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App Review: Emergency!

Throughout the last year I’ve navigated through a number of American Red Cross apps. Until recently there were 12, and while each one provided valuable information about preventing, preparing for, and/or responding to emergencies, I simply didn’t have enough storage space on my phone for all of them. In the end I narrowed the list, downloaded the three apps most relevant to my family and location, and reluctantly left the rest behind.

Imagine my excitement then, when the Red Cross released lucky #13: a new, comprehensive, interactive emergency app. I couldn’t wait to check it out, and after having done so, to share with you my thoughts on what Emergency has to offer.

Emergency is an all-inclusive, customizable app, capable of using real-time information to keep you and your loved ones safe. The app combines more than 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts (provided by the National Weather Service/NOAA, the USGS, and FEMA) to help you monitor your location, as well as the locations of your family members and friends, for watches, warnings, and potential hazards. The app also provides access to information on what to do before, during, and after an emergency strikes.

When I first opened the app I was prompted to allow it to monitor my current location for watches and warnings. I liked that the app started here, and that within the first two minutes I had already set up my phone to alert me to potentially dangerous conditions using push notifications.

Next I added the locations – besides where I live – I wanted the app to monitor. 18 months ago my sister and her family lost their home in the Washington, Illinois tornadoes, so it’s important to me to keep tabs on the weather in the cities my family members call home.

When I finished with the Alerts tab and moved to the Prepare tab, I was taken aback by how well the app creators had organized this section’s information. (That is perhaps the greatest compliment someone with OCD tendencies – like me – can give.) The comprehensive list of natural and man-made disasters, arranged alphabetically and each with its own color and image, made it easy to find what I was looking for. When I clicked on each option, I found detailed information on what to do before, during, and after that specific disaster, as well as steps that could be taken ahead of time to lessen the impact of that disaster on my family and home.



Under the Quizzes tab I found (and took) – you guessed it – a number of short quizzes, each covering one specific disaster. I admit to getting a question wrong here and there, but I liked and appreciated how the app provided me with the correct answers after I’d finished each quiz.



The Maps tab allowed me to see real-time hurricane tracker, radar, satellite, cloud cover, rain, wind speed, and snow maps, not just for my city and county, but for the entire country. The Maps tab also shows all of the Red Cross shelters currently open across the country.



Under the Info tab, I could link to all of the other 12 Red Cross apps, change the language in which the app operates, share and rate the app, and take care of other Red Cross-related business. Donating money, setting up an appointment to donate blood, signing up for a course, buying a first aid kit, and/or signing up to volunteer can all be taken care of via Emergency.



I enjoyed using many of the first 12 Red Cross apps, but Emergency is by far my favorite. I love having the ability to access so much information in one place, appreciate the safety features it offers by way of its many monitoring and alert capabilities, and…it’s free! Download the new Emergency app in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

HOW TO: Set Emergency Alerts on the New App

Emergencies are stressful. We lose sleep when dangerous thunderstorms, tornadoes, earthquakes or wildfires hit close to home, but also when they threaten areas of the country where our loved ones live.

Luckily, a new app, Emergency by the American Red Cross, includes a helpful tool to monitor multiple locations for watches and warnings of all kinds. The app can alert you with an alarm when hazards or potential emergencies may impact where you live as well as regions of the country where your loved ones call home.

Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to setting up alerts on your phone.

1. Get Started

Download and open the Emergency app on your phone. When you see the first screen on the left, click Continue. When you see the second screen on the right, click Allow so the app can monitor your current location. The app will automatically add your location to your list of monitored places, so you don’t have to! (Follow the app’s prompts to select Allow twice.)


2. Add Places

When you see the screen on the left, select Get Started. When you see the screen on the right, select Add Place.

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3. Search Locations to Monitor

In the search bar, enter the zip code or name of the city and state you would like to monitor.



4. Select and Verify

When it appears, select the name of the location you would like to monitor. Then verify the app has correctly highlighted the map by clicking on Next.IMG_3005 IMG_3006

5. Label Locations

If someone you care about lives in the location you would like to monitor, click Yes. You can program that person’s contact information into the app so they will also receive alerts by selecting Add Person.
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6. Associate Phone Numbers and Wrap Up

The app will take you to your phone’s Contacts, where you can insert a contact’s phone number. If you would like to add an additional loved one, select Add Person again. (P.S. Even if your contact’s main phone number is a land line, the Family Safe feature in the app knows to use the contact’s mobile number, or will prompt you to add one.)

Once you have finished adding people, select Finish. When you see a confirmation screen, select Finish a second time.



7. Monitor Your Location 

At the top of the screen, slide the highlight bar to Places. Scroll down to Monitor Current Location and slide the circle to the right (until you see green behind the circle) so your current location will always be monitored.

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8. Tweak Monitored Areas

Now select the location you added. If you would like to change the size of the monitored area (perhaps you would like to monitor ten miles outside of a particular city), click on Alert Radius and enlarge the area using the bar at the bottom of the screen.

If you choose to delete the person associated with the location, simply swipe left on the person’s name on an iOS device or press the contact’s name on an Android device and you will receive a message to remove the contact.

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9. Set Notifications

Next click on Notification Settings. Work your way through the different emergencies, choosing whether or not to Show Alerts, Notify with Sound, and Send Notifications for each one.

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10. Adding More Places

If you’d like to monitor additional locations, return to Places, select Add Another, return to step #4. 


That’s it! Thanks to the Emergency app, your phone will alert you to emergencies in your current location, as well as any locations you chose to track, even if the app is closed. 

Sleep easier knowing you have notifications at the ready, but go to bed with your phone nearby and the phone volume turned on, just in case!

The “Tail” of Red Cross Pet Adventures

Pets come in all shapes and sizes, and so do their adventures. Red Crossers share some lessons from their furry family members and tips to keep your pets safe.



“Audie blew out his knee on our beach vacation. I used my pet first aid training to make sure he was comfortable and safe until we were able to get him home and to the orthopedic vet. The training also came in handy during his very long recovery from knee surgery.”



“Dover can get a little ambitious with his raw hides and tends to eat them until they are in super small pieces. We try to take it away before they get that small, but sometimes he beats us to it. He’s gotten the small pieces caught in his throat before, so we’ve had to open his mount and pull it out. He just loved those raw hides to the very end!”



“Patches and Mimi are all set at home with a dog preparedness kit, just like I have one for us. The kit has the American Red Cross Pet First Aid book, bowls for food and water, leash, photos, a vet card, copies of papers (county license and latest rabies shot), food, water, a blanket, treats and a couple of toys.” Remember to keep your papers updated in the kit!



“Pippa is a one-year-old goldendoodle. In February her nail got too long and, while playing in daycare, she chipped her nail a little too close for comfort.  I consulted the Pet First Aid App so I’d know what to do if it started bleeding. We took her to the vet and got it cleaned, clipped and bandaged.”




“A few years ago there was a fire in our apartment building. We knew where the crates were and quickly put Louie and Penny into the crates to take them outside with us as we evacuated the building. The only other thing we took with us, besides the cats in their crate, was my purse. We keep a crate in the coat closet by the door so that if there were a fire, we could quickly get them in it and out the door.

Another cat pet tip I try to remember is that lilies and tulips (popular flowers this time of year) are poisonous to cats, so you want to make sure your cat is not eating them!”

Pet owners can download the Red Cross Pet First Aid App for instant access to information on what to do during an emergency with their pet until veterinary assistance is available. 

Holocaust Remembrance Day: Lives, Legacies, and Reflections

The American Red Cross is dedicated to supporting Holocaust survivors reconnect with and learn the fate of their loved ones through the Restoring Family Links program. We also want to ensure that their legacies continue to be known by future generations. To accomplish this goal, Restoring Family Links is hosting Yom HasHoah, the Day of Remembrance, to encourage interaction between the Holocaust survivor community and youth.

Leading up to the event, youth were encouraged to interact with the survivor community through interviews and group discussions focused on legacy issues. Through these activities, participants learned about the lives of survivors after the Holocaust – how the event shaped them, their hopes for the future, the message they want future generations to remember. You can view these videos by visiting the Restoring Family Links blog.

Join us on Thursday April 16th from 4:00-6:00 PM EST for a special online panel discussion featuring a youth panel discussion on the importance of honoring the legacy of those who died during the Holocaust and those who survived, and how to ensure that legacy lives on in future generations. Event details, including Google Hangout information, is available on the registration page.

National Volunteer Week – Share Your Story!


April 12 – 18 is National Volunteer Week, a time to recognize and celebrate the selfless efforts of those who give so much in support of others.

For well over a century, the American Red Cross has relied on volunteers to deliver care and compassion to those in need across the country and around the world. From providing disaster relief, to keeping military families connected, providing lifesaving training, to assisting with local blood drives, volunteers are an integral part of everything the Red Cross does!

Across the country the Red Cross relies on the efforts of nearly 400,000 volunteers to deliver critical services. That means more than 90 percent of the Red Cross workforce is volunteers!

It’s fair to say that the Red Cross simply could not fulfill its mission without the selfless efforts of our volunteers. During National Volunteer Week – and every week throughout the year – we thank all of those who give so much to help others in need. Thank you, volunteers!

Want to thank a volunteer? Send them a note!

And follow our news page this week for more great volunteer stories!

Every volunteer has a story! Tell us your Red Cross story in the comments section or share it on social media using #NVW and/or #RedCrossProud.


Students Become Teachers with the Pillowcase Project


According to a recent poll conducted informally among several adult friends, approximately zero percent had their act together and knew what they would do in the event of an emergency. Granted, this survey was conducted at a social gathering where the priorities were eating and avoiding conversation with that boring preparedness guy. Fair enough.

However, my daughter – always seizing any opportunity to teach us old people a thing or two – quickly offered her two cents on the subject.

“Grab your emergency kit, follow your escape plan to safely get out of the house, and call for help,” she said with confidence.

That was far better than any of the grown-ups had to say on the subject. If she had been holding a microphone, she would have dropped it at their feet before she skipped away.

Chalk up another success story for the Red Cross Pillowcase Project!

Red Cross volunteers had recently visited her classroom to educate the students about how they can be prepared for an emergency situation and help their families stay safe, and it was already paying off!

Designed for elementary school students in grades 3-5, the Pillowcase Project is a one-hour classroom session that encourages students to “learn, practice, and share” important emergency preparedness information.



  • Regularly practice emergency plans with all members of their household

Share (my daughter’s favorite part)

  • Tell friends and family what they have learned and help them take steps to be prepared!

Of course the impact of this program extends well beyond my daughter’s sphere of influence, having expanded to more than 60 Red Cross regions across the country since its inception. In fact, when a tornado recently touched down in Moore, Oklahoma, at least one young man saved the day thanks to his pillowcase!

As parents, we’re supposed to have all the answers. At least our kids like to think we should. But if you’ve ever fumbled around with a Smartphone as your kid rolls their eyes at you, you know our children can teach us a few things. And when it comes to the Pillowcase Project, what our kids have to teach us could be lifesaving.

Red Cross volunteers are bringing the Pillowcase Project to classrooms around the country. To find out how you can bring it to your school, contact your local Red Cross office.

Satirical Fodder, Yet Again (Hi ClickHole!)

You have just one day to meet our goal to fill the Grand Canyon with blood! At least, that’s what ClickHole wants you to think.

A satirical website (count it in the same vein as our beloved The Onion) has yet again focused on the American Red Cross, and what a worthy cause they chose! Oh yes, we see you ClickHole. We see you.

Our biomed messaging isn’t typically clickbait material, but we’re happy to play along! While we haven’t made the call for blood donors to donate “5.45 trillion cubic yards of bodily fluid,” we do say that the need is constant and the gratification is instant.

But seriously – Donate blood. One donation can help save up to three lives. See if you’re eligible, find a drive, or start a SleevesUp campaign all on redcrossblood.org.



Image courtesy of ClickHole.com and Microsoft Windows’ Paint.


Thirty-Eight Years Later, She Remembers the Flood

Right before Easter in 1977, a record-breaking flood hit the Appalachia region. The USGS reports show ”heavy rains fell over…Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia during the period of April 2-5.”

“In 1977, I was 9 years old,” said Tamara Martin. “My three brothers, sister, mother and I were living in the apartment complex in Ramsey, Virginia. The flood of 1977 came. Mom kept saying that it wouldn’t get to the house, then it wouldn’t get in the house, then it wouldn’t get much worse. The oil tanks on the apartments overturned and fuel was floating on top of the water as it swallowed the area.”

1977 flood_caseworker

The above image is from Gale City, Virginia. Photo by Ted Carland
The Red Cross Response

According to The American National Red Cross 1977 Report, the Red Cross sent more than 400 volunteer and paid staff members to West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee to assist over 4,200 local volunteers.

Ham Radio Operators

Ham radio operators also played a vital role in the disaster relief as flooding isolated Appalachia. The American Radio Relay League and the Red Cross had a longstanding agreement that brought together over 50 hams during the flood, spending hundreds of volunteer hours relaying “emergency communications and health and welfare messages.” Photos show the Red Cross working with some of the thousands of residents who had to flee their homes.

1977 flood_mother and child

The above image is of a woman named Nancy Barlow Sigmon in Norton, Virginia. She is likely at a shelter.

Easter Goodies

“We were eventually taken from the apartment in a boat and housed with a volunteer family of strangers until the water receded,” Martin remembers. “We lost everything to that flood. I remember it like it was yesterday because of the American Red Cross. The flood happened right at Easter and Red Cross personnel came around giving baggies of Easter candies to the kids. The assistance in replacing furniture, clothing and necessities was amazing but the kindness of those little bags of Easter goodies was an act of love and kindness that was simply amazing. Thank you American Red Cross. You make a difference.”


Making maps on the road in Canaan, Haiti

Mapping in CanaanThis post was written by Emily Eros, a member of the American Red Cross mapping team, who recently traveled to Canaan, Haiti. You can see more about the Red Cross’ work in the country at redcross.org/haiti.

Earlier this month, the American Red Cross took its mapping efforts on the road in Canaan, Haiti, where we piloted Mapillary: a collaborative photo mapping service that allows users to upload and share street-level images of places around the world. The service is similar to Google StreetView, except that anyone with a smartphone or computer is able to contribute.

We initiated this trip as a complement to our MissingMaps project, which utilizes volunteers who trace satellite imagery in order to put the world’s most vulnerable communities on the map.

Canaan is an emerging community that sprung up after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, when displaced people resettled in the hills on the northern outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Haitians continue to move to Canaan and invest in new homes and communities there.

As Canaan develops, it becomes more and more important to have information about where features like roads, buildings, schools, health facilities, and water resources are located. This helps with urban planning efforts and informs first responders and humanitarians during disasters.

Anyone with a smartphone can use the Mapillary app to take photos and upload them to the site. To cover a large area like Canaan, we decided to mount cameras inside of a vehicle and drive the roads, recording images as we traveled. We did the mapping with basic, inexpensive technology: a camera, a suction cup mount, a GPS unit, and our smartphones.mapcamera

We attached the camera to the inside of our vehicle, set the camera to record an image every two seconds, and had the GPS device record our tracks so that we’d know where each image was taken. Then we hopped in the vehicle and set off for Canaan. This method enabled us to capture more than 5,000 images—covering nearly 70 miles of Canaan’s roads—in just two days!

The images are now up on Mapillary (with faces and license plates blurred for privacy). You can stop by their site to see where we traveled and explore the photos. We’re planning to map the rest of Canaan over the next few months, and revisit periodically so we can watch it change over time. Want to get more involved? Sign up for an OSM account and then head over to help map Canaan! We’ve created this tracing guide to help you get started.

From the Archives for Women’s History Month: “Marjorie Bonynge and Volunteer Partnership in World War II”


Along with many other New York City residents, Marjorie Bonynge went to Pier 88 on West 49 Street to see the wreckage of the French liner which had caught fire and capsized while being converted into a U.S. troop transport.

The burning of the ship in February 1942, just two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the entry of the U.S. into World War II, galvanized the city. Like many other concerned citizens, Marjorie decided to help with the war effort.

Marjorie’s father was a surgeon and her mother a nurse, so she came from a background of public service and helping others. The 27-year-old enjoyed life in the city and her association with the Junior League of New York. It was the Junior League’s service requirement that brought Marjorie to the American Red Cross.

In 1941, in coordination with the Red Cross, the New York Junior League began a War Relief Unit. Junior League volunteers worked as Red Cross Gray Ladies, nurse’s aides and hospital escorts. They prepared surgical dressings, knitted sweaters for Allied soldiers and sailors,and enrolled in first aid classes.

While Marjorie found these activities admirable, she wanted something more action-oriented. She loved to drive, so she joined the Red Cross Motor Corps. And because she was familiar with medical procedures, she drove one of the first blood donor service-mobiles.

JL car2

The Motor Corps was staffed almost entirely by women, who clocked more than 61 million miles nationwide while answering 9 million calls to transport the sick and wounded, deliver supplies and take volunteers and nurses to and from their posts. In all, 45,000 women served in the Motor Corps during World War II. Most drove their own cars and many completed training in auto mechanics so they could make their own repairs.

Shown below is one of Marjorie’s assignment cards, sending her to Lynbrook, Long Island, for “bleeding from 2 to 7.” Besides driving, Marjorie’s duties included doing hemoglobin tests once at the donor site. She also oversaw the nurses who were taking temperatures and checking pulses.

post card2

The blood that was drawn from donors was used only for the military. The Red Cross civilian blood program did not begin until 1948. Shown here is a poster recruiting blood donors.

Blood that was drawn from donors was used only for the military. The Red Cross civilian blood program did not begin until 1948. Shown here is a blood donor recruitment poster.


Marjorie Strange portrait2

Volunteers were required to wear a Red Cross uniform. While Marjorie (shown at right) wore her uniform with pride, she did complain, “Hot, those uniforms were. . .we had to wear those lightweight wools year-round, with a shirt inside and a wide black belt.” Cotton uniforms were available, but for indoor use only, not for drivers. Since Marjorie was both driving and working indoors, she was stuck wearing the woolen uniform.

Her daughter, Susan Strange, says of her mother’s service, “My mother often spoke fondly of her days navigating New York’s streets as she did her share to help the ‘boys’ fighting overseas. She loved to drive, and she wanted to contribute to the war effort, so volunteering with the Red Cross Motor Corps was a perfect fit.”