Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree, I Hope You're Watered Properly

You really can’t beat the smell of fresh pine coming from the tree at Christmas time. Those who prefer real trees to fake trees know this smell very well, and if they’re like me, they look forward to picking out the perfect tree and bringing it home to decorate. Sadly, real Christmas trees come with a catch, one that could put a serious damper on your holiday season. Consumers need to keep fire safety in mind when purchasing and displaying Christmas trees.
Some trees are cut a month or more before they arrive on the lot, so they are thirsty and need to be watered. Did you know that they can drink up nearly a gallon a day, depending on size?

To prevent a Christmas tree fire in the home, here are some safety tips:
  • Lights: Check your strands of lights to determine the number of strands that may be connected. Connect no more than three strands of push-in bulbs and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.
  • Candles: Never use lit candles to decorate a tree. Place any candles well away from tree branches.
  • Water: Try to keep live trees as moist as possible by giving them plenty of water daily. To help a tree stay fresh, if it has been more than 6-8 hours since it was cut, cut off an inch or more from the bottom – a straight cut, not at an angle. Make sure the bottom of the tree is always immersed in water, and check the water levels once or twice a day.
  • Dry Trees: Safely dispose of the tree when it begins dropping needles. Dried-out trees are highly flammable and should not be left in a house or garage, or placed against the house.
  • Artificial Trees: When purchasing an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled as fire-retardant.
  • Heat Sources: Make sure the tree is at least three feet (one meter) away from any heat source, such as fireplaces and radiators. Try to position the tree near an outlet so that cords are not running long distances. Do not place the tree where it may block exits.
  • Also, please make sure you aren’t overloading your electrical outlets in the process of decorating!
Following these simple guidelines will help prevent your precious Christmas trees from looking like this....
And keep them looking like this...
I like the second one much better, don't you?


I'll see you all next year! Happy Holidays!



Samantha Minks
AmeriCorps NPRC Member 2013-2014
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross-Kern Chapter
samantha.minks@redcross.org

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Learn to "Weather" a Winter Storm




Folks, the official start to winter is right around the corner. Yes, we've been dealing with a lot of cold weather for the last couple of weeks, but who knows what's going to happen in the next couple of weeks or even months? Before I go on winter break, I want to share with you some critical information on how to stay safe during winter storms and power outages.


Winter Storms:
  • Keep Informed - listen and watch for news regarding upcoming weather conditions.
  • Don't risk driving in dangerous conditions. Enhance your defensive driving skills before being caught in one of the infamous foggy conditions we're prone to in this region and only drive when absolutely necessary.
  • Make sure your emergency preparedness kit, as well as your first aid kit, is up to date and well stocked.
  • Keep pets inside and take measures to protect livestock.
  • Even a trickle of running water will keep pipes from freezing and ensure your car's gas tank is full.

Power Outages:
  • Have a backup plan for heating sources (food and environment) - never use charcoal, gas, grills, or camp stoves indoors.
  • Keep in mind anyone in your home or community that may depend on electricity for life-saving/sustaining equipment and have a backup generator.
  • Have emergency cash on hand as ATMs will most likely not be operating.
  • Check your refrigerator once, write down every item and tape the list to the door. That way, you won't have to keep opening the door to see what's inside. Many other food safety tips can be found in the links below.



If you have a disaster preparedness topic you would like to see us blog about starting in 2014, send us an email!

For anyone traveling over the next couple of weeks, I wish you safe travels and a happy new year!

Amitai "Tai" S. Zuckerman
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross – Tulare and Kings Counties
AmeriCorps NPRC Member 2013-2014
Community Preparedness and Resilience Services
amitai.zuckerman@redcross.org

Friday, December 13, 2013

Kids, Teens, and Fire oh my…



So before I was hired, Alex (my boss), asked me how I was with children. I gave the most honest answer I could think of, “People say I great with kids, but I don’t see it.” I guess that was enough for him; he gave me the assignment of working with the kids in our valley. When I first told my friends and family I would be working with kids…they laughed! Many were surprised that I would be okay working with children. I don’t have any of my own, and to my own claims, I don’t have that “thing.” You know the “thing” people who love children have; the ability to make anything fun. To make things harder for me, I had to incorporate fire safety and prevention, and present it to 130 school sites…Gulp…What?!
So of course, I freaked out and doubted myself. The assignment was given, can’t go back and tell Alex I can’t do something. So, I looked over some materials to make my workbook, and had it ready for print. Kid Firestopper, the after school program, was ready…question is was I? Ready or not, in October I started my Kid Firestopper adventure. I went out to elementary schools and began to teach the kids how to make a fire safety plan, a family communication plan, and how to make an emergency kit. I began to ask simple questions like, “do you know your address and phone number?” To my surprise many didn’t. Then I asked about smoke detectors…many of the kids said they didn’t have one, but I suspected they didn’t know what one looked like, so I showed them. I then taught them how to test the smoke detectors and what sound it made…even making one child cry (my bad) alarm scared him. Lastly, I taught them how to crawl out of their home and why they should practice this as part of their fire drill. I encouraged them to have their parents fill the workbook out with them. Everything seemed to go okay, but is still didn’t feel confident in my work. So after two months of critiquing my presentation; I decided to created a PowerPoint with animated pictures of disasters and brought the workbook to life, so to speak. This allowed me to get more involved with the kids.
Recently, I was asked to present to a middle school. No big deal right? Well, kind of, my Kid Firestopper was designed for 2nd to 5th graders. Now I had to think about how to appeal to middle schoolers. I took a look at what we already had for those in middle school, tore it apart and combined it with my Kid Firestopper. I also took into consideration that many of these young teens are babysitting their younger siblings. I made a new workbook and PowerPoint and presented it to 162 teens. To my surprise, the principal and teachers loved it.
So what did I talk about you ask? Well, let me tell you; we talked about fire safety, home hazards, communication plans, and the all too important “how to call 9-1-1.” I asked the classes to be honest with me and in return I would be honest with them. I asked them if they played with matches and lighters, and parents read up, they all said “YES!” I then encouraged them to practice fire drills at home with their siblings, check their home for hazards, taught them how to properly call 9-1-1, and encouraged them not to play with lighters and matches. I made them realize that they had a big responsibility of caring for their siblings, and they were looking up to them.
Well, I could tell you more, but for now I'm going to say, "to be continued in 2014..."
 
Veronica Lases  AmeriCorps NPRC Member
Preparedness Coordinator
Community Preparedness and Resilience Services







 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Prepare-aphernalia: The Smoke Alarms of the Future

I have discovered (via YouTube) the smoke detector of the future. I introduce to you the smartest smoke alarm to date, the Bop. We all know how important it is to have smoke alarms in our homes and workplaces; in fact it’s illegal to not have one. However, some find it hard to shut them off and difficult to remember to change the batteries. The smarts from the Bop smoke alarm come from its Cloud Application which is synced to your cell phone. When smoke is detected in your home, the software sends an SMS text message to your cell phone, telling you that smoke was detected. 
If you don’t respond to the message within two minutes, the software will then make a call to a predetermined phone number of your choice (perhaps your spouse, roommate, or a friend/family member), telling them that smoke was detected in your home and you haven’t responded. The Bop also has the ability to alert your local fire department from within the app! The Bop is great for senior citizens who live independently, because it allows family members or care providers to be notified when smoke is detected. I realize that not everyone has a smart phone nowadays, but in the near future most everyone will be using smart phones that will come with the capability to use the Bop smoke alarm. 

Watch this video to learn more about how the Bop smoke alarm works!



Samantha Minks
AmeriCorps NPRC Member 2013-2014
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross - Kern Chapter
samantha.minks@redcross.org


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Prepared, to a Degree


fema_01.jpg
Emergency management is a booming field in the United States. Government agencies at the federal, state, and local levels all require them, as do non-governmental organizations, such as the American Red Cross. Private companies, think tanks, and other organizations all use emergency managers and specialists. Since there is a need for this growing field, educational institutions across the country have developed a myriad of emergency management programs, ranging from certificates and associate level degrees to doctoral programs.

I am applying to graduate school for a related field and I realized that blog readers may be interested in emergency management opportunities. Here are some things to consider:

-What kind of degree do you want? As I mentioned before, degrees in this field vary greatly. If you aren’t sure that this field is right for you, a good place to start may be a single course from a community college or a certificate to see if this field interests you.

-What is your availability and schedule preference? Are you able to move cross-country or would you prefer an institution closer to home? For example, many executive certificates or degrees meet at night or maybe once or twice a term. This allows working professionals to carry on their day jobs and work on the coursework at their own pace.

-Are you interested in emergency management, homeland security, or both? Degrees often allow students to specialize in one of these options. These disciplines often overlap and having a broader experience may benefit you later. Other related disciplines include cyber, agriculture, public health, biology, chemistry, international disaster relief, law and government.

If you want to work in an environment where the unpredictable is the norm, where you can save lives, and if you have a knack for acronyms, you may want to consider an education and a career in emergency management.

Here are some additional resources:
FEMA Emergency Management Institute Higher Education Program (list of colleges): http://www.training.fema.gov/emiweb/edu/collegelist/

Center for Homeland Defense and Security’s list of colleges and universities: http://www.chds.us/?partners/institutions

The California Emergency Management Agency’s California Specialized Training Institute (Cal EMA/CSTI): http://www.calema.ca.gov/csti/Pages/Specialist-Certificate-Program.aspx

Amitai "Tai" S. Zuckerman
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross – Tulare and Kings Counties
AmeriCorps NPRC Member 2013-2014
Community Preparedness and Resilience Services
amitai.zuckerman@redcross.org

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Red Cross is a Hit at the Candy Cane Lane Parade!

Once again, the Visalia Branch of the American Red Cross is leaving its mark on our communities.


On Monday night, we participated in the 68th Annual Candy Cane Lane Parade. Our Emergency Response Vehicle, or “ERV,” was delightfully decorated with canvasses which were created by Red Cross Clubs throughout the Central Valley Region. Adult and Youth Volunteers escorted the ERV through thousands of parade goers and helped make the presence of the American Red Cross known throughout Tulare and Kings Counties.


In the office, Volunteers helped distribute free hot chocolate and coffee to hundreds of people. We helped inform families how to be prepared for disasters with various materials from our preparedness table, and individuals learned how they can help our communities by signing up to be Red Cross Volunteers. Our large display windows were decorated with holiday cheer and the different lines of service the Red Cross provides.

I’d like to give a big shout-out to all of the Volunteers who traveled near and far to help make our participation a smashing success! Together, we’re helping make our communities more prepared and resilient for when disaster strikes.

Amitai "Tai" S. Zuckerman
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross – Tulare and Kings Counties
AmeriCorps NPRC Member 2013-2014
Community Preparedness and Resilience Services
amitai.zuckerman@redcross.org

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Come One, Come All! Visalia's Candy Cane Lane Parade!

It's that time of year again! This Monday, December 2nd, Visalia will host the 68th Annual Candy Cane Lane Parade. The American Red Cross is thrilled to participate in this parade. Our Emergency Response Vehicle, or "ERV," will act as Santa's Seligh, complete with decorations made by local high school Red Cross Clubs and it will be driven and pulled by Red Cross Volunteers!

Here at the office, the staff has been preparing for the parade as the parade route goes right past our office on Main Street. Various holiday decorations and information about the American Red Cross will be on display. In the vestibule to our office, we will have information on community preparedness, volunteer opportunities with the American Red Cross, and coffee and hot cocoa!

The parade starts at 7:00PM but get a front row seat and line up early!


Amitai "Tai" S. Zuckerman
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross – Tulare and Kings Counties
AmeriCorps NPRC Member 2013-2014
Community Preparedness and Resilience Services
amitai.zuckerman@redcross.org

How to Avoid Lighting Yourself on Fire This Thanksgiving

Everyone has their traditional way of preparing the Thanksgiving turkey. In Indiana where I come from, my Aunt Polly roasts our turkey in the oven for most of the morning leading up to our Thanksgiving dinner, and then adds all of her special touches of which I am not aware of. Either way, it's delicious. This morning in the office I overheard some of the ladies talking about their turkey traditions, and was enlightened. I had never heard of deep-frying a turkey before! I work in preparedness, so consequently I immediately thought about how much of a fire hazard that is, and I did some research.

So, deep-frying your thanksgiving turkey? Imagine what a damper on the holiday it’d be, seeing a relative accidentally catch fire while lowering the Thanksgiving turkey into the deep-fat fryer. Or imagine the embarrassment of leaving your own family behind, as you take an expensive trip to the local burn unit. Deep frying a Thanksgiving turkey can be incredibly dangerous, but it can also be equally delicious, so consider a few words of wisdom to ensure you spend your holiday experiencing less of the former, and more of the latter.
When deep-frying your turkey, remember not to overfill the drum with oil. You’ll send flames pouring out of your fryer. Also, please make sure the turkey is COMPLETELY thawed before you drop it into the fryer. Dropping a frozen, water-packed bird into your fryer will inherently shoot a tower of fire out into your surroundings.

Perhaps the greatest advice to ensuring a safe frying experience is also the most obvious: do it outside - but not on your wooden deck or patio, and do it far away from anything that could potentially catch fire. Don’t do this in your garage, either. If you’re going to do it, do it out in your yard away from anything that’s flammable that could catch on fire. And by all means, do not attempt to deep-fry a turkey with this type of cooker inside your house. Please, don't be the deep-fried turkey fail. 

Wishing you all a safe and happy Thanksgiving! 


Samantha Minks
AmeriCorps NPRC Member 2013-2014
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross - Kern Chapter
samantha.minks@redcross.org

Friday, November 22, 2013

We can be your "back-up"

So I consider myself somewhat of a gym rat. I use that time to catch up on what is going on in the world, and at the same time burn off any stress or frustrations from my week. I think I may be one of the few who watch CNN and Fox News as I run on the treadmill, but there was this one day last week that made my run rather difficult. As I ran, I watched stories of the almost complete destruction of the Philippines; I ran in complete disbelief. Then this story came on the news of this man who had lost everyone in his family except for one daughter and his mother in Typhoon Haiyan. The news station had somehow been able to get a hold of his mother by phone, and as the cameras rolled the man burst into tears. He stood there crying to his mother telling her that they were all gone and then he asked “why did this happen? What did I do to deserve this?” He cried to his mother like a child begging his mother to make it all better. The scene still plays in my mind and still breaks my heart, and I also find myself asking the same question, “Why did this have to happen?” Of course there is no answer; it’s just Mother Nature or nature’s fury.
This week Mother Nature stuck again, but this time it was closer to home at least for some of my AmeriCorps teammates. Numerous tornadoes touch down on six states destroying almost everything in its path. Stories from residents describing how the sky rumbled for twenty minutes to shots of towns completely devastated. Many families in tears as they looked through the wreckage of what they once called home, and it leaves me wondering, “How? How does someone recover after such devastation?" I’m originally from Southern California, and yes we have earthquakes, but I personally have never been through anything like what I am seeing.
Yesterday, as I returned from presenting on preparedness, I was called to an apartment fire. It was my first call, so I did not know what to expect. I’m being told it’s multiple families who are now out of their home, and my heart gets heavy. Here I am wondering if my message got through to the group I just presented to and getting ready to go see Catching Fire, and now I’m being whisked off to an apartment fire. As I arrived, the fire trucks have already left, and seven families were left homeless. Some of the families will be homeless for a couple of days, but others for longer. While I was there helping the families, my mind didn’t have the time to think “how or why,” I think I had just answered my questions, or at least one question. I answered the “how.” When I entered the office of the apartment complex, our Disaster Action Team member Gary had already begun taking care of the families. He was already gathering information so we can find them a place to stay for a few nights and get them food. A volunteer, a team member, a Red Cross representative had begun to take care of the families.
When I give my presentations, I always say, “Have an emergency contact that is also your back-up. Make a plan with them, in case something happens you have each other to fall back on.” I know there are people out in the world who may think they don’t have anyone to call in case of an emergency or have a “back-up,” but they do. We, in the American Red Cross or the Red Cross Philippines or wherever in the world you may need the Red Cross, can be your “back-up.”  We can and will be there when you call. Whether it’s a home fire or Mother Nature, we can be there; we may not be able to tell you why this happened to you, but we can help you get through what has happened.
This may sound sappy and mushy, and if you know me, you know that is not how I am. But I ask you this, when you see photos of the devastation, doesn’t it break your heart? Because it breaks mine, and I’m glad the American Red Cross has my back in case I need them.

Veronica Lases
AmeriCorps NPRC Member
Preparedness Coordinator
Community Preparedness and Resilience Services

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My Passion for the American Red Cross

For the past several weeks I have struggled to have the enthusiasm to come to work. I had lost my passion but not my belief in the American Red Cross mission.  As I drove to work this morning I thought of the October financials that needed to be sent to the Board Members, the questions that I needed to organize for the Regional Communication Director interviews on Friday and the financial forecast report that is due on Monday. 

Ellen Knapp, Regional Chief Executive Officer
Moments after feeling sorry for myself I saw grey smoke coming from a housing community and as I got closer the smoke was pitch black – every Red Crosser knows that black smoke is not a good sign. I called 911 as I turned into the complex and saw flames coming out of an upstairs window.  There was no one around – no neighbors, no fire department -- but I could hear the sirens of the Clovis Fire Department. 

With the sound of sirens, neighbors start to come out of their homes and their consciences were filled with the thought of the single mother and her two children who weren't at home. Clovis Fire arrived with several fire trucks and the fire was put out in a short time.  The Clovis Fire Chief was amazed to see the Regional CEO of the Red Cross standing in the street waiting to find out if our assistance was needed.  It became very evident to me that a Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) member needed to be called. Shortly after I made the call for assistance, Gary Crown arrived to start the process of helping families.

The single Mom arrived home to see her home completely destroyed, everything was gone and my heart broke as she sobbed at the sight of her children’s bedding and clothes being thrown out of the upstairs window.  At that moment Gary ushered the women into a neighbor’s home.  I sat with Gary as he comforted her, collected information and issued a Client Assitance Card for food and clothing. I was very proud to be associated with such a warm, caring and professional volunteer. 

As I left the scene I hugged the Mother- she thanked me for helping her through these first moments of horror and disbelief.  At that moment I knew she was thanking Red Cross and my passion for the Red Cross mission services was totally restored. 


I understand that my job is important to our community even if there are too many hours filled with meetings, reports and conference calls.  All of these things make me a better ambassador of the American Red Cross. As an ambassador I am able to tell my Red Cross story to donors and community partners which in turn allows Gary and all of our volunteers to give hope to families in a time of need.  I am so thankful to be a part of such a great organization that brings hope to families in our community.

Ellen Knapp
Regional CEO
American Red Cross Central Valley Region

This Year, Give the Gift of Emergency Preparedness!

Here come the holidays! Are you shopping for your older parents, grandparents and other senior loved ones? It can be hard to think of the perfect gift for older adults. A tie, a fruitcake, cologne, or a gadget that he or she may not even use? Nonsense. Here's an idea for a thoughtful holiday gift: give the gift of preparedness!
Year after year, news coverage of emergencies raises awareness that older adults and senior citizens are hit the hardest by storms, tornadoes, earthquakes and other natural and man made disasters. Seniors with physical limitations can be stranded in their homes, unable to evacuate, and cut off from the services upon which they rely. Older adults who use oxygen, power wheelchairs, dialysis and other medical equipment face real danger in power outages. It may not seem very festive to focus on this reality during the holidays—but this is a great time for the whole family to show their love and caring for senior relatives by taking practical steps to ensure their safety. 
Disasters can happen anytime, anywhere, and the holiday season provides a great opportunity to be sure that you and your loved ones are taking simple steps to be prepared. Just take a few minutes and discuss what you would do in case of an emergency or disaster. During holiday visits, discuss with your loved one what they would do in case of an emergency or disaster. Find out the location of the nearest emergency shelter. If your loved one has medical challenges, uses dialysis, oxygen, or an electric wheelchair, find out which shelter is designated for people with special needs. Arrange for someone to help if your loved one needs to evacuate, and someone to check in if your loved one is advised to shelter in place. Create a family communications plan so everyone knows how they would get in touch if they were separated when an emergency takes place. 
Once the planning stage is over, obviously you still want to wrap up a pretty package for that Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hanukkah gathering, right? What about emergency preparedness supplies that are practical and also show your concern for your loved one's well-being?

Here are some ideas:

  • A home preparedness kit (including food, water, a flashlight with extra batteries, a blanket, etc.)
  • A pet preparedness kit (including a leash, collar, collapsible water bowl, etc.)
  • A crank or battery powered radio (with extra batteries)
  • New smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Fire extinguishers (for the kitchen/garage)
  • A car kit
  • Foldable ladders for second-story escape from a fire
This year, my grandmother is going to get a brand new fire extinguisher, and a lesson on how to use it properly! I can't wait!

Happy Holidays!


Samantha Minks
AmeriCorps NPRC Member 2013-2014
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Kern Chapter
samantha.minks@redcross.org

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Red Cross Responds to Veteran's Day Parades

I’m happy to report that American Red Cross activity and presence is growing in Tulare and Kings Counties! We recently participated in two events for Veteran’s Day – the first Visalia Veteran’s Day Parade and Veteran’s Resource Fair, and Porterville’s Veteran’s Day Parade.

At Visalia’s Veteran’s festivities this past Saturday, our Emergency Response Vehicle, or “ERV,” rolled down Main Street and right in front of our office. The parade ended at the Visalia Veteran’s Memorial Building, where a Resource Fair honoring those who have served took place. We provided disaster preparedness information as well as literature on the various ways we serve our military and their families through our Service to the Armed Forces. The Red Cross office was also open for parade goers to stop by and learn about our various missions and volunteer opportunities.

Porterville’s Veteran’s Day Parade took place yesterday on Main Street and a moment of silence was observed at 11:00, as it is tradition to commemorate the end of World War I. The ERV followed a local middle school marching band and when we crossed in front of the parade stand, a U.S. Army General saluted us! Many service members, both active and veteran, as well as other citizens, applauded our presence and thanked us for all that we do. It was another great reminder of the fantastic services the American Red Cross provides.

I would like to say a huge thank you to the Red Cross staff and volunteers that participated in these events! Without your dedication and support, we would not be the outstanding organization we are today. 

Amitai "Tai" S. Zuckerman
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross – Tulare and Kings Counties
AmeriCorps NPRC Member 2013-2014
Community Preparedness and Resilience Services
amitai.zuckerman@redcross.org

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Preparing for the Flu

While I have been feeling under the weather for the past few days, I have watched a lot of television between naps. The past three months I've spent with the American Red Cross have brought to my attention more than ever just how much emergency preparedness is portrayed in T.V. shows. I've posted other blogs regarding this topic, like my “Who Is More Prepared?” post between Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory) and Dwight Shrute (The Office), and my “Be Red Cross Ready; The Office Edition” post. 
Yes, I love The Office. 
However, this post is different because it highlights yet another type of disaster that isn't always thought of: the pandemic flu. No, it’s not a wildfire, it’s not a tornado or an earthquake or a hurricane, but it could still be a disastrous situation.


In this episode of Parks and Recreation, the citizens of Pawnee Indiana are to participate in a mandatory disaster preparedness drill. The Avian Flu was drawn at random as their disaster situation.

The best way to be prepared for a disaster situation like this is to be informed. 
Influenza, AKA the flu, is a contagious respiratory disease caused by different strains of viruses. Flu viruses spread from person to person when people who are infected cough or sneeze. Adults may be able to infect others 1 day before getting symptoms and as long as 5 days after getting sick.

Be Informed of all types of the flu: 


Seasonal Flu—A contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza (flu) viruses occurring every year. It affects an average of 5 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. population by causing mild to severe illness, and in some instances can lead to death.
Epidemic—The rapid spread of a disease that affects some or many people in a community or region at the same time.
Pandemic—An outbreak of a disease that affects large numbers of people throughout the world and spreads rapidly.
H1N1 Influenza (swine flu)—H1N1 influenza is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that cause regular outbreaks in pigs. People do not normally get H1N1 influenza, but human infections can and do happen. H1N1 influenza viruses have been reported to spread from person-to-person.
Avian Influenza—Commonly known as bird flu, this strain of influenza virus is naturally occurring in birds. Wild birds can carry the virus and may not get sick from it; however, domestic birds may become infected by the virus and often die from it.
By informing yourself and your family members, your chances of contracting this unpleasant virus will significantly decrease!
Visit http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/flu for more information on how to be prepared for the flu.

Samantha Minks
AmeriCorps NPRC 2013-2014
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross - Kern Chapter
samantha.minks@redcross.org

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The AmeriCorps Member: A True Life Story Series

Today marks the beginning of my fourth month in the National Preparedness and Response Corps. As I look back on the last three months, I cannot help but think how much I have grown in such a short period of time.

The most obvious reason for this personal change is that I have been given real responsibilities that truly affect lives. The presentations I conduct and community service events I attend help prepare families for the unthinkable. Beyond that, I have become disciplined and efficient in coordinating events, networking, and fulfilling the various missions of the American Red Cross and I attribute all of this experience to the NPRC and AmeriCorps. For these reasons alone, I am grateful to be in this field.


Yesterday, the outlook of my job and my job itself completely changed. I responded to my first Disaster Action Team call, which was a home fire. The only things that the couple saved were her wedding dress (coincidentally, today is their anniversary) and a bible. Another DAT member and I did a damage assessment but it didn’t take too long to conclude that it was a total-loss scenario.

You read the articles, you hear the stories, you think “how sad” and you go about your day. This is the way I thought too but it was only yesterday, when I saw it with my own eyes as it was happening that this corps has enabled me to help those on what could very well be the worst day of anyone’s life.

When they were leaving, the man stuck out his ash and soot covered hand and shook mine. “Thank you,” he said. That was the only payment I could have asked for.

My service is far from over, but I have learned so much since August and I cannot wait to see how the NPRC will help me in the future.

Amitai "Tai" S. Zuckerman
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross – Tulare and Kings Counties
AmeriCorps NPRC Member 2013-2014
Community Preparedness and Resilience Services
amitai.zuckerman@redcross.org

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Prepare-aphernalia: The Wash N’ Go Compact Sink Organizer

When a disaster strikes, we all like to think that we are prepared with a kit that will allow us to survive for an extended amount of time. It’s all good, right? What about you preparaphernaliacs out there who are prepared to rough it, but also want to keep up your hygienic routine? Well, I have got the perfect accessory for your disaster preparedness kit. Introducing the Wash N’ Go Compact Sink Organizer. This compact accessory is one of the handiest camping/survival items you can own. Wash a few dishes, or keep 3 gallons of water on hand for sanitation and drinking. In the event of a disaster, this can be an inexpensive luxury item that can provide you and your loved ones with comfort and convenience when you need it most. It holds 3 gallons of water for drinking and washing, and it has a specially designed inner plug that brings water into the sink from the reservoir. The lid has room for toothbrushes, razors, toothpaste, and other accessories, and also includes a built-in mirror. Don’t forget the carrying handle, made for your convenience. 




















For more information on purchasing this disaster kit must-have, visit 
http://www.majorsurplus.com/Wash-N-Go-Compact-Sink-Organizer-P14274C2336.aspx

Samantha Minks
AmeriCorps NPRC 2013-2014
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross - Kern Chapter
samantha.minks@redcross.org

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Prepare-aphernalia: Keep Cool and Warm




Considering the weather change we're experiencing in the Central Valley, I felt that this was a "cool" item to share with you.


jakpak1
I present to you the JakPak, a versatile piece of material that morphs from a windbreaker to a sleeping bag to a tent! Built in mosquito netting, waterproof, and flame retardant makes this one super neat item to use in a disaster supply kit or if you're an outdoors enthusiast. Though the price is not super cheap, it probably evens out when factoring in the cost of purchasing each item individually. Oh, and it only weighs three pounds!

Here's a link to check out more: http://www.coolthings.com/jakpak-all-in-one-jacket-looks-practical/

Amitai "Tai" S. Zuckerman
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross – Tulare and Kings Counties
AmeriCorps NPRC Member 2013-2014
Community Preparedness and Resilience Services
amitai.zuckerman@redcross.org

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Team Firestopper; The Taft Edition

Last Saturday October 19th, Team Firestopper was at it yet again canvassing the community and passing out fire safety information. This time in the Taft community, Team Firestopper was given the amazing opportunity to partner with Occidental of Elk Hills, Inc.
I am passionate about the Team Firestopper initiative, and have grown fond of community canvassing. That being said, I can’t begin to explain how great it was to work with the high school students of the Taft Oil Academy. These student volunteers were phenomenal. I enjoyed getting to know them as we walked through the neighborhoods of Taft, sharing our backgrounds and talking about everything under the sun. The students in my group were so bubbly, and they brought smiles to the faces of each of the residents they spoke to about Team Firestopper. My group ended up passing out 199 Team Firestopper canvassing bags! After lunch when canvassing was over, my group members thanked me and expressed their liking toward the Team Firestopper program. I was so happy that they enjoyed their first volunteer experience!


On behalf of the American Red Cross and the Team Firestopper Program, I want to give a big THANK YOU to all of the volunteers from Occidental of Elk Hills, Inc. and to the high school students of the Taft Oil Academy. Team Firestopper couldn't have done it without your support!


Samantha Minks
Preparedness Coordinator
AmeriCorps NPRC Member 2013-2014
American Red Cross - Kern Chapter
samantha.minks@redcross.org


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Prepare-aphernalia: The Rescue Monster





This might be the coolest vehicle ever made.

Romania has produced a vehicle that seems to be ready for the end of the world. It floats in water, carries people in a sled, climbs steep embankments, and has the ability to pull a Hummer when it's stuck. I know there's someone out there wondering if this can hold up against a zombie apocalypse, and considering how versatile it is to customize the vehicle to certain needs, I'd say so.

Ghe-O Rescue

Though it's designed for military use, emergency medical rescue, and fire fighting services, I'm sure I can come up with a few ideas for my own use.

Here's a link and definitely check out the video:

And FYI, I put this on my birthday wishlist.

Amitai "Tai" S. Zuckerman
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross – Tulare and Kings Counties

AmeriCorps NPRC Member 2013-2014
Community Preparedness and Resilience Services
amitai.zuckerman@redcross.org

Friday, October 18, 2013

Team Firestoppers and Edison High School Community Canvassing

Hello everyone!
Hope October is going well. Everyone is remembering to be prepared and have put into practice your fire prevention plans, right?! You’ve been meaning to I’m sure. Well, I hope you know by now, Team Firestoppers Season 3 has begun to invade the Central Valley. Yes, I said invade! We are out in the community canvassing and informing neighborhoods about fire safety and fie prevention, also inviting them to our Fire safety Seminars. We are out encouraging our neighbors to Stop the fire before it starts.
Our team is small, with only 5 members; we rely strongly on our volunteers. In case you didn’t know we are having our first fire safety seminar, this Saturday October 19, at Edison High School; I thought it would be a good idea to ask Edison High students to volunteer and canvass the community around their school. So I called in a favor; one of my very good friends just happens to be the Head Coach for the Edison High Tigers softball team. So I said, “Hey Coach G, can I borrow your softball team?” She had a very confused look on her face, but after an explanation, she was all for it. She was able to encourage some of her girls to volunteer.
On October 5, we canvassed the communities near Edison High School. The Edison High softball team, well those who didn’t have to take their SAT’s, were there bright, early, and full of energy (by the way they had homecoming the night before; energy was a miracle).  We also had girls from Sanger high and Clovis high.  And all these girls did a great job, making the canvassing fun for all of us. Now I can't forget to mention that we also had family members and board members helping us canvass. On October 5, we were able to canvass 2000 homes! We couldn’t have done it without them, and if we didn’t say that day, we will say it now…THANK YOU!!! YOU GIRLS ROCK!!!! ALL OF YOU ROCK!! Go Edison High Tigers! Go Sanger High Apaches! Go Clovis High Cougars!!
 
 
 
 
Veronica Lases  AmeriCorps NPRC Member
Preparedness Coordinator
Community Preparedness and Resilience Services
 

 
 
 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The AmeriCorps Member: A True Life Story Series

I really like the way that Amitai “Tai” S. Zuckerman explains the AmeriCorps NPRC program as, “basically a collaborative effort between AmeriCorps and the American Red Cross. We work on emergency preparedness, community resilience, and disaster relief.” He’s exactly right. The duties of Amitai “Tai” S. Zuckerman, Veronica Lases, and myself encompass each of these aspects. However, my journey to get to this point is a little different than Tai’s, and Veronica’s, too.

Like Tai mentioned, I also didn’t have any social ties to this region, I didn't know where I would live, and I didn't know how I was going support myself financially during this 11 month commitment. But, I didn't apply for the program with skepticism. I applied with a sense of adventure and a desire to do something for the greater good of others. I know, I could’ve done plenty of great things as an AmeriCorps member closer to home in Indiana, but I wanted to try something new, and I wanted to meet new people.  As for the financial aspect of it all, I’m a recent college graduate; let’s just say I’m used to being broke.

As a Communication major in college, I’ve always known that interacting with people is my strong suit. Naturally, I love the community outreach aspect of my AmeriCorps position. I get to go out in the community and interact with tons of great people who I never would have met if it hadn't been for this opportunity. I get to educate them on all aspects of disaster preparedness, which is something that I've grown to be quite passionate about in these past few months. I’m constantly meeting new people, people who do amazing things for our communities throughout the Central Valley, and people who donate their time and energy to help others.


I love the flexibility that comes with being an AmeriCorps NPRC member. Just yesterday I was sitting in my office, making phone calls to local businesses to set up Be Red Cross Ready presentations, when I got a call from my Disaster Action Team duty officer. There had been a fire here in Bakersfield and I was asked to respond. One second I was sitting at my desk, and 15 minutes later I was at the scene of a horrendous fire that destroyed a family’s home. My heart just hurts when I think about what they must be going through, and I feel so lucky that I get to work with an organization that reaches out to help these people in need. 

I couldn't be happier to be where I am today, even if I am so far from home. The experiences I have already had, and the friendships I have already made just go to show how truly rewarding this experience has been, and will be. 


Samantha Minks
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross - Kern County
AmeriCorps NPRC Member 2013-2014
Community Preparedness and Resilience Services
samantha.minks@redcross.org

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The AmeriCorps Member: A True Life Story Series

When I introduce myself to someone and what I do, I usually start with "Hi, my name is Tai, and I'm an AmeriCorps member." Almost without fail, the response is usually a blank stare for a few seconds until I follow it up with "... It's the national service corps." That statement is most often met with raised eye-brows and a "Oh cool! Very neat." I then explain that there are different corps within AmeriCorps and my corps, the National Preparedness and Response Corps, is basically a collaborative effort between AmeriCorps and the American Red Cross. We work on emergency preparedness, community resilience, and disaster relief. For 2013-2014, there are 122 "NPRCers" across the United States at various Red Cross Chapters. Here in the Central Valley Region, we're lucky enough to have three NPRCers who have dedicated 11 months and at least 1,700 hours of national service.



All of this is good and dandy, but what is life actually like as an AmeriCorps member? I'd like to start this series of NPRC life stories with how I got here using the notions of motivation and adventure.

I applied to the NPRC with much skepticism. I didn't have any social ties to the region, I didn't know where I would live, and I didn't know how I was going to make ends meet. What I did know was that this was a different course of action from almost anyone I've known and I'll admit, I don't always stick to the way things are traditionally accomplished (Exhibit A: Taking courses in croquet and juggling to graduate from college and earn my Bachelor's degree...). When I started to learn how this position positively affects people, so much to the point where I have the real potential to save lives, needless to say my motivation for applying and becoming an AmeriCorps member soared. 

With the motivation came the wide-eyed, kid-in-a-candy-store syndrome when I realized the adventure I was about to embark upon. The more I thought about life in the Central Valley and the work I would be doing, I realized more and more that this would be an adventure unlike any other I've experienced thus far. I was warned that I would have to be flexible because my schedule can change at a moments notice, that I would be responding to local disasters, that I would encounter all sorts of demographics, that I would travel around the region to conduct shelter surveys, and that I would go on a national deployment for weeks, away from the comforts of my new home. 

And I thought "Yes, I want that adventure."

Amitai "Tai" S. Zuckerman
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross – Tulare and Kings Counties

AmeriCorps NPRC Member 2013-2014
Community Preparedness and Resilience Services
amitai.zuckerman@redcross.org