Thursday, December 18, 2014

The First Line of Defense

Household smoke alarms are often considered the first line of defense with regard to a family’s safety during a home fire.  Families generally only have 2 minutes to escape their homes before the fire becomes life threatening.  It is for this reason, that functioning household smoke alarms are paramount in providing for the safety of one’s family.  On average, thirty-six people suffer from a home fire every day.  Tragically, seven of those thirty-six perish during these daily occurrences. Therefore, having properly maintained smoke alarms installed in a household can mean the difference between being one of the thirty-six or being one of the seven.

In a survey conducted by the National Fire Protection Association, researchers discovered that about 97% of the total U.S. population had at least one smoke alarm in their household.  However, 37% of all home fire related deaths from 2007-2011 were in homes where no smoke alarm was present.


Furthermore, an additional 23% of casualties were in homes where smoke alarms were present but had been improperly tested or maintained.  This translates to a casualty rate in households with malfunctioning or no smoke alarms that is twice as high as a household with one functioning smoke alarm.

The Red Cross recognizes the importance of having this first line of defense and has launched a Home Fire Preparedness Campaign that involves, among other aspects, free smoke alarm installations in homes without proper protection.  This month, Red Cross volunteers traveled to the community of Weldon, California to install smoke alarms for 200 at-risk homes.  In addition, these volunteers educated families on proper smoke alarm maintenance and the importance of making and practicing a family emergency plan.


If you would like to learn more or you would like to get involved in the prevention of home fire related suffering, please contact the Red Cross Central Valley Region by visiting redcross.org/centralvalleyregion.

Andrew Basham
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central Valley Chapter

Friday, December 12, 2014

'Tis the Season to be Selfless!

Ah! The holiday season is here! Shopping malls are covered with poinsettias and raging with sales, the smell of peppermint lattes is filling the air, and Christmas music can be heard almost anywhere you go. Talk shows and media outlets are filling peoples' minds with the hottest must have items to stock under Christmas trees.

As we all put time and thoughts into our holiday parties and gift ideas, we sometimes forget about the true meaning of the holidays. Bob Hope once said, “My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?” The American Red Cross truly gives back all year around and is a selfless organization.

Bob Hope performing at Lackland Air Force Base, 1990
This time of the year can be devastating for those that have lost their home and most of their belongings to fires and mudslides. On Thanksgiving, I was called out to my first disaster response call. The home, where a family of five lived, was completely destroyed. The fire was caused by a candle that was left burning during the night. All the members of the family made it out of the fire unharmed; however they lost their beloved pet Pit Bull. As we spoke to the father of the family, he was overwhelmed with grief. Once we finished taking his down his information and arranged hotel accommodations and issued him a cash assistance card for him and his family, he broke down in tears of gratitude. This experience made me see how the Red Cross makes a difference in people’s lives.

The American Red Cross of the Central California Region doesn’t only respond to disaster calls. With help from volunteers and employees, our Team Firestopper campaign has canvassed more than 6,000 homes with home fire safety information since I started my service in September 2014.  We taught more than 100 families on how they can help prevent home fires and keep their families safe in the case of a disaster.

During the holiday season, the American Red Cross supports our nation’s military forces with Holiday Mail for Heroes. The Merced chapter recently had their Holiday Mail for Heroes event at their local shopping mall where many locals came to create and send cards of thanks to the armed forces.
Volunteers sorting Holiday Mail for Hero Cards
You can make a difference this holiday season - or any time of the year - by signing up as a volunteer and find opportunities in which you can help the American Red Cross make your community a safer place!

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Power to Save a Life is in Your Hands

Did you know that there is a course designed to simplify CPR? Hands-only CPR helps everyday citizens feel more confident to provide care.

Less than 1/3 of adults who suffer from sudden cardiac arrest get the help they need because people are too afraid that they are going to do something wrong. It is important to know what to do in an emergency and equally as important to have the confidence to act. Hands-only CPR takes minutes to learn and is easy to remember!

Here is a short video to help explain hands-only CPR step by step:


Step 1: Check the scene for safety and see if the person responds to you by tapping them on the shoulder and shouting ‘Are you ok?’

Step 2: Briefly look for signs of breathing.

Step 3: If they don’t respond, call or send someone to call 911.

Step 4: If the person is not breathing or is gasping prepare to give chest compressions.

  • Kneel beside them
  • Place the heel of one hand in the center of the chest
  • Place your other hand over that hand, lacing your fingers together
  • Position your shoulders directly over your hands, keeping your arms straight with your fingers off the chest

Step 5: Push hard and fast at least 2 inches then let the chest rise completely before pressing down again.

Step 6: Keep going until:

  • Person shows an obvious sign of life, like breathing
  • Scene becomes unsafe
  • An Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is ready
  • Too exhausted to continue
  • A trained responder takes over

Step 7: Get more training and encourage others to do so!

I would encourage everyone to further their knowledge by taking a First Aid and CPR course. It is recommended that every household has at least one member trained in these skills. Hands only CPR is a great place to start, doing something as simple as chest compressions can help. Compressions keep the blood flowing carrying oxygen which is vital in helping someone stay alive.

‘Be Red Cross Ready’ with hands-only CPR course are available at no cost through your local Red Cross Chapter. Contact us today to schedule a presentation!

Want to know more? Sign up for a First Aid/CPR course in your area and download our free First Aid mobile app!

Korri Faria
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central California Region

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Immunized and Confused

I wanted to bring a few different conspiracy theories to you all so you could see what is floating around in the dark corners of the Web and maybe even have an answer when a member of the community asks what the Red Cross has to say about these rumors.


Over the past several weeks, the fear and lack of knowledge about Ebola has been made apparent with calls asking us to present on the topic. They want to know how the disease is spread, what the symptoms are and how likely they are to get the virus. Along with these concerns, there is a rumor that the Red Cross has been spreading the Ebola virus and that is the only way that people have been infected. Let me just state: that is FALSE!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease can be spread from infected human to human or infected bat/primate to human. A human can be infected with the virus through direct contact with an infected person’s blood or bodily fluids and the virus can only enter the body through broken skin or a mucous membrane. A human can also be infected by a bat and/or primate that is carrying the infection through the same method of transfer and additionally through consuming said animal that is infected with Ebola. It CANNOT be transferred through the air or through the water.


The symptoms can appear anywhere from two to twenty-one days after being exposed and they are very similar to the flu. They can involve a fever, headache, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, stomach pain, lack of appetite, joint and muscle ache and—the one that differs from influenza—unexplained bleeding and bruising. The virus can only be transmitted while these symptoms are present. The likelihood of getting the virus in the U.S. is low. If you are a healthcare worker in West Africa or a person living in those affected countries, than the risk is higher. As for us here, not traveling or caring for the sick, we should be worried more about the flu than Ebola.

Now to the really fun stuff: conspiracy theories!
The current theory that hits closest to home is about our Red Cross. If you have not heard it already, it has been rumored that the Red Cross is in cahoots with the U.S. government to infect the people of Africa so that the government can sneak into Africa for its diamonds and oil.


The Ebola virus and its varying strands have been around for decades, since 1976. Additionally, the Red Cross does not force vaccinations, and is not a government agency tied exclusively to the United States. The Red Cross an international organization that provides humanitarian relief to those who need it across the globe. At no time could the American Red Cross have more power over the other Red Cross and Red Crescent chapters.

Lastly, I will leave you with an excerpt from the American Red Cross’s response that I feel shows how amazing the Red Cross and its volunteers are and how a few crazy conspiracy theorists are not going to bring us down!

“These allegations are an insult to the 4,000 local volunteers- themselves citizens of West African nations-who have been working tirelessly to help their neighbors. These volunteers have worked around the clock to provide prevention education, assist with burials, and provide comfort to families impacted by Ebola. In addition, the Red Cross opened a 60 bed treatment center in Sierra Leone. Patients have already started to recover and have been released from the center.”

Alexandria Desiga
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central California Region

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Guess Who's Back?!

Guess who’s back, back again, Vero’s back, tell a friend! So yes ladies and gentlemen, I am back for a second year of AmeriCorps, preparedness, and Team Firestopper. This year has already been adjustments all around. I had to say good bye to coworkers who made up the preparedness team and my AmeriCorps team. I have welcomed five new AmeriCorps members to our team; two of which I share a cubicle with, and welcomed a new boss. All these changes would be enough to drive Sheldon crazy, but not me! Let me explain these changes.  

Change #1: five completely different personalities, than Thing 1 and Thing 3 (yes Dr. Seuss reference) from last year, came into my world. At first meeting, I wasn’t sure if I was going to get along with them. This AmeriBunch, as I like to call the whole group, they’re a great group. They go from the theatrical to the “let’s get down to business” types. When it’s fun time, we laugh and dance our time away, and business time, we get things done. 


Change #2: What I call, the ol’ Switch-a-roo. My boss Alex was called to duty at Red Cross HQ, which meant he had to leave the AmeriBunch in someone else’s hands. To be honest, I was worried and anxious and scared, I was becoming Sheldon (again with the Big Bang Theory reference), but then I found out Amy would take over. As excited as I was, I was worried. How was she going to help me with Change #3?! It’s been two months, it’s been all about transition, but all is well with the AmeriBunch. 

So Change #3, well, this actually began during last term. Part of my assignment as AmeriCorps was to cover bilingual presentations, events and media. As time went on, we realized the Latino community that was not fully being reached. We would hear that many of our Spanish speaking emergency clients would deny Red Cross assistance. We then wondered if this was because of a language barrier and/or misinformation on how the American Red Cross can help our Latino communities. We know many have a misconception of the American Red Cross. It was almost distrust, a feeling that we would not help them because they did not have proper credentials or their citizenship was questionable. I understood, how not knowing if an organization would help, could feel and I felt that we should do something to break this barrier.

From this desire to help our Latino communities was the creation of our Latino Community Preparedness program. This program is designed to inform these communities on how they can prepare for any emergency, and how they can help save a life. It is completely focused on Latino (Spanish speaking) communities throughout the Central Valley and Kern counties. I am also hoping to grow our bilingual speaking volunteers and encourage them to gain experience from this program. A future, personal goal is to have this grow not only with Latino community, but also with other cultures with language barriers. I am bilingual in English and Spanish, but if I can encourage those who are bilingual in other languages, this program can grow and we can help more communities. 

I’m sure from other blogs written by the AmeriBunch, you were expecting to read on how to prepare for some emergency, but I felt like I needed to share my experience coming into a 2nd term of AmeriCorps and having things flip.  I knew I was ready for the changes and as scary as they seemed; they were actually very exciting. Cheers to the next 8 months!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Have You Made Your Emergency Kit for the Zombie Apocalypse?

It has been over 6 weeks since I began my journey here at the American Red Cross. I am pleased and excited to collaborate with the fantastic six AmeriCorps members this upcoming year. With all of our past experience, ambition, and determination I am confident that all six of us will get things done for future AmeriCorps members to follow.

Within these six weeks I have learned so much and have seen many wonderful humanitarian efforts the Red Cross provides nationwide and even in the community I live in. I have engaged in presentations that educated and prepared families to be safe for disasters, and provided assistance to families after a house fire. It is a great pleasure to see the smiles of each family member when we show up to community events or during a disaster response. I am excited for what the future holds for me at the Red Cross.

I cannot stress how important it is to have an emergency kit in your household. During my presentations I have seen on an average of five audience members have kits. A kit will provide you the basics in order to live on your own until first responders arrive. Therefore having a kit will develop you to be more independent rather than depending on others to take care of your family. A kit should consist of water, food, documents, first aid and many more.

Many of us watch the show The Walking Dead, where they even stress the importance of having a kit as well. You cannot always depend on Daryl or Rick to take care of you during a zombie apocalypse. You should be prepared at all times. I was looking at previews for the upcoming season of The Walking Dead and came across this amazing item:


The Walking Dead offers a survival kit at a reasonable price that includes the following:

  1. Emergency food ration
  2. First aid kit
  3. LED flashlight
  4. Blankets
  5. Ponchos
  6. Waterproof matches
  7. Face masks
  8. And packets of water
If Daryl and Rick are fighting for their life from these flesh eating ugly zombies, I think you should make an investment and begin your kit for your family.

Daniel Avina
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central Valley Region

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Volunteers to the Rescue!

The American Red Cross relies heavily on the help of volunteers. Volunteers help our organization in many different ways, from helping out Red Cross staff in the office to assisting clients on disaster calls. I have been an AmeriCorps member serving in the Central Valley Region for over three weeks now and I have worked side by side with many Red Cross volunteers.

My first opportunity to work with Red Cross volunteers was at the 2014 A Taste of River Park event. This fun event provided guests with great food, drinks, and fashion shows. The best thing about this event was that a portion a of the ticket proceeds helped benefit the Red Cross. At this event, I was able to see how the Red Cross in the Central Valley Region came together to work as team. The Red Cross employees and volunteers worked diligently to make sure guests had a great time.

But I want to share a positive experience I had with a specific volunteer and how she saved the day.

A fellow AmeriCorps member, Alex Desiga, needed assistance with three presentations that she had scheduled at a military base.  The coordinator at the base needed two children’s safety presentations and a Be Red Cross Ready presentation for adults. All three presentations needed to be done simultaneously so a volunteer and I assisted Alex by presenting Masters of Disasters and Andrew Bashman from the Visalia office presented The Pillowcase Project.

From Left to Right: Alex Desiga, Elizabeth Barragan, Nicole German, Andrew Basham
Nicole German, the volunteer that assisted me with the presentation is a nursing student at Fresno City College and she is volunteering with the Red Cross to get presentation experience. We only had a handful of children for our Masters of Disasters presentation. In our group of children, there was a little girl that was hard of hearing. Her mother was by her side as she seemed timid and uncomfortable. Her mother had to leave her side to attend other matters, and this made the little girl so upset to the point where she started to cry.

As I went to attend to the distressed girl, Nicole stepped up to the plate and was able to continue with the other children and presentation. I was able to educate the little girl on safety and preparedness on a  one on one level, which made her feel comfortable to the point where she was able to joined the other children at the end.

The coordinator and the little girl’s mother were so grateful and pleased with how we handled the situation. I was also thankful to have Nicole there volunteering with me. I know it would have been a stressful situation for me if she was not there.

Volunteers perform 98% of outreach and disaster response in the Central Valley and are essential to the Red Cross mission.

Registering to volunteer is easy! Click here to sign up today.

Elizabeth Barragan
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central Valley Region