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

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

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

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

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 for more information on how to be prepared for the flu.

Samantha Minks
AmeriCorps NPRC 2013-2014
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross - Kern Chapter

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