), children younger than 6 months are also at high risk of flu complications but are too young to receive a flu vaccine. Due to this, the CDC advises those who live with, care for or are around infants younger than 6 months to take special care to safeguard the child, including getting vaccinated. More information from the CDC is available here.

There are other preventative actions you can take. Foremost is practicing good health habits such as eating a balanced diet, drinking plenty of fluids, exercising, managing stress and getting enough sleep. You can also help stop the spread of germs by frequently washing your hands, covering your mouth and nose with tissues when coughing or sneezing (if a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow), minimizing contact with sick people, avoiding others when you are sick, and adopting business and school practices that encourage those who are sick to stay home.

Philippines 2018

When you or a loved one does get the flu, we recommend taking a number of steps. These include designating one person as the caregiver, keeping everyone’s personal items separate, disinfecting common surfaces, washing dishes in the dishwasher or by hand using very hot water and soap, washing your hands after handling dirty laundry, and wearing disposable gloves when in contact with or cleaning up body fluids. See more Red Cross information here.

Finally, regarding the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, the CDC states its investigation is ongoing and the situation rapidly evolving. Currently, CDC experts say, “While the immediate risk of this new virus to the American public is believed to be low at this time, everyone can do their part to help us respond to this emerging public health threat.” The CDC offers similar recommendations to those outlined above as well as taking flu antiviral medication if prescribed. Special considerations and care need to be taken by healthcare professionals, travelers and those who may have the infection. Information and updates are available on the CDC website.

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Stay safe this flu season. For more information on the Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross, click here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

American Red Cross statement on Novel Coronavirus:

Smoke alarm sounds to save life of Olmsted Township resident

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

January 21, 2020- For many, a smoke alarm might be viewed as an annoyance that sounds off if we get dinner a little burnt. However, a smoke alarm is more than a random device that hangs out of sight around the house. It is a tool that could help save your life in the event of a home fire.

That was the experience of 86-year-old Olmsted Township resident Barbara Kovolenko.

On June 28, 2019, Barbara was awakened from a deep sleep at 1:23 a.m. to her smoke alarms screaming their alert. Barbara quickly realized this was not a false alarm. Her home was, in fact, on fire.

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Fire Chief Patrick Kelly with Barbara Kovolenko

Barbara, who requires oxygen, quickly remembered the information she received from the American Red Cross, which in partnership with the Olmsted Township Fire Department, installed smoke alarms in her home free of charge as part of a Sound the Alarm installation event. Using her newfound knowledge, Barbara evacuated the home to a safe location, did not enter her home again and waited for first responders to arrive on the scene and extinguish the fire.

In 2014, the Red Cross launched the Home Fire Campaign, a nationwide initiative to reduce the number of fire-related deaths by 25 percent. As of the end of 2019, 699 lives had been saved across the country – among them, Barbara Kovolenko.

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To learn more about the importance of having working smoke alarms on every level of your home, or to ask for a home fire safety inspection and smoke alarm installation, visit soundthealarm.org/neo.

To hear more about Barbara and this incredible story about the lifesaving impact of smoke alarms, listen to our recent episode of the Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region Podcast Be A Hero, featuring Barbara and Olmsted Township Fire Chief Patrick Kelly.

For more content on this incredible story, view this video of Chief Kelly interviewing Barbara, which was posted on the Olmsted Township Fire Department Facebook page.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Happy first day of winter!

Helpful tips to keep you safe during the longest season in NEO

By Sue Wilson, American Red Cross volunteer

December 21, 2019- Although December 21st is the first official day of winter, Northeast Ohio has already experienced enough frigid days and nights to let us know this is just the beginning of the long winter ahead. Here are some safety tips to help you prepare, and some of these you may not have thought about!

The Hands Have It 

  • Don’t put your hands in your pockets: It’s a natural instinct to put your hands in your pockets when you go outside, but don’t do it! If you slip and fall you can’t react to balance or catch yourself on the ice.
  • Mittens are warmer:  Gloves may be more fashionable, but mittens are warmer. When your fingers are touching one other they generate more body heat and keep your hands warmer.

North Dakota and Minnesota Floods

Before You Shovel 

  • Warm up your muscles by stretching and marching in place for a few minutes before you head out to shovel. You will work more efficiently and reduce the risk of injuring yourself if your muscles are warmed up.
  • Avoid caffeine and cigarettes. They increase your heart rate and cause your blood vessels to constrict, which is not good for your heart.
  • Use rock salt and kitty litter for safer walkways. The salt helps melt the ice and kitty litter adds traction.

Kentucky Ice Storm

Car Safety Kit

It can happen to all of us, a car breakdown, a flat tire, a big snowstorm. It’s always good to be prepared before going on the road in cold weather.

  • Have your vehicle winterized before the winter storm season to decrease your chance of being stranded in cold weather
  • Install good winter tires with adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate but some jurisdictions require vehicles to be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.
  • Keep a safety kit in the car that includes: An emergency drinking water prep kit: a tin can, matches, candle, and paper cup in the car in case you would ever get stuck. Just melt some snow with these supplies if you run short on water.
  • A small shovel, a blanket, a flare and jumper cables.

Kentucky Ice Storm

Protect Your Pets

  • Bring your companion animals indoors.
  • Ensure that you have supplies for cleanup for your companion animals, particularly if they are used to eliminating outdoors (large plastic bags, paper towels, and extra cat litter).
  • Create a place where outside animals can be comfortable in severe winter weather:  Horses and livestock should have a shelter where they can be protected from wind, snow, ice, and rain. Grazing animals should have access to a protected supply of food and non-frozen water.
  • Provide a feral cat shelter, food and water.
  • Report to the humane society or other local authorities if you see a pet chained outside with no protection from the elements

Red Cross pet photo 2018

Additional tips from the American Red Cross: 

  • Listen to local area radio, NOAA radio or TV stations for the latest information and updates.
  • Check your emergency kit and replenish any items missing or in short supply, especially medications and medical supplies. Keep it nearby.
  • Be sure you have ample heating fuel.
  • If you have alternative heating sources, such as fireplaces, wood- or coal-burning stoves, or space heaters, be sure they are clean and in working order. Never leave electrical devices or live flames unattended.
  • After a winter storm, immediately report any downed power lines or broken gas lines in your area or workplace.
  • Be a good neighbor. Winter weather can be tough on all of us, but especially the elderly, children, and people with chronic illnesses or disabilities. Check on an elderly neighbor, or anyone you know that may live alone and have special needs.

American Red Cross National Headquarters Building 2001

Find more winter safety tips from The American Red Cross HERE.

Stay safe this winter with these tips to keep warm

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

November 14, 2019- Did you know that heating fires are the second leading cause of home fires, and fixed and portable space heaters, including wood stoves, are involved in 74 percent of fire-related deaths?

As the cold weather continues to creep into Northeast Ohio, residents continue to take efforts to keep their homes warm from the freezing temperatures. Unfortunately, some of those efforts can lead to tragic consequences.

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Over the past two winter-like days, the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio responded to 8 home fires, several related to alternative home heating sources, resulting in 23 residents being assisted and $3,695 in immediate financial assistance.

Nearly half of American families use alternative heating sources such as space heaters, fireplaces or wood/coal stoves to stay warm. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, every year, more than 200 people die from carbon monoxide produced by fuel burning appliances in the home.

Kentucky Ice Storm

If you and your family use alternative heating sources to stay warm, here are some prevention tips to help keep you safe this winter:

  • Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding 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.
  • Place space heaters on a level, hard, nonflammable surface, like a ceramic tile floor, and away from bedding and drapes.
  • Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
  • When buying a space heater, look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over.
  • NEVER use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
  • Use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
  • Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys and furnaces professionally inspected and cleaned once a year.

Kentucky Ice Storm

How to keep family and friends safe from carbon monoxide?

  • Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness and confusion. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, move quickly to a fresh air location and then call 9-1-1.
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas. Test the alarm every month.
  • Treat the alarm signal as a real emergency each time. If alarm sounds and you are not experiencing any symptoms, press the reset button. If the alarm continues to sound, call the fire department.

Visit redcross.org/homefires for more information on how to prevent heating fires.

Be prepared for the snow and cold

By Renee Palagyi, Senior Disaster Program ManagerPalagyi, Renee

Editor’s note: Renee sends a message to the Northeast Ohio regional staff every day, to accompany the daily report on disaster responses.  Here, we are sharing today’s message.

 

Not really a surprise but it appears we may be moving in to the winter season. Watch out for the “s” word in the forecast in the next few days and follow our tips to stay safe.

Beforehand:

  • Talk with your family about what to do if a winter storm watch or warning is issued. Discussing winter storms ahead of time helps reduce fear, particularly for young children.
  • Have your vehicle winterized before the winter storm season to decrease your chance of being stranded in cold weather.
  • Have a mechanic check your battery, antifreeze, wipers and windshield washer fluid, ignition system, thermostat, lights, flashing hazard lights, exhaust system, heater, brakes, defroster, and oil.
  • Install good winter tires with adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate but some jurisdictions require vehicles to be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.
  • Keep in your vehicle: – A windshield scraper and small broom – A small sack of sand for generating traction under wheels and a set of tire chains or traction mats – Matches in a waterproof container – A brightly colored (preferably red) cloth to tie to the antenna – An emergency supply kit, including warm clothing.
  • Keep your vehicle’s gas tank full so you can leave right away in an emergency and to keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Keep a supply of non-clumping kitty litter to make walkways and steps less slippery.
  • Service snow removal equipment before the winter storm season and maintain it in good working order.
  • Keep handy a warm coat, gloves or mittens, hat, water-resistant boots, and extra blankets and warm clothing for each member of the household.

Plow

There’s lots more to be found at:    https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/winter-storm.html