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.

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

Celebrating World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day May 8

By: Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

May 8th is World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, in which the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) collectively thanks its 13 million volunteers worldwide—about 2,000 of which are in Northern Ohio—for their dedication, bravery, kindness, and selflessness.

This day also coincides with Sound the Alarm, as American Red Cross volunteers and staff are helping area residents develop fire safety plans through doorstep visits. Please read this article for more information.

May 8th is the birthday of Henry Dunant, who was born in Geneva, Switzerland in 1828, founded the IFRC, and received the first Nobel Peace Prize. After witnessing one of the bloodiest battles of the 19th century, Solferino, and assisting in its aftermath, Dunant wrote A Memory of Solferino, published in 1862. After detailing the horrors of the battle and describing efforts to care for the wounded, Dunant offered a plan that the world’s nations form relief societies and appeal to everyone to volunteer. The following year the Geneva Society for Public Welfare appointed Dunant and four others to examine putting the plan into action. This began the foundation of the Red Cross. More on Henry Dunant is here

It would take more than a century, two world wars, and the 1918 flu pandemic before a Red Cross day would be created, however. During that time, the need and effectiveness of Red Cross societies became even clearer. Following World War II, the Board of Governors of the League of Red Cross Societies requested the study of an International Red Cross Day. It was approved two year later, and May 8, 1948 became the first commemoration of what we now know as World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day. Further details are here.

In 2021, the Red Cross’s mission and services are as needed as ever, and the resilience, dedication, flexibility, and selflessness of its volunteers and staff has continued during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the past year has been especially active. In the US, 2020 had the greatest number of billion-dollar disasters in a single year. Here in Northern Ohio, the Red Cross has continued to respond to disasters—including more than three home fires every 24 hours, on average—collect and distribute much needed blood, teach life-saving skills, assist members of the armed services and their families, and help educate the community on home fire safety, virtually and with doorstep visits during tomorrow’s Day of Action.

We recently profiled a few extraordinary volunteers during Volunteer Week. As a Red Cross volunteer, I have been privileged to see such caring and dedication firsthand and have been honored to work alongside some of the kindest, most effective, and remarkable people I have met. Please see here if you would like to join us.

On this World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, we celebrate those who put the Red Cross’s mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering into action, each day.

Spring ahead with smoke alarm checks and escape plan

By Eilene E. Guy, 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

Olmsted Township resident escapes home fire after hearing smoke alarm

Alarm was installed by the Red Cross in 2016

By Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

December 16, 2020- Smoke alarms save lives. Just ask Gail Renfro.

The former resident of Olmsted Township was in her living room on the night of October 24, 2020 when she heard a smoke alarm sound. It was coming from her bedroom. When she opened the bedroom door, she saw fire and knew there was no time to waste; she had to get out.

Gail Renfro, center, is flanked by Tim O’Toole, Regional Disaster Officer, and Ellen Braun, Red Cross volunteer.  They installed the smoke alarm in Renfro’s home in 2016

“I turned around and walked out the front door, with the clothes I had on, socks on my feet, and cell phone in hand,” Gail said in a recent interview.

The smoke alarm had been installed four years earlier by Tim O’Toole, Regional Disaster Officer for the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio, during a day-long installation event in the Columbia Park development. Mrs. Renfro was recently reunited virtually with Tim and Ellen Braun, a Red Cross volunteer who accompanied Tim the day the alarm was installed, and who shared with the residents fire safety information, including how to create an escape plan.

That information – and those alarms – have proven to be lifesavers. Not only was Ms. Renfro alerted to the fire that destroyed her home, but one of her neighbors was alerted in a similar way more than a year earlier. Barbara Kovolenko escaped safely from a fire in her home, after hearing the smoke alarm in her home. It was also installed that same day – November 19, 2016.

Barbara Kovolenko with Olmsted Township Fire Chief Patrick Kelly

“Both of these fires show the importance of having a working smoke alarm,” said Olmsted Township Fire Chief Patrick Kelly. “The alarm went off and alerted (the residents) with enough time to be able to exit. That’s what they’re designed to do.”

Chief Kelly credits his department’s partnership with the Red Cross for helping keep residents in his community safe. And while the in-home visits to install smoke alarms are on hold due to the pandemic, lives are still being saved as a result of the alarms that were installed before the program was paused.  

Ellen Braun

Gail Renfro and Barbara Kovolenko are now among more than 800 people whose lives were saved as a result of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign.

“Our home visits have accomplished so much, including the installation of more than 2 million smoke alarms since the inception of the Home Fire Campaign in 2014,” said Tim O’Toole, regional disaster officer for the Red Cross of Northern Ohio. “Once deemed safe to proceed, the Red Cross will resume all Home Fire Campaign programs.”

Tim O’Toole

The need for home fire safety doesn’t end during a pandemic. We urge everyone to take steps to keep their household safe by installing and maintaining smoke alarms, talking with loved ones about fire safety and creating and practicing a home fire escape plan.

And we’re grateful Gail and Barbara did just that.

Visit redcross.org/homefires for free resources.

Watch the reunion of Gail Renfro, Tim O’Toole, Ellen Braun and Chief Kelly here.

Listen to the audio of the reunion on our podcast here.

Be a good neighbor this National Good Neighbor Day

By Chris Chmura, American Red Cross volunteer

September 28. 2020- September 28 is National Good Neighbor Day. How will YOU celebrate today? 

You may be a long-time resident in your neighborhood or possibly just recently moved in. I have lived in several different neighborhoods across Northeast Ohio that ranged from disconnected to extremely tight. In my experience, you will find the best neighbors are the ones that reach out consistently to each other during good times and bad.

As you know, we all are currently living during a historic time with the pandemic. On top of that, there are wildfires on the West Coast, hurricanes and tropical storm affecting in the South and flooding on the East Coast.  Now more than ever, we really need each other’s support!

Your long-time friend or brand-new neighbor might need to borrow one of your yard tools, a cup of sugar or possibly need help during a health emergency. The American Red Cross has an enormous amount of resources that you can learn to be a true asset to your neighborhood.

Courses & Certifications

 You can learn lifesaving skills to help your family, friends and neighbors in the safety of your home with our online classes.

Those of us who don’t face health emergencies every day can also benefit from Red Cross training. With a wide array of lifeguarding, caregiving and babysitting, and swimming and water safety courses, the Red Cross can provide you with the necessary training and skills you need to prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.

An easy way to help the people around you are simply by having an Emergency Preparedness kit. Be prepared for disasters and other emergencies with a well-stocked emergency kit for your home, workplace and automobile. You can build one yourself or choose from a variety of survival kits and emergency preparedness supplies to help you plan for tornadoes, flooding, fire and other disasters.

Volunteer to Help Save Lives

COVID-19 has not changed the Red Cross’ mission, and we are still providing the same types of support as we always have.

To help keep people safe, we are following guidance from CDC and public health authorities — and have put in place additional precautions. Some of these plans include social distancing protocols, face coverings, health screenings and opening additional shelters that can support fewer people than normal so that we can ensure social distancing protocols.

Ensuring people have a safe place to stay during a disaster is a critical part of the Red Cross mission, but how we support sheltering efforts may be different in each community, depending on local emergency operations plans.

The Red Cross is in need of healthy individuals who want to assist their local communities and respond to disasters. For more information and to see high-demand volunteer opportunities, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.

AEDs for a Safer Workplace or Community

Create a safer workplace environment with help from Red Cross safety experts. The Red Cross can help with competitively priced Automated External Defibrillators (AED) solutions designed to fit your location, organization needs and stay within your budget.

The Red Cross works with the leading manufacturers to help you select AED devices to keep you and the team safe.

The Red Cross helps you put a complete, life-saving AED program in place at your facility, with:

  • AED product demonstrations
  • Access to assistance with on-site needs analysis, placement, and program implementation at your facility
  • Flexible AED purchase options, including different AED brands and multiple models
  • AED employee training
  • AED accessories and service
  • Single-source AED management systems
  • Qualified medical direction resources

For more information about obtaining an AED please call (888) 968-0988
Monday-Friday, 9:00am-6:00pm ET.

Maybe the best way for you to celebrate National Good Neighbor Day is by watching out for each other, respecting one another and just being there for the people around you.

Training keeps swimmers safe: Local lifeguards honored for their skills that saved child

By Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

June 17, 2020- Water Works Aquatic Center in Cuyahoga Falls reopened last week, and if past performance is any indicator of future results, swimmers there will be safe, thanks to the training received by lifeguards at the facility.

Six lifeguards who responded when a child failed to surface from the pool there last summer have been given the American Red Cross Lifesaver Award for Professional Responders. The incident, which led to their recognition, took place July 20, 2019. The six lifeguards, Cameron Bennett, Nick Little, Michael Petrecca, Vincent Petrecca, Dakota Shroyer and Alexandra Staubs, each played a role in the rescue.

Centennial Campaign 2015

The child suffered a heat-related event, sank below the surface of the water, vomited and went passive. The child was unconscious when pulled from the water, but was breathing and had a pulse. He was conscious but confused when EMS arrived. The child was admitted to the hospital for treatment and released the following day.

All six lifeguards received Red Cross lifeguard training, as well as First Aid/CPR/AED.

IMG_0201

Virtual presentation of the Lifesaver Award for Cameron, Nick, Michael, Vincent, Dakota and Alexandra

Kathleen Burt, aquatics manager at the City of Cuyahoga Falls nominated the lifeguards for the award. “I think the world of every single member of our team,” Burt said. “We truly are a family and a team, and I’m thankful for the effort they put forward.”

“You always hope you don’t have to use what you learned,” said senior guard Michael Petrecca. In describing the rescue, he said, “It was instinct. The facility has great leadership, and the training we have in place is pretty rigorous.”

Lifeguarding Manual 2012

The Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders is bestowed upon Red Cross-trained individuals who have an obligation to respond to an emergency, including police, firefighters, EMS, EMT, healthcare professionals and lifeguards. Since 2018, nearly 800 individuals have been honored worldwide for helping to save almost 350 lives.

Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Walters said, “You make us extremely proud. Thank you very much for being heroes.”

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

In Northeast Ohio, and everywhere, Red Cross committed to helping anyone in need

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross Volunteer

September 18, 2019- In light of reports over the last few months that some may be reluctant to seek help following a disaster or tragic event, we would like to reiterate that, “The Red Cross is committed to delivering help to anyone in need—regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or citizenship status—and to remain a neutral and impartial party, so we can access and help people on all sides,” as stated in this national press release.

The American Red Cross works to ensure that all people affected by disasters receive care, shelter and hope.

american20red_1539353655751.jpg_58765830_ver1.0

 

Our commitment to assisting all those in need is reflected daily in Northeast Ohio. Whether a home fire, flood, tornado, storm or other disaster, our teams respond. We do not ask about a person’s beliefs, orientation or citizenship—and we maintain confidentiality.

Following a large event, an important resource is the Safe and Well website at https://safeandwell.communityos.org/cms/index.php, in Spanish at https://safeandwell-es.communityos.org/cms/index.php. Following a disaster, those impacted can use the site to mark themselves “safe and well,” provide details and post a brief message, allowing loved ones to search for them.

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh – Migration/Refugee Crisis 2019

In addition, the Red Cross has a number of programs to assist migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. These include disaster relief, aid and an international service to reconnect families. An overview of programs is available at: https://www.redcross.org/about-us/news-and-events/news/how-does-the-american-red-cross-help-migrants.html.

In Northeast Ohio, those seeking assistance or information can contact their local chapter. Phone numbers and addresses are available at: https://www.redcross.org/local/ohio/northeast.html. A national Spanish-language site is available at: https://www.redcross.org/cruz-roja.html.

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh – Migration/Refugee Crisis 2019

In times of need, please remember that anyone can call on us for assistance. The Red Cross is guided by seven fundamental principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. Our mission statement and values can be found at: https://www.redcross.org/about-us/who-we-are/mission-and-values.html.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

Sizzling summer safety tips for traveling

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

July 1, 2019- It’s finally starting to feel like summer here in Northeast Ohio; and with summer comes vacation plans. Whether you’re traveling domestically or internationally, keep these few tips and resources in mind from the American Red Cross for a safe and fun summer.

Aquatics Centennial Campaign 2017

Prior to your trip:

  • Visit the U.S. Department of State website, State.Gov, for information on what you need to know when planning a trip abroad.
  • Going to a remote destination? Make sure you are up to speed on your first aid and CPR training. Find a class in Northeast Ohio to take before you go.
  • Are you going somewhere near the water? Make sure everyone knows how to swim and proper water safety practices. Register for a class near you.
  • Make sure you have the proper vaccinations for the area you are traveling to, especially if your trip is taking you internationally. Some countries require travelers to have certain vaccinations prior to entering their country, while other vaccines are recommended for your safety. Visit the CDC website for a full list and additional details.
  • Pack a first aid kit in your luggage to make sure you have basic supplies to treat cuts and burns and be prepared in case of emergency. You can get a first aid kit from the Red Cross here.
  • Make sure you bring all proper identification and medical cards that you may need, including personal ID, passport and insurance cards. Take a photo of them just in case one gets lost on your trip.

Aquatics Centennial Campaign 2017When you arrive, make sure you are prepared in case of an emergency by:

  • Locating smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and fire escape routes in your hotel or home.
  • Make sure everyone knows where the nearest police, fire and medical facilities are, or at least knows who to call in case of an emergency.
  • If you’re traveling internationally, make sure you know where the nearest U.S. Embassy is located and keep its contact information on you at all times.

Centennial Campaign 2015

For more information on programs in the Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross and to learn how you can get involved to help your local community, visit https://www.redcross.org/local/ohio/northeast.html.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Sound the Alarm was a ringing success

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

May 24, 2019- Sound the Alarm 2019 wrapped up in Northeast Ohio on May 12. With a total of 21 events over a two-week period, more than 1,500 homes were made safer by the installation of 3,743 smoke alarms.

After responding to dozens of fires as an American Red Cross Disaster Action Team member, it’s always sad to see a family lose all their possessions; but far more heart-wrenching is when a family member is hurt or a pet dies. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of a minute or two that makes the difference in who survives and who doesn’t. Sound the Alarm’s purpose is to make sure the number of home fire fatalities is significantly reduced each year.

First-hand experience

David Leatherwood, who still carries the scars of being in a home fire when he was younger, was appreciative when approached by volunteers in Lorain during the Sound the Alarm event. “It makes me feel so much better knowing that my whole house is now protected by smoke alarms,” said David. Volunteers from Ford Motor Lorain plant installed new alarms, replacing his old ones that were already more than 10 years old.

STA Blog

Volunteers Stephanie Pinskey (L) and Dionna Seplight (C) discuss the importance of replacing smoke alarms every 10 years with homeowner David Leatherwood (R).

Stephanie Pinskey, one of the Ford volunteers commented, “I can’t believe the power of the Red Cross brand. Not one of the people we met today ever hesitated about letting us come in to install alarms in their homes. With all the mistrust of strangers these days, this was heartwarming to know people really trust Red Cross and their volunteers.”

By the numbers

Begun in 2014, the Home Fire Campaign can already count 582 lives nationally that have been saved, thanks to smoke alarms installed by Red Cross volunteers. In that time:

  • More than 709,000 households have been made safer
  • More than 1,700,000 smoke alarms have been installed
  • 1,300,000 youth have been educated through the campaign

Not just a two-week event

Installing smoke alarms for those who need them is a year-round activity for Red Cross. In Northeast Ohio, anyone who needs alarms installed can visit SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO and be placed on a list for free installations. Cleveland, where the smoke alarm program began, has been making homeowners safer since 1992, when businessman Sam Miller partnered with Red Cross and the Cleveland Fire Department to lower the number of fire fatalities each year. This year marked the milestone of the 200,000th alarm to be installed in Cleveland.

In addition, fire prevention safety education has helped make sure that people know that they only have two minutes to safely leave their home in case of fire and that their children need to know what to do in case an alarm sounds. Families are encouraged to plan two escape routes from each room and to practice their escape drills twice a year.

Even though this year’s Sound the Alarm has wrapped up, Red Cross still accepts donations for additional alarms to be purchased and installed throughout the year. To donate, visit redcross.org/donate or call 800-HELP NOW (800-435-7669).

Catch the excitement of this year’s events by viewing photos on our Flickr page.

See photos from our Cleveland-West Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Youngstown Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Sandusky Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Ravenna sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Parma sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Sound the Alarm kick-off news conference here.

See photos from our Carrollton Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Ashland Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Mansfield Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Slavic Village Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Medina Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Norwalk Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Akron 5/7 Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Akron 5/9 Sound the Alarm event here.

See photos from our Lorain Sound the Alarm event here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer.

Photos provided by Cal Pusateri, Doug Bardwell, Eric Alves, Jim McIntyre and Karen Conklin – American Red Cross.