Even When A River Doesn’t Run Through It

Whether you live ten feet or ten miles from one of the many rivers and streams that run through Northeast Ohio, you never know when heavy rains and melting snow will combine to produce a terrible flood. Here are some ways to keep your friends and family safe as we look to the skies over the next few weeks.

Hurricane Harvey 2017

Right Before a Flood

  • Listen to local area radio, NOAA radio or TV stations for the latest information and updates.
  • Be prepared to evacuate quickly and know your routes and destinations. Find a local emergency shelter.
  • Check your emergency kit and replenish any items missing or in short supply, especially medications or other medical supplies. Keep it nearby.
Then, If You Can, Do This
  • Fill plastic bottles with clean water for drinking.
  • Fill bathtubs and sinks with water for flushing the toilet or washing the floor or clothing.
  • Fill your car’s gas tank, in case you need to evacuate.
  • Bring outdoor belongings, such as patio furniture, indoors.
  • Turn off propane tanks to reduce the potential for fire.
If You Have Pets or Livestock
  • Consider a precautionary evacuation of your animals, especially any large or numerous animals. Waiting until the last minute could be fatal for them and dangerous for you.
  • Where possible, move livestock to higher ground. If using a horse or other trailer to evacuate your animals, move sooner rather than later.
  • Bring your companion animals indoors and maintain direct control of them. Be sure that your pet emergency kit is ready to go in case of evacuation.

Staying Safe Indoors

  • Turn off the power and water mains if instructed to do so by local authorities.
  • Boil tap water until water sources have been declared safe.
  • Avoid contact with floodwater. It may be contaminated with sewage or contain dangerous insects or animals.
  • Continue listening to local area radio, NOAA radio or TV stations for the latest information and updates.
  • Don’t use gas or electrical appliances that have been flooded.
  • Dispose of any food that comes into contact with flood water .

Staying Safe Outdoors

  • Don’t walk, swim or drive through floodwater. Just six inches of fast-flowing water can knock you over and two feet will float a car.
  • If caught on a flooded road with rapidly rising waters, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground.
  • Don’t walk on beaches or riverbanks.
  • Don’t allow children to play in or near flood water.
  • Avoid contact with floodwater. It may be contaminated with sewage or contain dangerous insects or animals.
  • Stay out of areas subject to flooding. Underpasses, dips, low spots, washes, etc. can become filled with water.

For more information on what to do if your home becomes flooded, visit http://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/flood#After.

A Report on the Flooding in Louisiana

By: Pam Williams, volunteer


Since the flooding in the south began three weeks ago, nearly 2,000 Red Crossers working alongside partners have provided 4,700 overnight stays in 60 shelters; served 290,000 meals and snacks; distributed more than 119,000 relief items including comfort kits and cleaning supplies; and provided nearly 9,000 health and mental health consultation.

I deployed to Louisiana as part of the External Relations team. As a Government Operations Lead, I helped coordinate necessary services and activities with local, state, federal and Tribal government partners and worked with our Community Partner Services volunteers who identify non-government partners, private agencies and/or organizations and members of the affected communities to assist those affected by the disaster.

This was my 22nd deployment and several of them have been in response to floods. My friends think I’m off to see the country, and I suppose they’re right, but I’m seeing it in pain. However, while each disaster and each response is different I have found one constant – I am seeing people at their best. Whether it is Red Cross volunteers who leave their lives and families to respond, community groups who step up to help their neighbors or those affected by the disaster who are amazingly resilient there is a spirit that moves people forward.

Since returning to Northeast Ohio, here are some of the things I have learned about the response in Louisiana:

  • This is the largest sheltering operation for the Red Cross in Louisiana since Hurricane Gustav and Ike in 2008, and Hurricane Isaac in 2012.
  • As many as 12,000 people have been impacted by the flooding across the state with hundreds of residences either destroyed or receiving major damage.
  • The Red Cross estimates that we will spend between $8.5 million and $11.5 million helping people affected by spring floods and storms across Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee – and we haven’t raised anywhere near the millions of dollars we’re spending to provide the relief needed.
  • Since the flooding began, the Red Cross and our partners have provided more than 3,000 overnight stays in 30 shelters; served 216,000 meals and snacks; distributed 53,000 relief items including comfort kits and cleaning supplies; and provided 3,800 health and mental health consultations in Louisiana alone. Over three weeks into this response operation we are still sheltering affected residents and pockets of previously unidentified people are popping up everyday. There are over 430 areas that continue to be marked as inaccessible so our Disaster Assessment teams can’t yet get in to see how badly the homes have been affected.

The Red Cross has also deployed hundreds of volunteers (like me) to staff these disasters–and we are appealing for additional Red Cross volunteers now. The time and talent of every volunteer makes a real difference in people’s lives. Go to redcross.org/volunteer today to learn more about volunteer opportunities and how to submit a volunteer application.

Louisiana Floods 2016

Sunday March 13, 2016. Rayville, Louisiana. Bobby Ray Griffin and Mildred Means took on more than a foot of water in their Rayville, Louisiana, home. They had already spent much of the day removing flood-damaged furniture from their home when Red Cross volunteers came through their neighborhood with snacks and water. Photo by Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

Louisiana Floods 2016

March 14, 2016. Monroe, Louisiana. At 9-months-old, Jakenzie Bradford is one of the youngest staying at this Monroe, Louisiana, Red Cross shelter. She and her family where displaced when floodwaters entered their home nearly a week ago. The Red Cross provides a safe place where children and families can feel comfortable and secure as they begin the road to recovery after disasters like floods. Photo by Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

Everything You Need to Know in New All-in-One Red Cross Emergency App

The new, all-inclusive Emergency App from the American Red Cross provides people with instant access to emergency alerts, life-saving information, and ways to contact family and friends in one free, easy-to-use app for smart phones and tablets.Emergency App

The Emergency App is a single ‘go-to’ source for everything from home fires to hurricanes. It includes content from a group of award-winning Red Cross apps with additional information about what to do in case of 14 different types of emergencies and disasters. Users can customize more than 35 emergency alerts based on their location and where loved ones live.

The app includes a new featured called “Family Safe” that allows the app user to notify loved ones who are in an area affected by an emergency or disaster. The recipient can instantly see the alert details as well as specific “what to do now” steps, and then respond with either “I’m safe” or “I’m not safe.” This feature works even if the recipient has not downloaded the Emergency App. In addition to smartphones and tablets, this feature will be available on the new Apple Watch and can be downloaded from the Apple Watch App Store starting April 24.

Other important features include:

  • Emergency first aid information for situations such as heart attacks, heat-related emergencies as well as water safety information;
  • Preloaded content so users can access guidance from Red Cross experts even without mobile connectivity;
  • A single map with open Red Cross shelter locations and weather information;
  • A home fire section with detailed prevention and safety tips as well as Red Cross “After the Fire” information;
  • “Make a Plan” feature to help families plan what to do and where to go if a disaster strikes; and
  • The ability to easily toggle between English and Spanish.

The app is available in app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or by going to redcross.org/apps.

Red Cross apps have been downloaded more than 6 million times and nearly 400 million alerts have been sent since the launch of the first app in 2012. While apps can help prepare someone for disasters, it’s important to note that they are not substitutes for training. People can take Red Cross First Aid and CPR/AED courses so they’ll know what to do in case help is delayed. They can get information and register at redcross.org/TakeAClass.

Basement Flooded? Follow these four safety steps.

Mailbox in Flood WatersStep #1: Stay SAFE!

Don’t risk serious injury if your basement floods. A flooded basement can be a serious health and safety risk. If your basement floods, follow these rules to make sure your family stays safe.

  •  Avoid venturing down into the basement if possible. In a severe basement flooding situation (water covering the basement floor to a depth of an inch or more), it’s best to stay out of the basement until the water is pumped out. Standing water in your basement can contain harmful bacteria.
  • Never touch electrical wiring or fixtures. If you must venture down into a flooded basement, wear waterproof rubber boots. Avoid touching or using electrical devices (except for a battery-powered flashlight) because this puts you at risk of electrical shock or electrocution.
  • Have standing water pumped out as soon as possible.


Step #2: Determine the cause of your flooded basement.

Sometimes the source of unwanted water is obvious –as with a burst water line or sewer backup. In other cases, water may be leaking into your basement for different reasons. If it is not obvious what caused your flooding, contact a licensed professional for an inspection.

Step #3. Remove water-damaged items and begin cleanup.

Are there wood-framed walls finished with drywall in your basement? If so, the lower section of these walls is likely to retain moisture and attract mold –even without a major basement flood. Take precautions for safety, but begin clean up as soon as possible. Eliminate the source of the flooding first, then clean up and toss out anything that is contaminated, using bleach and similar household cleaners. Bleach is the best cleaning product to kill mold, mildew and bacteria.

Step #4. Mitigate future flooding.

There are a number of ways you can mitigate future flooding loss by installing preventive equipment and valves, raising the height of critical utilities and appliances off the floor or out of your basement entirely, and simply keeping gutters clean. Make sure the ground around your home slopes away from your foundation. Raising the electrical outlets in your basement can also alleviate electrical shorts and injury due to shock. Acquire flood insurance.

For more information, download this helpful check list and information sheet: Basement Flooding – Safety and Clean-up Checklist

Is there still wicked weather raging over your house? Learn what to do before, during and after a flood. Download the Flood Safety Checklist, check out the Red Cross Flood App (available for iOS and Android) or visit the American Red Cross Flood Safety page.

Meeting the challenges of Northeast Ohio Weather – May edition

Even before the storm clouds rolled over the radar screen, the hub at the Red Cross in Cleveland was readying its response to the coming storm.

On Monday, while the wind and rain howled throughout the region, members of our disaster response team began to initiate the first stages of the plan. Red Cross workers began the work of setting up a shelter for the residents of North Ridgeville, who had to be evacuated by boats due to the rising flood waters.

Summit and Portage County Board Member, Leonard Foster, loads a clean-up kit at the chapter.

Summit and Portage County Board Member, Leonard Foster, loads a clean-up kit at the chapter.

As the sun rose on Tuesday volunteers and staff were loading up the Red Cross vehicles to begin the process of observing, collecting, assessing, processing and recording information on each affected areas. The information obtained in this assessment helps the Red Cross determine how to respond to a disaster and what supplies will be required.

Our process starts with an area assessment and then moves to looking at individual homes to see what specific damage has been wrought by the storm – checking water levels in the basement or living space of a home and seeing if it is still inhabitable.

In the case of one Stow area family, where a basement wall had collapsed allowing mud and debris to slide into the home, we were able to help start the process of repairing the wall so that they will be able to stay in their home.

The Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) loaded with bleach and buckets donated by Home Depot, May 2014

The Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) loaded with bleach and buckets donated by Home Depot, May 2014

In other areas of Summit, Medina and Lorain Counties, we provided residents with clean-up kits containing disinfectant, a mop, a bucket and information about how to begin cleaning up the mess the storm and water had left in their homes. In some areas, we also passed out bleach, a donation from Home Depot.

If you are still looking for information on how to clean your basement, check out this link to our Repairing your Flooded Home booklet.

Back in North Ridgeville, we loaded up our Emergency Response Vehicle and set out through the streets, providing food to the residents who were there making their own assessments of the damage to their properties.

We cannot say enough to praise the many volunteers who left their own flooded basements to help other members in their community and in neighboring counties. If you are interested in joining their ranks, you can get started as a volunteer by signing up through our website.

If you would like to financially contribute to the clean-up effort, please visit www.redcross.org/donate or contact your local chapter.

Learn more about Flood Safety Awareness with a new app from the Red Cross

On average, there are 89 fatalities and more than $8.3 billion dollars in damage each year as a result of flooding. Floods and flash floods are the most common, and costliest, weather related disaster in the United States. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the organization that monitors and manages weather and ocean related data, predicts that minor flooding will occur this spring in Northeast Ohio. That prediction does not take in to consideration the potential for flash flooding, a type of flooding that occurs when water rises in a short amount of time, quickly with little or no warning.

In an effort to get the word out about the deadly nature of flooding, NOAA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) observe Flood Safety Awareness week from March 16 through 22.

Screen Shot from the Flood App, now available from the American Red Cross.

Screen Shot from the Flood App, now available from the American Red Cross.

To celebrate, the American Red Cross released a free, Flood app.  The app helps users gain more information about how to prepare for and respond to a flood in their area. It features interactive quizzes and awards users with badges that can be shared on social networks.

Want to build an emergency kit in preparation? The app can help with that!

Most importantly, the app can be used during a flood. It provides an audible and location specific alert when a Flood Warning or Watch is in effect, plus a toolbox of helpful features such as turning a smart phone’s camera flash into a flashlight and helping the user post the message “I’m safe” on social networks. It will also map out area Red Cross shelters.

The app is available in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store or visit redcross.org/apps