Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Top 10 of 2011!

It's that time again! We have had a very busy year at the American Red Cross Central Valley and and even more exciting year on our blog.

Because of you and your support, in our first year we were able to attract over 21,000 readers and 175 subscribers. Since the start of our blog in September 2010, we have posted over 300 posts and attracted readers from 13 different countries. This means all the world to me, and is really the greatest gift of all, especially since the blog was really created as a way for me to say all the things that no one would listen to me rant about here in the office. So as we embark into 2012, I would like to thank all of you for your continued support and wish you and yours a Happy New Year!

Now, without further ado, here is the Top 10 blog posts of 2011! 
  1. Don't Be A Holiday Heart Attack
  2. First Aid Follies!
  3. Make A Change This Winter!
  4. Circle K and the American Red Cross
  5. How To Survive A Plane Crash!
  6. Could A Flat Tire Be Considered A Natural Disaster?
  7. Zombie Preparedness Kit
  8. Be A Red Cross Monster!
  9. Are You A Germ-A-Phobe?
  10. More Than Just A Sign...
Remember you can help support your local Red Cross Chapter by making a donation at or right here on our blog!


Alex Villa

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Ready and Responding: Local Chapter Responds To Multiple Unit Apartment Fire.

Local American Red Cross volunteers responded to an apartment fire on the 5100 block of Lane Ave in Fresno, CA at approximately 4:30 p.m. today. The team of Red Cross volunteers helped coordinate assistance to the 9 adults and 6 children, in the form of food, shelter, and emotional support due to fire damage to their units.

“We’re deeply saddened for those affected,” said Ellen Knapp, Regional Chief Executive Officer.  “As we continue to provide support to those affected, we also encourage others to take action to minimize the risk of a home fire this holiday season.”

The Red Cross recommends two easy steps to help protect your home and loved ones from a fire: get a smoke alarm and create a fire escape plan. 
  • Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a home fire in half according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
  • Place smoke alarms on every level of your home, including bedrooms.
  • Test smoke alarms once a month and replace batteries at least once a year. 
  • Have a plan in place can help you escape, including at least two ways to escape from every room of your home and a meeting spot at a safe distance from your home. 
  • Discuss the plan with everyone in the household and practice it at least twice a year.
Red Cross volunteers on the scene were members of the Chapter’s Disaster Action Team, a group of specially trained volunteers who respond to the scene of a local disaster when called upon at any time of the day or night.

For more Red Cross fire safety and preparedness information visit or

To make a financial donation to your local Red Cross to help people affected by house fires and other disasters here in the United States and around the world, people can click, call or text - visit or call (559) 455-1000, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Worldwide Wednesday Wrap-Up!

Welcome to the Worldwide Wednesday Wrap-Up, 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...

PHILIPPINES: Last week tropical storm Washi swept through entire villages in several areas of the Philippines, causing the deaths of an estimated nearly 1,000 people and massive damage to infrastructure, including the water system. The ICRC, led by it’s local partner the Philippine Red Cross, distributed food packs, essential household items and hygiene kits for 18,000 people in three of the areas hardest hit within the first 48 hours. With more than 270,000 people now lacking access to clean drinking water, ICRC water and habitat engineers are devising ways to bring water from the undamaged water sources and of storing it for use by the survivors.

HAITI: The Haiti Red Cross Society is working to recycle rubble from the earthquake in 2010 to prepare for future disasters. So far they have been able to take 25,000 cubic meters of rubble and have local residents process it into concrete blocks, paving slabs or walls which will stop the ground from slipping away during Haiti’s next heavy rains or in case of another earthquake. The rubble recycling is just one part of the Haiti Red Cross Society’s neighborhood development support that assists in providing shelters, access to water and sanitation, and job opportunities along with training and technical support.

SOMALIA: Torrential rains that started in the southern provinces of Somalia in early October were welcomed in the drought stricken nation, however most roads were turned into rivers that have slowed down transport and delivery of food aid. Together with the Somali Red Crescent Society, the ICRC has distributed beans, rice and oil to over 917,000 people in southern and central Somalia. This will help farmers bridge the gap until January, when they will be able to harvest from seed the ICRC has also distributed.

NORTH KOREA: In North Korea, meager crops were severely damaged after being struck by a typhoon and flooding in July and August. Now, with the arrival of the first snow, people in the area are busy preparing for what they expect to be a severe winter. The Red Cross Society of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, supported by the IFRC, has so far distributed 288 metric tons of yellow maize to 6,051 of the most vulnerable families (24,827 people) who were severely affected by floods and subsequent food shortages in three target counties in South Hwanghae province.


ICRC = International Committee of the Red Cross
IFRC = International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Hanukkah from the Muppets!

Yes, it’s time to break out the old menorah to start celebrating the Festival of Lights with the family.  However, before you get too many candles lit this season, the Red Cross and a few Muppets would like to share some tips to prevent your holiday from going up in flames.
  • Remember that lit candles are fire. Keep them at least 12 inches from anything that can burn, such as curtains, bedding, mattresses, paper, books, flammable decorations, clothing, and upholstered furniture.
  • Always extinguish candles before leaving the room or going to bed. Do not leave a room before blowing out all candles.
  • Use candle holders that are sturdy, won’t tip over easily, are made from a material that cannot burn, and are large enough to collect dripping wax.
  • Place candles where they cannot be reached or knocked over by pets and children.
  • During an emergency, always use flashlights and not candles as light sources.
  • Never leave a child unattended in a room with a candle. And keep all matches and lighters out of reach and out of site of children.
  • Keep all lit candles and other open flames away from any flammable liquids.
  • Smoke alarms save lives. Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home and use the test button to check each alarm each month. Replace all batteries at least once a year.
Once again, Beaker shares with us the importance of fire safety:

Monday, December 19, 2011

All In A Year's Work - Red Cross Recap of 2011

American Red Cross Had 137 Big U.S. Relief Operations in 46 States in Disaster-Filled 2011

The American Red Cross helped hundreds of thousands of people whose lives were forever changed by disasters in 2011, from tornadoes, floods, wildfires and hurricanes in the U.S. to earthquakes and other disasters around the world.

Throughout the year, the American Red Cross supported the people of Japan and Haiti, while launching 137 domestic disaster relief operations in 46 states and territories to help people affected by fires, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes across the United States. In addition, major international disasters included the Japan earthquake and tsunami response and the continuing work following the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

“The number of lives affected by large disasters in the past year is simply staggering,” said, Ellen Knapp, Regional Chief Executive Officer. “Devastating tornadoes, flooding and wildfires wiped out entire neighborhoods. Through it all, the Red Cross, our partners, and communities nationwide responded, offering people shelter, food and comfort.”

In the United States, the Red Cross opened 1,019 shelters and provided more than 130,000 overnight stays. 27,622 trained disaster workers served more than 6.7 million meals and snacks and distributed more than 2.6 million relief items. Health and mental health workers provided more than 133,000 consultations and Red Cross workers opened 16,752 cases to help people get on the road to recovery.

State after state faced the powerful force of tornadoes in 2011. Devastating winds plowed through many neighborhoods, leaving destruction in their wake. Through it all, the Red Cross was on the scene, providing a safe place to stay, food to eat and supplies to help with the clean-up. The Red Cross helped people affected by large-scale tornadoes in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin in 2011.

A large part of the country – almost 20 states – was impacted by flooding in 2011. The Red Cross launched 27 relief operations related to flooding in Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee and Vermont.

Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee caused the need for relief operations in more than a dozen states. Thousands of disaster workers were deployed and more than 250 Red Cross feeding trucks were sent into neighborhoods to distribute meals and clean-up supplies. In New York and New Jersey alone, the Red Cross provided almost 34,000 overnight stays in shelters and distributed more than 840,000 meals and snacks.

Wildfires consumed almost four million acres across the state of Texas, and destroyed thousands of acres in New Mexico, Arizona, Florida and Oklahoma. Again, the Red Cross stepped in to help in the fire-ravaged neighborhoods, providing a safe place to stay, food to eat and emotional support for those forced to leave their homes, as well as firefighters and first responders.

The Red Cross depends on the generous support of the American public to assist people affected by disasters. If you would like to help, please consider making a donation today by visiting, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to your local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

Friday, December 16, 2011

More 12 Days of the Red Cross!

The Grand Canyon Chapter of the American Red Cross put together an adorable video set to the popular carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas” – check it out to see just what kind of gifts the Red Cross loves to give!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Worldwide Wednesday Wrap-Up!

Welcome to the Worldwide Wednesday Wrap-Up, 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...

EAST TIMOR: A team of well-trained Red Cross Volunteers recently helped with a horrific collision in regional East Timor. Four people died and almost 20 more were seriously injured when a troop carrier crashed two hours south of the capital, Dili. Nurses and doctors at the local hospital in Aileu were overwhelmed by the size of the emergency and Cruz Vermelha de Timor-Leste volunteers stepped-in to help. For eight years, the organization has received funding and training support from the Japanese Red Cross and the IFRC.

IRAQ: People in rural Iraq are among the most severely affected by seemingly never-ending violence, the lack of economic perspectives and of appropriate infrastructure. The ICRC is helping needy farmers increase their production in a sustainable way, and since September has provided some 900 farmers in Diyala, Baghdad, Wassit, Babil and Anbar governorates with drip irrigation systems benefiting over 6,300 people. Since the beginning of the year, almost 42,000 people, mainly in rural areas of central Iraq, have been given a boost by ICRC livelihood support projects.

LIBYA: More than 100 surgeons are enhancing their skills treating gunshot and blast-wounded patients through a seminar in Tripoli this week. The training is being co-organized by ICRC and the Ministry of Health. The ICRC conducted similar workshops in Benghazi, Tripoli and the Nefusa Mountains earlier in 2011.

INDONESIA: The ICRC has recently completed a mass scabies treatment program at the Labuhan Deli Prison in Medan, North Sumatra, working with the Indonesian Directorate General of Corrections. Scabies is a contagious skin disease caused by tiny, invisible mites that spreads easily in crowded surroundings such as at prisons. The campaign benefited 908 inmates, who had been living with scabies for years.

NIGERIA: Many children in Nigeria miss school or find it hard to concentrate because of the little talked of illnesses caused by worms. The Mushin division of the Nigerian Red Cross Society is tackling this by distributing de-worming tablets and teaching students about the importance of taking them regularly. So far 35 Red Cross volunteers have targeted 84 primary schools and provided tablets to over 22,000 children.


ICRC = International Committee of the Red Cross
IFRC = International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Twelve Days of a "Red Cross" Christmas

Christmas is a special time to celebrate and be thankful for family and friends. Give the gift that keeps on giving this season, the gift of health and safety to yourself and others.

Here is a Red Cross rewrite of "The 12 Days of Christmas." I think you will like the creativity we've shown. Sing along with the words to remind you to keep using healthy and safe behaviors during the holidays and throughout the year. Reminder, there is only 12 days left until Christmas!

1. On the first day of Christmas the Red Cross said to me
Seat belts should be clicking into place.

2. On the second day of Christmas the Red Cross said to me
Don't drink and drive, and seat belts clicking into place.

3. On the third day of Christmas the Red Cross said to me
Manage your stress, don't drink and drive, and seat belts clicking into place.

4. On the fourth day of Christmas the Red Cross said to me
Get your vaccinations, manage your stress, don't drink and drive, and seat belts clicking into place.

5. On the fifth day of Christmas the Red Cross said to me
Practice fire safety, get your vaccinations, manage your stress, don't drink and drive, and seat belts clicking into place.

6. On the sixth day of Christmas the Red Cross said to me
Wash your hands often, practice fire safety, get your vaccinations, manage your stress, don't drink and drive, and seat belts clicking into place.

7. On the seventh day of Christmas the Red Cross said to me
Become a volunteer, wash hands often, practice fire safety, get your vaccinations, manage your stress, don't drink and drive, and seat belts clicking into place.

8. On the eighth day of Christmas the Red Cross said to me
Eight hours of sleep, become a volunteer, wash hands often, practice fire safety, get your vaccinations, manage your stress, don't drink and drive, and seat belts clicking into place.

9. On the ninth day of Christmas the Red Cross said to me
Prepare for emergencies, eight hours of sleep, become a volunteer, wash hands often, practice fire safety, get your vaccinations, manage your stress, don't drink and drive, and seat belts clicking into place.

10. On the tenth day of Christmas the Red Cross said to me
Be tobacco free, prepare for emergencies, eight hours of sleep, become a volunteer, wash hands often, practice fire safety, get your vaccinations, manage your stress, don't drink and drive, and seat belts clicking into place.

11. On the eleventh day of Christmas the Red Cross said to me
Take a CPR course, be tobacco-free, prepare for emergencies, eight hours of sleep, become a volunteer, wash hands often, practice fire safety, get your vaccinations, manage your stress, don't drink and drive, and seat belts clicking into place.

12. On the twelfth day of Christmas the Red Cross said to me
Make a donation, take a CPR course, be tobacco-free, prepare for emergencies, eight hours of sleep, become a volunteer, wash hands often, practice fire safety, get your vaccinations, manage your stress, don't drink and drive, and seat belts clicking into place.

Friday, December 9, 2011

What Holiday Mail for Heroes Means To Me...

There’s been quite a bit of talk on this here blog about the Holiday Mail for Heroes Campaign, but in case you’re just now hearing about it for the first time, I encourage you to read on. Today I’d like to share with you my 2011 Holiday Mail for Heroes experience.

For the fifth time, the American Red Cross and Pitney Bowes have partnered together to provide Americans with an opportunity to send holiday cards to United States service members, veterans, and their families. Anyone is welcome to participate, which is why I when I was approached by Mrs. Regier, Principal of Marshall Elementary School to come out and participate in their Holiday Mail for Heroes card creation and signing party I couldn't resist!

When Anya Goosev, our Regional Community Resource Manger and I showed up I was thrilled to see 30 first graders and a mountain of signed Holiday cards. So in order to explain what the program was all about and who the Red Cross is, I kicked off our morning by talking to these 30 six- and seven-year-olds about the mission and the work of the Red Cross.

My questions, “Have any of you heard of the American Red Cross?”, “What does the American Red Cross do?”, and “How does the American Red Cross help people?” prompted quite a few interesting answers, comments, and stories about things that are red, various kinds of crosses, thunder and lightning storms, and stopping/dropping/rolling. After the fifth or sixth “One time, when I was three, I heard thunder outside my window” story (think “One time, at band camp…”), I was able to bring the kids back around to why I was there, and we moved on to discussing the support the American Red Cross provides to the United States Military.

I could see on these children’s faces that the idea of someone – anyone – not getting to spend the holidays with their family was foreign. A couple of children, whose parents aren’t even members of the Armed Forces, actually asked me if their dads would have to go away for Christmas this year.

Six- and seven-year-olds have not quite yet mastered the art of writing, so while they all “signed” their names and wrote some sort of greeting (or something loosely resembling that), their cards were decorated primarily with stickers, colored markers, and cutouts . But nonetheless every card made by those Marshall Elementary students was made especially for our Nation's Heroes.
This activity was an incredibly rewarding one for me. I love talking about the Red Cross, especially to children, and I love providing children with an opportunity to make a difference. Today I was able to do both, and I have no doubt that the students of Marshall Elementary enjoyed the art project and learned a little something about the Red Cross and its place in our community, not to mention the cool totes they all received from PG&E.

Although it's a little too late to send in a Holiday Card, you could still do your part and become a Red Cross volunteer for our Service to the Armed Forces Department or help distribute the 3,000 cards we have received this season. For more information, please contact Alex Villa at or call (559) 455-1000.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Worldwide Wednesday Wrap-Up!

Welcome to the Worldwide Wednesday Wrap-Up, 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...

PAKISTAN: This year alone, more than 12,000 people have benefited from services in physical rehabilitation centers supported by the ICRC in Peshawar, Quetta and Muzaffarabad, Pakistan. The centersprovide custom-made artificial limbs and supportive devices, crutches and wheelchairs designed according to the needs of the patients. Physiotherapy helps patients learn how to use new devices and to regain their full mobility.

YEMEN: Violence in the Yemeni city of Taiz has had a serious impact on basic services in recent weeks, with life-saving medical services especially hard hit. The ICRC is reaching out to authorities, fighters and all others involved to respect human life and dignity and to allow first-aid and medical teams to treat and transport injured people in safety.

AFGHANISTAN: The ICRC's assistance activities are helping to create incomes for vulnerable rural communities by piloting a poultry rearing, food-for-work project with primarily women entrepreneurs. In the months since the scheme began more than 240 women have participated in the eight cluster villages. Each has raised around 15 chickens and collected an average of 20 eggs from each hen per month.

SRI LANKA: The war is over but now the people of Sri Lanka have the hard task of rebuilding their lives and homes. The Australian Red Cross is playing a key role in dealing with the acute housing deficit in Sri Lanka, but unlike many donors it is not building houses for people by contracting foreign companies and workers to do the job. Here, people build their own housesbased on five specific cash grants, each one coinciding with the completion of a specific construction task.


ICRC = International Committee of the Red Cross
IFRC = International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Christmas Tree Fire Safety!

What's a holiday party or even the traditional Christmas morning scene itself without a beautifully decorated tree? If your household, as those of more than 33 million other American homes, includes a natural tree in its festivities, take to heart the sales person's suggestion—"Keep the tree watered." That's good advice and not just to create a fragrant indoor winter wonderland atmosphere. Christmas trees account for 250 fires annually, resulting in 14 deaths, 26 injuries and more than $13.8 million in property damage. Typically shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters or matches start tree fires. Well-watered trees are not a problem. Dry and neglected trees can be.

The video clip above from the Building and Fire Research Laboratory of the National Institute of Standards and Technology illustrates what happens when fire touches a dry tree. Within three seconds of ignition, the dry Scotch pine is completely ablaze. At five seconds, the fire extends up the tree and black smoke with searing gases streaks across the ceiling. Fresh air near the floor feeds the fire. The sofa, coffee table and the carpet ignite prior to any flame contact. Within 40 seconds "flashover" occurs - that's when an entire room erupts into flames, oxygen is depleted and dense, deadly toxic smoke engulfs the scene.

Wet trees tell a different story. For comparative purposes, the NIST fire safety engineers selected a green Scotch pine, had it cut in their presence, had an additional two inches cut from the trunk's bottom, and placed the tree in a stand with at least a 7.6 liter water capacity. The researchers maintained the Scotch pine's water on a daily basis. A single match could not ignite the tree. A second attempt in which an electric current ignited an entire matchbook failed to fire the tree. Finally they applied an open flame to the tree using a propane torch. The branches ignited briefly, but self-extinguished when the researchers removed the torch from the branches. As NIST fire safety engineers say: REMEMBER, A WET TREE IS A SAFE TREE!

Your local Red Cross Chapter responds to home fires on average every 14 hours. You can help prevent home fires by taking a FREE preparedness course from the Red Cross, or becoming a Community Preparedness Education Leader. For more information contact

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's Easy To Get Overloaded With "Stuff" During The Holidays.

‘Tis the season of stuff. The season of buying stuff, wrapping stuff, wondering if it’s the right stuff.

This year, why not take a break from some of the stuff, and give something that means something?

Visit our holiday catalog now at and you can change lives this holiday season. 

Our catalog offers gifts of real hope that live on in the people helped – people like families reeling from disaster, or soldiers deployed thousands of miles from loved ones during the holidays. 

I can vouch that there’s sadly never a lack of people in need for such lifesaving aid. Your gift is both precious and enduring. 

Send the gift of relief, support, strength and
hope to someone who needs it – visit and give something
that means something today. 

Thank you for all that you do.

Ellen Knapp, Regional CEO
American Red Cross Central Valley Region

P.S. Purchase $100 or more from our Holiday Catalog, and we’ll send you a free Red Cross vintage gift to say thanks! Don’t wait – visit and give a gift today.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Is Your Home Prepared for the Holidays?

Yes, even I can turn the Holidays into a time to prepare for something!

Christmas is my favorite holiday. It's a busy, chaotic time of year but you get to enjoy lots of fun activities with friends and family, things that you rarely do the rest of the year.

It's easy to get distracted during the holiday season. You know you want to decorate the house and you know when you're done because you can see the results. This checklist helps you keep track of special holiday activities that aren't part of your day-to-day routine. The focus of this checklist is home safety - keeping you, your family and guests safe during the holiday season.

Lots of homeowners love putting up displays in front of their home … and some of us just enjoy driving through the neighborhood to enjoy other people's homes. Here are tips for keeping your home safe outdoors.
  • Plan your outdoor holiday lighting ahead of time but why? Unless you're using solar-powered lights or new LED lights that draw very little power (read Save Energy with LED Christmas Lights), you need to map out where to plug in your lights or you run the risk of causing a fire.
  • Put together your holiday hanging kit, focusing on materials that you can leave up and reuse year after year. Use stainless hooks and screws plus floral wire and plastic cable ties to hang your decorations. Only use extension cords rated for outdoor use.
  • Unless you work on a ladder frequently, don't do it. Following a three-year study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that almost 18,000 people ended up in emergency rooms due to holiday decorating falls … and it's estimated the total number of injuries is 2 to 3 times this number.
  • Save energy using timers to control your holiday lights. Preset them to turn the lights on and more important, turn them off so there's no concern when you're traveling or already in bed.


Stepping indoors, the first thing you are likely to focus on is your Christmas tree. Here are tips for buying, setting up and decorating your tree.
  • Buy your live tree early as cut trees dehydrate and you'll can do more to keep your tree fresh than most sellers.
  • When buying your tree, check to see how fresh the tree is by running your hand along a branch to see if the needles are soft and remain attached. If the needles shed easily, don't buy the tree.
  • When you get home, don't bring the tree inside. Keep the tree where it's cool, i.e. outside or in the garage. Cut the tree trunk and sit it in a bucket of water.
  • When you're ready to decorate the tree, cut the trunk and place it in the stand and immediately fill the stand with water. You'll need to add water every 1 to 2 days to keep your tree fresh.


We'll assume our homes are safe until something happens. Here are tips to keep your home, your family and guests safe during the holidays.
  • Install several light timers to make your home appear occupied even when you're not home.
  • Greet your guests with well lit walkways so be sure to check your exterior lights, and changing light bulbs requiring a ladder is a good thing to do when putting up holiday lights.
  • Remove anything that might cause a fall. Handrails need to be secure and pick up rock salt or similar de-icer if you frequently have ice on your walkways.
  • Provide a place for family and guests to sit when removing or putting on boots.
  • Often lighting up the fireplace is a last minute thought. Prepare your kindling now and buy a box of 11-inch-long fireplace matches.
  • If you don't have small children but expect some to visit over the holidays, walk around the house and add childproofing with cabinet locks or simply moving things like cleaning supplies and medicines up high.
If you want to learn how you can be prepared all year long then sign up for a FREE preparedness training at your local Chapter. Call (559) 455-1000 or Click today!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

World AIDS Day Quiz: How much do you really know about HIV?

Okay I lured you in with the promise of a quiz (it’s at the bottom of the page, I promise!) but please just take a few minutes out of your day to read my blog first.

No matter where you live in the world, no one these days can afford to be ignorant about HIV.

This year the CDC reported that over 1.5 million Americans are infected with HIV, but a quarter of them do not know they are infected.

But the good news is that the tide is turning with the global AIDS epidemic, new reports state that fewer people are becoming HIV infected and fewer people are dying. This news reflects the success of a massive international effort from governments and organizations to educate communities on the prevention of HIV, particularly around adopting safer sexual practices.

However, with 33.4 million people worldwide still living with the virus the challenge of combating HIV is far from over.

HIV is an emotive subject and many people are frightened to talk about it, let alone think about getting themselves tested.

The fact that there is roughly more than 350,000 people in the US who do not even know they are infected with HIV worries me. Not only does this mean they are not getting the treatment they need but it also means they continue to put others at risk. It’s time we started talking more openly about this disease and by doing so tackling the fear.

Many young Red Cross volunteers in the US are well aware that HIV is not just a problem for countries overseas. Many are stepping out and expressing themselves and are using creative ideas to raise awareness about the disease, and fight discrimination and stigma.

I’m sure there’s more we can all do to raise awareness about HIV but for starters how about taking the quiz below? Share it with your friends, put it on Facebook and be honest about how many answers you got correct!


1. Where was the world’s first case of AIDS identified and in what year?
2. What age group is most affected by HIV?
3. What are the three ways HIV can be transmitted?
4. What is the ABC approach to preventing the spread of AIDS?
5. Is there a cure for HIV?


1. The world’s first cases of AIDS were reported in the USA in 1981.
2. 15-49 is the age group most affected by HIV.
3. HIV can be transmitted through: unprotected sex, blood (particularly through transfusions or intravenous drug use) and from mother to baby (via pregnancy, labor or breast milk).
4. The ABC approach to preventing the spread of AIDS stand for: Abstain, Be faithful, use a Condom. However it’s a controversial approach.
5. There is no cure yet for HIV, but there are drug treatments (antiretroviral therapy) that have transformed the prognosis of people living with HIV, turning it into a chronic condition that can be managed. However, this of course is dependent on the person living with HIV being able to afford/access the treatment and maintain a healthy lifestyle with good nutrition.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Worldwide Wednesday Wrap-Up!

Welcome to the Worldwide Wednesday Wrap-Up, 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...

MALDIVES: Last week the Maldivian Red Crescent became the 187th member of the IFRC at its 18th General Assembly in Geneva. The process of forming the new National Society began in the wake of the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which affected over 27,000 people in the Maldives. These low-lying islands will be among the most threatened territories should sea levels rise significantly.

YEMEN: Two ICRC staff members and a Yemen Red Crescent Society volunteer who had been briefly held by armed individuals in a village in Lahj governorate, southern Yemen, returned to Aden. On November 22nd, they left to distribute food rations and essential household items to displaced people in Lahj, but were prevented from returning to their office. The ICRC was in regular contact with them after the incident occurred, and contacted the authorities and other leaders in the area to request their assistance in arranging for the prompt return.

NIGER: The ICRC is providing support for a major immunization campaign against meningitis that began last week in the Agadez area of northern Niger. The ICRC is supporting the campaign in the districts of Arlit and TchirozĂ©rine, where over 58,000 people aged one to 29 will be vaccinated by the first week in December.

IRAQ: Over the past two weeks the ICRC, in a joint Iranian-Iraqi operation, found the remains of 103 Iranian and Iraqi soldiers in Al-Fao, southern Iraq, who went missing during the 1980-1988 war between the two countries. In its capacity as a neutral intermediary, the ICRC provides support for the efforts of the Iranian and Iraqi authorities to account for those who went missing during the war and to ease the suffering of their families.

SOMALILAND (SOMALIA): While Southern and Central Somalia carry the brunt of the East Africa food crisis, Somaliland has not escaped the effects of recurrent droughts and political violence. At the newly-established Sheikh Omar Internally Displaced People's (IDP) camp, the Somalia Red Crescent has been working to recruit volunteers and distribute relief items provided by the Icelandic Red Cross from its clothing business.


ICRC = International Committee of the Red Cross
IFRC = International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Oh The Weather Outside is Frightful...

Sorry, did you think I was going to finish the song lyric? Well you're mistaken! In fact the weather is just that, frightful. As we have come to expect every year, the valley fog is back! It's our version of snow in case you are reading from other parts of the country.

As a child I couldn't ask for anything better than the additional hour and a half of sleep on foggy day schedule. But as an adult, I think the fog stinks, which is why I am still petitioning for workplace foggy day schedules, but that's a whole different story.

So, as we all continue to venture off to work, school, or to start on our holiday shopping (yes, I had to throw that link in there) let's not forget to be a little more cautious while on the roads by following these delightful tips...
  • Drive with lights on low beam. High beams will only be reflected back off the fog and actually impair visibility even more.
  • Reduce your speed -- and watch your speedometer. Fog creates a visual illusion of slow motion when you may actually be speeding.
  • Listen for traffic you cannot see. Open your window a little, to hear better.
  • Use wipers and defrosters as necessary for maximum visibility.
  • Use the right edge of the road or painted road markings as a guide.
  • Be patient. Do not pass lines of traffic.
  • Do not stop on a freeway or heavily traveled road. If your car stalls or becomes disabled, turn your vehicle's lights off, and take your foot off of the brake pedal. People tend to follow tail lights when driving in fog. Move away from the vehicle to avoid injury.
What is fog? Well in case you aren't a scientist or this is your first Valley winter, let me break it down for you...fog can be thought of as a cloud at ground level. It forms when the temperature drops to the dew point (the temperature at which air is saturated), and invisible water vapor in the air condenses to form suspended water droplets.

See, you learn something new everyday! Now what are you waiting for, go online to and buy yourself an emergency preparedness kit for your car, so you too can Be Red Cross Ready this Winter!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How To Survive Black Friday!

Yes, it's almost here. The best two days of my life. A time where I can eat all the turkey and mashed potatoes that I could posibbly want, followed by a day of deals and shopping galore. Yes, I am talking about Black Friday. 
It's become a family tradition that each and every year my sister and I travel all across town snatching up deals and raiding the aisles. So I figured that it's only fair that I share some Black Friday survival tips for you who are brave enough to shop in the wee hours of the morning. How is this Red Cross related you may wonder? Well, I personally feel that knowing what to expect on this glorious of days is also another form of...yes, PREPAREDNESS.

Disclaimer: For those of you who aren't fans of the Black Friday rush, have no fear, the Red Cross Holiday Giving Catalog is
here. Shop online and give gifts that mean something this holiday season.

Okay, back to Alex's Black Friday Shopping Survival Guide...

Know what you want before heading out. If you don't have any idea of what you want, seriously question your purpose in heading out into the crowds. Without a plan, it will be tempting to spend money you don't necessarily have on items you don't necessarily need and the experience will be fraught with exhaustion, impulse buying, and possibly even guilt. It is a lot better to have a plan in mind, or else you could be using this day more constructively to take a rest or see a movie!

Plan your shopping attack with the precision of a general planning a battle. Not only is the budget and list important, but so are the methods you plan to adopt when going in for the bargain. Timing is everything with limited bargains, so the first thing to keep in mind is hour at which you intend to turn up. The earlier, the better, if you have your eye on items that you know will sell out fast. If you're super keen, you might like to camp out - read How to Camp Out for Black Friday for more details on how to do this.

Take along anything you need to help you. While it's important not to be carrying too much, things you will probably benefit from include: a watch so that you know the time, a cell phone to keep in touch with family members and friends also hitting the shops, and bags to carry your purchases in. Even if the stores provide bags, it is a good idea to bring along your own, stronger bags, especially if you plan on carrying the purchases around for a bit before putting them in the car or elsewhere.

Ensure that you have plenty of sustenance. Plan meals and snacks into your shopping expedition. It can be too easy to forget food amid the rush for bargains but not eating for energy will leave you feeling tired and irritable, and more liable to blowing up at your fellow customers as they snatch the last limited bargain from under your nose.

Plan breaks. Rushing around all the time will wear out even the most ardent shopper. As well as ensuring you're eating properly during the day out, be sure to factor in some breaks for a breather and to regain your sense of humor so that you avoid Black Friday turning into Black Mood Friday!

There you have it, my five tips for a successful shopping day. Now, should you have a rough encounter with a rowdy shopper, or worse, ME, be sure that somoeone in your family knows First Aid by signing up for a class today!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Turkey Day Safety!

The kitchen is the place where family and friends love to gather, but it is also the setting of more fires than any other room in the house.

Cooking is the number one cause of home fires in this country and during the holidays, the American Red Cross wants everyone to be aware of steps they should take to avoid a fire while cooking.

Start by not wearing loose clothing or dangling sleeves while cooking. Never leave cooking food unattended – stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food. If you must leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove. Other safety steps include:

  • Check your food regularly while cooking and remain in the home while cooking. Use a timer to remind yourself that the stove or oven is on.
  • Keep the kids away from the cooking area. Enforce a “kid-free zone” and make them stay at least three feet away from the stove.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire – pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, and towels or curtains—away from your stove, oven or any other appliance in the kitchen that generates heat.
  • Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.
  • Consider purchasing a fire extinguisher to keep in your kitchen. Contact your local fire department to take training on the proper use of extinguishers.
  • Always check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving the home to make sure all stoves, ovens, and small appliances are turned off.
  • 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.
The Central Valley Chapter of the Red Cross responded to more than 500 home fires during the 2011 fiscal year. House fires are the worst disaster threat to families in the United States. To learn how to prevent a fire in your home and how to keep members of your household safe, you can find many downloadable fact sheets available at on how to be fire safe over the holidays, how to avoid home heating fires, candle safety, proper use of smoke alarms and teaching your children what to do in the event of a fire.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Five-and-Five Can Keep Them Alive.

Moms know best when they say, "It's not polite to talk with your mouth full." Apart from being a dinner table faux pas, talking while eating is the most common cause of choking. This Thanksgiving, the American Red Cross offers tips that can help avoid a dinner disaster and save a life.

If someone is choking, remember "FIVE-and-FIVE can keep them alive."

•Ask the person if they are able to breathe and if you can help.

•Once you know the person is unable to cough, speak or breathe, have someone call 9-1-1.

•Lean the person forward and give FIVE sharp back blows with the heel of your hand.

•If the obstruction isn't dislodged, give the person FIVE quick, upward abdominal thrusts (also known as the Heimlich maneuver).

•If you are alone, you can perform abdominal thrusts on yourself, just as you would on someone else. Thrusts can also be administered by pressing your abdomen firmly against an object such as the back of a chair.

•If you feel as if food may be caught in your throat, never leave the room. Stay where others can see you and help if your airway becomes blocked.

To learn more on choking rescue enroll in a Red Cross First Aid and CPR course today. For more information visit or call your local Chapter at (559) 455-1000.