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Livestream: How Can We Improve Urban Disaster Preparedness?

Today, the team at the Global Disaster Preparedness Center is hosting some fantastic speakers to discuss issues and lessons learned around urban disaster preparedness. In the last few years, big events like Hurricane Sandy and Typhoon Haiyan have surfaced a multitude of questions about how technology and partnerships can address many of the challenges we face when a major event devastates a highly dense, urban area.

Watch and learn from panelists who have extensive experience working in disaster response and preparedness by clicking on the link below. The schedule is also listed here (in Eastern time).

Watch the livestream here

8:45 – 9:00am : Welcome and Introduction
9:00 – 10:00am: A Close Look at Hurricane Sandy: What did we learn about urban preparedness?
10:00 – 11:00am: Allure of the Alliance: Creative approaches to resilience partnerships
11:00 – 11:15am: Break
11:15 – 12:00pm: Where the Rubber Hits the Road: Perspectives from the Philippines response
12:00 – 1:00pm: Chartering New Ground: Success with urban risk reduction
1:00 – 1:15pm: Closing

To join the conversation online, you can comment and engage with participants on Twitter! You can also join the GDPC website and share your own learnings, participate in the conversation, and provide feedback.

Don’t Be Left in The Dark: What to Do When The Power Goes Out

By: Dom Tolli,  VP Preparedness Health and Safety Services 


We all know power outages are miserable, especially if they drag on for hours or days.  While you can take steps to keep yourself comfortable-like having fully charged phones and backup power for your electronic devices-there are some steps you must do that will keep you safe.

1. Make sure you have a light source other than candles.   Most people don’t think about this but candles are the first thing many of us reach for in a blackout. Resist the urge. Left unattended or misused, they become a fire hazard. Flashlights, LED powered candles, or battery operated lanterns are safer, give off more light and won’t catch the drapes on fire.

2 Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.  Nobody wants to replace the ketchup, mustard and everything else in the fridge. You don’t want to make the blackout worse by getting sick too. You can minimize food loss but it’s important to know how long food will keep. First use perishable food from the refrigerator. An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold for about 4 hours. Then use food from the freezer. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.

3. Check on your neighbors. Those who are elderly or infirm may not have an easy time getting access to heat.   A warm meal, extra blankets, some time near your fireplace or a ride to a local warming shelter (if available in your area) would certainly be welcome.

4. Know how to operate a generator, if you have one. Used improperly, generators can become a source of deadly carbon monoxide flumes. Never operate a generator inside the home, including in the basement or garage. Don’t hook a generator up to your home’s wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.

You can find more specifics about staying safe during power outages by going to http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/power-outage

5 Most Super Super Bowl Military Moments

We were thrilled to see such a military-focus last night during the Super Bowl! The Red Cross is proud to support our service members and their families, and it means a lot to see them celebrated while the whole country was watching. Here are our top 5 favorite moments:

5. Pregame Army Helicopter Flyover

No, not that kind of pre-graming… This tradition is a powerful reminder that our US Armed Forces are always watching over us. Thankfully the Red Cross is there to watch over them. Before any service member deploys, they receive the “Red Cross Get to Know Us Before You Need Us” course, where they learn the Red Cross will be there for them and their families from that moment on, through active duty, and throughout the rest of their life as veterans.

4. Microsoft’s “Empowering” Commercial

It was a quick moment, but starting at second 28, a service member is coaching his wife through labor from the other side of the world. Being apart during important events is a common hardship of deployment. The Red Cross can help families dealing with deployment through the Coping with Deployments course, which is taught in-person or online, in English or in Spanish.

3. Halftime Show Salute

What a beautiful moment! We have to give huge props to Bruno Mars for taking a break from his mind-boggling, physics-defying dance moves to remind us of the real heroes fighting real battles, instead of those in a stadium. You can see how much it means to these men and women to be able to be able to dedicate this song to their loved ones. It’s heart-wrenching when you hear the lyrics, “When I see your face.” The Red Cross can help military families get in contact and see each other when they need to in times of family crisis or emergency. Military families can call the Red Cross Military Emergency Communication Center at 1-877-272-7337 24/7 at no charge.

2. Budweiser’s “A Hero’s Welcome” Commercial

Budweiser’s “A Hero’s Welcome” commercial featured 24-year-old Lt. Chuck Nadd getting a surprise welcome home celebration in his small hometown of Winter Park, Florida. You might remember the first part of this commercial, but you were probably crying too hard to see or hear it by the end, so here’s a reminder:

(You can also view the even more tear-jerking longform commercial.)

The Red Cross and its military service partners are a part of welcome home and yellow ribbon events in many locations across the country. If you are interested in helping, contact your local Red Cross, ask for the Service to the Armed Forces Staff member, and ask if there is a way to be involved in your community. We can’t promise Clydesdales or gallons of patriotic confetti, but each of these celebrations is a deeply meaningful way to thank our service members. Also, coming home is just the first part of the reintegration journey; the Red Cross is there to help families along the way with Reconnection Workshops.

1. Coca Cola’s “America the Beautiful” Commercial

This reminds us what our men and women in uniform are fighting for, and what we have fought for in the past. America, the beautiful, the refuge. The Red Cross is proud to have been supporting our service members and all Americans for more than 130 years.

 To learn more about Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces, visit redcross.org/military.

Red Cross Military Family Reconnection Workshops

Valentine’s Day is coming, and it gives us the gift of a unique opportunity to appreciate our loved ones. This time is especially meaningful for the millions of military couples in our country who face the hardships, fears and stress associated with deployment, frequent moves, communication blackouts, mental health issues, and reintegration. Many service members are spending this day away from their loved one, and others are facing the harsh reality that although the service member is home, things are not the way they used to be.

Kim Darden, a Red Cross volunteer and military spouse explains,

I believe Valentine’s Day is more special for military couples when the couples are able to spend it together; they are in the same time zone, same continent, same country. Military training, deployments, schooling does not stop because of Valentine’s Day or any other holidays. As a military wife, I treasure the quality time we can spend together as a couple on holidays; the main reason being we do not know where we will be for the next year on that holiday.”

Here are some harsh truths about military relationships:

  • Male combat veterans are 62% more likely to have at least one failed marriage, compared to their civilian counterparts.
  • 70% of couples where one spouse has been diagnosed with PTSD report marital distress.
  • Veterans with PTSD are more likely to be divorced or considering divorce, to engage in partner violence, and to have problems with their children.

The reintegration journey is a long one, but the Red Cross is there to help along the way. Red Cross Reconnection Workshops are small-group, individual-focused events led by licensed mental health professionals to help families learn how to build healthier relationships after a service member returns home. 

Kim knows firsthand how important these workshops are:


The Reconnection Workshops has helped us build a stronger relationship even after 25 years of marriage. The ways the workshops has changed us is how we communicate more effectively to each other. We have learned how to listen and hear what the other one is trying to say. Today, when one of us wants to discuss something that is important to us, we will turn off all outside distractions such as TV and cell phones to listen and discuss.”

The workshops teach important lessons, from which all couples can benefit. For example:

  • Patience and Respect: Distance and a lack of communication, especially during deployments, can lead couples to feel less intimately connected. This can impact trust, as well as emotional and physical closeness. Patience and respect are required for couples to communicate effectively.
  • Listening: It can be very frustrating to watch someone you love struggle with symptoms related to war stress, or other stress, depression, PTSD or TBI. When helping someone heal, be patient, be honest, be willing to listen and don’t forget to take care of yourself.
  • Acceptance: Individuals suffering from depression often have low self-esteem, and it may not be unusual for them to show negative feelings, including anger, when communicating. Therefore, it is important to accept people as they are. Help them focus on the positive, providing successful experiences that elicit praise.
  • Validation: Unanticipated changes take service members, couples and families by surprise. It may be hard for each person to fully understand what the other has been through and how this has changed them. Acknowledgement or validation of each other’s sacrifices can help decrease anger.
  • Acknowledge Change: All relationships are changed by a loved one’s deployment. It is easy to plan to pick things up just as they were before deployment, and this often leads to disappointment and frustration as everyone has changed. Develop and practice methods to reduce stress to keep this from moving into anger.
  • Empathy: The ability to see things from another person’s viewpoint is an important means of managing anger. The development of empathy can aid in building better relationships with your partner.

Kim explains,

 The Reconnection Workshops are a wonderful learning experience, which [military] couples or families members should take advantage of… For military couples celebrating Valentine’s Day together, treasure those moments and make lots of memories. For those military couples celebrating Valentine’s Day apart, do something special for your loved one that they will remember and it will make their day.”


Even if your relationship is currently problematic, having a romantic date can reignite happy memories and feelings. Take this Valentine’s Day to celebrate each other, family, and your new life moving forward. For Kim and her husband, they will be celebrating low-key. “This year it will be just a quiet night at home with my husband, we will cook dinner together, and watch a movie. Last year he was deployed, so this Valentine’s Day we want to just be together at home.”

For more information on Reconnection Workshops, go to redcross.org/military, contact your local chapter, or email Reconnection@redcross.org.


How to donate blood for newbies and needle-haters

I’ve been working at the American Red Cross for nine months and 15 days, and during those nine months and 15 days, I’ve adamantly told myself I’m going to give blood. Yet I haven’t because I, like so many others, prefer not to be poked in the arm with a needle. This serious, full-blown, irrational, paranoid fear of needles is exemplified in the two experiences with shots below.

1. The immunization shot. This shot was no big deal, I barely felt a pinch. Afterwards, while my mom was chatting with the nurse, I was trying to get her attention. She kept consistently nudging me away thinking I was trying to interrupt her. No, I was only momentarily taking a pause to conveniently pass out!
2. The wisdom teeth. I was making a big fuss of the whole thing, when the nurse pulled a sneak attack and stuck me with the shot to knock me out. I was so upset and blubbering, “YOU LIAR! YOU LIAR! YOU LIIIaaa…..” as I passed into dreamland.

Needless to say, I wasn’t in any particular HURRY to be poked again. But I soon came to the realization that we’re in a pretty serious blood shortfall, man – so I sucked it up and marched myself over to the Red Cross blood donation center (with my friend, Molly Graham, to hold my hand, of course). Let me break the whole top-bloody-notch (pun intended) experience down for you.

Before you donate, do yourself a favor and visit redcrossblood.org. There’s helpful advice about what to do before, during and after giving blood. For example, some helpful tips for me:

1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate: Drinking water is always important, so this comes as no surprise it’s important before giving blood too.

My trusty water cup, always at my desk.

My trusty water cup, always at my desk.

2. Wear comfy clothes: Do these awesome ranchero-style boots count? It doesn’t get in the way of my shirt rolling above my elbow for the nurse to poke my arm, so I think I’m good.

The boots were made for blood givin'.

These boots were made for blood givin’.

3. Pack on the iron: No, I’m not talking about the iron you lift in the gym (although that’s healthy, too). I’m talking about the iron that’s in your food. For example, the day of my donation I ate an egg, banana bread with jelly, a spinach and kale salad, a Clementine, a kiwi, an apple, and a piece of bread with almond butter right before I gave blood.

This spinach, kale, apples, pecans, cranberries and white cheddar cheese salad with a sprinkle of balsamic dressing will blow your mind!

This spinach, kale, apples, pecans, cranberries and white cheddar cheese salad with a sprinkle of balsamic dressing will blow your mind!


Not sure if banana bread and jelly is something I should eat, but it's too good to pass up!

Not sure if banana bread and jelly is iron-filled, but it’s too good to pass up!



Oh yeah, I ate some sushi the night before. Fish is also good for your iron intake!

Before giving blood:
First, take two steps in the blood donation center’s door, and don’t look back!

Then, when you’re in the waiting area, casually take a gander at the FREE food already available BEFORE you give blood. I was feeling a little hungry, so I munched on some pretzels and slurped up more water while I waited for my turn.

This calmed my growling, nervous tummy.

This calmed my growling, nervous tummy.

When your turn comes, you’ll be taken to a separate waiting area. Don’t panic. Here you’ll be asked a series of basic questions while they check your temperature, blood pressure, and then… the dreaded finger-prick! This is necessary to determine your fate of whether or not you’ll be able to give blood that day.

Giving blood, the full lowdown:
First-timers, the people who work at the blood donation centers are super nice and very professional. Karen Dominguez, bless her heart, was my phlebotomist (pronounced: fla-BOT-o-mist) of the night. She graciously seated my friend and me together. Karen kindly asked who wanted to go first. I decided if I watched my friend get poked first, I would likely back out. My courage was sky-high and I was ready to DO THIS. She told me she would count down when she would prick me in my right arm’s healthy veins.

One… Two… Three!

Done, it wasn’t that bad! And then… the panic set in.
Wait, that was it? That wasn’t that bad. Wait, blood’s coming out now? Let me take a peek. Bad idea… bad idea… Did the lights just dim down? I feel like I’m under water, is she talking to me? Am I freaking out? I think I’m freaking out. No wait, I’m definitely freaking out!

Folks, I put this in here because I want to be realistic about my experience. But in all seriousness, I was simply panicking. The prick in my arm really wasn’t that bad, but my anxiety-filled nerves got the best of me and started making me feel a little uneasy. Karen (BLESS HER SWEET LITTLE HEART) calmed me down, got me some cold, wet towels and told me to cough really deep into my stomach (all of which helped immensely).

In all, I totally regained my cool. Within 20 minutes – a pint of blood was taken out of my five-foot body and placed into a bag that would soon be whisked away to someone in need. How cool is that? In a few weeks, I’ll also know my blood type!

Karen Dominquez and I after donation. See, I wasn't lying. Look at my smile, I'm totally fine!

Karen Dominquez and I after donation. See, I wasn’t lying. Look at my smile, I’m totally fine!


Look! My friend Molly, pictured with Karen, is also smiling and a-okay!

Look! My friend Molly, pictured with Karen, is also smiling and a-okay!

When all this was said and done, I took my bandaged arm and smiling face over to the snack table, and happily nibbled away on my Keebler treats.

Keebler treats for your heart's desire!

Keebler treats for your heart’s desire!


Even Ernie the Keebler elf is proud of you!

Even Ernie the Keebler elf is proud of you!

In summation, go give blood. It does benefit someone out there and if they could, they would certainly let you know how much it means to them. Need proof?

Arm function still intact. March 24 is the day I can go back, so you can all keep me accountable.

Arm function still intact. March 24 is the day I can go back, so you can all keep me accountable.

How to WIN the Superbowl

Well, here we are again, SUPERBOWL WEEK is here! The thrill of the gridiron, combined with fairly low temperatures (at least low for this SoCal girl) is going to make for an interesting Super Bowl Sunday. Now, while I am certainly no football player, I have been running in the cold before, therefore I feel like I can offer these professional football players a few tips on what they can do to win the Superbowl when it’s cold out!

Cold Tip #1: Dress in layers
While I’m sure those fancy tackle pads and tight pants are usually warm enough in your respective hometowns, you’re going to New York….in January….and it’s basically been snowing for an entire month. With temperatures expected to be at or below freezing, the more breathable layers you can wear the better. When you sweat, that sweat needs to go somewhere or else it’s going to stay on your skin and lower your body temperature. Breathable layers allow sweat to get off of your skin, and gives you a better chance of staying warm.

Cold Tip #2: Know the Signs of Hypothermia
It’s going to be a long day, and while some of the following symptoms may seem like they’d be a result of a long day on the field, you might want to double check that it’s not something more serious. Signs of hypothermia include:

Clumsiness or lack of coordination
Slurred speech or mumbling Stumbling
Confusion or difficulty thinking Poor decision making, such as trying to remove warm clothes
Drowsiness or very low energy
Apathy or lack of concern about one’s condition
Progressive loss of consciousness
Weak pulse
Slow, shallow breathing

Cold Tip #3: Halftime Show Must Haves
if your coach is going to rant at you in the locker room on what you should be doing better on the field, take an opportunity to make sure you do an outfit swap into dry clothes – going back onto the field in wet clothes is what I’d call a “wardrobe malfunction” and could result in a 10 yard penalty! Want some hot cocoa while you’re at it to warm your internal body temperature? Great idea! As an alternative, you can always try a steaming version of your favorite electrolyte drink (I’ve never tried this, so I can’t tell you if the Lime flavor tastes as good warm as it does chilled).

Cold Tip # 4: That Gatorade shower probably isn’t a great idea
Let’s face it, you might end up accidentally shocking your coach’s system a little more than the usual “oh look, I’m covered in yellow electrolyte beverage” surprise – wait until you hit the locker room. Dousing someone in water in the frigid temps can cause a quick drop in body temperature, and can cause your coach to get really cranky since they’ll have to stay on the field to receive the trophy (which seems to take FOREVER!); and let’s face it, if you win the Super Bowl, you’d probably want your coach to be able to hold that pretty, shiny trophy up for everyone to see.

So that’s my advice to winning the Superbowl. Best of luck to both teams (as of last week, I thought the Patriots were going…whoops)

Last year, The Huffington Post did a terrific “gatorade dunking technique” post that you can use to “study up” on the various ways you too can dunk your coach (once it warms up, of course).

No More Frozen Pipes — 5 Easy Tips to Follow This Winter

frozen pipe

Here’s 5 easy steps to prevent frozen pipes this winter:

  1. Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  2. Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
  3. When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  4. Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  5. If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.

For more information visit http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/winter-storm/preventing-thawing-frozen-pipes

Stay Warm!

Meet Jacqueline Rogers — An 8 year old whose courage inspires us all

Screenshot 2014-01-25 16.52.58

When 8-year-old Jacqueline Rogers of Billerica, Massachusetts walked into an Red Cross blood drive in Boston recently, she stole the show. That wasn’t an easy thing to do with the Boston Bruins mascot in attendance.

Rogers was born with a congenital heart disorder and was scheduled to have open heart surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital in mid-January. However, her surgery was postponed due to a shortage of type O negative blood. Jacqueline and her parents, Alan and Valerie, decided to help raise awareness about the importance of donating blood so other patients don’t have to face a postponed surgery.

Media reports spread the young girl’s story and many donors drove long distances to attend the Boston blood drive in her honor. Some came from as far away as towns along the Canadian border. Rogers bravely thanked blood donors for their donations and danced and posed for photos in front of the media. Her vivacious personality put a smile on everyone’s face at the blood drive, which was held at TD Garden – home of the Boston Bruins. The event was co-sponsored by the Red Cross, Bob’s Discount Furniture and the Boston Bruins, and the Red Cross was able to collect almost 700 units of blood.

“Jacqueline has become the face of the patients we serve and her story underscores the constant need for blood donations, said Donna Morrissey, a Red Cross spokesperson. “There has been an outpouring of support and because of Jacqueline, people are putting compassion into action and donating blood.”

 ”On behalf of the patients at Boston Children’s Hospital, I thank all those who have responded to the urgent need by donating at the Red Cross, Boston Children’s Hospital, or other hospitals,” said Dr. Steven Sloan, Director of Pediatric Transfusion Medicine, Children’s Hospital. “This has been a great help, but it will take several days of people donating blood to ensure that we have enough blood for all our patients in the coming days and weeks. I urge people who couldn’t donate blood at this drive to donate in the near future.”

Rogers had her surgery on January 22 and her mother has said it went well. Everyone at the Red Cross wishes her a speedy recovery.

To donate blood to assist patients like Jacqueline, visit redcrossblood.org to schedule an appointment today.

Preparing for Disasters in Colombia

Editor’s note: Jenelle Eli does international communications for the American Red Cross. She and her team will be blogging from Colombia for the next few weeks. 

Today I met Daniel—the guy who knows exactly what do if an earthquake strikes. And I watched Manuela, a Red Cross volunteer for more than five years, lead kids to an evacuation point outside of school. Yesterday, it was Judy whose first aid skills knocked my socks off.

This week, my team’s traveling around the Colombia. We’re checking out the work of the Red Cross, talking with community members, and instagramming our way across the South American country.

Throughout Colombia, kids and adults are taking proactive steps to prepare their families, schools, and neighborhoods for disasters. They don’t want to wait until a volcano erupts to figure out their family emergency plans. Instead, they’re creating early warning systems, learning how to extinguish fires, and practicing evacuation drills in preparation for future emergencies. The American Red Cross and the Colombian Red Cross work together to equip communities with the skills and tools they need to make it all happen.

Judy—a 15 year old in the foothills of the Andes—is ready to treat wounds and save lives. Trained by the Red Cross, Judy and other volunteers take part in disaster simulations so they can practice their skills. Yesterday, we watched as the entire community responded to a simulated car accident. One woman grabbed a megaphone. One, the fire extinguisher. Judy and others ran up the hill with their first aid kits.

Neighbors helped one another to bandage wounds and move the “accident victims” with neck injuries. Red Cross staff mentored Judy as she made a sling for an injured arm and when it was all over, they offered advice about the community members’ response to the simulated emergency. People listened intently—determined to be prepared for any disaster that may strike their neighborhood in the future.

We’re visiting communities like Judy’s all week. Be sure to check out our Instagram feed as we feature some seriously brave volunteers in Colombia.

Sara—the Search and Rescue Dog—and her Game of Fetch

Editor’s note: This post was written by Jana Sweeny, the American Red Cross’s Director of International Communications. Jana and her team are traveling around Colombia this week, visiting communities made safer by the global Red Cross network.  

resized Sara photo

As we walk into the Colombian Red Cross training center in Pereira, a yellow lab comes bouncing up, waving her tail enthusiastically. The ball in her mouth turns out to be a lime and she is ready to play fetch. Because I can never say no to a dog, I begin a game of “fetch the lime” with her.

It turns out that Sara isn’t just a fun companion–she is a retired search and rescue dog.  The Colombian Red Cross began an intensive program to train both dogs and humans to assist in search and rescue after devastating earthquakes struck the area in the 1980s and ‘90s.

The training center houses classrooms, sleeping quarters, and a kitchen since some of the trainings are multiple days and often too far of a drive from people’s hometowns and villages. They teach intensive first aid, as well as search and rescue classes.

Behind the center is a labyrinth of rubble punctuated by a multi-story tower. Volunteers practice repelling and rescue techniques. There’s a large metal container, rusted with age, filled with debris that trainees must crawl through to simulate a collapsed structure.

This is just one of the training centers located around the country. Some of the centers have been funded by the American Red Cross risk reduction program in Colombia. Each training center teaches hundreds of Red Cross volunteers lifesaving skills each year.

As we walk through the impressive facility, Sara continues to follow closely behind until one of the Colombian Red Cross team members grabs the lime, runs for the piles of rubble and begins to put Sara through her paces.

She heeds commands and waits for the moment when she can jump up on the wall to pursue her beloved lime. Even in retirement, Sara still wants to practice her training and clearly loves the Colombian Red Cross team that’s worked so closely with her.

The dog program is no longer sustainable due to funding; Sara is the last dog left. She’s part of the family and is special to all of the volunteers that train at the facility.

Sara, like the thousands of Colombian Red Cross volunteers, continues to practice her skills knowing that the training, the equipment and the commitment will continue to save lives. But during downtime, why not play a good game of fetch with an old friend?

Turns out Colombians feel just like Americans about their four legged companions—they work beside us, keep us company, and on cold nights lay down at our feet to keep us warm.  To help keep them safe, please consider downloading the American Red Cross Pet First Aid App