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Red Cross Offers Safety Tips as Students Head Back to School

The school bells are calling students back to the classroom and the American Red Cross wants to make sure your student is safe as they head back to school.

While safety is a top priority for all students, there are special steps for parents of younger kids and those headed to school for the first time. Make sure the child knows their phone number, address, how to get in touch with their parents at work, how to get in touch with another trusted adult and how to dial 9-1-1. Teach children not to talk to strangers or accept rides from someone they don’t know.back-to-school-tw

 SCHOOL BUS SAFETY 

  • If children ride a bus to school, they should plan to get to their bus stop early and stand away from the curb while waiting for the bus to arrive. Cross the street at the corner, obey traffic signals and stay in the crosswalk.
  • Never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.
  • Teach your student to board the bus only after it has come to a complete stop and the driver or attendant has instructed them to get on.
  • Kids should board their bus only, never an alternate one.
  • Make sure your student always stays in clear view of the bus driver and never walks behind the bus.

GETTING TO SCHOOL BY CAR, BIKE, ON FOOT

  • If children go to school in a car, they should always wear a seat belt. Younger children should use car seats or booster seats until the lap-shoulder belt fits properly (typically for children ages 8-12 and over 4’9”), and ride in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old.
  • If a teenager is going to drive to school, parents should mandate that they use seat belts. Drivers should not text or make calls use their cell phone and should avoid eating or drinking while driving.
  • Some students ride their bike to school. They should always wear a helmet and ride on the right in the same direction as the traffic is going.
  • When children are walking to school, they should only cross the street at an intersection, and use a route along which the school has placed crossing guards. Parents should walk young children to school, along with children taking new routes or attending new schools, at least for the first week to ensure they know how to get there safely. Arrange for the kids to walk to school with a friend or classmate.

DRIVERS, SLOW DOWN!

Drivers should be aware that children are out walking or biking to school and slow down, especially in residential areas and school zones. Motorists should know what the yellow and red bus signals mean. Yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is getting ready to stop and motorists should slow down and be prepared to stop. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign indicate the bus is stopped and children are getting on or off.

Motorists must stop when they are behind a bus, meeting the bus or approaching an intersection where a bus is stopped. Motorists following or traveling alongside a school bus must also stop until the red lights have stopped flashing, the stop arm is withdrawn, and all children have reached safety. This includes two and four-lane highways. If physical barriers such as grassy medians, guide rails or concrete median barriers separate oncoming traffic from the bus, motorists in the opposing lanes may proceed without stopping. Do not proceed until all the children have reached a place of safety.

PREPARE FOR EMERGENCIES Know what the emergency plan is at your child’s school in case a disaster or an unforeseen event occurs. Develop a family emergency plan so everyone will know who to contact and where to go if something happens while children are at school and parents are at work. Details are available at redcross.org/prepare.

TAKE A FIRST AID CLASS The Red Cross First Aid App provides instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies whether it be before, during or after school. Download the app for free by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ in your app store or at redcross.org/apps. Learn and practice First Aid and CPR/AED skills by taking a course (redcross.org/takeaclass) so you can help save a life.

Coping Tips After Recent Mass Shootings

imageAfter events like the recent mass shootings in Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton, people may have feelings of fear, anxiety, grief, and helplessness. These are all normal feelings after this type of event. Something like this is upsetting for everyone. People near the emergency are affected, as well as people all over the country who may have family in the areas; who may know someone who was affected; or people who are watching the media coverage of this tragic situation.

Children are especially at risk as they may become afraid that the event will happen again, or that they or someone in their family may be injured or killed. The injuries and fatalities are difficult for them to understand. How a parent or other adult reacts around the child following a traumatic event can determine how quickly and completely the child recovers.

This is difficult to understand why something like this happens and it’s important for people to connect with and support each other. The Red Cross offers the following tips to help people stay strong:

  • Events like this can cause feelings of uncertainty and anxiety since no one knows what could potentially happen next. Remember that it’s okay to feel nervous.
  • Stay informed but limit media exposure of the events, especially for children. Children are especially vulnerable to stress reactions related to media.
  • Parents should let children talk about their fears and then reassure them about their safety. Talk with them in ways that they can easily understand. Let them guide the conversation; share details only when they ask about them.
  • Be patient with yourself and others. It’s common to have any number of temporary stress reactions such as anger, frustration, and anxiety.
  • Spend more time with family and friends and offer your support. Hug one another and listen.
  • Watch for signs of stress in your family, friends, and children. Get help from others if needed.
  • Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, drink plenty of water, and get enough rest.
  • To reach out for free 24/7 crisis counseling or support, contact the Disaster Distress Helpline at (800) 985-5990 (press 2 for Spanish) or (800) 846-6815 (TTY) or text the Disaster Distress Helpline at text ‘TalkWithUs’ or ‘Hablanos’ (for Spanish) to 66746. 

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Additional Resources

 

Discovering an Unlikely Passion

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Pamela Ingram accepts her award from Debbie Yee, Senior Disaster Program Manager.

Like many empty nesters, Pamela Ingram, 58, was at a crossroads a few years ago when her son left home to attend college.

A former stay-at-home mom and mortgage underwriter, Pamela wanted to re-enter the workforce. So she joined a job skills training program and was assigned to a front desk position at the Red Cross in Fairfield, Calif.

“I really didn’t know much about the Red Cross when I started,” recalls Pamela, whose responsibilities included answering the phones and providing basic office support. “I just thought the Red Cross responded to national emergencies.”

But the more time Pamela spent volunteering, the more interested she became in local humanitarian work. “I would hear what the volunteers were doing and how they were helping people, and it really fascinated me,” says Pamela. Little by little, she decided to get more involved.

With encouragement from a co-worker, Pamela completed training to become a Red Cross caseworker and joined the Disaster Action Team (DAT). 

Her first deployment was to Guerneville, Calif. where she spent three days interviewing flood victims. “It was cold, it was rainy, and we didn’t have a building to work out of, but it was gratifying to be able to help people who had lost everything,” she says.

During the recent California wildfires, she provided administrative support and logistical assistance from the Fairfield office to volunteers deployed to the fires.

“It gave me such a different outlook on our volunteers,” she says. “They didn’t get paid, and they didn’t complain. It was just amazing to see how hard they worked.”

Participants in the job skills training program receive new assignments every six months, but Pamela has chosen to stay at the Red Cross. She loves her position and feels invigorated by the work. “I always wanted to directly help people, and I never knew how I could do it,” she says. “Now, I feel like I can.”

In April, Pamela was recognized for her commitment to the Red Cross by being named Solano County’s 2019 Volunteer of the Year. The award was presented at the Bay Area Chapter’s annual volunteer appreciation dinner in Vallejo.

“It was such an honor,” says Pamela, who attended the event with her 22-year-old son, a student at San Francisco State. “I can truly say that since becoming a Red Cross volunteer, I am more compassionate and empathetic – a better person.”

Arianne Aryanpur is a volunteer writer with the Northern California Coastal Region.

 

Even though spring has passed, it’s still ‘Sound the Alarm’ season

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New Regional CEO Jennifer Adrio joined Silicon Valley Chapter CEO Ken Toren, more than 100 chapter volunteers, and partner teams at a very successful Sound the Alarm event earlier this month in San Jose. (Photo: Camilla Boolootian)
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On average, home fires kill 7 people and injure another 36 — every single day in the United States. That’s why the American Red Cross launched its nationwide Home Fire Campaign in 2014 with the goal of reducing the number of home fire deaths and injuries.

A key component of the campaign is a series of Sound the Alarm – Save a Life smoke alarm installation events in which Red Cross volunteers, working with local fire departments and other partners, visit high-risk neighborhoods to offer to install free 10-year smoke alarms, replace batteries in existing alarms, and help families create escape plans. It is believed that the Sound the Alarm neighborhood visits, in which more than 1.5 million alarms have been installed, have already saved more than 600 lives throughout the United States since the Home Fire Campaign began.

Teams throughout the American Red Cross’s Northern California Coastal Region were especially busy in April and May, organizing and holding a large number of Sound the Alarm “signature events.” These events were part of a special spring push that American Red Cross volunteers and our partners were making nationally from April 27 through May 12. The goal of this national effort was to install 100,000 smoke alarms during that three-weekend period.

But, while the spring push was successfully completed, Sound the Alarm teams in our region have continued their home visits in June and July. Here’s a brief rundown of those recent STA activities:

  • On June 20, 12 team members from the Central Coast Chapter installed 49 smoke alarms in 22 homes in Cachagua, a community located in a remote area of Carmel Valley. The work, which focused on two mobile-home communities, made 61 people safer. See photo of this event.
  • On July 20, more than 115 volunteers from the Silicon Valley Chapter and volunteer teams from our corporate and community partners installed 269 smoke alarms in 76 homes in the Eastridge Estates Community in San Jose. The effort made 309 residents safer. See story and photos of this event.
  • On July 27, 14 volunteers from the California Northwest Chapter installed 48 smoke alarms in 37 homes in the Napa Valley Mobile Home Park in Napa.
  • On July 27, teams in the Central Coast Chapter installed 184 smoke alarms in 65 homes in the city of Salinas, making 264 residents safer. See advance press release and photo from the event.

In addition to these larger Sound the Alarm events, Red Cross teams have also continued work throughout our region, installing free smoke alarms and conducting educational visits to individual homes on an appointment basis.

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RELATED INFORMATION:

•  Supporting our ‘Sound the Alarm’ home visits: This work is made possible thanks to generous financial donations from our national partners: Airbnb, Delta, and Nissan; and our regional partners: Pacific Gas and Electric Company, CSAA Insurance Group, a AAA Insurer, Dignity Health, Linden Root Dickinson Foundation, Camille McCormack, State Farm, John and Marcia Goldman Foundation, Karen Turner Sanford, and Veritas.

•  Thanks also to our amazing volunteers and partners, who are making our region’s contributions to this national Red Cross campaign so successful!

•  Related stories:

•  Support our region’s STA efforts: You can still participate in and support our Home Fire Campaign efforts by going to this web page.

Recognizing Leadership in Dennis Burke

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Dennis Burke pictured with Richard Goldfarb, Disaster Program Manager.

On March 16, 2019, the American Red Cross of the California Northwest Chapter honored three volunteers from Lake and Mendocino Counties at its annual Volunteer Recognition Luncheon. Dennis Burke of Lake County was one of them.

When selected as the recipient of the 2018 New Volunteer Award for his contribution to the Red Cross in his first year of service, Burke went up to receive his award in shock.

“It did not register,” recalls Burke.

Burke felt humbled and proud of the unexpected honor even though he did not anticipate being the center of attention that day. After the award was in hand, a sense of accomplishment came over him.

“At first, I was embarrassed because there were so many other people who had been volunteering so much longer than I had,” says Burke. But when fellow Red Cross volunteers and staff clapped, the feeling of recognition kicked in. “It was a good feeling. It was nice to be recognized for a job you’ve been doing and learning along the way.”

Burke played a vital role during the Mendocino Complex Fire volunteer efforts. Familiar with the area, the Lake County resident helped “hotshot”, or returned to burned-out areas with supplies for the residents as they repopulated the area.

Burke is no stranger to public service. He joined the Hayward Police Department before taking over as the senior animal patrol officer. As a state humane officer, Burke investigated acts of cruelty against animals. In 1989, he became the Director of Lake County Animal Control. Burke found happiness later in life in the construction business. He is now semi-retired and spends his newfound free time wearing many hats with the American Red Cross.

“They keep you busy,” Burke says with a grin.

Burke organizes the volunteer calendar, detailing all events and helps communicate with the team to make sure everyone is informed and up-to-date about volunteer opportunities. He is supporting Sound the Alarm in Mendocino plus recruitment and engagement of new volunteers. The award winner has also taken on the leadership role of the preparedness team lead. From tabling events to DAT calls, Red Cross volunteers and the community are likely to cross paths with Burke at some point.

“Dennis has been an awesome team member and valuable part of driving the Red Cross Mission in Lake and Mendocino,” says Richard Goldfarb, Disaster Program Manager.

When Burke isn’t volunteering, he spends time with his three daughters, seven grandchildren, and three canine companions – Ruff, Rascal, and Reckless.

Burke looks forward to future opportunities with the Red Cross and aims to make a difference. On Father’s Day, he attended the first Red Cross event held in Comptche, a town with less than 200 people. He hopes to reach smaller communities like Comptche that have not been focused on in the past due to staffing shortages.

When asked what he would tell potential volunteers for the Red Cross, Burke replied, “It’s all about the people – working with those in need and working with others that are just as wonderful.”

For information about how you can become a volunteer with the American Red Cross, please click here.

Lindsay R. Peak is a volunteer writer with the Northern California Coastal Region.

Tanya Sullivan of Sonoma County Awarded Coveted Clara Barton Honor

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by Marcia Antipa

“I was stunned.”

That was the reaction from Red Cross Volunteer Tanya Sullivan of Sonoma County when she was given the Clara Barton Honor Award for Meritorious Volunteer Leadership for the California Northwest Chapter.

“I was so surprised and just so honored. Just the name – it’s quite a recognition!”

Anyone who has worked with Tanya in her many Red Cross volunteer roles would not be so surprised to hear of her award. Marianne Arden, of Volunteer and Youth Services, says, “Tanya always downplays her role, but she is absolutely critical to our chapter, and during a disaster, she probably puts in a 70-hour week.”

The Clara Barton Award is given to a volunteer who has made “significant contributions while working with other volunteers and paid staff in developing and implementing effective programs in a resource manner which has enabled the American Red Cross to provide valuable service to the community.”

Tanya’s journey to this prestigious award began four years ago when her uncle passed away. He was a volunteer firefighter in the small Sierra Nevada community where Tanya was raised. “His death motivated me as a new empty nester to find ‘the next thing in my life.’”

Previously, Tanya had a professional career with Fireman’s Fund, then spent time at home raising her children, volunteering in the schools, little league, and other organizations. She also took a part-time job at a nursery. But when her children left home, she wanted to find a well-organized group that could use all of her skills and, as she says, “help me lead an impactful life.”

That group was the American Red Cross, where Tanya joined the Disaster Action Team. Her first “Mission Moment” was a call to a house fire late one night.

“It was in December, very dark and very rural, east of Santa Rosa up in the foothills.”

Tanya says every time she deployed to help a family, “there is an element of shock, of ‘what are we going to do tomorrow?’ We are there while the house is still smoldering, and the fire trucks are still there. One family I met was focused on how the kids were going to get to school.”

Tanya also deployed to the Russian River floods this winter, where she handed out buckets of cleaning supplies to start people on their “disaster recovery.” She says it’s her favorite role.

“You’re not just giving them a bucket – you’re hearing their stories.”

Tanya says in the Russian River community, many residents have been through floods several times over the years.

“The word you hear so much in these situations is resilience. It has become an overused, hashtag word. But I saw it; neighbors helping neighbors pull soaking wet furniture from homes, finding a way to start moving forward.”

Tanya now volunteers in Workforce Engagement. That’s where she earned the Clara Barton award, for streamlining the system to help new Red Cross Volunteers get trained and ready for deployment.

“It was full of speed bumps and potholes. Courses that were required didn’t exist; no one knew where to look. I saw this opportunity to fix all that. I don’t like whack-a-mole solutions that provide an immediate answer, but create a problem downstream.”

Tanya compiled a new document that closed the gaps in workforce training, at the regional and national level. “I was the persistent squeaky wheel that wouldn’t go away.”

Those who nominated her for the Clara Barton award wrote, “Her impact is huge, as this is a primary tool for all of Workforce Engagement, and impacts each and every [disaster services] volunteer.”

Tanya is obviously proud of her work, and of the army of volunteers that carries out the mission of the American Red Cross.

“It just blew my mind when I found out how few paid staff the Red Cross has, and look what we can do! Red Cross knows how; I love being a part of that!”

Congratulations to Tanya Sullivan!

For information about how you can become a volunteer with the American Red Cross, please click here.

Marcia Antipa is a volunteer writer with the Northern California Coastal Region.

Santa Clara County home fire illustrates value of smoke-alarm installations

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Mo Ghandehari, left, and Gordon Sakai visited the same Gilroy home twice: once to install two smoke alarms; a second time when the same alarms were activated by a fire in the attic.
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Summoned to the scene of a house fire in Gilroy this past November, American Red Cross volunteers Mo Ghandehari and Gordon Sakai thought the residence — badly damaged — seemed eerily familiar to each of them. That’s because it was.

The two Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) members for South Santa Clara County had been there before; in fact, just seven months before as installers on a Red Cross smoke-alarm installation team.

“We had installed two alarms in the very same home as part of our Red Cross Home Fire Campaign,” Ghandehari says.

In this case, the eight occupants of the home were alerted to the fire by a neighbor who, seeing smoke billowing from the attic of the Lewis Street house, had knocked loudly on the door. But if the neighbor hadn’t happen to see the smoke, the recently installed Red Cross smoke alarms — also sounding a warning — might have been the only thing separating the home’s two adults and six children from almost certain tragedy.

“The incident really underscored for us the value of our smoke-alarm installation program,” Ghandehari says.

On average, home fires kill 7 people and injure another 36 — every single day in the United States. That’s why the Red Cross launched its nationwide Home Fire Campaign in 2014 with the goal of reducing the number of home fire deaths and injuries.

A key component of the campaign is a series of Sound the Alarm – Save a Life smoke alarm installation events in which Red Cross volunteers, working with local fire departments and other partners, visit neighborhoods to offer to install free 10-year smoke alarms, replace batteries in existing alarms, and help families create escape plans. It is believed that the Sound the Alarm neighborhood visits, in which more than 1.5 million alarms have been installed, have already saved more than 550 lives throughout the United States since the Home Fire Campaign began.

In addition to neighborhood-wide Sound the Alarm efforts, the Red Cross also works with its partners to promote appointment-based home visits. And the South Santa Clara County team, which also consists of volunteers Terrie Berry and Gilbert Dalit, has diligently scheduled and followed up on those individual home visits.

“In fact, it was an appointment that brought Gordon and me to the Lewis Street residence,” Ghandehari says. “We had announced the program at the Gilroy Senior Center, and that particular home visit resulted from our Senior Center outreach.”

Once the fire occurred at the residence, Ghandehari and Sakai offered the occupants Red Cross financial assistance to help them with short-term emergency lodging, as well as “comfort kits” containing personal hygiene items.

But it was the sound of two smoke alarms, installed just seven months earlier, that could have very easily been the most important assistance the Gilroy family received from the American Red Cross.

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For more information about the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign in this region, please go to: soundthealarm.org/NorCalCoastal. The page includes information about:

  • How people can volunteer to help or sign up to have free smoke alarms installed.
  • The generous donors who have made this lifesaving work possible!

Read about the great work our regional Sound the Alarm teams did during a special spring push in April and May.

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