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.

Nine fine tornado tips most people don’t know

By Doug Bardwell, 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.

Photo credit: Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.

So, here’s to hopefully never needing these safety tips, but just to be safe, send this link to your friends, and read more tips for taking care of your older friends and family here.  Last suggestion, read more about preparing for all emergencies with the American Red Cross apps.

Severe weather can bloom during spring in Ohio

By: Chris Chmura, American Red Cross volunteer

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.

Tornado Safety

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.

Flooding Safety

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 clothes and a Disaster Supplies Kit in 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

Combat the cold safely at home and in the kitchen

By Chris Chmura, American Red Cross volunteer

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:

HOME HEATING SAFETY

  •    Does your home have a fire extinguisher that is not expired, in an easily accessible and       well known l[1] 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.

COOKING SAFETY

  • 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.

Visit redcross.org/fire for more information and download the free Red Cross Emergency app (search “American Red Cross” in app stores).

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer


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

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

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

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

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

To join any of these presentations, please register by clicking the date and time of the topic in which you are interested. The password is Prepare20. All times are Eastern Standard.

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

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

By Chris Chmura, American Red Cross volunteer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be safe, healthy and have an enjoyable holiday season.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

How to make this Halloween a safe and memorable one

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

October 28, 2020- Halloween will look a little different this year, but there are still plenty of ways to celebrate. In order to keep our communities safe, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is discouraging traditional house-to-house trick or treating due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the CDC suggests these low risk activities:

  • Carve or decorate pumpkins with members of your household (You can roast the pumpkin seeds too!)
  • Host a virtual Halloween costume contest with friends and family
  • Organize an outdoor neighborhood scavenger hunt where children search for Halloween-themed items (while maintaining safe distances)
  • Have a Halloween movie night with the people you live with

Halloween is on a Saturday this year, providing a great opportunity to celebrate during the day. If doing any outdoor activities at night, make sure your area is lit well and clear of any leaves or other debris to keep the area safe.

When dressing up, make sure to wear your cloth mask to protect yourself and others from the spread of the virus. Costume masks do not take the place of a cloth mask.

Decorations are a great way to get into the Halloween spirit. When decorating your home, follow safety tips from the American Red Cross for using candles. Don’t leave candles unattended or in a place where children or pets can knock them over. Keep candles away from decorations, drapes or other household items.

You could also consider helping out others this holiday by donating blood. You can find a Northern Ohio Red Cross blood drive near you here.

Remember, individuals with COVID-19 or who might have been exposed to COVID-19 should not participate in any holiday activities. You can read more about the CDC safety guidelines here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer