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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.

Susan’s Story: How Donating Blood Saved Her Life

A blood donation is one of the greatest gifts that a person can give. It is a selfless act that can have a long-lasting impact on another person’s life.

Susan, a committed Red Cross blood donor, regularly donated blood to help save the lives of others. Following one of her routine blood donation appointments, she received a message from the Red Cross that would help save hers.

Susan’s Story:

Susan's Blood Donation Story

I came in and gave blood (like every 8-10 weeks). It seemed perfectly normal, and I felt perfectly normal. But, the day after my last donation, the Red Cross called me, and told me I should go to the doctor and have my blood tested. They told me that my white blood cell count was very high, and that it needed to be evaluated. I went to my family doctor, and then an oncologist/hematologist. They drew blood and finally drew bone marrow. I was diagnosed with Leukemia (CML) and this has been very difficult, but if the Red Cross hadn’t told me about my blood being abnormal, I would not have discovered this by myself. I had NO symptoms and it could have developed over a much longer period of time. I’ll never know how much of a difference that would have made, but I’m very grateful to have found it quickly, thanks to the Red Cross.

I won’t be able to give blood for a long time – if ever, but I have told this story to all of my students, colleagues, friends and family members. They all recognize how good it is to give blood – not only for victims who need blood, but for the blood donors themselves.


Visit RedCrossBlood.org to learn more about the blood donation process and to find a blood donation center near you.

Spend Some Summer R&R with the Red Cross

Summer vacation may sound relaxing, but between packing for your trip to the beach and organizing barbecues, some of us might need a break from our summer break.

What’s the solution? It’s as simple as choosing your day. Make an appointment, kick back in a comfy chair, roll up a sleeve and donate blood. It’s a great activity (sunnies and beach towel optional) to add to your summer plans. The entire process takes about an hour; the actual blood donation takes about eight to 10 minutes. It’s perfect to fit in some much needed R&R (rest and relaxation)!

Giving blood isn’t just an appointment. It’s an activity that helps saves lives, which can easily fit before heading to the pool or grabbing ice cream. In fact, all eligible donors are encouraged to make and keep donation appointments to help maintain the summer blood supply and prevent a shortage.

Get an idea of what we mean with a peek at two Red Crossers giving blood in full summer regalia.

Reporting for Duty: A Retired Army Colonel at the Red Cross

Col Ben old photo

In October of 2010, Retired Colonel Benjamin F. Robinson retired from a second career in civil service. The following week, Robinson walked through the front doors of the American Red Cross and said he was ready to volunteer. No time for relaxing – he had work to do.

“There was no way I could sit at home and watch As the World Turns. I always said if I had the opportunity to pay back the Red Cross, I would,” Robinson said.

col ben closeup

For four years now, Robinson has been volunteering three days a week with the Red Cross Service to Armed Forces, answering those very calls. While he describes it as an intense learning program, he is intrigued by the daily efforts of the surrounding staff and volunteers.

Read the details of how Col. Ben first encountered the Red Cross during his mother’s illness, how he worked with the Red Cross during his time in Vietnam and more with the full scoop on redcross.org.

Group (2)

I Think The Onion Has a Crush On Us…

I’m a huge fan of The Onion – it’s a great place to get some fake news and a giggle or two. However, I have recently noticed a growing trend of Red Cross specific articles…

Allow me to present the following evidence showing that The Onion may in fact, have a not-so-secret crush on the Red Cross:

1) STUDY: Nearly Half of Americans Can’t Swim

The article was based on the results from our Swimming Survey


2) Then they published an article about Beach Safety Tips

Curious, we think they must have LOVED reading our own beach safety tips and decided to add a few of their own? Or maybe they were inspired by our aquatics program founder, Commodore Longfellow – aka “The Amiable Whale” (we’re sure inspired by this guy!).


3) Apparently the best Lifeguards out there are named Blake and Kayla

Nation’s Blakes Cruise Easily Through Lifeguard Tryouts

Now, their latest piece of Red Cross love – that is actually a good reminder that we should all give blood during the summer.


So thank you, The Onion, we love you right back – even though your love for us is a little weird.

Capturing the Hearts of American Teens with International Humanitarian Law

I think I may be turning into an IHL nerd (Does that exist? Like a band nerd?). I just got an e-book copy of the Geneva conventions.

Soren, IHL Action Campaign Participant and New Roots Charter School Student via Facebook

In a world of ever-decreasing attention spans and instant connectivity, it takes something special to capture the hearts and minds of American teenagers and young adults. But getting them captivated about international humanitarian law? For three whole days? That’s really special.

Launched in 2013 by the American Red Cross, the IHL Action Campaign gets young people (ages 14–24) to learn about international humanitarian law by creating peer education campaigns to raise awareness about the rules of war. Focusing on the topics of child soldiers and international justice, this year’s campaign saw 26 teams of high school and college students—supported by eight different Red Cross Chapters—participate in the program. The top six teams went on to Washington, D.C. for the IHL Youth Leadership Summit where students presented their projects, developed their leadership skills, and increased their knowledge about international issues related to IHL.

Here’s just a few things that the students said after a whirlwind three-day experience that included simulation activities, panel discussions, and a powerful keynote by South Sudanese refugee, Deng Abiel.

“From thought provoking questions on gender, to the wonderful Deng Abiel discussing his life as a resettled refugee in the United States, to the panel on refugee organizations, the guest speakers reminded us all why we are here. We are active in IHL for our communities, the communities far away from us, and most importantly, humanity. Humanity is a very abstract word, and yet, this is such a great medium to be able to remind us and others that in spite of our differences, we are all human, and deserve identity, dignity, and security.”

-Joshua, Bradley University, Central Illinois Regional Chapter

Watch the video about Bradley University’s campaign here.

“I learned that there are so many ways to communicate an idea to people, and affect them in such a way that they are interested in learning more and finding a way to be active for a particular cause…The goal for all of these incredible campaigns is to not only make a difference, but to get other people to care and want to do something too. It is awesome to be able to get more people in the Orange County, CA community involved and interested in topics that are important to reflect upon.“

-Daniella, Oxford Academy, Orange County Chapter