Friday, August 30, 2013

Red Cross Issues Safety Tips for Labor Day Weekend

Many people view Labor Day as the end of summer and their last chance to travel, hit the beach and fire up the grill. The American Red Cross offers safety tips to help everyone have a safe and enjoyable holiday.

“While many people will spend the Labor Day weekend traveling and spending time with family and friends, no one should take a vacation from safety,” said Ellen Knapp, Regional CEO, American Red Cross Central Valley Region. “It’s still important that people work to remain vigilant on the road, at the beach and at cookouts.”

People should follow these safety tips:

Tips for Safe Travel
·       Carry an emergency supply kit in your trunk.
  • Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive.
  • Buckle up and observe speed limits.
·       Don’t drink and drive.

Tips for Safe Swimming
·       Check weather and water conditions beforehand and throughout the day.
·       Always swim with a buddy in a designated swimming area supervised by a lifeguard.
·       Provide constant supervision to children in or near the water and always stay within arm’s reach of young children and inexperienced swimmers while they are in the water.
·       Young children and inexperienced swimmers should wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets.

Tips for Safe Grilling
  • Keep the grill away from the house, tree branches, or anything that could catch fire.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill.
  • Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited.

The American Red Cross First Aid App for smart phones and tablets provides users with expert advice on what to do in case of an emergency. This free app is available on the Apple iTunes or Google Play stores and at

For more information on emergency preparedness, go to Additional water safety tips are located at

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Prepare Your Pet for the Preposterous

National Dog Day.  That’s right, I said it.  Those very words bring excitement to all the Milk-Bone and Greenies lovers out there.  National Dog Day.  But why would I talk about National Dog Day on a blog dedicated to disaster preparedness and community resilience?  Unfortunately, getting your pet ready for a disaster is often an overlooked area that needs to be discussed.  So let’s talk about Fido and Fang getting fit for fire safety.
While you’re making your own preparedness kit for yourself and your family, it’s important to also prepare any pets you may have.  Consider the following:

Preparing for a disaster:
  • Know which hotels and motels can accept pets and ask about exceptions during an emergency.
  • Include your pets in evacuation drills, as well as being comfortable in a crate and separated from you for a short period of time.
  • Make sure they’re vaccinated and that you have records along with your other important documents.
  • Ensure a properly fitted collar and tags are up to date and consider having your pet micro-chipped.

During a disaster:
  • Pet disaster kit should include at least canned pet food and can opener, water, bowls, litter pan, bed, and one or two easily transportable toys.
  • Durable leashes, harnesses, and carriers for transportation to ensure the pet will not escape in the chaos.
  • Medications and records of medications for pet, if applicable, and kept in a waterproof container.
  • Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior issues, and veterinarian name and number in case you have to board your pet.
  • Photos of you and your pet – in the event you are separated, photos serve as proof to positively identify your pet.

After a disaster:
  • Behavior may change after a disaster.  They may become aggressive or defensive.
  • Gates and fences may have been damaged at your home.
  • They may become disoriented because scent markers may have been affected, causing them difficulty in finding their way home.
  • Microscopic hazards, such as fertilizers and chemicals, may be resting at the nose and paw or hoof levels that can be dangerous to humans as well.

Recent major disasters have shown that pet owners are willing to go to great lengths to save their pets, often at the risk of their own lives.  Getting a kit, making a plan, and being informed will help you and your pet be Red Cross Ready.  Also consider enrolling in a dog or cat first aid course, offered through the American Red Cross.

Following the above tips should give you a great foundation for preparing your pet.  If you’re up for it, I challenge you to have your pet (dog, cat, lizard, sugar glider, or Komodo dragon) ready for National Cat Day on October 29, 2013!  Email me your stories for how you got your “pet-paredness” kit ready and I might include your “tail” in my blog!

Here are some additional resources that may help you further in preparing your pets for a disaster:
Central California Animal Disaster Team:

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

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Be Red Cross Ready - The Office Edition

National Preparedness Month is just around the corner, so there is no better time to get yourself and your family prepared for the next disaster or emergency that could happen here in the Central Valley. Per usual, a scene from The Office pops into my head when I think of being prepared. In this particular episode, titled Stress Relief (s5, e13) Dwight Shrute believes that his coworkers are totally unprepared for a fire in the office. Turns out, they are. His fire safety seminar didn’t get through to them, which he thinks is because he used PowerPoint, “PowerPoint is boring.” So he comes up with the idea to simulate an ACTUAL fire so that they can see just how unprepared they really are, “People learn in lots of different ways, but experience is the best teacher” (Note, I do NOT condone this).

He starts a fire in a trash can, and waits for the office to break into complete chaos. As they run amuck, he shouts instructions on what to do. To make a long story short, all of the employees are very angry with Dwight when he interrupts the chaos to tell them “Fire is not real, this is merely a training exercise,” but in the end they got the point. They were not prepared at all for an emergency.

If only the office workers had been aware of the three principles of preparedness: Get a Kit, Make a Plan, and Be Informed, their fire situation would have been a lot less stressful.


“Know what emergencies or disasters are most likely to occur in your community”
The Office workers were not informed at all when it came to knowing what emergency or disaster would most likely happen to them. Although they live in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where they aren’t as prone to earthquakes or wildfires, house fires (or workplace fires in this case) are still the most common emergencies, and can happen at any time.

“You should have a family disaster plan and have practiced it”
The Office workers had no disaster plan what-so-ever. They didn’t discuss two places to meet after a fire, none of them had an out-of-area phone contact, and they didn’t have any escape routes out of the office. If they had drawn out an emergency plan together, and practiced their escape routes twice a year, their experience with a fire would have been less stressful.

“Have an emergency preparedness kit”
None of the office workers had an emergency kit (besides Dwight who keeps his hidden in a desk drawer). A proper emergency kit needs to have the following items: water, non-perishable food items (don’t forget the can opener), medications, extra clothing, a whistle, a flashlight with extra batteries, a radio, personal hygiene items, a blanket, important documents, and possibly a comfort item. Don’t forget about your pets! You can include pet food, a leash, and a toy in your kit as well.

“Be trained in first aid and CPR/AED”
None of the office workers were trained properly in first aid or CPR/AED. In fact, after the debacle with Dwight starting a fire, boss Michael Scott schedules a CPR training course, starring the American Red Cross! Having someone in your family trained in first aid and CPR/AED can be crucial if someone were to be injured or lose consciousness during a disaster or emergency. 

“Take action to help the community prepare”
Now that everyone who works in The Office knows what it’s like to experience a fire when you’re not prepared, they should do everything they can to be sure that they will be prepared if it ever happens again. They should also encourage the rest of the community to Get a Kit, Make a Plan, and Be Informed.

Samantha Minks
AmeriCorps NPRC/Preparedness Coordinator

Monday, August 26, 2013

News Release: Red Cross Responds To Provide Relief And Aid To Those Affected By Rim Wildfires

Fresno, CA – Monday, August 26, 2013  In response to the Rim Fire which began on August 17, 2013, days before lightning storms swept through the region and sparked other, smaller blazes, Red Cross volunteers in the Central Valley have opened a shelter in Greeley Hill, California. The high winds and movement of the fire from bone-dry brush on the ground to 100-foot oak and pine treetops have created dire conditions. Evacuations have been ordered for residents in the affected area. The fire has consumed 225 square miles of picturesque forests. Officials estimate containment at just 7% as of Sunday evening.

Red Cross volunteers from the Central Valley Region have been on standby due to the high risk and nature of this wildfire. On Sunday afternoon volunteers were activated to open a shelter at Greeley Hill Community Center, 10332 Fisk Road, Greeley Hill, CA to support those affected by the Rim Wildfires in the Mariposa/Stanislaus/Tuolumne counties region. Red Cross is prepared to support evacuees over the next few days with cots, blankets, food and other support services.
Household and domestic animals are permitted at Red Cross shelter locations under the care of the Central California Animal Disaster Team. Evacuees are encouraged to let their loved ones know they have safely evacuated by registering for Safe & Well at the Greeley Hill Library, 10332 Fisk Road, Greeley Hill, CA. To search for a loved one, please visit

Red Cross volunteers are providing emergency relief for families and individuals impacted by this wildfire. “We are providing shelter, food and comfort kits with basic hygiene products including soap, shampoo, and toothpaste to anyone staying in our shelters,” said Ellen Knapp, Red Cross Regional CEO. “In addition to providing the basic needs, trained volunteers are on hand to provide emotional support for displaced residents during this very difficult time,” Knapp said.
Currently, Greeley Hill Road is only accessible to emergency and fire personnel, and evacuees.  To schedule a media interview please contact Alex Villa, (559) 709-5323. No media will be permitted inside a Red Cross shelter without consent and a scheduled appointment with a Red Cross representative.
Donors can help people affected by this wildfire, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support American Red Cross. Donations by check should be made payable to “American Red Cross Central Valley Region” and sent to the American Red Cross Central Valley Chapter at 1300 W Shaw Ave, Suite 4B, Fresno, CA 93711. To make an online donation visit us at

Friday, August 23, 2013

What I Love Most About My Job at the Red Cross!

I often get asked, “What do you love about your job the most?”  This can be a difficult question to answer.  Of course I love the organization and volunteers, but my answer is always the same, “I get to experience and be a part of every key service the Red Cross has to offer.”  Not many employees of the Red Cross can say that.  As the Volunteer Coordinator, I have been on a fire call, helped plan and attended major fundraisers, taken First Aid/CPR/AED, plan on attending this year’s Veterans Stand Down, participated in Team Firestopper activities, and given Be Red Cross Ready - disaster preparedness presentations.  I have many moments when I think, “This is the best thing I have experienced since working with the Red Cross.”  This last moment came a couple weeks ago when I went with a group of youth volunteers to a children’s day center here in Bakersfield to give a Masters of Disasters presentation to a group special needs children 2-8 years old.

I was quite nervous going into this presentation as I did not know what to expect as far as the behaviors of the children who ranged in disabilities from Autism, to Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.  I quickly learned this was going to be a presentation I would never forget.  The group was small with about 8 in attendance.  Within a 15 minute presentation, we had everyone practicing stop, drop, and roll and crawl low and go (basic fire safety skills).  We were later told by one of the teachers that she was amazed at the level of participation.  One student in particular “never participates in anything,” she said, and yet, he was doing the drills right along our volunteers.  At the end, we received a gift that I will admit made me a little verklempt: a thank you card with all of the children’s hand prints in the shape of a cross in red.  I have this card hanging in my office and every time I look at it I will think of those amazing children.  I hope to see them again soon!

Amy Mayer, Volunteer Coordinator
American Red Cross Kern Chapter

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Meet Veronica Lases - AmeriCorps NPRC Member

Hola, Yo soy Veronica Lases…Hello everyone, I’m Veronica Lases! I am one of the new members to the American Red Cross Central Valley and I am an AmeriCorps member. I will be the Preparedness Coordinator here in the Fresno Chapter. I’m blogging today to tell you a little about myself. Ok, so first things first; I am a NASCAR and football FANatic! I am a huge Hendricks Motorsports supporter, but really I’m a huge Jeff Gordon fan (my sister says my support is a little bit of a sickness). Well, I could talk your ear off about NASCAR, but I thought I’d share my other love…the San Francisco Forty-Niners! I am no band wagon fan; I’ve loved them since the days of Joe! That’s right the greatest quarterback Joe Montana. Many of you Bulldog football supporters may not like me for this next statement, but I am a USC fan…have to be! 

Okay, let me continue about myself and not sports because I tend to ramble when its sports related. I practice and am an assistant instructor of martial arts and self-defense. So in two very different ways I help teach others to always be prepared! Well, enough personal, on to the professional!

I graduated from the University of Phoenix and received my Bachelors of Science in Human Services. My main focus of study has been victims. I have studied almost all type of victims: rape, suicide, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect. Beginning my journey with the American Red Cross will give me the chance to learn about victims of disasters, such as those affected by the home fires we experience here in the Central Valley. My main question is how victims cope with this type of PTSD? Sorry, making you, the reader, think too much in this blog. I am fluent in Spanish, unless I get nervous then I’m fluent in Spanglish. I’m an L.A. girl born and raised, but now have to claim Fresno as home.
Well, I think that's all for now. So if you have any questions or want to do the seasonal football trash talk, well, you know where to find me…yup, Fresno! Ok, thanks, Bye!

Veronica Lases
AmeriCorps NPRC Member 2013-2014
Preparedness Coodinator
Community Preparedness & Resilience Services
American Red Cross - Central Valley Chapter

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Meet Amitai "Tai" Zuckerman - AmeriCorps NPRC Member

Hello!  My name is Tai and I’m the new AmeriCorps - National Preparedness and Response Corps member at the Visalia office of the American Red Cross Central Valley Chapter! 

As I start my work here in the Central Valley, I’d like to tell you a little about who I am.  I grew up in San Diego and spent the last few years in Oregon, where I earned my Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from the University of Oregon.  I remained in Oregon to work but found the opportunity to become an AmeriCorps member in the Central Valley and decided this would be an adventure I am more than willing to undertake.  Emergency management as well as disaster preparedness and response are passions of mine and while my term in AmeriCorps will prepare me for the future, I know that I’ll help the communities in Tulare and Kings Counties become more resilient and prepared when disaster strikes.  One aspect of my position that I’m particularly looking forward to is engaging with the local community in order to increase the American Red Cross mission of disaster preparedness and response.

Just like my fellow National Preparedness and Response Corps members, I will post on this blog every week.  Check this page to see what events we’ve participated in, adventures we’ve gone on, and stories we want to share!  I’m looking forward to a productive, safe, and great year and I can’t wait to see you at one of our events!

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

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Meet Samantha Minks - AmeriCorps NPRC Member

"Who am I?" could be the most vague and open ended question that one could ask a person. Of course I know who I am, I'm Samantha Minks. I love my dog, my friends, and my family, and my favorite T.V. show is The Office. But, how did I come to be who I am? That's the real question. Sitting here today, I am Samantha Minks, AmeriCorps NPRC Member and Preparedness Coordinator here at the Kern Chapter of the American Red Cross. This is all very new still, seeing as how only about three short weeks ago I was living in my hometown of Logansport, Indiana. I'm a recent graduate from Purdue University, where I spent two wonderful years deciding what I wanted to major in, and then three more wonderful years earning my Bachelors in Communications. I chose one of the broadest fields to study, because, well, I've never truly known "what I want to be when I grow up." However, I do know what I'm good at, and that's interacting with people. So, a month or so before I graduated from college I applied for this position as an AmeriCorps NPRC member knowing full well that this would be an awesome opportunity to not only interact with people, but to interact with people in need, people who are victims of disasters and tragedy, and also to be a leader in preparing these people on how to be ready when disasters strike. I'm ready to do everything I can to better prepare the communities of the Central Valley Region, and I look forward to working with everyone!

Samantha Minks, Preparedness Coordinator
AmeriCorps NPRC Member 2013-14
American Red Cross Kern Chapter