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First and Second Ladies Visit the Red Cross

Wednesday was an exciting day at the American Red Cross National Headquarters! We had the privilege to host the Launch of the Joining Forces Impact Pledge event, in coordination with the White House, the Council on Foundations and the White Oak Steering Committee. Joining Forces is the White House initiative to rally the military, nonprofit, philanthropic and everyday communities to better support our service members, veterans and their families. This event announced and celebrated that more than $160 million has been pledged over the next five years to support military families, and that amount far surpasses the goal of $100 million!

The event was held in the American Red Cross National Headquarters' historic and beautiful Hall of Service.

The event was held in the American Red Cross National Headquarters’ historic and beautiful Hall of Service.

The event had many prestigious speakers, including leaders from the military, nonprofits, and foundations, and it all led up to the women of the hour: Michelle Obama and Jill Biden!

Michelle&Jill2

Michelle Obama and Jill Biden were introduced by Chissandra Jackson (center), a military child and NMSI Scholarship recipient.

Michelle Obama reminded us that heartwarming coming home videos are not the end of the story. Watch her thoughtfully express the questions that these donations are going to help answer:

Philanthropy is a vital aspect to answering these questions. The Red Cross is grateful to be the recipient of some of these donations, especially from our Service to the Armed Forces Giving Program members (MGM Resorts, The Pantry, and University of Phoenix), who donate at least $250,000 each year to help the Red Cross help military families so they are not facing these burdens alone. Through the continuum of care, the Red Cross is there from the beginning of service members’ careers, throughout active duty, during transition to civilian life, and throughout veterans’ lives. Go to redcross.org/military to learn more or to donate. Every dollar counts!

Mrs. Obama also thanked the Red Cross and reminded us that she herself is a Red Crosser:

I also want to thank everyone at the Red Cross not only for hosting us today, but for the incredible work you do every day.  Red Cross has a special place in my heart because I served on the board in Chicago.  We have seen the vital role you play for our country over these past few days as you all are working around the clock to help communities in Arkansas and all across the South and the Midwest recovering from a string of devastating tornados.  So we are especially grateful, as we always are, for your extraordinary efforts, especially in times like these.” (Video)

To learn more about the event and the pledge, see the White House blog post, which includes the full video of the First and Second Ladies’ speeches.

From the Archives: National Nurses Week

May 6 – May 12, 2014 is National Nurses Week! To honor all Red Cross nurses, past and present, we offer a look at American Red Cross nurses throughout our history.

 

World War I nurses work at a recruiting station to field new members.

World War I nurses work at a recruiting station to field new members.

 

June 8, 1942. Washington, D.C. Senior student nurses leaving the Pan American building after having been enrolled in the first Red Cross Student Nurse Reserve group in the United States.

June 8, 1942. Washington, D.C. Senior student nurses leaving the Pan American building after having been enrolled in the first Red Cross Student Nurse Reserve group in the United States.

 

June 2008. Devastating floods covered parts of Indiana affecting residential areas, farmlands, and businesses. Nurse Melissa Schultz, a Red Cross volunteer, comforts Doloris Faust, who is staying at a Red Cross shelter in Martinsville, Indiana.

June 2008. Devastating floods covered parts of Indiana affecting residential areas, farmlands, and businesses. Nurse Melissa Schultz, a Red Cross volunteer, comforts Doloris Faust, who is staying at a Red Cross shelter in Martinsville, Indiana.

 

May 2011. Vicksburg, Mississippi. American Red Cross nurse, Regina Hudson with Jermiya Jackson at the Red Cross shelter at the Hawkins United Methodist Church.

May 2011. Vicksburg, Mississippi. American Red Cross nurse, Regina Hudson with Jermiya Jackson at the Red Cross shelter at the Hawkins United Methodist Church.

 

 

Getting It Right: Flood Myth vs. Fact

There are lots of myths out there about what’s ok during a flood, and sometimes simply uninformed decisions. That’s why the Red Cross works to share information and help ensure people are prepared for disasters of all kinds.

Even just two feet of water can float most vehicles and, if the water is moving quickly, vehicles can be swept away. Not recommended:

Hurricane Isaac 2012 September 1, 2012. Helena, Mississippi. Flooding in Helena, Mississippi, following Hurricane Isaac. Photo by Talia Frenkel/American Red Cross .

Hurricane Isaac 2012
September 1, 2012. Helena, Mississippi. Flooding in Helena, Mississippi, following Hurricane Isaac. Photo by Talia Frenkel/American Red Cross

 

You also shouldn’t walk through flood water. Just six inches of swiftly moving water can sweep you off your feet. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way. Not recommended:

Tennessee Floods 2010 Many of the local merchants forced to close their establishments in downtown Nashville couldn’t wait for the flood waters to recede completely, opting instead to wade in the standing water to peek at the damages.   Photo Credit: Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

Tennessee Floods 2010
Many of the local merchants forced to close their establishments in downtown Nashville couldn’t wait for the flood waters to recede completely, opting instead to wade in the standing water to peek at the damages.
Photo Credit: Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

 

Flash floods also don’t just happen near bodies of water. It could creep to the front of your business:

Tennessee Floods 2010 Many of the local merchants forced to close their establishments in downtown Nashville couldn’t wait for the flood waters to recede completely, opting instead to wade in the standing water to peek at the damages.   Photo Credit: Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

Tennessee Floods 2010
Many of the local merchants forced to close their establishments in downtown Nashville couldn’t wait for the flood waters to recede completely, opting instead to wade in the standing water to peek at the damages.
Photo Credit: Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

 

Or in the middle of your town:

MN Northland Flooding Red Cross disaster relief workers are responding to flooding in Duluth, MN, and surrounding areas.   Photo Credit: Judy Hanne-Gonzalez

MN Northland Flooding
Red Cross disaster relief workers are responding to flooding in Duluth, MN, and surrounding areas.
Photo Credit: Judy Hanne-Gonzalez

 

This myth vs. fact graphic helps capture and correct popular misconceptions of safe procedures in a flood. These facts aren’t just trivia — they’re lifesavers.

 flood myths facts

Read more about the flood app and plenty of other flood tips on redcross.org.

Celebrating Military Children This April

There are currently 1.8 million children with one or more parent serving in the military. In 1986, Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger designated each April as “The Month of the Military Child” to recognize the special contribution that the military child makes as their parent or parents serve our nation.

The Red Cross Nashville Area Chapter celebrated this month by honoring and recognizing our youngest heroes.

While we often hear about the impact deployments can have on service members, the toll that it can take on military children is often overlooked. According to a recent study by the Journal of Adolescent Health, youth with parents (and siblings) in the military have a greater risk of mental health issues, especially depression and suicidal thoughts. While the majority of military kids are doing well, many kids who are unable to attend a base school lack support and understanding from their civilian teachers, principals and community. With more and more troops returning home every day, there will be an even greater need to provide these kids with increased support and resources.

To help provide these incredible kids and their families, the Red Cross provides Reconnection Workshops on Relating to Children to help military families address the challenges faced by today’s military kids. This module provides parents with the valuable skills to help parents understand how children of different ages might respond to stress during reunions following long absences, empowering parents to help their children better adapt.

To learn more about Reconnections Workshops or to schedule one today for your family, please email Reconnection@redcross.org.

Know the Difference: Warnings and Watches

With last night’s slew of damaging storms, and the next few days looking very dangerous for many parts of the country, we wanted to share a quick set of definitions to help you.

Information for Tornadoes
Tornado Watch – Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans, and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives!

Tornado Warning - A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Tornado warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. Go immediately under ground to a basement, storm cellar or an interior room (closet, hallway or bathroom).

Be prepared
During any storm, listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay informed about tornado watches and warnings.

Pick a safe room in your home where household members and pets may gather during a tornado. This should be a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.

Know your community’s warning system. Communities have different ways of warning residents about tornados, with many having sirens intended for outdoor warning purposes.

DOWNLOAD the Tornado app, then learn how to set warnings

Information for Floods
Flood/Flash Flood Watch — Flooding or flash flooding is possible in your area.

Flood/Flash Flood Warning — Flooding or flash flooding is already occurring or will occur soon in your area.

Be Prepared
Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way. Six inches of swiftly moving water can sweep you off of your feet.

If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.

Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood danger.

DOWNLOAD the Flood App for more information.

Get the Best from Your Babysitter — A Dad’s Advice

By: Grant Hansen,
Red Cross Director, Digital Product Management &
Proud Dad of Olivia

Photo - Grant and Olivia

I’ve been a dad now for two years. Over the course of these past two years I’ve found myself go from laid-back risk taker to a high-strung safety admiral. So, as you can imagine, the first time I left my daughter Olivia with a sitter for a date night with my wife, I was kind of terrified. It’s always scary leaving your child with someone the first time – or any time – but it’s easier when you know your child is in safe, capable hands.

But what makes a good sitter?

Working for the American Red Cross on child care programs has taught me this – parents need to see more from babysitters than just a fun personality and the ability to order a pizza for dinner.

It’s important to know if a potential babysitter is up to the job. Here are some good questions to ask before you hire a sitter, based on what I know from being a dad, and from the scenarios I’ve helped design for Red Cross child care and babysitting training programs.

A Dad’s Top Four Questions for Potential Babysitters

1. Do you have any first aid training? (The answer should be yes. The answer is best if they’re certified in Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED.)
2. Do you know how to properly hold an infant and change a diaper?
3. You’ll be taking the kids outside and sometimes to the pool. What do you know about kids and water safety? Being outside in the sun? What would you do if there’s a thunderstorm?
4. Some younger kids have tantrums and can seem out of control. If you got in that type of situation, what would you do to handle it?

If your potential sitters don’t answer these questions to your satisfaction, it’s probably a good idea to point them toward the new Red Cross Advanced Child Care Training course.

Designed for people 16 years and older, this new class covers the most common child care routines and behavior along with safety inside and outside the house. Using the latest in smart-teaching technology (something called advanced simulation learning), the course combines two hours of self-paced online learning and six and a half hours of in-person training and skills assessment.

When sitters complete the course (well worth it for $129), they will receive a two-year certification in both Advanced Child Care Training and Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED. That’s in addition to lots of helpful resources such as activity ideas for various ages, downloadable sheets on topics like spoon-feeding infants, lesson summaries and templates for résumés and business cards.

A parent couldn’t ask for more. (Well, I’d also love not feeling that twinge of guilt when Olivia stares at me with her big brown eyes as I leave the house.)

So encourage your favorite babysitter to register today – or invest in the course for them yourself. Also, let us know your favorite babysitter interview questions in the comments section below, and we’ll share them with other parents in future blog posts.

When Compassion Meets Compression

As a new Red Cross employee, getting trained in the basics of CPR, AEDs and first aid were at the top of my list. I headed to Fort Belvoir this month to the on-site Red Cross chapter. (P.S., if you don’t know about the work the Red Cross does with the military, check it out!) My training was in a standalone house built during World War II, now converted to a Red Cross training center and chapter building.Fort Belvoir

I was joined by many teachers, who were now required to take this training for their Virginia teaching license. There were also some aspiring babysitters and in-home daycare providers, medical assistants and Boy Scout leaders.

To say training is hands-on is an understatement. I was lying on the floor, rolling people over, and getting a lot closer to a manikin than I ever thought I would. But I took away extraordinarily valuable information.

Here are the top things I didn’t know before I went (other than, you know, how to correctly do everything in general):

  • Don’t pull an embedded object out of someone. Maybe it’s the “splinter effect” or the “bee sting effect,” but I’ve always thought if something is stuck in my body that’s not suppose to be there, I need to get it out! Not the case – the item can act like a plug to stop additional bleeding. Only trained professionals (ie people at the emergency room) should remove the object.
  • Back Blows. What? You’re not supposed to help someone choking only with a bear hug from behind and shove your fists in their stomach? A fellow trainee confirmed the utility of the back blow as she described her husband choking on peanuts. When abdominal thrusts didn’t work, she instinctive started hitting his back as an alternative, which worked to dislodge the object. Remember, five back blows, five abdominal thrusts.
  • How to help a choking infant. Um, a modified Heimlich maneuver? Minus two points! The Red Cross doesn’t teach the Heimlich maneuver per se, and you definitely wouldn’t do anything close to that to a baby. The correct procedure involves holding the baby on your leg, with their head towards the ground, and using back blows and chest thrusts to remove the object blocking the airway. My instructor described having to help two choking babies recently, both in airports, both eating something they shouldn’t have been – gum and hard candy. Parents, please do not feed your 9 month old baby gum or candy.
  • How to approach an emergency. Check, call, care. Before training, I think if I saw someone collapse, I’d run over to see what happened and try to help right away. I discovered I was missing a couple steps. You should first CHECK the situation to make sure you’re not walking into danger, point to someone else specifically to have them CALL 911 (if you determine the situation requires it), and then CARE. Before you care, you have to inform the person you are trained in first aid and CPR, and ASK their permission before continuing to assess their condition and giving care. (For those inquiring minds, an unconscious person has implied consent.)
  • CPR takes practice. You hear about times it’s needed, you theoretically know how to do it, but until you spend theManikin and face mask better part of your Saturday afternoon on the floor beside a manikin, perfecting the art of rescue breaths, it’s not something you want to leave to chance and “I saw it on TV once.” To help lay responders remember, or those of us who like step-by-step instructions, the Red Cross first aid app helps break down what to do for someone who’s unconscious and not breathing.
  • Shock is a crazy body adaption. Our instructor told us about a woman in a previous training who had her own testimony describing one way shock works. She was in a car accident, and informed police she was ok. What she didn’t know was that her armed was almost severed off. Her body was in shock, constricting her blood vessels to stop some blood flow and apparently stopping her from feeling her injuries. But as you can imagine, this state of decreased blood flow to vital organs is a life-threatening situation and needs to be addressed along with other injuries.

During the training, I started thinking of all those times when something could go wrong. Alone with my husband eating dinner and he starts choking. At Thanksgiving back in Ohio and a grandparent has a stroke. Riding the metro and someone next to me starts having a seizure. Or anytime we drive somewhere and we encounter an accident.

I got home and started adding to our grocery list – roller gauze, non-latex gloves, compress dressings – plus a breathing barrier to stick in my purse.

I was glad I finally took the class. It felt empowering. I’m not the kind of person who seeks out danger, but I am the kind of person who likes to be prepared. Plus, I realized I’d want anyone around me to be just as prepared if I ever need help. Now it’s time for you to take a training!

 

 

I Wish You’d Been Here

By Duane Hallock,  Red Cross Advanced Public Affairs Team

I really wish you had been with me in the mayor’s office.

duanehallock

I was in Darrington, Washington, the small logging town hit hard by the March 22 mudslide that destroyed much of the nearby community of Oso. The slide buried about a mile of the highway connecting many of the 450 families in Darrington with their jobs, their grocery shopping and even the shipments to and from their lumber mill.

On disaster assignment for the American Red Cross, I went to city hall with our district operations manager to talk about our work in the community. When we entered his office, the mayor rose from his desk stacked high with papers and gave us a hearty handshake. He wore a ball cap and flannel shirt – just what a Midwesterner like me would expect to find in a lumber town quietly tucked away high in the Northern Cascades. A faint smile on his unshaven face, however, failed to mask the strain of his mayoral duties.

“Initially we had concerns about giving up space,” he said, referring to the many outside groups that came wanting to help. That’s a typical response from those living in rugged, close-knit and self-reliant communities. “The Red Cross is neutral and I appreciate that,” he said. “Your work here has been stellar.”

While pleased to receive the compliment, I pushed to uncover unmet needs where we could help. “What advice would you give to us at the Red Cross?” I asked. (Here’s where I especially wish you’d been with me.) Without hesitation, he looked us straight in the eye and said, “Keep taking good care of my people.”

That afternoon, I wish you’d been with me at the community center a couple blocks away.

There the townsfolk gathered to meet one-on-one with trained Red Cross caseworkers who were interviewing each person to develop a personalized recovery plan which usually included some level of financial assistance from the Red Cross.

Had you been there, you would have been touched by the handwritten notes taped to the walls of the hallway and lunchroom. Many were messages written by school children to their classmates, friends and family members who were missing or dead. People were hurting deeply and we all knew it would take time to process the full impact of this tragedy. Emotions ran raw, keeping our mental health counselors busy.

There in the client assistance room, I greeted an elderly couple who had driven through the mountains so they could donate directly to the Red Cross relief efforts. With tears in her eyes, the woman handed me a wad of bills and asked me to use it wherever it was needed most. Had you been there, I guarantee your eyes would have been moist as you observed the sincere generosity of people reaching out to help strangers in time of need. (Also, had you been there, you would have observed the protocols I followed in handling a cash donation, all in the name of accountability and stewardship.)

During my time on this disaster assignment, other lifelong memories were also etched into my mind.

I truly wish you’d been there with me when I:

• Took pictures of the Brownie troop as they toured our job headquarters which was set up in a large warehouse. The girls were wide-eyed as they saw behind the scenes of the disaster operation for which they had raised a couple hundred dollars.

• Sat on my hotel bed listening to my roommate from Massachusetts. He told stories of how, exactly one year ago, he was onsite with the Red Cross when the bombings occurred at the Boston Marathon. (Yes, I’d prefer to have my own private lodging, but we usually share accommodations with other Red Cross workers – often strangers – to ensure that donated resources go directly to the people we came to help.)

• Attended a community planning session focused on long-term recovery for the hundreds of people affected by the mudslide. The standing-room-only conference room was packed with our partners from all levels of government, a tribal nation, local businesses and nonprofit organizations. I wish you’d been there when, in the midst of our discussions, the door opened and in walked the governor to join us.

• Talked with a local Red Cross volunteer I had worked with on hurricanes and tornadoes in other parts of the nation. He had traveled to more than 30 disasters since Hurricane Katrina, but he was especially grateful to see others come to his corner of the country when a disaster hit too close to his home.

Yes, I wish you’d been there with me. But as I reflect on this disaster assignment, I realize I was never alone. In a very real way, you were always right there with me if you:

• Offered a prayer for those affected by this and other tragic disasters.

• Volunteered or worked anywhere within the Red Cross system.

• Worked with our valued government and nonprofit partners.

• Gave blood to save the life of a stranger.

• Made a financial contribution to someone in need.

In my years with the Red Cross, I’ve seen first-hand how the worst of times can bring out the best in people. I am humbled to be surrounded by so many caring individuals who make such great sacrifices in service to others.

Oh, and I’m really glad you were there with me. See you next time.

From the Archives: Red Cross Dogs

In honor of Pet First Aid Awareness Month, we look back at the role of dogs in the Red Cross.

While the American Red Cross did not use dogs during World War I, several foreign Red Cross societies employed dogs that greatly aided the Allied forces during the war. A number of these dogs were attached to ambulance units and aided their handlers in the search for wounded soldiers. The Red Cross dogs were trained to seek out a wounded soldier and get as close as possible so the soldier could access the dogs’ saddle bags, which contained first aid supplies and rations. Instead of barking and alerting the enemy, the dogs were trained to bring back something belonging to the soldier.


This Alexander Pope painting depicts a World War I Red Cross dog carrying the helmet of a wounded French soldier in the midst of a gas barrage.
This Alexander Pope painting depicts a World War I Red Cross dog carrying the helmet of a wounded French soldier in the midst of a gas barrage.


The retrieval method was eventually replaced when it became apparent that the dogs would occasionally rip off a bandage in their eagerness to return with something from the wounded soldier. Some Red Cross societies trained the dogs to return to their handler with an attached leash in their mouth to signify the discovery of a wounded soldier. Red Cross dogs did more than just locate wounded soldiers, they provided messenger and delivery services, often times carrying 25 to 30 pound packs of ammunition and rations through dangerous territory. These dogs also acted as scouts and guarded strategic posts, such as weapons factories.

Following World War II, The American Red Cross began using therapy dogs with convalescing service members in the Army Air Force Convalescent Center in Pawling, New York. Many of the dogs were even acquired as pets for the recovering soldiers. The American Red Cross still uses therapy dogs today. These dogs and their owners volunteer in shelters and nursing homes across the country and in hospitals around the world. American Red Cross dogs afford moments of joy in the wake of disasters and provide hope to those recovering from illness or injury.


Brian Riddle holds therapy dog Toffee at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. 2010.
Brian Riddle holds therapy dog Toffee at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. 2010.


After the immense service these dogs have provided and continue to provide, it is only fitting that we pay tribute by offering aid to animals in their times of need. With the American Red Cross’ Pet First Aid app, you will be able to give your pet the first aid it needs after an accident or emergency. With the app’s simple, step-by-step first aid instructions and a little practice, you should be able to produce better results than those of little Charles Benedict below.


Dallas, TX, 1960. Patient pup Jerry indulges Charles Benedict, 6, in a bit of first aid practice.
Dallas, TX, 1960. Patient pup Jerry indulges Charles Benedict, 6, in a bit of first aid practice.

Volunteers Map Fire-Affected Neighborhoods in Chile

Alissa and DrewWhen news of a major fire in Valparaíso, Chile made headlines on Monday, some people sent donations. Some people took to social media. And some people mapped.

Not wasting any time, digital volunteers gathered at the American Red Cross headquarters Monday morning, grabbed some caffeine and began to make a detailed map of neighborhoods affected by the fire.

The volunteers were in town attending a conference about OpenStreetMap—crowd-sourced mapping technology that’s been called the “Wikipedia of maps.” They congregated at the Red Cross building to work on individual projects, but when they heard that local Chilean mappers, Red Cross disaster specialists, and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) were calling for help in Valparaíso, 16 digital mappers volunteered to pitch in.

In the span of a few hours, they were able to build a map of Chilean neighborhoods that had not previously existed. Using satellite imagery, they traced the outline of buildings that stood before the fire. Responders can compare this “before” map with the post-fire landscape to understand the amount of damage done by the disaster. Stephen Smith of Burlington, Vermont explained it to me like this, “With a big fire, it’s difficult to know what was destroyed. If you can see where buildings used to stand, responders might know where to look for survivors.” Stephen learned how to use the OpenStreetMap technology in less than 10 minutes and was able to trace about 100 buildings in just an hour.

The Red Cross finds digital maps increasingly useful during international disasters. When Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines last November, the Red Cross and HOT asked volunteers to build a map of storm-affected towns and 1,700 people answered the call. The Red Cross loaded the updated maps onto relief workers’ GPS devices—it not only saved them time navigating to villages while delivering relief supplies, but also helped teams to assess damages.

While Monday’s volunteers had a special interest in mapping from the get-go, one beautiful thing about this type of crowd-sourced mapping  is that people don’t need specialized skills to contribute. Anyone can learn how to map at OpenStreetMap and can find humanitarian mapping “tasks” at HOT’s website, where the Red Cross has also asked help mapping areas in Guinea and Mauritania.