Author Archives: Cynthia Shaw

How to get ready for wildfire season during coronavirus outbreak

Disasters won’t stop during the coronavirus outbreak. It is predicted that this year’s wildfire season is going to be more difficult than last due to the lack of late-season rain and snow. And because of COVID-19, getting prepared for wildfires will look a little different than in other years. With that thinking in mind, the American Red Cross has tips to help you.

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MAKE A PLAN In light of the coronavirus, you may have to adjust any previous plans you made. You may need to leave your home quickly and travel to a safe place outside the affected area. If authorities advise you to evacuate, be prepared to leave immediately with your evacuation kit (“go bag” of emergency supplies).

  • As Californians are staying home to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. This time at home provides a unique opportunity to prepare for the fire season. The safety of your home during wildfire season can be significantly increased with proper brush clearance. Now is the time to clean up your yards, create defensible spaces around homes and recycle that debris
  • Ask friends or relatives outside your area if you would be able to stay with them. Check and see if they have symptoms of COVID-19 or have people in their home at higher risk for serious illness. If they have symptoms or there are higher risk people in their home, make other arrangements. Check with hotels, motels, and campgrounds to see if they are open. Find out if your local emergency management agency has adapted its sheltering or evacuation plans.
  • Check with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)and update emergency plans due to  We’ve also put in place additional safety precautions in case we need to open emergency shelters at the request of local officials.
    • For example, we will work with local public health authorities to set up a health screening process for everyone coming into the shelter, provide masks, add additional space between cots, and use enhanced cleaning and disinfecting practices.
  • Plan now if you will need help leaving or if you need to share transportation.
  • Plan ahead for your pets. Keep a phone list of pet-friendly hotels/motels and animal shelters that are along your evacuation routes. Remember, if it’s not safe for you to stay home, it’s not safe for your pets either.

BUILD A KIT Assemble two kits of emergency supplies and a one-month supply of prescription medication. Start with this basic supply list:

  • Stay-at-home kit (2 weeks of emergency supplies): Include everything you need to stay at home for at least two weeks with items such as food, water, household cleaning and disinfectant supplies, soap, paper products, and personal hygiene items.
  • Evacuation kit (3- 5 days of supplies in a “go bag”): Your second kit should be a lightweight, smaller version that you can take with you if you must leave your home quickly. Include everything you need to be on your own for three to five days:
    • Food and water
    • Personal hygiene items
    • Cleaning and disinfectant supplies that you can use on the go (tissues, hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol and disinfecting wipes)
    • Cloth face coverings for everyone in your household who can wear one safely. Cloth face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing. Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others in public. Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing or is unable to remove it without help.
    • Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, and diaper rash cream
    • Pet food and extra water for your pet
    • Cash or traveler’s checks
    • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification, and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container
  • 1-month supply of prescription medication, as well as over-the-counter medications like cough suppressants and fever-reducing drugs and medical supplies or equipment. Keep these items together in a separate container so you can take them with you if you have to evacuate.

Some supplies may be hard to get, and availability will worsen in a disaster, so start gathering supplies now.

BE INFORMED Have access to weather alerts and community notifications. Be sure that you can receive official notifications even during a power outage. Always follow the directions of your state and local authorities.

  • Use the Red Cross interactive map to identify likely disasters in your area.
  • Learn about your community’s response plan for each disaster and determine if these plans have been adapted because of COVID-19.
  • Find contact information for state, local and tribal governments and agencies, and for state emergency management agencies.
  • Because of COVID-19, stay current on advice and restrictions from your state and local public health authorities as it may affect your actions and available resources and facilities.

Take a First Aid and CPR/Course online to learn what to do in case emergency help is delayed. Download the Red Cross Emergency App for instant access to weather alerts for your area and where loved ones live. Expert medical guidance and a hospital locator are included in the First Aid App in case travelers encounter any mishaps. These apps are available to download for free in app stores or at redcross.org/apps.

Visit redcross.org/wildfire for full information about what to do before, during and after a wildfire.

Red Cross adapts disaster response protocols amid COVID-19

A three-alarm fire raged through an 11-unit Millbrae apartment building on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 27. Nearly 60 residents (37 adults, 19 children) were forced to evacuate as fire departments from Millbrae and San Mateo County battled a blaze that ultimately rendered the building a total loss.

Red Cross volunteers arrived on the scene wearing masks and gloves and maintained social distancing during the response. They had also undergone health screening prior to responding, one of several steps the Red Cross has undertaken to keep both its workforce and clients safe during the COVID-19 outbreak. Read more

Red Cross Certificate of Merit presented to Cupertino volunteer for using training skills to save a life

On September 9, 2019, Stuart Chessen, trained in American Adult and Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED, helped to save the life of a gentleman who had experienced a seizure on the sidewalk outside the American Red Cross office in San Francisco, CA. Stuart, a Cupertino resident, was teaching a class of students lifesaving skills when suddenly a bystander ran into the building alerting a gentleman was in distress. Stuart exited the classroom and found a gentleman on the sidewalk.  Stuart quickly assessed the situation and placed a jacket under the gentleman’s head as he was striking the sidewalk. Stuart along with bystanders were able to keep the gentleman calm. Emergency Medical Services arrived shortly after to continue care. Without a doubt, the skills learned in the American Red Cross Training Services course helped to save the life of this gentleman. Read more

10 Thanksgiving Cooking Safety Tips

12247789_10153860603581062_7286985740738901151_o.jpgDid you know that more home cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year?

In fact, this year, an American Red Cross survey showed that about 70 percent of people have left the kitchen while cooking on the stove.

Because of this, the Red Cross is urging everyone to brush up on these home fire prevention steps prior to the holiday, so they can enjoy their Thanksgiving feast safely.

  1. Clean and clear the area around the stove before turning on the heat.
  2. Move items that can burn away from the stove. These include towels, bags, boxes, paper, and curtains.
  3. Avoid wearing loose clothing or dangling sleeves while cooking.
  4. Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the stove.
  5. Turn pot handles to the back of the stove, so no one bumps them or pulls them over.
  6. Fires can start when the heat is too high. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Keep an eye on what you fry. Stay in the kitchen and never leave cooking food unattended. If you must leave the kitchen, even for a short period of time, turn off the stove.
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  9. Use a timer to remind yourself that the stove or oven is on.
  10. Check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving home to ensure all stoves, ovens and small appliances are turned off.

The Red Cross also advises people to test their smoke alarms and practice their home fire escape plan until everyone in their household can get out in two minutes or less. Visit redcross.org/homefires for more information and free resources, or download the free Red Cross Emergency App (search “American Red Cross” in app stores or go to redcross.org/apps).

Critical Fire Weather and Wildfire Starts in Across California

As of Thursday, a Red Flag Warning expired in Northern California but went into effect for Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties through Friday evening, according to the National Weather Service. In addition, more than 170,000 Southern California utility customers are under a power shutoff watch throughout the region. Twenty-two counties in Northern California in recent days have also sustained power shutoffs in preventative wildfire efforts. PG&E has begun restoring power in those Northern California counties. The Red Cross has had logistics teams in place monitoring events across the state. Read more

Fire Weather Warnings Mark the 2017 California Wildfires Anniversary

north-bay-fires_full-sizeTwo years ago today, our counties were struck by one of the most devastating disasters in recent memory. It has been extraordinary, and humbling, to see our communities come together and build back stronger from that terrible event.

Exactly two years to the day after the North Bay Fires, we are facing the nearly identical wind and fuel conditions lasting through the middle of this week. Fortunately, our community has learned important lessons and taken strong early action.

In response to the Fire Weather Watch warnings, Red Cross volunteers are mobilizing to ensure equipment, supplies, and teams are ready to go at a moment’s notice if needed. The Red Cross is in regular communication with government partners to determine potential needs in case a wildfire breaks out. As Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) open or are put on standby, Red Cross Government Liaisons are staffing them and ensuring availability of Red Cross services are known and requested as appropriate.

PG&E’s largest planned power outage yet could coincide with the two-year anniversary of the North Bay fires, a fall forecast combining at least three factors — hot weather, low humidity and strong winds — not seen since the October 2017 firestorm prompting the utility to consider shutting off electricity Wednesday and Thursday in up to 30 Northern and Central California counties. The advisory, affecting millions of residents and appears to exempt only two counties in PG&E’s service territory, Marin and San Francisco. No times or specific areas of the counties were mentioned. Updates will be posted on PG&E’s website, and the utility will also try to contact customers ahead of a shutoff.

Power Outage Preparedness
Visit http://www.redcross.org/prepare for detailed preparedness information.

Below are three simple steps you and your family can take to be ready, should there be an extended power outage that lasts multiple days:

1) Get a kit.

  • Your emergency kit should contain food, water, and other basic supplies to last at least SEVEN days, for each family member.
    • Water – 3 gallons per person per day, a gallon per mid-size pet for every three days
    • Food – non-perishable, nutritious food that requires little or no water or cooking to prepare that will meet the needs of your household
    • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and extra batteries
    • Flashlights and extra batteries
    • Phone Chargers – A battery-operated or solar-powered phone charger that is big enough to provide several full charges, or one that plugs into your car, plus cords in each of your kits will help you stay informed, take photos, and communicate in an emergency
    • Cash – Keep small bills and change on hand to buy necessary supplies like water.
  • Also, don’t forget to include essential medications, first aid kit, copies of important documents, and special items for children and pets.

2) Make a plan.

  • If you rely on electric or battery-dependent medical technologies such as breathing machines, a power wheelchair or scooter, home oxygen or dialysis or take medications that need refrigeration, it is critical that you have a plan in place for an extended power outage.
  • Know how to manually open your garage door.
  • Fill your gas tank
  • Charge all your devices; Identify backup charging methods for phones and keep hard copies of emergency numbers
  • Include your pets in your emergency plans. Remember, if you and your family need to evacuate, so does your pet. It’s important to know in advance to know which pet-friendly hotels are in your area, and where your pets can stay in an emergency
  • Plan what to do in case you are separated from your family during an emergency and what to do if you have to evacuate.
  • Make sure to coordinate your plan with your child’s school, your work, and your community’s emergency plans.

3) Be informed.

  • Be informed about which emergencies may occur where you live, work and play, and how to respond as safely as possible.
  • Find out how your local officials will send out emergency alerts during a local disaster (Nixle or other alert notifications system) and sign up to receive their notifications.

 

Safety during a Power Outage
Visit www.redcross.org/poweroutage for full power outage safety information.

Regardless of the reason for their occurrence, power outages can be frustrating and troublesome. For prolonged power outages, there are ways that you can minimize loss and keep everyone as comfortable as possible.

  • Use flashlights in the dark — not candles.
  • Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic lights will be out, and roads will be congested.
  • Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment.
  • Turn off or disconnect any appliances — such as stoves — equipment and electronics that you were using when the power went out. When power comes back on, surges or spikes can damage equipment.
  • Leave one light on, so you’ll know when power is restored.

If a power outage is two hours or less, don’t be concerned about losing perishable foods. During a prolonged outage, keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to protect your food.

  • First, use perishable food from the refrigerator. Perishables are safe to eat when they have a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Then, use food from the freezer.
  • If the power outage continues beyond a day, prepare a cooler with ice for your freezer items. Keep food in a dry, cool spot, and cover it at all times.

If you are using a generator, keep it dry and don’t use it in wet conditions.

  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Keep these devices outside away from doors, windows, and vents, which could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
  • Operate the generator on a dry surface under an open canopy-like structure, such as under a tarp held up by poles.
  • Don’t touch a generator with wet hands.
  • Turn the generator off and let it cool down before refueling. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.
  • Plug appliances directly into the generator. Never try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet.

Download the free Red Cross Emergency App for additional power outage safety information right at your fingertips.

  • The Emergency App provides real-time weather alerts and tips on how to stay safe during power outages and countless other emergencies.
  • Search “American Red Cross” in app stores or go to redcross.org/apps.

 

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