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100 Days of Summer International #YouthDay

By Eddie Zitnik, Chair, American Red Cross National Youth Council

Today is International Youth Day, a special day during the year which celebrates the impact youth can make on society all around the world. At the American Red Cross we hope to inspire youth and young adults to donate blood this summer to help meet the daily need of 15,000 blood donations for approximately 2,700 hospitals across the country. As young people, we can make a difference.

We are at an exciting time in history when youth have the potential to change the world in more ways than one. Donating blood is one of these ways. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in most states) and weigh at least 110 pounds may donate blood every 56 days. Imagine how many lives you could save in your lifetime if you started donating today!

intl youth day blood donor

The first time I donated blood I was 16 years old and living in Ohio. While I had been volunteering with the Red Cross for two years, I wasn’t quite old enough to become a donor. There was nothing like becoming a part of the proud group of blood donors who I volunteered alongside for years. I still remember the feeling of knowing that I helped save the life of a complete stranger who I may never know or even meet. This taught me an important lesson in altruism, a lesson which I carry with me even today as a medical student. I ask youth to challenge themselves, become Red Cross blood donors, and give back to their communities through the lifesaving mission of the Red Cross.

During the summer months, about two fewer donors give blood at each Red Cross blood drive than what hospital patients need. Additionally, blood donations among youth between the ages of 18 and 24 drop by about 40 percent! Blood cannot be manufactured and can only come from volunteer donors like you. So what can you do to help? Grab a couple friends, find a local blood drive (redcrossblood.org, 1-800-RED CROSS), and donate a unit of blood for a person in need. It’s that simple. While the need is constant, the gratification is instant!

When you get back to school this fall and your friends and teachers ask what you did with your summer, you can proudly say that you helped save up to three lives by becoming a Red Cross blood donor!

From the Archives: Hurricane Response

This post was written by Kristen Rowley, Historical Programs intern.

The first storm of hurricane season has come and gone. While experts are expecting a fairly mild season, it is important to recognize that even a mild season can easily wield a devastating storm. The Red Cross has over 120 years of experience dealing with damaging storms, so we’ve learned a thing or two to help our responses adapt and progress throughout the decades.

In the early part of the 20th century, weather forecasting was in its infancy. Predicting when and where a hurricane would make landfall was difficult, leaving residents little time to prepare. Communication and transportation were also slower. For example, when a hurricane and subsequent storm surge engulfed Galveston, Texas, in September 1900, it took nine days for Clara Barton and her volunteers to arrive on the scene. Once there, volunteers distributed food, clothing, and household furnishings.


Red Cross volunteer Ada Claessens helps Mildred Ramsey, a fellow victim of Hurricane Carla in 1961, choose a dress from a rack of donated clothing at a shelter in Kemah, Texas.

Red Cross volunteer Ada Claessens helps Mildred Ramsey, a fellow victim of Hurricane Carla in 1961, choose a dress from a rack of donated clothing at a shelter in Kemah, Texas.

As the 20th century progressed, the basic needs in times of disaster did not change, but the Red Cross response did. The improved ability to predict when and where a storm was going to hit allowed for establishing shelters in schools and community centers and providing aid quickly in the aftermath of the storm. In the mid-1960s, strategically chosen chapters became homes to mobile disaster units, providing aid to victims as soon as possible.


A Vacherie, Louisiana disaster headquarters sits among mud and debris left in the wake of Hurricane Betsy in September 1965.

A Vacherie, Louisiana disaster headquarters sits among mud and debris left in the wake of Hurricane Betsy in September 1965.

Now these services have become even swifter. A Google map and a mobile app allow people to see where the nearest shelter is and how much space is available. The Red Cross also has hundreds of Emergency Response Vehicles stationed around the country, prepared to travel anywhere they are needed. And there are volunteers specifically dedicated to improving the mental health of those affected by these deadly storms. More than 130 years after the American Red Cross was established, volunteers continue Clara Barton’s work, providing food, shelter, and basic necessities to those who need them most.


 A young boy in Homestead, Florida enjoys a hot meal and a cold drink from a Red Cross Disaster Services truck assisting victims of 1992’s Hurricane Andrew.

A young boy in Homestead, Florida enjoys a hot meal and a cold drink from a Red Cross Disaster Services truck assisting victims of 1992’s Hurricane Andrew.

Sometimes Simpler is Better

Last summer I spent a good 90 minutes crafting and giving a demonstration – using 10 pints of water, red food coloring, matchbox cards, and a Red Cross testing facility built out of Legos – that I hoped would provide my then-six-year-old son with a comprehensive understanding of the blood donation process. The demonstration worked, but if I had it to do over again (and I do, now that my five-year-old daughter has started asking about blood donation), I might opt for a simpler course of action.

PrintLuckily for me, I came across this fantastic Red Cross graphic that I think will do the trick.

I love this graphic for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the nurse looks exactly like my mom when she first became a nurse in the mid 1970’s (yes, nurses used to wear those caps). Oh, and I think the snack looks delicious. I may start a campaign to push for the Red Cross to serve croissants at blood drives.

The process is simple, and the end result is lives saved. Maybe that’s all our kiddos – at least as elementary schoolers – really need to know.

Don’t Drink the Water

More than half a million people in parts of Ohio and Michigan had no water over the weekend due to toxins from algae in Lake Erie and the American Red Cross distributed water in the affected counties.

Red Cross chapters in Northwest Ohio and Southeastern Michigan set up free water distribution sites throughout the affected counties and delivered water to residences of individuals who could not leave their homes to find clean drinking water.

Read more about the Red Cross response, and other ongoing responses to wildfires in California, Oregon, and Washington. Additionally, volunteers have provided more than 100 meals and more are on standby in San Bernardino County after unexpected rain caused flash flooding and mud slides in the area. We will let you know if these situations change, but to stay up to date on any of our disaster responses, go to redcross.org.

Red Cross Around the World

[Slideshow] Responding to the Ebola Outbreaks in Western Africa

The American Red Cross, along with the global Red Cross network, is helping amplify efforts and strengthen capacity of the Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia Red Crosses as a devastating outbreak of Ebola wreaks havoc on the region. Since March 2014, some 1,200 cases have been reported and more than 670 deaths have been linked to the virus, making it the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in recorded history.

Helping Victims in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza

As the security situation in the Occupied Palestine Territories and Israel continues to deteriorate, Red Cross Red Crescent staff and volunteers in the region are helping people in need.

Israel’s Magen David Adom and the Palestine Red Crescent are providing support to the victims of airstrikes, rocket firings, and other hostilities. As part of the same global network, both societies follow the same guiding principles: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity, and universality.

In the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the Palestine Red Crescent has been at the forefront of relief operations since the beginning of the crisis. Red Crescent hospitals, clinics, staff and volunteers are delivering emergency medical care to the wounded and evacuating residents to safer locations. This past weekend, two Palestine Red Crescent volunteers lost their lives while providing humanitarian assistance in Gaza.

In Israel, Magen David Adom’s ambulance teams are responding to rocket attacks by providing first aid, medical care and transportation as needed, as well as psychosocial support to victims. The society has increased blood service operations, ensuring that hospitals have sufficient supply. In addition, staff and volunteers are offering first aid training to the public and have distributed first aid kits to some 80 public shelters as part of its preparedness initiatives.

[Infographic] Crisis in Iraq

With the media focus on Gaza, it’s easy to forget that there are humanitarian crises going on both in the Middle East and beyond. Our global Red Cross colleagues in Beirut have put together a new graphic which manages to explain the scale and seriousness of the population movement in response to violence in Iraq. As with the Red Crescent societies in Syria and the Occupied Palestine Territories, the Iraqi Red Crescent is responding to help support the needs of all those affected by the crisis. See infographic here.

Reuniting a Family Torn Apart by Civil War

“It was like finally waking up from a bad dream.”

That’s how Sylvester Gboya describes reuniting with his wife and children after five long years of separation. Through the American Red Cross Restoring Family Links program, however, Gboya was able to send Red Cross Messages through to his family and reconnect. Eventually, his wife and two children were able to join him in the U.S.

Last year, the Red Cross assisted those seeking to reconnect with their loved ones from countries such as the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan, South Sudan, Syria, and Afghanistan and facilitated the exchange of 279,000 messages. For more information visit redcross.org.

Disaster Update: Flooding in Paraguay 

The Paraguayan Red Cross is carrying out response operations following the recent floods that have affected the southern part of the country and left more than 200,000 people homeless. The American Red Cross is providing 2,000 hygiene kits, which contain personal hygiene supplies like soap and toothbrushes. Additionally the American Red Cross is contributing $45,000 to assist with transportation of relief supplies from a Red Cross warehouse in Panama.

Red Cross Preparedness Tips. Because Sharknado.

Last year, no one knew quite what to expect from Syfy’s Sharknado. Turns out, there was plenty of fodder to go around for disaster preparedness tips and debunking weather myths.

This time, before the sharknado hits New York on Thursday, make sure you’ve got your preparedness tips down pat.


  • Lightning can strike 10-15 miles away from a storm, so even if the sky is clear you’re not necessarily safe from a storm. Same goes for a sharknado. 
  • While many believe opening doors and windows will help equalize pressure during a tornado, this will actually have no effect. Plus, it will let the sharks in. Take shelter from any sort of vortex, with or without hostile marine life, in an interior room with no windows on the lowest floor.
  • It’s also a myth that city skyscrapers protect against tornadoes. Cities simply cover a small geographical area, so the chances of a direct hit are small. This doesn’t mean city dwellers shouldn’t be prepared for whatever may be heading your way.


The full list of survival kit essential items is on redcross.org, but we’ve pulled a few to feature, in light of the sharknado forecast.

Keep your supplies in an easy-to-carry emergency preparedness kit that you can use at home or take with you in case you must evacuate. To avoid the sharknado.

At a minimum, you should have the basic supplies listed below:

  • Water: one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home) – You’ll want to stay hydrated for any chainsaw, shotgun or barstool use for your defense.
  • Food: non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home) – Keep your energy up. You’ll need it.
  • Flashlight – Are sharks like cats? Can we distract them with shiny, moving lights?
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible) – Keep up to date with the locations of all water spouts watches and sharknado warnings.
  • First aid kit – You’ll need all the sterile gauze pads you can get.
  • Cell phone with chargers – How else are you supposed to maintain your Twitter feed and see all the on-the-ground sharknado pics and videos from @JimCantore?
  • Family and emergency contact information – ”Dear Mom. You didn’t leave many outlandish dangers off your list of reasons why I shouldn’t move to New York. I have one more to add to the list…”
  • Extra cash – Rent a car. Move to Ohio. No more coastal living if it means sharknados!
  • Emergency blanket – Doubles as as trampoline to catch sharks and fling them back up into the sharknado.
  • Map(s) of the area – Fight or flight. Choose your escape route wisely.

Additional supplies to keep at home or in your survival kit based on the types of disasters common to your area:

  • Whistle – For when you’re eaten alive and are in the shark’s belly, Jonah style.
  • Duct tape – If you can get a handle on those slippery beasts, can we tape their mouths shut? Like a crocodile? I saw that on TV once.
  • Scissors – For when you’ve run out of all other options. Go for the eyes.
  • Household liquid bleach – Can you imagine all the shark guts to clean up? Ew.
  • Entertainment items – To keep your mind off the current situations. Just avoid games like Hungry Hungry Hippos, which might trigger some adverse reactions.

Considering we haven’t yet released the Red Cross Sharknado mobile app, we hope these tips keep you safe in the interim.

And don’t miss how Clarence handles a sharknado with his survival kit:

Choose Your Day This Summer — There’s Still Time

An excerpt from redcross.org:

It’s always difficult to collect enough blood to meet patient needs, but it’s even more difficult during the summer months when schools are out and families are visiting with friends and loved ones.  It’s important to remember that patients don’t get a vacation from needing blood and platelets. The need is constant.


CLOSE TO HOME The McAninch family knows the need for blood firsthand, and they don’t want others to take it for granted. Now, giving blood is in their blood. Rodney

“I’ve seen so many people in my life, including my husband, receive blood, so I know how important it is,” said Tina McAninch. “I’m so proud of my kids putting their own fears aside to help someone else. It just makes me ecstatic.”McAninch had donated for years before the need hit close to home when he received seven units of blood in 2005. Today, Rodney’s wife, Tina, along with their children, Bradley and Michaela, donate blood and platelets because they saw how it helped save their dad.

m35140178_Bingamans-707x482BE INSPIRED Genny Bingaman always watched with pride as her husband Rob donated blood—until tragedy struck. Rob, a beloved police officer, died in a car crash last October. Genny and her daughter Morgan now give blood in his memory.

“We feel honored to do so,” said Genny. “Knowing that something good can come out of such heartache is how we honor and remember our loved ones.”

CHOOSE YOUR DAY Will it be today or tomorrow? There’s still time to choose a day and help save lives this summer. You can give hope to patients in need and their network of family and friends. Blood and platelet donations are needed now and for the rest of the summer.


Read the full piece on redcross.org, and read about the urgent need for blood donors to help address a looming blood shortage.

Technology: Disrupting Disaster Response since 1881

By Dom Tolli, Preparedness, Health and Safety Services

Back in 1881, the American Red Cross used the telegraph for the first time to transmit disaster information during a forest fire in Michigan. I have hunch that someone at the time probably thought the telegraph was fad and that only “the young people” were into it. Little did anyone know it would launch the Red Cross -and the nation – onto a path of using technology to help during disasters.

Since 1881, the Red Cross has made a paradigm shift in how it distributes information to the public in times of crisis. Instead of distributing millions of brochures and flyers with emergency we now issue millions of mobile alerts and our apps have more than 100 million mobile views. Now, mobile technology is bringing the White House, the Red Cross and numerous other agencies together to look at new ways to alert people of danger.

Over the last two years, the Red Cross has launched eight preparedness apps: first aid, hurricane, wildfire, tornado, earthquake, flood, Team Red Cross and pet first aid. In September, the organization will add the blood app, encouraging and empowering people to bolster our nation’s blood supply. Nearly all of these apps allow the user to toggle between English and Spanish.

As smartphones become ubiquitous in society, so does their use in emergency situations. A 2013 report from the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution found that mobile development has surged in reaction to the increasing demand for instant and accurate information. Mobile technology provides an early warning system, aids in emergency coordination, and improves public communications.

Since 2012, use of Red Cross apps has skyrocketed, with more than 5 million downloads. Red Cross apps have sent more than 112 million notices to alert mobile phone users to earthquake, hurricane and tornado warnings. We’ve been able to incorporate this technology into our apps thanks to the U.S. government’s Open Data Policy, which unlocked tools such as weather alerts for private sector use. Users spend 12-40 minutes, on average, during disasters with their Red Cross apps; 3-7 minutes on average is more common for other disaster apps. Immediately before, during and after Superstorm Sandy, people spent 42 minutes searching for hurricane preparedness information; 18-23 minutes searching for and reviewing shelters; and 25-31 minutes managing alerts and storm tracking.

With over 5 million downloads of Red Cross apps alone, it’s safe to say technology and innovation continues to play a significant role improving disaster response and recovery efforts. That’s why we’re thrilled the White House has chosen to focus on such an important effort, bringing together the disaster preparedness and technology community via their Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Initiative and today’s demo day.

What’s also clear is that technology has long been a disruptive force in the way that emergency officials, and the public alike, prepare for and respond to disasters. Mobile technology, in particular, gives disasters survivors a unique seat at the disaster response table. They can point out areas that need help, share damage reports and give feedback to response organizations instantly and often while they are still standing in the midst of rubble. Relief organizations like the American Red Cross have an opportunity and a responsibility to use this technology to provide the public with timely and relevant information, delivered where people want it in the palm of their hands.

Here’s a visual history of how the Red Cross has adopted technology:

disaster tech

Humanitarianism in Action: Gaza and Israel

Volunteers in Gaza and Israel help the injured

What does it mean to be a Red Cross Red Crescent volunteer in a war zone? It means remaining neutral, impartial, and humane. And all too often, it means putting your life at risk. This weekend, two Palestine Red Crescent volunteers were killed while providing humanitarian assistance.

Volunteers in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank are working around the clock to help the injured, provide & teach first aid, and evacuate people in danger. As part of the same global network, Israel’s Magen David Adom and the Palestine Red Crescent choose humanitarianism—not sides—in this conflict.

Gas or Charcoal?

The Washington Post‘s Wonkblog recently covered Americans’ growing penchant for gas grills. But we’re sure some of you still love a good charcoal-fueled cookout.

Whatever your grilling style, the American Red Cross has tips to help keep you, your family and your home safe.

For charcoal enthusiasts: Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited.

For gas grill devotees: Be ready to close the lid and turn off the grill to cut off the fuel if necessary.


  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use.
  • Never grill indoors – not in your house, camper, tent, or any enclosed area.
  • Make sure everyone, including the pets, stays away from the grill.
  • Keep the grill out in the open, away from the house, the deck, tree branches, or anything that could catch fire.
  • Use the long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill to keep the chef safe.
  • Keep a fireproof pan under the grill to catch any falling ash or grease.
  • Trim excess fat from meat to avoid flare-ups.
  • Wash one’s hands in hot soapy water before preparing food, after touching raw meat and after any interruptions such as using the bathroom, handling pets, stopping to do something with children.