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

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

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

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Prepared, to a Degree

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):

Center for Homeland Defense and Security’s list of colleges and universities:

The California Emergency Management Agency’s California Specialized Training Institute (Cal EMA/CSTI):

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

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