Red Cross urges Northeast Ohio residents to practice and prepare for future disasters

COVID-19 social distancing measures provide opportunity to be prepared

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

March 23, 2020 — As individuals and families remain at home at a higher rate due to the COVID-19 outbreak and social distancing measures, the American Red Cross is urging all Northeast Ohio residents to take the time to prepare for future disasters.

Sound the Alarm Event in Capitol Heights, Maryland 2019

Here are some safety tips to practice and follow while everyone is home together:

Home Fire Safety

Home Fire Save Story Birmingham, Alabama 2019

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
  • Test smoke alarms every month. If they’re not working, change the batteries.
  • Talk with all family members about a home fire escape plan, make sure everyone has two exits out of every room.
  • Practice your fire escape plan and have everyone meet at the designated safe location. Make sure everyone escapes in two minutes or less.

Flood Safety

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Tornado Safety

Tennessee Tornadoes 2020

  • Talk about tornadoes with your family so that everyone knows where to go if a tornado warning is issued.
  • Ensure you have access to NOAA Radio broadcasts.
  • Prepare a pet emergency kit for your furry friends.

Thunderstorm Safety

  • Discuss thunderstorm safety and lightning safety with all members of your household.
  • Pick a safe place in your home for household members to gather during a thunderstorm. This should be away from windows, skylights and glass doors.
  • Make a list of items to bring inside in the event of a severe thunderstorm.

Sound the Alarm Event in Capitol Heights, Maryland 2019

Visit redcross.org to learn more emergency preparedness tips to ensure you and your family are Red Cross ready. Be sure to download the free Red Cross mobile apps, available in the Apple App Store or Google Play, for tools and preparedness information you need every day.

Volunteers continue to provide Red Cross disaster health services during coronavirus outbreak

By Renee Palagyi, Senior Disaster Program Manager

It seems that all we hear of late is “COVID-19,” and many wonder if it has taken the place of our normal American Red Cross activities. It has NOT! Residents experiencing fires continue to be assisted both on scene and in follow-up casework.

I am taking a moment today to emphasize the work being done by our incredible Disaster Health Services team. This group of volunteer nurses—most of whom are still employed full-time in roles ranging from pediatrics to geriatric nurse practitioner—continue to help our disaster clients who have lost medications, durable medical equipment, glasses, etc. We have new graduates, retirees and everyone in between, each bringing his or her personal gift of nursing knowledge and caring to bear through remote client contact.

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Renee Palagyi

Beginning March 14, several members of the team took on an additional task of “Disaster Action Team (DAT) Responder Screening.” Each responder in the Northeast Ohio region was called and asked a series of questions, provided guidelines on increased virus risk based on certain medical conditions and asked if they were still willing to continue to respond to clients in need. The professional approach of our nurses helped allay fears while providing solid information based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Not surprising, but certainly incredibly gratifying, was the response we received from those volunteers screened. Overwhelmingly, in fact, approximately 90% stated their willingness to continue as DAT responders in the face of this pandemic. The majority of those not able to respond during this crisis were screened out by our nurses for medical reasons, not by their fears of becoming ill. They noted they felt reassured by the client screening process we have in place and the knowledge that Red Cross has at heart the well-being of our strongest asset, our volunteers.

We are all in this for the long haul, and I am pleased to lead this team of dedicated nurses who continue to give their time despite their own increased work and personal demands.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

My first attempt to donate blood

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

Editors note: The American Red Cross now faces a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during this coronavirus outbreak.  Through March 17, nearly 4,000 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled across the country due to coronavirus concerns, resulting in more than 100,000 fewer blood donations. Healthy individuals are needed to donate now to help patients counting on lifesaving blood.

March 18, 2020- You’ve seen the advertisements and signs before—the ones that list upcoming American Red Cross blood drives in your area. You may drive past the sign on your way home or see something about a local drive on your social media feed. Like many people, I am not fond of needles. This is why for many years I went without donating blood.

This year, I was determined to put my nerves aside to take part in my first blood drive. I found a local site and signed up for a time slot, hoping that scheduling an appointment would help avoid any lines. When I arrived, there were several people donating and several more getting their screenings completed.

Blood bank Campaign ceremony 2017

Laurie Brungeau giving blood during the launch of the Haitian Red Cross blood collection center in Port-au-Prince. The Haitian Red Cross suffered serious damage during the earthquake, but thanks to their hard work–and capacity-building investments from partners like the American Red Cross — they have stregthened and become more sustainable over the years. Photo: Garry Calixte/American Red Cross

After registering and completing my pre-screening, it was time to donate. The nurse asked me which arm I prefer, to which I answered, “Whichever arm that you can find a vein.” The nurse asked me if I have had trouble with nurses finding my veins in the past. They have but I didn’t think that would be an issue for donating. These volunteers do this regularly and are pros, right?

While the nurses at the donation site were, in fact, seasoned experts, the two nurses who checked still had trouble finding a viable vein to use in my arm. Out of caution for my well-being, they told me I wasn’t able to donate. I was incredibly disappointed that of all reasons to be turned away as a donor, it was my lack of a viable vein!

Blood Drive New York 2018

This experience showed me just how important it is for those who can donate blood to do so. After sharing my experience with a few friends, I learned that many of them had similar experiences. From my friends and the nurses at the blood drive, I learned a few best practices I wanted to share for those looking to donate:

  • Drink lots of water before you donate – the day before and the day of your donation.
  • Avoid caffeine to avoid detracting from #1.
  • The magic number for your iron level is 12.5. They test this before you actually start your donation to make sure you have the minimum level.
  • Complete the RapidPass online before you donate to save time at the blood donation location. This contains the pre-donation packet reading and health history questions donors need to complete.
  • Bring some music or reading when you donate. It only takes 8-10 minutes to do the actual blood donation but having something to do can help pass the time, especially if you are nervous.

Knowing these things, I plan to go back again soon to see if I can donate. I hope my story encourages you to donate as well.

Blood Drive, Fairfax, Virginia 2018

Currently, there is an urgent need for blood due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Right now, eligible and healthy donors are strongly urged to make an appointment to give soon. To schedule an appointment and for information on enhanced blood donation safety related to Coronavirus, visit: https://www.redcrossblood.org.

For those who can’t donate, the Red Cross offers volunteer opportunities to support  blood drives. You can learn more about these at: https://www.redcross.org/local/ohio/northeast/volunteer.html.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Northeast Ohio Region weekend disaster report: March 13-15, 2020

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

March 16, 2020- While residents in Northeast Ohio were taking precautions to remain safe from the coronavirus, members of the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio Disaster Action Team were assisting residents facing the worst day of their lives, as disasters do not adhere to social distancing measures.

During the weekend of March 13-15, the DAT team responded to disasters in four of the five chapters of the Northeast Ohio Region, with disasters occurring in Columbiana, Cuyahoga, Erie, Lake, Richland, Stark and Trumbull counties.

The Red Cross assisted 32 adults, 29 children and provided $12,460 in immediate financial assistance.

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While we all take extraordinary steps to contain the coronavirus, the Red Cross is asking all healthy individuals to donate blood, to help maintain the nation’s blood supply as blood drives across the country continue to be cancelled.

Over the last few days, we have seen blood drive cancellations grow at an alarming rate. Through March 13, about 1,500 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled across the country due to coronavirus concerns, resulting in some 46,000 fewer blood donations. We expect that number to rise.

We understand why people may be hesitant to come out for a blood drive, but want to reassure the public that we are taking additional precautions to ensure the safety of our donors and staff.

Monroe Carell Jr Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, Nashville, Tennessee 2019

We are checking the temperature of staff and donors before entering a drive to make sure they are healthy. Hand sanitizers are available for use before entering the drive, as well as throughout the donation process. We are also spacing beds, where possible, to follow social distancing practices between blood donors.

Red Cross employees follow strict safety procedures, including wearing gloves and changing them often, wiping down all donor-touched surfaces and equipment and preparing the arm for donation with an aseptic scrub.

A blood shortage could impact patients who need surgery, victims of car accidents and other emergencies, or patients suffering from cancer. One of the most important things you can do to ensure we don’t have another health care crisis on top of the coronavirus is to give blood.

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If you are healthy, feeling well and eligible to give blood or platelets, please make an appointment to donate as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Healthy blood donors needed amid coronavirus concerns

March 11, 2020- With confirmed coronavirus disease cases in Northeast Ohio and the state of Ohio declaring a state of emergency, and with schools across the region closed and events postponed due to precautions, the American Red Cross strongly urges healthy, eligible individuals who are feeling well to give blood or platelets to help maintain a sufficient blood supply and prevent shortages as concerns about the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, rise in the U.S.

Cold and flu season has already impacted the nation’s ability to maintain its blood supply. As the number of coronavirus cases grows in the U.S., the number of people eligible to give blood for patients in need could decrease further.

“We’re asking the American people to help keep the blood supply stable during this challenging time. As communities across the country prepare for this public health emergency, it’s critical that plans include a readily available blood supply for hospital patients,” said Chris Hrouda, president, Red Cross Blood Services. “As fears of coronavirus rise, low donor participation could harm blood availability at hospitals, and the last thing a patient should worry about is whether lifesaving blood will be on the shelf when they need it most.”

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Donating blood is a safe process and people should not hesitate to give or receive blood. There are no data or evidence that this coronavirus can be transmissible by blood transfusion, and there have been no reported cases worldwide of transmissions for any respiratory virus, including this coronavirus, from a transfusion.

The Red Cross only collects blood from individuals who are healthy and feeling well at the time of donation – and who meet other eligibility requirements, available at RedCrossBlood.org. At each blood drive and donation center, Red Cross employees follow thorough safety protocols including wearing gloves, routinely wiping down donor-touched areas, using sterile collection sets for every donation, and preparing the arm for donation with an aseptic scrub. These mitigation measures will help ensure blood recipient safety, as well as staff and donor safety in reducing contact with those who may potentially have this respiratory infection.

Blood drive hosts play important role
Blood drive hosts also play a critical role in maintaining a sufficient blood supply and are asked to keep hosting blood drives for patients who rely on lifesaving blood. The need for blood is constant, and volunteer donors are the only source of blood for those in need of transfusions.

The Red Cross, with the help of its blood drive hosts and blood donors, can help ensure the safety and availability of the U.S. blood supply for patients including accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease.

“Keep giving, keep hosting blood drives,” said Hrouda. “Patients across the country need our help.”

To learn more about hosting a blood drive for patients in need, please visit RedCrossBlood.org.

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Red Cross committed to blood supply safety

The top priority of the Red Cross is the safety of our valued staff, blood donors and blood recipients, and we are committed to transparency with the American public during this evolving public health emergency. There are no data or evidence that this coronavirus can be transmissible by blood transfusion, and there have been no reported cases worldwide of transmissions for any respiratory virus including this coronavirus, from a transfusion.

Nonetheless, the Red Cross has implemented new blood donation deferrals out of an abundance of caution. Individuals are asked to postpone their donation for 28 days following:

  • Travel to China and its special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macau, as well as Iran, Italy and South Korea;
  • Diagnosis of COVID-19, contact with a person who has or is suspected to have the virus.

As the situation evolves, the Red Cross will continue to evaluate all emerging risks in collaboration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and industry partners to determine if additional intervention strategies are needed. Together, we stand ready to keep the American public informed and prepared.

Blood donation process

A blood donation takes about an hour from start to finish, but the actual donation itself only takes about 8-10 minutes. Donors can also save up to 15 minutes at the blood drive by completing a RapidPass®. With RapidPass®, donors complete the pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of donation, from a mobile device or computer. To complete a RapidPass®, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Red Cross Blood Donor App.

To donate blood, individuals need to bring a blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification that are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also must meet certain height and weight requirements.