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What Not to Do: The Mindy Project Demonstrates Fire Safety

Thanks to one free week of Hulu Plus, I spent my Saturday evening doing all sorts of wonderful things. Namely, starting season 1, episode 1 of The Mindy Project. As happens to most Red Crossers, relevant safety lessons jump out of pop culture around every corner. Let’s take a moment to glean some critical fire safety lessons from season 1, episode 6 (yes, I made it that far in one night, no judgement please).

In this particular episode, Mindy’s boyfriend makes her a seemingly lovely Thanksgiving meal – tilapia. Prepared on a panini grill (one of 6 he apparently uses to cook everything and anything). The tilapia was completed with a Red Bull glaze, let’s not forget.

Notwithstanding the fact the meal is disgusting (as Mindy so boldly points out), the entire “cluster” of panini grills blows a fuse and starts a fire during dinner.

Hey, did you know the #1 cause of home fires is cooking? Josh and Mindy do. And now for a breakdown of what went wrong:

Josh had six fairly powerful kitchen appliances plugged in and running at the same time. Don’t do that.


Josh sees the fire and grabs his wine. We understand you want to take your most important possessions, but really, you should leave your home safely and call 9-1-1.


Josh hides behind Mindy. Mindy is not a fire extinguisher. Mindy is not a trained professional. Hiding behind Mindy is basically the opposite of what you should be doing here.


Mindy grabs a candle from the table in order to “fight fire with fire.” I think we can see what went wrong here. Moving along…

smart gif

There was no plan. Baseline fire safety here folks — have a plan and execute it. Josh, you should have a fire escape plan (AND a smoke alarm, where was that?) and should be ready to help all household guests follow the plan. How was Mindy supposed to know the escape route?




Celebrities Star Struck by Young Philanthropist, Sophia on #GivingTuesday

For several years 15-year-old Sophia Greenwalt from Missouri has been raising money for people in need every month, by getting people to pay a dollar to wear a hat to school, one day out of the month. She calls it “Helping Hats.”  With a little help from local businesses that often match these donations, Sophia has helped give people in need a Thanksgiving dinner, help pay medical bills, support disaster survivors, and so on… and so on… and so on… She is a tireless and impressive young philanthropist.

In the last year, she hasn’t slowed down in “trying to make the world a better place.” What is even more extraordinary about that? She’s been battling cancer and undergoing chemo while she continues to help heal the world. Last week, while undergoing her last chemo treatment, she funded a Thanksgiving dinner for people in need. Last year, she did the same with her personal winnings from a local Volunteer of the Year award.

Sophia asked to raise funds for Red Cross on #GivingTuesday, so our celebrity volunteers decided to get involved by surprising her with a “Helping Hats” moment of a lifetime. When Sophia awoke today, she thought she was going to learn how to use social media and the web to raise more money for “Helping Hats.”

What she discovered, instead, is that her supporters extended far beyond her small town in Missouri. Some of Sophia’s favorite stars like Emily Kinney and Chandler Riggs from The Walking Dead and the cast of The Today Show sent her video messages or Skyped in to talk with her.


Reba McEntire and Amy Grant made generous personal gifts.


Many other celebrities, including IM5, Alyssa Milano, Chad Warrix, and Nancy O’Dell posted, tweeted, or payed a buck and posted a hat picture from their social media accounts. Fans decided to #GiveWithMeaning and celebrate her.



#GivingTuesday is about giving — bold, open-hearted, unfettered, full-spirited generosity. Sophia exudes this and got an experience worthy of her goodwill.

Sophia, already today, you’ve raised more than $20,000. You are an inspiration to us all, and we are most grateful for you and what you’ve done to help Red Cross save lives and alleviate suffering.

How do we all begin to thank you?

But That Could Never Happen To Me!

Did you know the American Red Cross responds to a disaster every eight minutes and the majority of those responses are home fires? I know what you’re thinking:

“Well, that could never happen to me.”

I know you all too well, my friend. But actually, it can happen and I recently had my first home fire experience.

Imagine cooking dinner in your nine-floor brick apartment in Washington, DC. Sautéing this, flipping that, and smelling the sweet, wonderful aromas of… gas? Then the fire alarm suddenly starts ringing and panic starts to set in – did my crazy good cooking skills start this fire?

Readers, I ask you this – without even thinking, what would be your first reaction? Would you:

A. Turn the stove off and run out the door.

B. Leave the stove on, there’s a fire make a run for it!

C. Grab your phone, tweet about the incident (this selfie is too good to pass up, #firedrill) and then run out the door.

Obviously I’m expecting none of you to pick “C.” If you did, better brush up on those fire safety skills. “B” don’t leave on your stove, what if this was a fire drill and you just left that on to start a real fire? I did “A.” If I’m being really honest, I’m known to be an accident waiting to happen and the possibility that I started a fire while cooking was highly plausible. Therefore, after quickly assessing my surroundings for a fire, I turned the stove off and ran out the door.

Okay, so I passed the first test. Next, I briskly and calmly walked to the stairs which were overcrowded with people. This is normal for a fire drill, right? Still in denial that this could actually be a fire. Turn the corner to the next flight down and lo and behold there’s a fireman hooking the fire hose up for water.

Readers, do you:

A. Keep your cool, this is no time to panic. It’s time to get out of the building.

B. Push everyone aside as you make a run for it. This is a fire people – MOVE IT OR LOSE IT!

C. Grab your phone and tweet about seeing a fireman in action (this is for real, I can’t not document this. #notafiredrill).

“C” pickers are you still here? No tweeting, put that phone away! Chooser number “B,” slow your roll. I did “A.” I kept my cool and kept moving down the stairs to get outside because panicking doesn’t help anyone, not even yourself.

Passed test number two. Now, we’re outside the building at a safe distance, gazing up at our apartment building wondering if everyone is okay and where this apparent fire was. All the sudden, I see smoke coming out of an apartment complex and firemen doing an excellent job of putting out a fire. Then I count up one floor and oh look! My apartment is the one right above the apartment on fire. No wonder I thought I started the fire because it was right below my feet.

Fast forward to today and all is well at Hillary’s humble abode. In the afterthought of what happened, I brushed up my fire safety knowledge and skills because things could have been a lot different. For instance, what if I was unable to use the nearest stairwell to my apartment? I can’t jump out the window because I’m too high up, there’s no fire escape… where’s my second evacuation route?

So in light of my experience, are you still thinking a fire couldn’t happen to you? It’s okay if you are, but do yourself a wonderful favor and at least make sure you know your fire safety As, Bs, and Cs.

Share a Bit of “Hope.ly” this Holiday Season

Today is Giving Tuesday, and social media will be buzzing all day with posts from terrific people (like yourself) sharing their support of various nonprofit organizations and causes.

3_hopely all devices_site + ribbon
While you’re in this giving and sharing mood, the Red Cross and Bitly have teamed up to create hope.ly—a new social tool that allows you to shorten links and help to increase donations to support the Red Cross.

Here’s how it works:

4_hopely landing page
When you share content using a hope.ly link—just as you normally do through Bitly— A ribbon will automatically appear over the content that the user shares, urging people to donate to the Red Cross. The donate button within the ribbon will drive people to the Redcross.org donation page. Cool, right?


5_hopely ribbon example

The Hope.ly link is available December 2 to December 31. Every hope.ly you share could make a difference, so visit Bitly.com to create a hope.ly link and start sharing today.

State of Social Giving — Live Chat

Live Blog State of Social Giving

An Open Letter to Marcel the Shell with Shoes on

Note: If you haven’t seen the video gem that is “MARCEL THE SHELL WITH SHOES ON” (and that’s the full official name), you should watch this before perusing this open letter to Marcel. Here is the recently released part three:


Dear Marcel,

We were totally thrilled to see your latest interview posted on YouTube, but we’re a little concerned about some of your lifestyle choices. We are hoping you might benefit from learning about a couple of Red Cross resources, if you’ll give us a minute of your time.

When thunder roars, go indoors! Marcel, I’m afraid you need to work on this one a bit. Standing under a leaf is not going to cut it when storms roll in.

If you’re going to put yourself in precarious situations (like, say, sneezing yourself off the window ledge), we would like to offer an app for your perusal: First aid at your fingertips! Ahem, your…shoe tips?

When you’re such a little guy, you might need to brush up on your flood tips more urgently than the rest of us. You should know that if you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles (or for you, the bottom of your shell), stop, turn around and go another way. If you need more flood info, our app is here! (Get a couple of friends together, you might be able to maneuver a smartphone)

We noticed you were sneezing a bit. Although you blamed this on “allergies to plants,” we know flu season is coming up. How do you stay germ free? Do you wash your shell for 20 seconds with soap and water? How about getting a flu shot?

Your camp song was so lovely, and we do hope you will keep your dear friends updated on your life in the future!

All the best,

The Red Cross social team

A Millennial Gives a Thumbs Up to New Social Giving Survey

I’m just going to come out and say what I sometimes feel I’m generally judged for.

I’m a millennial!

I text while I walk; I Snapchat a selfie; I express my emotional sorrow in an emoji; and I even shamelessly check the number of hearts I receive on Instagram.

But you know what? Today I’m going to be okay with this because a recent American Red Cross poll confirms there’s actually a lot of potential in using social media for good, especially when it comes to giving to charity. Alas, the world in which millennials live is supportive and giving! (Proving we’re not just a bunch of brainwashed social media users always willing to share our life story with you minute-by-minute, photo-by-photo).


Take the Ice Bucket Challenge. Whether or not you actively participated by dumping ice water on your head, you likely took some sort of action. Maybe it was liking your friend’s video on Facebook. Maybe you even donated yourself. In fact, the new Red Cross poll found that 70% of social media users would take some kind of action in response to a friend posting a story on social media about making a charitable donation. That “action” is represented by your retweet, or 10 seconds of your time to watch the video or, of course, making a charitable donation.

In general, social users are considered a charitable group, with 71% donating to a charity in the past 12 months (of those 6 in 10 donated online).

one third

So there you have it folks. Our use of social media can be meaningful and can make a difference! Just first, if you will, please like or retweet this post.



m40340214_m39840184_monsters-2Earlier this month the American Red Cross launched a brand new preparedness app called Monster Guard, the goal of which is to help children between the ages of 7 and 11 learn how to prevent emergencies and respond to natural and manmade disasters.

I happen to have an 8-year-old son, so this past weekend I downloaded the app, handed my phone to Will, and asked him to check it out. Here’s what 8-year-old Will and I had to say about Monster Guard!

The motto of the Monster Guard Academy is “Learn, Practice, Share”, so under the tutelage of the Academy’s top secret leader, players first learn new information, then practice using that information in a preparedness or response context, and finally share that information with their friends.

Will’s “adventure” (his words) as a recruit in the Academy began with an initiation during which he practiced maneuvering one of the monster recruits throughout the training facility and across a giant map of the United States. As Will’s monster recruit paused over each region, the leader – taking on a narrator role – shared information about which disasters are most common in that area of the country.

Completing the initiation stage unlocked the additional levels, all of which were associated with specific disasters or emergency-related tools. Will navigated through each level – from Fire Hazards and Emergency Supply Kits to Tornadoes and Severe Winter Weather – guiding his monster to either make the environment safer or move to a safer area. For example, in the Fire Hazards stage, Will directed his monster to turn off the stove, cover the fireplace, put the space heater in a safe place, and blow out the lit candle.

Will enjoyed his adventure, and I could tell in a variety of ways. First, he tackled every level – all 15, counting Initiation – before finally putting down the phone. Second, when I asked him midway through the Smoke Alarms level what he thought of the app, he was too caught up in his own little world to respond. And third, he told me so.

In his own words, “Initiation is a little slow, but after that it gets way cooler. I like the music, and that I got to graduate at the end. My favorite level was Tornado, but I also really liked learning about smoke alarms. Oh, and it’s funny when the top secret leader reveals who she really is!”

The only change Will would make had to do with the monster recruits who navigate through the Academy. Instead of directing a monster to do all of the tasks, Will would have preferred to create his own avatar – one that looked like him – to follow his instructions.

All in all, my 8-year-old found the Monster Guard app fun and engaging, and I love that he learned a little something along the way!

Learn more about Monster Guard and download the app here.

I have to wrap by sharing this funny “I’m so old” moment with all you parents out there… Before asking Will to review the app, I tried it out myself. I found the initiation level somewhat confusing to navigate, and I had trouble figuring out how to get back to the main menu to move on to the next level. Just as I began to type out that information, Will picked up the phone and breezed through everything with which I’d just struggled without even listening to the instructions. Nothing like being shown up by an 8-year-old…

Veterans Day 2014: Then and Now

The American Red Cross has long had a unique relationship with the military.

Today, we provide services like emergency communications and resiliency training. But did you know we pioneered the development of psychiatric nursing programs at veterans hospitals, made artificial limbs and helped rehabilitate amputees and blinded veterans during World War I? How about the recreation workers (“Donut Dollies”) serving in Vietnam?

Hop over to redcross.org to see a side-by-side comparison of how our services have met the changing needs of the military over the years, ever since the Spanish-American War.


Save the World: Make Missing Maps

This post was written by Dale Kunce, Senior Geospatial Engineer and GIS Team Lead at the American Red Cross. Dale is spearheading the American Red Cross’s involvement in the Missing Maps project.Liberia1

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past 11 months, I don’t need to remind you that it’s been a rough year around the globe. I hear news of natural disasters, conflict, and disease outbreaks on the radio every morning… sometimes before I’ve even had my first cup of tea. It can be overwhelming.

But there is good news, too. People halfway around the world can help emergency responders and even prevent disasters from happening in the first place. How?

By making maps.

Updated maps can expedite the delivery of emergency supplies, determine where help is needed most, and even track the spread of diseases like Ebola. But right now, maps of the world’s most vulnerable communities just don’t exist. They’re nowhere to be found. A bunch of people (mappers and non-mappers alike) are getting together to fill in these “missing maps” before the next disaster strikes in these communities. The results can be lifesaving.

Here’s why:
As the world continues to urbanize, one billion people—1/7th of the world’s population—now live in urban slums. Cities often lack sufficient infrastructure to support the impromptu settlements that have sprung up around the world. Overcrowding, poorly built dwellings, and inadequate infrastructure has left hundreds of millions of people in an increased position of vulnerability to disaster and disease. When fires break out or earthquakes hit these areas, it’s really difficult for emergency responders to know who needs help. When Ebola starts spreading, it’s hard to track the virus if epidemiologists can’t conceptualize where towns are located. Sometimes, it’s impossible for help to even make it to the site of a disaster because there are no maps to guide the way.

Here’s how:
The Missing Maps Project brings volunteers together from around the world to fill in the gaps. On Friday, November 7 volunteers will use their own computers to trace existing satellite imagery to create maps of vulnerable communities. With numbers on our side, we can make a huge dent in the missing maps. And when disasters do strike, emergency responders will no longer have to play a guessing game to reach those in need.

We know it will work because we did it for West Africa, when more than 2,000 virtual mappers from over 100 countries made 10 million edits in OpenStreetMap over the last six-months. These contributions allow humanitarian organizations to track the Ebola virus and figure out which areas need the most help. This volume of work would have taken a professional mapper six to eight years to complete.

You can help!
Join a mapathon in your area on November 7 or another date in the nearby future. You can also contribute remotely any day of the week.

Missing Maps is a collaboration the American Red Cross, British Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders-UK, and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team.