Thursday, December 18, 2014

The First Line of Defense

Household smoke alarms are often considered the first line of defense with regard to a family’s safety during a home fire.  Families generally only have 2 minutes to escape their homes before the fire becomes life threatening.  It is for this reason, that functioning household smoke alarms are paramount in providing for the safety of one’s family.  On average, thirty-six people suffer from a home fire every day.  Tragically, seven of those thirty-six perish during these daily occurrences. Therefore, having properly maintained smoke alarms installed in a household can mean the difference between being one of the thirty-six or being one of the seven.

In a survey conducted by the National Fire Protection Association, researchers discovered that about 97% of the total U.S. population had at least one smoke alarm in their household.  However, 37% of all home fire related deaths from 2007-2011 were in homes where no smoke alarm was present.

Furthermore, an additional 23% of casualties were in homes where smoke alarms were present but had been improperly tested or maintained.  This translates to a casualty rate in households with malfunctioning or no smoke alarms that is twice as high as a household with one functioning smoke alarm.

The Red Cross recognizes the importance of having this first line of defense and has launched a Home Fire Preparedness Campaign that involves, among other aspects, free smoke alarm installations in homes without proper protection.  This month, Red Cross volunteers traveled to the community of Weldon, California to install smoke alarms for 200 at-risk homes.  In addition, these volunteers educated families on proper smoke alarm maintenance and the importance of making and practicing a family emergency plan.

If you would like to learn more or you would like to get involved in the prevention of home fire related suffering, please contact the Red Cross Central Valley Region by visiting

Andrew Basham
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central Valley Chapter

Friday, December 12, 2014

'Tis the Season to be Selfless!

Ah! The holiday season is here! Shopping malls are covered with poinsettias and raging with sales, the smell of peppermint lattes is filling the air, and Christmas music can be heard almost anywhere you go. Talk shows and media outlets are filling peoples' minds with the hottest must have items to stock under Christmas trees.

As we all put time and thoughts into our holiday parties and gift ideas, we sometimes forget about the true meaning of the holidays. Bob Hope once said, “My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?” The American Red Cross truly gives back all year around and is a selfless organization.

Bob Hope performing at Lackland Air Force Base, 1990
This time of the year can be devastating for those that have lost their home and most of their belongings to fires and mudslides. On Thanksgiving, I was called out to my first disaster response call. The home, where a family of five lived, was completely destroyed. The fire was caused by a candle that was left burning during the night. All the members of the family made it out of the fire unharmed; however they lost their beloved pet Pit Bull. As we spoke to the father of the family, he was overwhelmed with grief. Once we finished taking his down his information and arranged hotel accommodations and issued him a cash assistance card for him and his family, he broke down in tears of gratitude. This experience made me see how the Red Cross makes a difference in people’s lives.

The American Red Cross of the Central California Region doesn’t only respond to disaster calls. With help from volunteers and employees, our Team Firestopper campaign has canvassed more than 6,000 homes with home fire safety information since I started my service in September 2014.  We taught more than 100 families on how they can help prevent home fires and keep their families safe in the case of a disaster.

During the holiday season, the American Red Cross supports our nation’s military forces with Holiday Mail for Heroes. The Merced chapter recently had their Holiday Mail for Heroes event at their local shopping mall where many locals came to create and send cards of thanks to the armed forces.
Volunteers sorting Holiday Mail for Hero Cards
You can make a difference this holiday season - or any time of the year - by signing up as a volunteer and find opportunities in which you can help the American Red Cross make your community a safer place!

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Power to Save a Life is in Your Hands

Did you know that there is a course designed to simplify CPR? Hands-only CPR helps everyday citizens feel more confident to provide care.

Less than 1/3 of adults who suffer from sudden cardiac arrest get the help they need because people are too afraid that they are going to do something wrong. It is important to know what to do in an emergency and equally as important to have the confidence to act. Hands-only CPR takes minutes to learn and is easy to remember!

Here is a short video to help explain hands-only CPR step by step:

Step 1: Check the scene for safety and see if the person responds to you by tapping them on the shoulder and shouting ‘Are you ok?’

Step 2: Briefly look for signs of breathing.

Step 3: If they don’t respond, call or send someone to call 911.

Step 4: If the person is not breathing or is gasping prepare to give chest compressions.

  • Kneel beside them
  • Place the heel of one hand in the center of the chest
  • Place your other hand over that hand, lacing your fingers together
  • Position your shoulders directly over your hands, keeping your arms straight with your fingers off the chest

Step 5: Push hard and fast at least 2 inches then let the chest rise completely before pressing down again.

Step 6: Keep going until:

  • Person shows an obvious sign of life, like breathing
  • Scene becomes unsafe
  • An Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is ready
  • Too exhausted to continue
  • A trained responder takes over

Step 7: Get more training and encourage others to do so!

I would encourage everyone to further their knowledge by taking a First Aid and CPR course. It is recommended that every household has at least one member trained in these skills. Hands only CPR is a great place to start, doing something as simple as chest compressions can help. Compressions keep the blood flowing carrying oxygen which is vital in helping someone stay alive.

‘Be Red Cross Ready’ with hands-only CPR course are available at no cost through your local Red Cross Chapter. Contact us today to schedule a presentation!

Want to know more? Sign up for a First Aid/CPR course in your area and download our free First Aid mobile app!

Korri Faria
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central California Region

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Immunized and Confused

I wanted to bring a few different conspiracy theories to you all so you could see what is floating around in the dark corners of the Web and maybe even have an answer when a member of the community asks what the Red Cross has to say about these rumors.

Over the past several weeks, the fear and lack of knowledge about Ebola has been made apparent with calls asking us to present on the topic. They want to know how the disease is spread, what the symptoms are and how likely they are to get the virus. Along with these concerns, there is a rumor that the Red Cross has been spreading the Ebola virus and that is the only way that people have been infected. Let me just state: that is FALSE!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease can be spread from infected human to human or infected bat/primate to human. A human can be infected with the virus through direct contact with an infected person’s blood or bodily fluids and the virus can only enter the body through broken skin or a mucous membrane. A human can also be infected by a bat and/or primate that is carrying the infection through the same method of transfer and additionally through consuming said animal that is infected with Ebola. It CANNOT be transferred through the air or through the water.

The symptoms can appear anywhere from two to twenty-one days after being exposed and they are very similar to the flu. They can involve a fever, headache, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, stomach pain, lack of appetite, joint and muscle ache and—the one that differs from influenza—unexplained bleeding and bruising. The virus can only be transmitted while these symptoms are present. The likelihood of getting the virus in the U.S. is low. If you are a healthcare worker in West Africa or a person living in those affected countries, than the risk is higher. As for us here, not traveling or caring for the sick, we should be worried more about the flu than Ebola.

Now to the really fun stuff: conspiracy theories!
The current theory that hits closest to home is about our Red Cross. If you have not heard it already, it has been rumored that the Red Cross is in cahoots with the U.S. government to infect the people of Africa so that the government can sneak into Africa for its diamonds and oil.

The Ebola virus and its varying strands have been around for decades, since 1976. Additionally, the Red Cross does not force vaccinations, and is not a government agency tied exclusively to the United States. The Red Cross an international organization that provides humanitarian relief to those who need it across the globe. At no time could the American Red Cross have more power over the other Red Cross and Red Crescent chapters.

Lastly, I will leave you with an excerpt from the American Red Cross’s response that I feel shows how amazing the Red Cross and its volunteers are and how a few crazy conspiracy theorists are not going to bring us down!

“These allegations are an insult to the 4,000 local volunteers- themselves citizens of West African nations-who have been working tirelessly to help their neighbors. These volunteers have worked around the clock to provide prevention education, assist with burials, and provide comfort to families impacted by Ebola. In addition, the Red Cross opened a 60 bed treatment center in Sierra Leone. Patients have already started to recover and have been released from the center.”

Alexandria Desiga
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central California Region

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Guess Who's Back?!

Guess who’s back, back again, Vero’s back, tell a friend! So yes ladies and gentlemen, I am back for a second year of AmeriCorps, preparedness, and Team Firestopper. This year has already been adjustments all around. I had to say good bye to coworkers who made up the preparedness team and my AmeriCorps team. I have welcomed five new AmeriCorps members to our team; two of which I share a cubicle with, and welcomed a new boss. All these changes would be enough to drive Sheldon crazy, but not me! Let me explain these changes.  

Change #1: five completely different personalities, than Thing 1 and Thing 3 (yes Dr. Seuss reference) from last year, came into my world. At first meeting, I wasn’t sure if I was going to get along with them. This AmeriBunch, as I like to call the whole group, they’re a great group. They go from the theatrical to the “let’s get down to business” types. When it’s fun time, we laugh and dance our time away, and business time, we get things done. 

Change #2: What I call, the ol’ Switch-a-roo. My boss Alex was called to duty at Red Cross HQ, which meant he had to leave the AmeriBunch in someone else’s hands. To be honest, I was worried and anxious and scared, I was becoming Sheldon (again with the Big Bang Theory reference), but then I found out Amy would take over. As excited as I was, I was worried. How was she going to help me with Change #3?! It’s been two months, it’s been all about transition, but all is well with the AmeriBunch. 

So Change #3, well, this actually began during last term. Part of my assignment as AmeriCorps was to cover bilingual presentations, events and media. As time went on, we realized the Latino community that was not fully being reached. We would hear that many of our Spanish speaking emergency clients would deny Red Cross assistance. We then wondered if this was because of a language barrier and/or misinformation on how the American Red Cross can help our Latino communities. We know many have a misconception of the American Red Cross. It was almost distrust, a feeling that we would not help them because they did not have proper credentials or their citizenship was questionable. I understood, how not knowing if an organization would help, could feel and I felt that we should do something to break this barrier.

From this desire to help our Latino communities was the creation of our Latino Community Preparedness program. This program is designed to inform these communities on how they can prepare for any emergency, and how they can help save a life. It is completely focused on Latino (Spanish speaking) communities throughout the Central Valley and Kern counties. I am also hoping to grow our bilingual speaking volunteers and encourage them to gain experience from this program. A future, personal goal is to have this grow not only with Latino community, but also with other cultures with language barriers. I am bilingual in English and Spanish, but if I can encourage those who are bilingual in other languages, this program can grow and we can help more communities. 

I’m sure from other blogs written by the AmeriBunch, you were expecting to read on how to prepare for some emergency, but I felt like I needed to share my experience coming into a 2nd term of AmeriCorps and having things flip.  I knew I was ready for the changes and as scary as they seemed; they were actually very exciting. Cheers to the next 8 months!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Have You Made Your Emergency Kit for the Zombie Apocalypse?

It has been over 6 weeks since I began my journey here at the American Red Cross. I am pleased and excited to collaborate with the fantastic six AmeriCorps members this upcoming year. With all of our past experience, ambition, and determination I am confident that all six of us will get things done for future AmeriCorps members to follow.

Within these six weeks I have learned so much and have seen many wonderful humanitarian efforts the Red Cross provides nationwide and even in the community I live in. I have engaged in presentations that educated and prepared families to be safe for disasters, and provided assistance to families after a house fire. It is a great pleasure to see the smiles of each family member when we show up to community events or during a disaster response. I am excited for what the future holds for me at the Red Cross.

I cannot stress how important it is to have an emergency kit in your household. During my presentations I have seen on an average of five audience members have kits. A kit will provide you the basics in order to live on your own until first responders arrive. Therefore having a kit will develop you to be more independent rather than depending on others to take care of your family. A kit should consist of water, food, documents, first aid and many more.

Many of us watch the show The Walking Dead, where they even stress the importance of having a kit as well. You cannot always depend on Daryl or Rick to take care of you during a zombie apocalypse. You should be prepared at all times. I was looking at previews for the upcoming season of The Walking Dead and came across this amazing item:

The Walking Dead offers a survival kit at a reasonable price that includes the following:

  1. Emergency food ration
  2. First aid kit
  3. LED flashlight
  4. Blankets
  5. Ponchos
  6. Waterproof matches
  7. Face masks
  8. And packets of water
If Daryl and Rick are fighting for their life from these flesh eating ugly zombies, I think you should make an investment and begin your kit for your family.

Daniel Avina
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central Valley Region

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Volunteers to the Rescue!

The American Red Cross relies heavily on the help of volunteers. Volunteers help our organization in many different ways, from helping out Red Cross staff in the office to assisting clients on disaster calls. I have been an AmeriCorps member serving in the Central Valley Region for over three weeks now and I have worked side by side with many Red Cross volunteers.

My first opportunity to work with Red Cross volunteers was at the 2014 A Taste of River Park event. This fun event provided guests with great food, drinks, and fashion shows. The best thing about this event was that a portion a of the ticket proceeds helped benefit the Red Cross. At this event, I was able to see how the Red Cross in the Central Valley Region came together to work as team. The Red Cross employees and volunteers worked diligently to make sure guests had a great time.

But I want to share a positive experience I had with a specific volunteer and how she saved the day.

A fellow AmeriCorps member, Alex Desiga, needed assistance with three presentations that she had scheduled at a military base.  The coordinator at the base needed two children’s safety presentations and a Be Red Cross Ready presentation for adults. All three presentations needed to be done simultaneously so a volunteer and I assisted Alex by presenting Masters of Disasters and Andrew Bashman from the Visalia office presented The Pillowcase Project.

From Left to Right: Alex Desiga, Elizabeth Barragan, Nicole German, Andrew Basham
Nicole German, the volunteer that assisted me with the presentation is a nursing student at Fresno City College and she is volunteering with the Red Cross to get presentation experience. We only had a handful of children for our Masters of Disasters presentation. In our group of children, there was a little girl that was hard of hearing. Her mother was by her side as she seemed timid and uncomfortable. Her mother had to leave her side to attend other matters, and this made the little girl so upset to the point where she started to cry.

As I went to attend to the distressed girl, Nicole stepped up to the plate and was able to continue with the other children and presentation. I was able to educate the little girl on safety and preparedness on a  one on one level, which made her feel comfortable to the point where she was able to joined the other children at the end.

The coordinator and the little girl’s mother were so grateful and pleased with how we handled the situation. I was also thankful to have Nicole there volunteering with me. I know it would have been a stressful situation for me if she was not there.

Volunteers perform 98% of outreach and disaster response in the Central Valley and are essential to the Red Cross mission.

Registering to volunteer is easy! Click here to sign up today.

Elizabeth Barragan
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central Valley Region

Monday, September 29, 2014

AmeriCorps: Hitting the Ground Running

Hello everyone!  My name is Andrew, and I am excited to be a part of this year’s AmeriCorps team working with the American Red Cross.  We are a total of six this year working with the Preparedness team in the Central Valley Region, and boy did we have to hit the ground running.

Our predecessors laid down great groundwork in our communities, and it will be a challenge to live up to and exceed all of the work and hours they put in before us.  However, I know that we have a highly motivated team that is more than ready to live up to the challenge.  

From left to right: Veronica, Korri, Andrew

The first few weeks have been a bit hectic with training, and it had me rearing to get out into the community to meet our neighbors and spread the Be Red Cross Ready message.  My counterpart for Tulare and Kings Counties, Korri, and I were accompanied by our Latino Community Preparedness Coordinator Veronica on our first community outreach presentations.  We were honored to speak in front of three 6th grade classes at John J. Doyle Elementary school in Porterville, CA.  The children were eager to learn how to create their own preparedness kits and emergency action plans.  What’s more is they pledged to take this new information home with them to share with the other members of their household.

And so our mission is well underway.  I am excited to meet and teach members of our surrounding communities over the course of the next year.  I have no doubt that the time will fly by, and that we will leave our communities in a more knowledgeable and safer place than they were before.

Andrew Basham
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central Valley Region

Friday, September 12, 2014

Celebrating 20 Years of AmeriCorps: #GettingThingsDone For The Central Valley

How many people get to say they were welcomed to their new job by four different U.S. Presidents? Well here in the Central Valley we know at least 6 who can say that they were.

Veronica, Elizabeth, Alexandria, Korri, Daniel, and Andrew are the new AmeriCorps NPRC members for the Red Cross Central Valley, and they were officially sworn in today by President Barack Obama, alongside Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and George H. W. Bush.  The special event was organized to honor the 20th Anniversary of the AmeriCorps program, which was founded in 1994 by President Clinton.

The event was live streamed from the South Lawn of the White House with AmeriCorps members simultaneously pledging service from their offices around the country. Here in the Valley, the six new members participated in the Fresno, Visalia, and Bakersfield Red Cross offices surrounded by volunteers and employees cheering them on and welcoming them into the Red Cross family.

Here’s video of Elizabeth, Veronica, and Alex participating from the Fresno office:

Now that they’re official, the Red Cross Central Valley AmeriCorps team will work in our community for the next 11 months, responding to disasters and increasing community preparedness through outreach and education.

To honor the milestone anniversary, Voices for National Service has issued a report, with a forward written by Chelsea Clinton, celebrating 20 years of service and impact through AmeriCorps. The report chronicles the history of AmeriCorps and celebrates the transformative impact AmeriCorps members have in local communities each day.

Now you can celebrate with us! Check out these infographics from the Corporation for National & Community Service Blog, highlighting all the work AmeriCorps has done over the last two decades. Then join the conversation online using the hashtag #GettingThingsDone to welcome the new AmeriCorps members and celebrate 20 years of service.

We can't wait to see how these six talented AmeriCorps members will get things done with Red Cross Central Valley!

Jessica Piffero
Regional Director of Communications

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Whoopie! Red Cross Partners with Eddie’s Bakery for A Delicious Fundraiser

Have you ever had a whoopie pie? It’s basically superior to all other desserts. Why? Because it’s like a cross between a cake, a pie, AND a cookie. It’s a triple threat! And for the month of July it can be all yours at Eddie’s Bakery for just $2.95.

And what makes this delicious treat even sweeter? Proceeds from the sale go to your local American Red Cross! So it’s basically guilt free - have a second one!

These heavenly treats are made from two decadent red velvet cake pieces united by a sweet cream cheese filling sandwiched between.

Excuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard.

So buy a special treat for someone you love, or pick up a dozen for the holiday barbecue, or surprise everyone at the office with an afternoon snack! You’ll feel good knowing that the money is going towards a great cause like the Red Cross.

Eddie's Bakery is located on the Northwest corner of Herndon & Cedar in Fresno, right behind Applebee's. The fundraiser runs for the whole month of July.

Jessica Piffero
Regional Director of Communications

Thursday, July 3, 2014

An AmeriCorps NPRC Farewell

Well folks, the time has come. Today marks the end of my AmeriCorps NPRC term. I can honestly say that this has been one of the best decisions I have made in my 24 years of life. 11 months ago, I arrived in Bakersfield after a long road trip from Indiana. I didn't know a single person here except for one of my now greatest friends Amy Mayer, who I had only spoken to over the phone and through email. Two days after my arrival I found myself in the Fresno office, sitting in between my colleagues Veronica and Amitai. We were bombarded that day with numbers and goals to reach, and at that point the three of us were a little intimidated, yet up for the challenge. The next day we were in airports, headed to DC for training and some team bonding time...and boy was that fun! 
Since our return from DC, time has flown by. I've been asking myself in the weeks leading up to the end of my time here, "Where has the time gone?" From the early morning Team Firestopper community canvassing events, to the fire safety seminars, to Save-A-Life Saturdays, to spontaneous DAT calls, to community outreach events, to almost 100 presentations here in Kern county - okay, I guess I can see how the time flew by. There was never a dull moment. I'm finishing my term with so much experience, and feelings of great accomplishment and gratitude - gratitude to all of the people who have supported me, guided me, made me laugh, and made me feel like this was my home away from home.  

Just a few things before I say my final goodbye:

A HUGE thank you to the Kern Chapter Staff - Each of you know how much you mean to me. I feel so lucky to have been able to spend my time here with you ladies. You've been my second family, and you will never be forgotten. All of the support, guidance, laughs, good mornings, and see you tomorrow's have helped in making my time here so rewarding. Both personally and professionally, I love you all.

Another HUGE thank you to all of the volunteers. It has been such a pleasure getting to know each of you both personally and professionally. I've learned so much from you guys. The passion each of you has for the American Red Cross and volunteerism in general is astounding, and something I will carry with  me for the rest of my life.

To my supervisor, Alex - I'm pretty sure Veronica, Amitai and I were the luckiest of all AmeriCorps NPRC members in the country. You put up with the three of us for 11 months! My sincerest apologies for all of the gray hairs, eye rolls, and screams into your pillow. You pushed each of us, allowing us to see what we're capable of. I've learned so much from you, and this experience as a whole, and I can't thank you enough for allowing me to be a part of the Central Valley team. Also - on top of being the best boss I've ever had, you can quote as many lines from The Office as me, and I think that's pretty darn cool. 

Last, but certainly not least, a thank you to my fellow AmeriCorps members Veronica and Amitai. When I look back at my time as an AmeriCorps member, I will think of you guys first. We've been through a lot together. We've laughed, we've cried, we've argued, we've competed, and together we've achieved so much for the Central Valley Region of the American Red Cross. We had our moments, but in the end we made one heck of a team. You guys have shown me the importance of teamwork, the importance of service, and the importance of laughter. You each have such bright futures, and I can't wait to hear all about the fantastic things you guys are going to do. Both personally and professionally, I love you.

Way to go Prep Squad! Thanks for the memories!!

Love, Sam

Samantha Minks
AmeriCorps NPRC 2013-2014
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross
Central Valley Region

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Prepare-aphernalia: Emergency Water In A Can!

Pop Quiz:
How much water should you have in your home emergency kit?
When was the last time you checked the expiration date on your emergency water supply?

Were you able to answer these questions correctly? Many people already know that the Red Cross recommends storing one gallon of water, per person, per day for three days as part of a home emergency kit. But many more may not realize that their water supply could be expired!

What’s the solution to this drinking dilemma? One California business has the answer. World Grocer has developed Emergency Canned Drinking Water with a shelf life of 30+ years.

The makers of this life-saving resource have donated 67 pallets of the specialized canned drinking water to the American Red Cross Central Valley Region for drought relief efforts. Because of California’s historic drought conditions, the local Red Cross expects to see a record number of drought emergencies this year. So it’s more important than ever this summer to make sure you include water as part of your emergency kit.

Check out this video to learn more:

What else is in your emergency kit? Tell us in the comments!

Jessica Piffero
Regional Director of Communications

Monday, June 9, 2014

Vine Your Support for World Refugee Day!

The American Red Cross and its partners invite you to join in celebrating this year's World Refugee Day on Friday, June 20!

For World Refugee Day, the Red Cross is having a Vine Your Support contest. Participating in the contest is easy!

Just post a Vine sharing why and/or how you support refugees worldwide and in your local community. Then, send us an email linking to your entries. The winning entries will then be reposted on the Restoring Family Links Twitter the week of World Refugee Day and shared during the World Refugee Day event.

The deadline for entries is Sunday, June 15.

Needs some Vine inspiration? Here's some tips!
  • Try filling in the blank:
    • I support refugees because _______.
    • I support my local refugee community by _______.
    • I celebrate World Refugee Day to/because _______.
    • World Refugee Day is important because _______.
  • Use this year's themes:
    • One family forced to flee is too many (UNHRC)
    • Celebrating our identities (SWRC)
  • Show your involvement with your local Red Cross chapter or refugee community
  • Check out some other Vines to inspire ideas
  • Don't be afraid to get creative!

Each contestant is allowed a maximum of 5 submissions. And remember, the deadline is this Sunday, so get your Vines submitted to before June 15!

Click here to learn more about Restoring Family Links.

Good luck!

Jessica Piffero
Regional Director of Communications

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Teamwork: The Secret To Red Cross Success

History has proven that when humanity works as a team towards a common goal, we can accomplish great things. From building skyscrapers that pierce the sky, to political revolutions, and even to Super Bowl victories, societies around the globe have proven that with a little collaboration, we are capable of grand achievements.

Often times, great teamwork leads to amazing achievements in our own community.

Last Wednesday the Fresno Inn was condemned due to unsafe living conditions. When a gas leak was discovered soon after, residents were quickly and suddenly forced from their homes. The local Red Cross responded, providing food assistance to more than 30 families.

But what was truly amazing about this particular disaster relief call was the display of teamwork that was seen throughout the event. Agencies and non-profits alike joined forces to assist the residents in need. Red Cross coordinated efforts with community partners like the Central California Animal Disaster Team who provided assistance for the numerous pets living at the hotel. The Development and Resource Management Department, Department of Public Works, and the Fresno Area Express volunteered their services and provided transportation to the temporary hotel and made sure other needs were met.

But the teamwork didn't stop there. The Fresno Inn residents, who before that day had mostly been anonymous neighbors to each other, banded together to problem solve and help those in need. These residents, who desperately needed help themselves, were selflessly looking out for others.

An elderly resident with a pacemaker and heart problems was cared for by the family next door. When one resident’s dog escaped during transport, neighbors rallied in the parking lot to catch the dog and bring him safely home. In yet another instance, a resident helped his neighbor load heavy boxes into a car.

In the face of this stressful event, these moments of caring and sacrifice shined brightly through the chaos. Neighbors helping neighbors. Volunteers providing comfort and resources. Agencies protecting those in need. It was a beautiful moment of community teamwork: individuals coming together to provide a safe haven for dozens of residents who needed help.

Every day the American Red Cross teams with volunteers, community partners, and agencies to provide compassionate care for those in need. Would you like to join our team? Visit to learn more!

Jessica Piffero
Regional Director of Communications

Friday, March 28, 2014

Team Firestopper - Onyx Edition

Hello all!

A couple months ago, I met with a gentleman in the tiny town of Onyx, California to talk about fire safety and home fire prevention. He expressed a need for his community, informing me that he and a lot of other people in the town did not have proper fire prevention utilities, such as smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Considering that much of my duties as an AmeriCorps member deal with preparedness, this struck me as something that needed to be fixed. With the help of my supervisor, Team Firestopper sprung into action. Two weeks ago, I and a group of wonderful volunteers from the Kern River Valley canvassed the Onyx community, handing out flyers with vital fire safety information to each and every home in the area. Also on these flyers was an invitation to a Community Fire Safety and Prevention Education course that I will be leading this Sunday, March 30th at Weldon Methodist Church just down the road from Onyx. 

To make it easier for the residents to attend, I allotted three shifts of these Fire Safety courses for them to choose from, the first from 1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m., the second from 2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m., and the third from 3:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. At the end of their shift they will take home a bag that has a smoke alarm, carbon monoxide detector, surge protector, and a fire extinguisher inside, and they can then install and use each of these utilities in their homes, making them more resilient to home fires. I am pleased to say that in less than two weeks over 30 Kern River Valley residents have registered to attend the course! Words can’t express how excited I am to be able to teach these people the importance of fire safety, and help them all prevent home fires in their community. One of the greatest perks of my position as an AmeriCorps NPRC member with the American Red Cross is that I get an incredible amount of those warm fuzzy feelings that one gets from helping others. Thank you AmeriCorps, thank you American Red Cross, and thank you Central Valley!

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

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Family Home Evening: Earthquake Scenario

Hello friends!

I'm writing today about a very important topic: Earthquake preparedness. In every presentation I give around my community, I talk about the importance of practicing your disaster plan. The "Drop, Cover, and Hold On" drill is an excellent place to start when practicing your earthquake plan. Get under a piece of sturdy furniture, cover your head and neck, and hold on to whatever piece of furniture you are under. Now that you've mastered this drill, move on to something more complex. While perusing the internet this weekend, I came across the ultimate earthquake plan. I mean, this family really went all out. 

The mother in this family realized that most likely an earthquake will strike at a time of the day when her family members are spread around town. You know, she's at the store with her youngest child, her older children are in school, and her husband is at work. She came up with a scenario including the time of day, and the extent of the earthquake, and she also determined situations like a dam breaking, downed power lines, and a gas leak that would intensify the encounter. She gave each member of her family a sheet of paper with a different scenario written on it. This family had already determined their meeting places, and their plan revolved around them. I won't give you all the details, instead I'm going to give you all the link to this website so that you can read it in detail and mimic the drill with your own families. This is a must read for those of you who have not begun to think about your plan yet. It's always better to be prepared!

Here is the link: 

Just a friendly reminder, it's that time of year again when it's time to change our clocks. This means it's also time to check the batteries in our smoke alarms, rotate and check the items in our emergency preparedness kits, and also to practice our emergency plans. It's the perfect time to put this must-read to practice!

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

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Our Heroes

So our President, and our presidents before, has declared March Red Cross Month. What does this mean? Does this mean that we must go out and bombard the people with Red Cross everything? NO. Does it mean we will go out and make everyone Red Crossers? Well, no, but hopefully we can make some of you Red Cross Ready for anything. So what does it mean? It means we are going to try and encourage or inspire you to possibly step out of your comfort zone and be a hero. The Red Cross is taking this month to recognize the Heroes in our communities; our neighbors, brother fire fighters, brother police officers, military, the child across the street, coworkers, and yes, possibly even a 7-eleven proprietor.
Many of us grew up thinking of heroes as having super-powers and capes, and yes, some have grown up seeing heroes as those who have laid down their lives for us. By definition a hero is someone who has done something great or has been brave. Bravery can also be seen in different ways. Being brave doesn’t require you to become David and fight off a giant; it is about stepping up and doing something right, yet difficult. I have had a few different opportunities to meet local heroes; I’m not going to tell you all their stories, because you can hear about them at our Real Heroes gala on March 21, but I will tell you a few.
Fresno Fire, as far as many know, risk their lives putting out fires. Well, after helping out a family during an emergency call, the Captain realized there was one more thing they could do to help. Some joined together to build a ramp for the elderly woman living in that home. How simple a task, yet so huge in sentiment. A young autistic child playing outside helped save a woman’s life, a woman who was being attacked by a dog. A 7-eleven owner opened a small library and encouraged learning. Different acts of heroism, not the acts you would find in a comic book, but heroic acts none the less.
On Monday, a family which lost their home in a fire bravely told their story on television. How is this an act of heroism? The family told their story, not for self-recognition or sympathy, but to encourage other families to take the proper precautions in their homes. They took something that traumatized their family, turned it around and spoke of the importance of smoke detectors, not going back into the fire, and to not be afraid to accept the Red Cross’ help after a fire emergency. For this family, they hope that by speaking out, another family may be safe in the event of a fire.
If you still need your hero to have super-powers, close your eyes and imagine this; a young boy with a magical stick that fights of villainous dogs. A firefighting super trio whose undercover disguise is helping the elderly. Or a 7-eleven owner by day, but an educating crime fighter at night. Not all heroes have to come from a comic book; we can all heroes, and we have heroes all around, some are just in disguise.
We thank all Our Heroes, and remember;  a simple note, “thank you for caring,” can go a long way.

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

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The AmeriCorps Member: A True Life Story Series

Yesterday I went with our Kern Chapter Volunteer Coordinator Amy Mayer to speak at CSUB for first year students in the College Assistance Migrant Program. Amy was presenting information on volunteer opportunities, and I figured I would tag along, seeing as how I would never turn down an opportunity to interact with potential volunteers in our community. At the end of her presentation, the professor of the class asked if we could each share our college experiences, and how we ended up with the American Red Cross. 

I spoke of my journey through college, and explained how I felt so anxious about my future upon graduation. I also took this golden opportunity to share how I ended up where I am today, an AmeriCorps NPRC member. None of these students had heard of AmeriCorps until yesterday. I talked about a realization I had before I applied for the AmeriCorps program, explaining to them how I felt somewhat selfish. Throughout college, I was only worried about myself. I was focused on my grades, on what my next step was, on what my struggles and strengths were. Now don’t get me wrong, we have to worry about these things to get through college with flying colors, but I felt a need to give back. This need to give back played perfectly with the fact that I was unsure of what my next step in life was going to be. That’s when I discovered AmeriCorps. It was perfect! Not only would I be able to gain valuable experience in a professional work environment, learn how a large non-profit organization works, and meet and work with so many great people, I would also be taking 11 months out of my life to give back and help others who are in need. I know there are many college students out there who feel the same way I felt, and I took it upon myself to advertise the AmeriCorps program and how rewarding it is. In my opinion, everyone should join. 

You see folks, this is what we do. We honor the “A”. 

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

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Change Our Community, Change Our World

Just my luck, in the short 11-month period I've committed to national and community service, I got called into jury duty and no, I'm not kidding. Due to the surplus of citizens reporting for duty, I was dismissed early and though I wasn't expecting to take anything away from that short period of time, I learned about a basic fundamental in our society that we seem to emphasize only at certain times: community service.

You've heard it time and time again from the media, from organizations, and from this blog asking for you to commit your time, knowledge, and skills for the greater good. While I was waiting for the fate of my civic duty, I looked around and saw how distraught people were (myself, included) because they were not at work or school, being productive to society. I thought not only how citizens can give back to the community, but also what motivates someone to take action.

The time to give is now. There is no need to wait for a special community day of service to take action. There are always areas of our society that need assistance and in my humble opinion, every day can be a day of community service. To expand on that idea, it feels great to help the community and when I do, I feel that a bit of justice is served. If you're familiar with the musical "Avenue Q," this may sound familiar: "When you help others, you can't help helping yourself!"

Every single person reading this blog post can make an impact in their community, state, and nation. As it has been said before, "the need is constant." Please consider your family, friends, colleagues, peers, and neighbors and when you're ready, the community will be waiting for you.

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

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Are You Ready to be Helped?

Today was a special day for my AmeriCorps service and the American Red Cross in Tulare and Kings Counties. In the past few months, the Red Cross presence has grown and we now offer our outstanding programs to an wider variety of audiences. In addition to upcoming Team Firestopper Community Presentations, Kid Firestopper lessons, and Wild Firestopper programs, we now have the resources to conduct our infamous Be Red Cross Ready Presentations in Spanish right out of our Branch office in Visalia.

Let me introduce you to Nora. Nora is one of our valued Volunteers who has enough energy and enthusiasm to take complete command of any room she walks into. She is fluent in English and Spanish and this morning, she single-handedly and effortlessly conducted a Be Red Cross Ready Presentation in Spanish to English as a Second Language students in Kings County. 

Teaching families and communities how to prepare for disasters is our mission and we will continue to do so in order to alleviate the stress and fear of preparing for the worst. We are proud of our mission and we wish to extend our reach and message to all corners of Tulare and Kings Counties.

To learn about the various types of preparedness presentations we offer and to schedule your free presentation, please call the Visalia Branch at 559.732.6436.

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

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Do It Yourself: The Family Emergency Binder

Hello all!

We've gone over plenty of times all of the items that you want to put in your disaster preparedness kit. You’ll want the basics of course; water, non-perishable food, flashlights and batteries, a portable radio, a first aid kit, medications, and the list goes on. In the event of an emergency evacuation many of us are reluctant to leave our homes, and there are many reasons for this. Perhaps you have valuables that you couldn't bare to leave behind, or important information that you just can’t leave without such as birth certificates, passports, and social security cards. What about those photo albums full of family memories? These are all things that we can prepare for beforehand, ensuring that in the case of an emergency evacuation you can get out as soon as possible and not feel the need to go back inside. Here are some ideas! 

For all of you technologically savvy folks out there, consider scanning all of those important documents and photos onto your computer and then saving them on a thumb drive. These are inexpensive and small devices that are made to store information. Once you have everything saved onto your thumb drive, you can then attach it to a key chain or keep it inside your already prepared emergency kit. 

If you’re more of the crafty type, consider putting together a binder like this family did:  An emergency binder is a place to store all of your passports, birth and marriage certificates, social security cards, home and car insurance information, emergency cash, and family photos. It's all in one convenient place that is easy to grab on your way out the door.   

Make it your own! Cater it to you and your family's needs, and decorate it together. You could have each member of the family add an item that is important to them, or set aside a section of the binder for each family member. Remember, putting together your preparedness kit can be fun! Include all members of the family when assembling it, and make sure everyone knows where the kit is kept upon completion. 

For more ideas on Do It Yourself preparedness tips, visit

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


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Prepare-aphernalia: Cooked to "Prevention"

Originally called the Active Alarm, the Fire Avert is a fire safety device
Well, this is nifty!

How often do you get distracted while cooking? If you're anything like my loving mother, it's probably too often. Fear not, char masters, because this device will help keep your home safe even when you're not paying attention to that oh-would-have-been-so-delicious dinner.

Alas, the Fire Avert. This little box plugs into a wall outlet as well as a stove. If your food starts to burn and the smoke alarm goes off, the microphone in this device senses the shrills and will automatically disconnect power to the appliance. To ensure that no one is present to tend to your savory dish (and the smoke), you have three minutes once the smoke alarm is activated to clear the smoke before the Fire Avert kicks into action. This will help prevent a fire in the kitchen.

Developed in Utah, the Fire Avert is designed for electric stoves but a model for gas is "cooking in the oven."

For more information, please check out the following link:

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

Thursday, January 30, 2014

AmeriCorps: Time Flies When You're Having Fun!

It’s hard to believe that I’m already six months into my 11 month AmeriCorps experience. It seems like just yesterday that I left my roots behind in Indiana and made the long road trip to California. So much has happened in the last six months. I've met so many people here, some of which I’m certain I’ll always have a connection with. 

I've learned so much about how a large non-profit organization such as the American Red Cross works, and that it couldn't be done without all of the hard work that each and every person involved puts into it. On top of that, I've learned a lot about myself as a person. I’m a leader, and I can also work well and accomplish great things with a group. I’m very organized, and I’m a confident presenter to the point that I now look forward to speaking in front of large groups of people. I never thought those words would come out of my mouth! However, I've learned that public speaking is easy when you're speaking on a topic that is important to you and important to the mission itself. 

I've been all over Kern County, speaking to various groups of people about disaster preparedness. A grant from Kern Public Health has allowed me to reach out to communities all over the county and present our Be Red Cross Ready material. At each presentation, 10 basic preparedness kits and 1 large 3-day preparedness kit are raffled off for participants to take home. These people leave with valuable knowledge and tangible materials that could be used in case of a disaster. How awesome is that!? So be on the look-out Kern, if I haven't been to your community yet, I will be soon enough!

All of this learning and it's only been six months. There must be so much more in store for us AmeriCorps in the Central Valley Region. I'm really looking forward to the next 5 months! Ready, set, go!

Stay tuned...

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

Vero's AmeriCorps Adventures

Vero’s log January 2014:

It’s been weeks since I have written. I have been out amongst the people observing them and having adventures. I found myself in a small city called Merced; I was there quite a bit this month. I actually spent time in the even smaller town of Winton, where the school district allowed me to enter some of their schools to teach some of their younger students fire safety. I presented them with our Kid Firestopper activity, and these kids surprised me with their smarts. At the end of the participation, I was able to reward 8 students with a new backpack they can use for an emergency kit.  I left with the confidence that they will encourage their parents to be safe during a fire. I did have a chance to interact with some parents of early head start children; encouraging them to begin fire safety plans was not difficult. I spoke with one mother who told me a story about her oven catching on fire, she grabbed her babies and left them at the neighbors, but my concern came when she told me she returned to the fire. This had me thinking, will there ever be a way to make parents, or any adult, understand…GET OUT AND STAY OUT? This young mother was lucky, she was able to use her fire extinguisher and put out the fire.  

To continue my adventures in Merced; I had a chance to bring them our Team Firestopper canvassing project. For MLK day, a day of service across the nation, we took to the streets of Merced and provided the communities with fire safety information. We were able to bring in 46 volunteers to come out and spread the word. We had some amazing volunteers, I don’t even know if they realize how thankful I am for their help. We had Alpha Phi Omega, Delta Gamma, Merced Red Cross Club, Rollin Roulette’s Derby Girls, Mc Swain 4H, Merced County 4H, United Way, our own Red Cross volunteers, Atwater Circle K, friends and family come out. Special thanks go out to Merced Fire’s own R. Ramirez, K. Albrecht, and B. Alcorn. Although these men have busy days, they took the time out to participate in our event and even speak to our volunteers.  Our day was a success; we reached out to 2000 homes, so THANK YOU to all who helped!

My last adventure brought me back to Fresno. I was able to conduct our first Hispanic Outreach. In the beginning of this month, I recorded a spot on Univision encouraging our Hispanic community to come and participate in a Team Firestopper presentation. It was an experience for me because I conducted it all in Spanish. Anyone who knows me knows I have pride in my culture; bringing this information to our Spanish speaking communities has been a goal of mine. The response of our participants was that of gratitude. They were encouraging me to continue the good work, and continue pushing the Red Cross’ mission into our Hispanic communities. My Spanish may be shaky when I’m nervous, but the message got through, and my guests made me feel confident. Almost brings a tear to my eye.

Readers, I hope you don’t mind if I continue to update you on my adventures. My interactions, my volunteer’s interactions, and even my co-worker’s interactions with our communities is where we can truly see the impact our work is having. I know I can’t do what I do without the help of my co-workers, my volunteers, and the community. So I leave you now with this warning...LOOK OUT! Kid Firestopper and Team Firestopper: Hispanic Outreach is coming to a location near you!