Category Archives: Homepage posts — Featured

Follow the training; save a life

James Bird

James Bird works as a sales engineer. He also serves as a part-time EMT to support volunteer organizations and wilderness events. And on November 25, 2019, James helped save the life of a woman who was choking at the Westfield Valley Fair Mall in Santa Clara, CA. 

Earlier in the evening, James met a friend for dinner in the food court at the mall. They parted ways long enough to place their respective orders, and as James waited for his food, a commotion caught his eye.

“I turned and saw what I thought was a security guard forcefully removing a woman from the food court, and it seemed odd,” he says. “But then I had a realization that he was attempting to do abdominal thrusts…. the problem was the way he was administering the thrusts. I thought, ‘man, that is really ineffective; someone needs to go over there and help him.’ A moment later, I think, ‘oh my goodness, that’s me.’”

James rushed over, identified himself as an off-duty EMT, and then offered to step in. The woman lost consciousness, and James lowered her to the ground, continuing the thrusts while she lay supine. Her face began to turn blue, and James checked her pulse to find it weakening. As James placed his hands on her chest to begin compressions, the woman grabbed his wrist, indicating a return of consciousness. The color came back into her face, and she began to spit up. James continued to monitor the woman’s airway until EMS arrived on the scene. 

Once EMS arrived, James stepped back and then left to retrieve his dinner. He joined his friend at the table, sweaty and out of breath. His friend, Adrian, oblivious, had been facing the other way the entire time of the incident. Adrian sat stunned as James recounted the scene. James glanced toward the woman, now surrounded by police and firefighters, and noticed a whole audience of mallgoers around him listening to the story. Finally, one of the security guards trotted over to retrieve James’ info. 

“Her son was standing there and observing,” James says. “My thoughts go back to the son… can you imagine going holiday shopping and having this happen? I heard that the family reflected on how lucky they were that someone was there to help them.”

James is the Health Services Officer of Squadron 80 of the California Wing, Civil Air Patrol. His commander caught wind of the event, confirmed the incident’s details, and honored James at a Civil Air Patrol meeting.

It so happens that over the past year, James has been in contact with the American Red Cross to certify all members of his wing in basic lifesaving skills and to expand wilderness survival training certification. Knowing this connection, his friend, Adrian, put two and two together and nominated James for a lifesaving award through the Red Cross. Adrian knew that such recognition could help cross-pollinate interest in James’ work with the Civil Air Patrol.

Thus, on Thursday, September 17, Ken Toren, Chief Executive Officer, Red Cross Silicon Valley, presented James with the American Red Cross Certificate of Extraordinary Action.

“This is a documented event that puts together real-life training that helped save somebody as a part of our organizational relationship with the Red Cross,” says James. “That family gets to talk about the event later – and I will make sure to that pass on with anyone who comes through classes or programs I set up in the future.”

Thank you for your service, James, and congrats on well-deserved recognition!

How Red Cross teams supported the many residents affected by regional wildfires this fall

Since mid-August, when many of the wildfires described below started in our region, we have been updating this post on a regular basis. Now that most of our efforts are focused on helping residents as part of the recovery phase of these Red Cross responses, we will only update this post if future circumstances warrant.


Please see the information below that summarizes all of the great work our volunteers, employees, and partners have done to support our communities. We are also so appreciative of the donors whose generosity makes our work possible.

Background: The lightning storms that swept through our Northern California Coastal Region in mid-August caused a number of large and destructive fires in our chapter areas, prompting quick responses by our region’s Red Cross teams. Other fires subsequently started in our region in September, including the Glass Fire in Napa and Sonoma Counties.

Working alongside our government and community partners, Red Cross teams — comprising responders from inside and outside our region — have provided shelter, food, and comfort to the many residents impacted by these wildfires. Read more

‘I just can’t thank you enough’

Having returned home after their Glass Fire evacuation, a Santa Rosa couple shares their Red Cross story

By Dave Skutnik


Red Cross disaster worker Leigh Elliott is shown with Ila and Mike Ervin at the Ervin’s Santa Rosa area home following the Glass Fire.

As flames from the dangerous Glass Fire roared toward them, Mike and Ila Ervin — like so many on the night of September 27 — were forced to flee their rural home near the Northern California city of Santa Rosa.

“The sheriff came around and said we had to get out,” recalls Mike. “There was barely any time to even pack anything. We had to go — now.” Read more

Among evacuees, Esalen staffers are grateful for Red Cross


“The level of coordination and care was outstanding,” Esalen Institute’s Terry Gilbey said of the Red Cross response to the Dolan Fire. (Photo by Jens Wazel)

Founded in the 1960s in picturesque Big Sur, the Esalen Institute has a well-earned reputation for exploring human consciousness and developing human potential. The center attracts visitors from around the world whose interests in subjects such as personal growth, meditation, massage, yoga, and spirituality are explored less seriously by traditional universities and religions.

Terry Gilbey, the General Manager/CEO, has been with the institute since 2016. Just a year into his tenure, he helped the center stay afloat after landslides and a bridge failure made the facility inaccessible for many months. So the institute — and Terry — has had some practice with disasters. Read more