Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Global Drop-In: Checking in with the ICRC

With so much turmoil and conflict sprouting all over the world, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has had its hands full trying to support the needs of thousands of civilians across multiple nations.  Let’s take a closer look and see just what the ICRC has been up to lately.

President of the ICRC, Peter Maurer, has recently returned from a six day long excursion to Iraq to monitor relief efforts.  Thousands of men, women, and children have become displaced as they attempt to flee violence in their region, and local Red Cross and Red Crescent chapters are working with the ICRC and lead officials of Iraq to provide basic necessities for these individuals.  The ICRC has vowed to provide shelter, food, water, and healthcare services to those individual affected by the spreading violence.

In addition to relief efforts, the ICRC seeks to preserve human dignity by insuring that international humanitarian laws and standards are being met throughout the conflict.  As a part of this mission, the ICRC will be making frequent visits to detention centers to assess the condition of detainees connected with the violence in Iraq and make sure international humanitarian standards are being met.  In addition, the ICRC is working with Iraqi officials to provide accountability for armed and security forces operating within Iraq to guarantee that they are abiding by international humanitarian law.

Finally, with so many displaced individuals, families are often broken up and separated with no means of communication.  Teams of Red Cross volunteers on the ground are doing everything they can to help these individuals reestablish communication to bring families back together.  In certain cases, these volunteers are charged with the responsibility of passing along short oral ‘safe and well’ messages between separated family members.

The ICRC is working tirelessly to help provide relief for thousands of displaced citizens.  Efforts in Iraq have jumped to the 4th largest in the ICRC’s budget, totaling roughly $78 million USD.  As a whole, one-third of the organization’s worldwide budget is used to fund operations in the Middle East.

The tumultuous situation in the Middle East demands large scale humanitarian aid now, more than ever.  The resources of the ICRC are limited, but every life changed through efforts to alleviate human suffering and reconnect families is a step in the right direction.  While the ICRC has limited power to end conflict in Iraq, it is proud to at least be able to provide solace and sanctuary to those affected by it.

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

Monday, February 9, 2015

Love and Emergency Preparedness

Love and emergency preparedness, how could these two intermingle?

I suppose, like some here in the Red Cross office, you could have a love for emergency preparedness. Or maybe being prepared for love emergencies is up your alley, such as who to call when your dozen heart shaped cookies burned and you need replacement baked goods stat.

It’s Cliff, our resident baker, you would call by the way.

My way of intermingling love and emergency preparedness is through celebrating Dia de Amor y Amistad. This translates to Day of Love and Friendship which is similar to the way Valentine’s Day is celebrated when we are in elementary school. You not only gave something special to a singular loved one, you gave a little something to each and every person in class. This is a tradition I have carried on through the years because Valentine’s Day for myself and many others is a day of love AND friendship.

So this year I am giving my loved ones and friends the gift of emergency preparedness.

This is something you too can pass on to your loved ones and friends. I am giving the special people in my life a fun love themed preparedness kit. It will have band-aids with hearts on them, a red flashlight with extra batteries of course, a CPR mouth shield (to practice mouth-to-mouth safely) and lastly some hand warmers to keep the love flame going all night long!

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

Friday, February 6, 2015

15 Ways to be Prepared for 2015

With the New Year now under way, we're working on keeping our resolutions. If you still haven't settled on what goals to achieve in 2015, it's not too late! A great idea is to plan to be more prepared and here are just a few ways to do so!

1. Get an emergency kit together for your car (energy bars, water, blanket, jumper cables, funnel, and first aid kit). This past year we heard of many incidents of people being trapped in their car during winter storms. These occurrences can happen anywhere at any time, having a kit in your car can be lifesaving.

2. Learn how to turn off power and gas to house. What may seem like a simple task can be daunting under pressure. Make sure multiple household members are aware of where turn offs are and when to switch them off.

3. Practice home fire drills. Is your household able to evacuate in under 2 minutes? Time yourselves to find out!

4. Test smoke alarms. Mark your calendar every month.

5. Change batteries in smoke alarms. Twice a year we change our clocks, why not change our smoke alarm batteries while we are at it?

6. Build supply of water. Having a sufficient supply of water is incredibly important. It is recommended to have, one gallon per person for a minimum of 3 days. Three gallons for each household member could fill up several carts at the grocery store. Consider adding one gallon to your grocery list each week and in no time your supply will be fully stocked!

7. Fill out an emergency contact list. It is great to have an out of area contact, phone lines can get tied up if too many people in an area try getting in contact with people nearby. You will have better luck of your call connecting if you call someone further from the disaster area.

8. Take a class. Become certified in First Aid, CPR & AED or another specialty certification. These skills are lifesaving!

9. Secure book shelves and remove items that could injure individuals if an earthquake were to happen.

10. Build an emergency kit. Have supplies gathered together to grab and go if your neighborhood is set to evacuate. Some items you may want to include: flashlights, batteries, food, water, change of clothes, blankets, toiletries, cash, coins, etc.

11. Samples of medication. Talk to your doctor about getting a sample of prescribed medication. Having a sample of your medication ready in your emergency kit will help you to evacuate quicker. Or consider storing a sample at a family or friends house.

12. Pet supplies. We must not forget about our furry friends and reptile roomies. Be sure to include them in your plans. Packing an emergency kit with food and water for them as well.

13. Make a plan. Draw out a map of your home, identifying two exits from each room to escape a home fire. Be sure everyone in the household knows the plan and where everyone will meet once outside.

14. Share your plans with neighbors. Let them know meeting locations (both for inside and outside of your neighborhood) as well as a list of emergency contacts. If a fire were to occur they can meet you at you meeting location, cell phone in hand and emergency personnel on their way.

15. Encourage family and friends to build up their kits as well. When an emergency happens we want everyone to be prepared. Help make this happen!

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