Tuesday, December 28, 2010

CrossWords: The Top 10 of 2010

As we say goodbye to 2010, I can't help but look back and remember where we have been. It seems like just yesterday we at the Central Valley Chapter thought it would be a great idea to start a blog to let you all in on the inner-workings of the Red Cross. Little did I know this would mean blogging daily and constantly struggling to come up with ideas to keep our readers coming back. But rest assured, I survived my first year as your Blogmaster, and I look forward to the great things to come in 2011. However, that being said, I would love to hear from all of you dedicated CrossWords fans about any great Red Cross stories, facts, moments, or even just things you'd like to know about the Red Cross and I'd be happy to get blogging.

So, in the tradition of remembering our first year, I present to you, our loyal supporters,  The Top 10 of 2010.

From all of us at the American Red Cross Central Valley Chapter, we would like to wish you and your family a Happy and Safe New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Don't Be A Holiday Heart Attack!

It’s hard to sugarcoat the statistics: You’re more likely to die of a heart attack on Christmas or New Year’s than any other day of the year. Why? It could be a lot of things. Stress. A particularly high-fat meal. Shoveling snow. Substandard care in an emergency room staffed with a limited holiday crew. But my guess is that denial plays a big role.
Denial, after all, is pretty common over the holidays. We want lots of laughing, all the meals gourmet, and everyone a picture of health. In other words, we think life will take a holiday. But it won’t. You want to believe that slight pain in the chest is just heartburn and not worth making a fuss over. Right? Wrong.
Precisely because heart attacks are so common around the holidays, you should be especially alert to these warning signs:
  • Chest discomfort, including pain, pressure, squeezing, or a feeling of fullness in the center of the chest. The symptoms may wax and wane.
  • Pain or discomfort that radiates to one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Sudden onset of shortness of breath, even without chest discomfort.
  • A cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness.
If you think you’re having an attack, call 911. Then chew and swallow a regular-strength aspirin.
Of course, it’s even better to avoid heart attacks in the first place. So take these common-sense steps:
  • Avoid overindulging in food or alcohol. The risk of an attack appears to double in the two hours after a particularly large meal.
  • Get a flu shot and treat any respiratory illness immediately. In frail folks, those infections can sometimes precipitate an attack. 
  • Minimize emotional stress. Negative emotions, such as anger or stress, trigger the release of hormones that can threaten your heart.
  • Bundle up outside, since cold temperatures can increase blood clotting and cause blood vessels to constrict.
And take it easy when exerting in the cold, too—whether it’s shoveling snow, or playing with the grandkids.
Of course you could always be prepared in the event of a cardiac related emergency by receiving training from your local American Red Cross Chapter. Just sayin'! Have a Heart Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

12 Holiday Safety Tips from the Red Cross.

In my opinion, these facts are a lot cooler than a partridge in a pear tree! Check em out and have a safe and happy holiday!

Beware of Holiday Candles - Be sure candles are kept away from decorations or other combustible materials. Don't leave children unattended in a room with lit candles, and always keep candles, as well as matches and lighters, out of the reach of children. Never use candles to decorate Christmas trees. Avoid using candles during parties. Never display lighted candles in windows or near exits.

Test Tree Trimmings - When decorating with lights, be sure to purchase only those labeled by a testing laboratory. Never use candles to decorate Christmas trees. For outside decorations, use only those lights labeled for outdoor use. Don't overload electrical outlets, and always unplug all lights before leaving home or going to bed. Never put electrical lights on a metal Christmas tree.

Keep Christmas Trees Fresh - Choose a fresh Christmas tree and secure it in a sturdy stand. Place the tree away from heat sources and exits, and water it daily. If you purchase an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled as fire-retardant.

Prepare for Holiday Parties - Decorate only with flame-retardant or noncombustible materials. Avoid using candles during parties. If guests will be smoking, provide them with large, deep ashtrays and check them frequently. After the party, check inside and under upholstery and in trash cans for cigarette butts that may be smoldering.

Designate a Driver - When attending a party, always designate a non-drinking driver. If you are the host of a holiday gathering, be sure there are non-alcoholic beverages available for guests who are driving.

Inspect Fireplaces - Have your chimney inspected by a professional prior to the start of every heating season and cleaned if necessary. Creosote, a chemical substance that forms when wood burns, builds up in chimneys and can cause a chimney fire if not properly cleaned. Always protect your family and home by using a sturdy screen when burning fires.
Remember to burn only wood - never burn paper or pine boughs, which can float out of the chimney and ignite a neighboring home. Never use flammable liquids in a fireplace. If you are purchasing a factory-built fireplace, select one listed by a testing laboratory, and have it installed according to local codes. If you plan to hang stockings on your fireplace, do not use the fireplace for fires.

Be Cautious With Portable and Space Heaters - Place space heaters at least three feet (one meter) away from anything combustible, including wallpaper, bedding, clothing, pets, and people. Never leave space heaters operating when you are not in the room or when you go to bed. Don't leave children or pets unattended with space heaters and be sure everyone knows that drying wet mittens or other clothing over space heaters is a fire hazard.

Watch Your Wood Stoves - Be sure your wood or coal stove bears the label of a recognized testing laboratory and meets local fire codes. Follow manufacturers' recommendations for proper use and maintenance. Chimney connections and chimney flues should be inspected at the beginning of each heating season and cleaned if necessary. Follow the same safety rules for wood stoves as you would for space heaters. Burn only wood, and be sure the wood stove is placed on an approved stove board to protect the floor from heat and hot coals. Be sure to check with your local fire department and check local codes before having your wood stove installed.

Cook with Care - When cooking, do not wear loose fitting clothing. It can be ignited by hot burners. Always turn pot handles in. Don't store items on the stove top; they could catch fire. Keep kitchen appliances clean and in good condition, and turn them off after use. Don't overload electrical outlets, and don't use appliances with frayed or cracked wires.

Buckle Up - During the holiday months, people travel more than ever. Wearing a seat belt may prevent injury in a motor vehicle collision. Ensure that all passengers are also wearing safety belts. Please remember to seat children in the back seat of the car and in approved safety seats if younger than six years old, or according to local law.

Prepare a Winter Storm Plan - Have extra blankets on hand and ensure that each member of your household has a warm coat, gloves or mittens, hat, and water-resistant boots. Stay tuned for storm warnings by listening to NOAA Weather Radio and your local radio and television stations for updated storm information. It's also important to have your car winterized before winter storm season.

Enroll in a First Aid & CPR course - Although these tips can help prevent an emergency, it is also important to be prepared should an emergency situation arise. To enroll in a first aid or CPR course, contact your local American Red Cross.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cooking with the Red Cross!

Are you excited about the holidays? What part excites you the most? If you are like most people you will say the family, gifts, and fun but we all know that one of our most favorite portions of the holiday season is undoubtedly the food! Everyone is in the kitchen during this time and if you are not personally in the kitchen you know someone who will be. That is why it is imperative to prepare yourselves and your loved ones for the prevention of kitchen fires.
Sixty-five percent of home fire deaths occur in homes with no working smoke alarms. During a home fire, working smoke alarms and a fire escape plan that has been practiced regularly can save lives.
We all love our family members and want to keep the holiday spirit in the atmosphere at our homes; the last thing we want to worry about is a fire that can ruin the place we call home but also damage the holiday season for other people.
There are four basic and quick steps that you can do when cooking:
1. Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove, stay in the house while simmering, baking, roasting or boiling food.
2. Check it regularly and use a timer to remind you that food is cooking. (We all get distracted sometimes by our favorite shows or long telephone conversations).
3. Keep anything that can catch fire like pot holders, towels, plastic and clothing away from the stove.
4. Keep pets off cooking surfaces and countertops to prevent them from knocking things onto the burner.
These small steps seem easy to remember but we all can practice things more than once for the safety of ourselves and our loved ones. After all it is easier to attempt to practice these steps repeatedly than to disregard them and destroy the holiday season. Besides, good food is waiting on us so let’s make it a delicious and safe holiday season by cooking with caution! 
Happy Holidays from the American Red Cross, Central Valley Chapter!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Are You Red Cross Ready for the Lunar Eclipse?

This Tuesday, December 21, marks the first time in 456 years that the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, coincides with a full lunar eclipse. Now I’m not saying this is ominous. Absolutely not. It’s just an exceedingly rare set of events that use to terrify primitive peoples and may be sending out some funky cosmic energy. I’m sure there are tons of movies and books that start with these circumstances and don’t end in tears. Right? Still, doesn’t hurt to be prepared.

Just in case Tuesday morning's events activate any latent zombies, it might be helpful to have that two week supply of emergency food and water stocked up at home. The Red Cross recommends storing easy to prepare nonperishable foods and one gallon of water per person per day for each member of your family. Trust me, when your neighbors are fighting their way through the zombie hoards to get to the supermarket you will be glad you had the foresight to stock up!

Now I know what you’re thinking. What if the covens of flying solstice/eclipse vampires manage to get themselves tangled in power lines and we lose electricity? Well, then you’ll be glad you have a complete disaster supply kit because it will have a battery powered/hand crank radio to receive important updates from whatever interim government emerges after the initial crisis. Also make sure you have plenty of flashlights and batteries. Avoid using candles at all costs! Accidents happen, and if a candle is left unattended or gets knocked over by a pet or a child you could experience a house fire. We at the Red Cross see a spike in the numbers of home fires we are called to respond to whenever there are power outages. While fire may be good for scaring off Frankenstein’s monster, it’s going to draw the zombies and vampires right to you.

You might not be on board with the whole monster threat thing. Well okay realist, let’s talk about a chain reaction of cataclysmic natural disasters. After initially sheltering in your home from the freak meteor strikes and tornadoes, you hear the interim government announce on your battery powered radio that a giant mega volcano has formed out in Woodward Park. Your area is in the projected hot zone for the imminent eruption so it's time to evacuate north and take shelter with our friendly neighbors in Oregon. You are ready to go within minutes because YOU have prepared your disaster supply go-kit. It contains copies of important papers, a 7 day supply of any medications you may need, personal hygiene items, family and emergency contact information, emergency blankets, maps of your area, and extra cash (remember the vampires brought down the power so there are no functioning ATMs!). Personalize your kit by thinking about each member of your household and their unique needs.

Even if the Tuesday solstice/eclipse turns out to be nothing (keep dreaming optimist!) the preparations you have made will be useful for more mundane emergency situations like winter snow storms, floods, pandemic flu, etc. And whatever the situation, your friends at the Central Valley Chapter of the Red Cross will always be there to help. For more information about disaster supply kits and creating an emergency family plan, visit us at www.arccentralvalley.org.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Make A Change This Winter!

Don't let the cold weather keep you indoors...come out and volunteer! There are plenty of volunteer opportunites available this season.

Volunteering this winter is a great way to spend time with friends and family.

Here are some tips on how to find a volunteer opportunity that is right for you!

1) Search the web. Look at websites like http://www.volunteermatch.org/ andhttp://www.idealist.org/. This will give you an idea of what opportunites are out there and how you can use your skills, knowledge and abilities.

2) Start with organizations you know and find out more about them. For example at the American Red Cross, not only do we need volunteers to respond to disasters we also look for people to do disaster education, general office work, special events and all sorts of things. Visit www.arccentralvalley.org for more information.

3) Talk to your family, friends and co-workers. They might already volunteer somewhere or know of a place that could use your help.

4) Remember that you want to do something you love. This should be a fun experience that makes you feel great about helping others!

The Original Emergency Response Vehicle!

Fun fact: 99 years ago, this month, the Pullmans donated a wooden sleeper car that would serve as a mobile first aid training facility.

The Pullman Palace Car Company's donation enabled the Red Cross to launch Red Cross Instruction Car No. 1, a railroad car that would travel across the country serving as a classroom for first aid instruction. In 1911, during its first full year of service, this mobile first aid classroom traveled more than 25,000 miles delivering first aid instruction to over 15,000 individuals. The success of the Red Cross instruction car prompted the Red Cross to expand its program to include an additional two railroad cars.

Can you imagine receiving first aid instruction on a train car?

Click Here - for more interesting facts about the Red Cross.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Quick Update!

Volunteers Wanted! The Red Cross is always seeking new volunteers. Whether you want an opportunity as a member on our Disaster Team, a Health & Safety Instructor, or a Fundraiser for the Red Cross, we've got it all! Well..we don't have any knives! For more information visit us online or call us at (559) 455-1000.

What in the World, Wednesday!

Welcome to What in the World, Wednesdays!  In which we consolidate the international Red Cross and Red Crescent news into one list of bite-sized links for you. It's a non-comprehensive sampling of the larger and/or more intriguing aspects of our global work...
ISRAEL: Emergency medical personnel were there to support the response operation and to treat the medical problems of the fire fighters, police officers, soldiers and volunteers during last week's major wildfire

NIGERIA: The ICRC and the Nigerian Red Cross Society are providing protection and assistance for people affected by the violent clashes between Nigerian security forces and the John Togo group in Warri, Delta state, and neighboring communities.

HAITI: Despite widespread civil unrest and political protests in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince last week, Red Cross ambulances were busy transporting patients to hospitals and cholera treatment centers around the country.

SUDAN: The ICRC working in cooperation with the Ministry of Animal Resources and Fisheries, has launched the latest phase of a campaign to vaccinate 700,000 animals against five major endemic diseases in Darfur.

PAKISTAN: The IFRC has launched a pilot project that will see 3,100 seed packages handed out to families in the Larkana and Hyderabad regions of Sindh to help them replant crops that were lost in the recent floods.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Greatest Mother in the World!

Why do you support the American Red Cross? Just this morning I spoke with a woman who has been a long time supporter of the Red Cross. She said that she believes in the importance of the Red Cross. She went on to tell me a moving story about how the Red Cross helped her famly. During WWI her two brothers were serving overseas, and when one was severely injured the Red Cross was there to help him, providing the comforts of home.Before WWI, the Red Cross was still a relatively small organization. It was actually the outbreak of WWI that led to the expansion of the Red Cross. In fact, after WWI nearly one-third of the U.S. population was either a contributing member of the Red Cross or a serving volunteer.

The American Red Cross is still busy providing
 Services to the Armed Forces.

Today you can show your support of our troops & the American Red Cross by visiting our Holiday Gift Catalog at: www.redcross.org/gifts. A $50 gift can make sure that a wounded patriot arriving at a military or VA hospital is welcomed with a Red Cross Comfort Kit. Kits contain the simple essentials like a phone card, robe, shower shoes, & toiletry items.

You can also volunteer with our SAF Program & Events or VA Hospital Events by contacting us at (559) 455-1000.

Thank you for your support of the American Red Cross Central Valley Chapter!

Let Your Light Shine!

I put my up lights already...I settled for simplicity this year.

We know that you are probably trying to outshine your neighbors with holiday lights this winter, so shine away! But, be careful – holiday lights used improperly can also cause fires.

There are ways to stay fire safe, and even be green in the process!! Follow our tips and you’ll be on your way to outshining your whole neighborhood!
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections.
  • Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.
  • Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both so be sure to check!
  • Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory.
  • Connect no more than three strands of mini light sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.
  • Or, go green and try LED holiday lights that burn less energy and produce less heat!
  • Turn off all electrical light strings and decorations in your home before leaving home or going to bed. You can purchase a light timer to turn on and off lights for you at a set time everyday!
And always remember… smoke alarms save lives. Install a smoke alarm near your kitchen, on each level of your home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms if you sleep with doors closed. Use the test button to check it each month. Replace all batteries at least once a year.

These fire safety tips are brought to you by your local Red Cross Chapter! We’re working to stop fires before they start in your community! For more information or fire tips, visit www.arccentralvalley.org or call at (559) 455-1000.

*Fire safety facts and tips found at 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It Came From Space...Heaters!

You've probably already turned on your heater or space heater to battle the blast of arctic air moving through the Central Valley. They may warm you up, but they also put your home at risk.

As temperatures dip across California, the American Red Cross urges families to be cautious when using space heaters and other heating sources, and to make a plan in case of a home fire.

Heating sources are the leading cause of winter fires, and increase during the winter months of December, January and February.

In the last 30 days, the Central Valley Chapter of the Red Cross has responded to 22 home fires.

Like many other charities, the Red Cross is stretching itself thin this holiday season trying to help families in need.

The group encourages you to use extreme caution so you don't find yourself in need of its services.

Heat sources such as space heaters, fireplaces or wood and coal stoves can pose a fire hazard.

To reduce the risk of heating related fires, the Red Cross recommends keeping anything that can burn such as paper, bedding or furniture, at least three feet away from heating equipment and fireplaces and to never leave these unattended.

The American Red Cross offers the following fire prevention tips:

- All heaters need space. Keep all things that can burn (paper, matches, bedding, furniture, clothing, carpets, and rugs) at least three feet away from heating equipment.

- Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended, and use a glass or metal fire screen to keep fire and embers in the fireplace.

- Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.

- Turn off portable space heaters every time you leave the room or go to sleep.

- Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, and chimneys inspected annually by a professional, and cleaned if necessary.

- If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs, or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Plug power cords directly into outlets and never into an extension cord.

The Red Cross is also asking for donations. To help, contact the American Red Cross Central Valley Chapter at (559) 455-1000.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Why It's Best To Give Close To Home.

Whether Americans are moved by the holiday spirit or just doing some last-ditch tax planning, the charitable-giving season starts now. But with budgets tight, it's important to get the most out of your gift -- and you might get more mileage from your contribution by giving to smaller, local organizations, rather than to the big, brand-name charities.  
Although overall donations to charities are down -- 40% of charities said they saw contributions decline in the first half of 2010, compared to 2009, according to one survey -- some signs suggest givers are still supporting local charities. When times get tough, people tend to shift their giving toward groups that provide basic needs, experts say, and the groups best able to meet those needs tend to be local. Of the few non-profits that saw increased contributions in 2009, many -- including ones like the AmeriCares Foundation -- rely on donated goods such as clothing and food. Those aren't the sorts of things people go far to give. And after seeing school budgets cut and neighbors' homes foreclosed upon, many people are also focused more on improving their own community, says Bob Ottenhoff, the chief executive of GuideStar, which serves as a massive repository for information on more than 1.8 million U.S. charities, including their financials.
The move toward local giving may also represent a shift toward more efficient giving. With fewer charitable dollars in play, local charities are often able to spend more of the money they raise on programs, says Jeffrey Cain, a principal at consulting firm American Philanthropic, largely because they don't usually employ professional fundraisers or a powerful chief executive with a big salary to match. For example, the national organization AIDS Emergency Fund receives a middling rating from Charity Navigator, a nonprofit organization that grades charities based on fundraising efficiency, spending on programs and other measures of generosity, in part because it puts 81.9% toward programs. In contrast, a top-rated local organization with a similar mission, AIDS Foundation Houston, spends 86.8% on programs -- a difference which means an extra $4.90 for every $100 donated gets passed on to the organization's clients.
Local organizations may also be easier to vet than national groups. That means a better shot at assessing whether a group accomplishes its aims, says Tim Seiler, the director of the Fund Raising School for The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. Before you write a check, you could visit an adopt-a-thon at a local animal shelter to see first-hand how many kittens have been saved and placed or volunteer for a shift at the soup kitchen to see how it's run and how many people it serves nightly. "That visit is usually a pretty good indicator of whether you like what's going on," he says.
Local groups are often able to fundraise more efficiently, too. So even in cases where the local option breaks even with national, or falls behind, there's an advantage to having the impact of say, more aid for the homeless or better literacy programs in your neighborhood. "It's an investment in your community," Cain says.
Here's an example of how a national charity's spending compares to several local organizations with a similar mission:
Some causes, of course, are better served nationally. Medical research is largely run by national groups, for example. International aid does include plenty of small groups local to an affected area, but it's usually difficult to donate directly, says Eileen Heisman, the chief executive of National Philanthropic Trust.
And in some cases, there might not even be a local group to support. In the aftermath of a natural disaster -- such as Hurricane Katrina or the earthquake in Haiti -- local organizations may be in need of help themselves, and ill-equipped to help others. Meanwhile, national groups are also more effective at processing and distributing aid, says Ottenhoff. Local groups may have good intentions, but big, established nonprofits have the connections and experience to make more of a difference quickly.
Sometimes you can have it both ways: National charities such as the Red Cross may let you designate a donation for a specific local chapter. If you go that route, check the branches' finances, says Bennett Weiner, the chief operating officer for the Better Business Bureaus' Wise Giving Alliance. (You can do that at the BBB, Charity Navigator or GuideStar.) Local affiliates may manage their operations separately and could be more -- or less -- effective than their parent charity.
Courtesy of Yahoo! News December 13, 2010. Charities: Why Its Best To Give Close To Home.

WWHPD? (What Would Harry Potter Do?)

Yes, I know I am like three weeks late, but I was preoccupied with this dreadful winter cold, my Christmas shopping, and a week's worth of leftovers from Thanksgiving to spend three hours at the movie theater. However, while watching Harry Potter this weekend, I couldn't help but notice how "Red Cross Ready," Harry really was. So I figured I would enlighten you muggles on what you are missing, but how we here at the Ministry of the Red Cross can help!

With You-Know-Who on the loose, Harry Potter knows he needs to be prepared for disaster at all times—whether it is natural, man-made or death-eater induced. Lucky for him, he has the ultimate disaster kit.

Used with the right spell, Harry’s wand can serve a multitude of purposes including but not limited to:

  • Light source (Lumos)
  • Water producer (Aguamenti)
  • Scissors/Knife (Diffindo)
  • Fire creator (Incendio)
Wands can even serve as a personal nurse practitioner, showcasing impressive First Aid skills to combat even the worst curses:

  • Repairs injuries (Episkey)
  • Heimlich maneuver (Anapneo)
But even Harry Potter can’t tend to the sick or injured without proper training. Not to worry. Just because you didn’t get your Hogwarts letter doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. The Red Cross is here to help us muggles prepare for emergencies. Enroll in a Red Cross health and safety course today by calling 559-455-1000.

Also make sure you’re prepared for disaster by packing your kit ahead of time. For a full list of disaster kit items, go to www.redcross.org.

Before departing on a mission to save the wizarding world in “Deathly Hallows,” Harry packs up his basic needs along with a few special belongings. What special item(s) would you carry with you during a disaster? Post your comments below.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Quick Update!

Make a Plan! At home, or in your organization you should always have a plan ready in order to prevent an even bigger disaster! To learn how to be Red Cross Ready, contact your local Chapter today! 

What in the World, Wednesday!

Welcome to What in the World, Wednesday! In which we consolidate the International Red Cross and Red Crescent news into one list of bite-sized links for you. It's a non-comprehensive sampling of the larger and/or more intriguing aspects of our global work...
COLOMBIA: Floods have affected more than 1.5 million people. The Colombian Red Cross has given food, emergency shelter, water, and other aid to hundreds of thousands and plans to intensify its operation in the affected regions.

IRAQ/KUWAIT: In its capacity as a neutral and impartial intermediary, the ICRC continues to support the authorities in their efforts to find out what happened to over a thousand people still missing in connection with the 1990-1991 war.

NEPAL: In connection with efforts to resolve cases of missing persons in Nepal, the ICRC and the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction, with technical support from an Argentine forensics anthropology team, jointly organized a four-day workshop on forensics.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Some 30 volunteers of the Red Cross Society of Guinea-Bissau from various parts of the country, together with nurses working in emergency services in the capital's hospitals, are taking part in an advanced workshop on first aid.

INDIA: The ICRC, with support from the District Disability Rehabilitation Centre (an organization run by the Indian Red Cross society of Dimapur) has re-launched a physical rehabilitation center in Dimapur, Nagaland.