Fall Back Safely When You Reset Your Clocks

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We turn the clocks back on Saturday night, marking the end of Daylight Saving Time. When the clocks “fall back,” it’s a great time to fall back on some important safety routines.

Replace batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. If you have a smoke alarm with removable batteries, it’s a good idea to replace them regularly. Doing it when you “fall back” or “spring forward” assures that you have an easy-to-remember date to change batteries and check your smoke alarm. If your alarms are older, it’s a good idea to consider replacing them. Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years. Many newer models have permanent, long-life batteries. When you need to replace the batteries, you simply replace the unit, assuring you always have a functioning smoke alarm. When installing a new smoke alarm, write in marker on the alarm the date it was installed.

Remember, that you should have a smoke alarm on each level of your home, in hallways outside bedrooms and one in each bedroom. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing your alarms. More information about smoke alarms is available here.

When you’ve tested your alarms, replaced the batteries or updated the smoke alarms, spend some time reviewing your emergency preparedness.

Check your emergency supplies kit. Make sure that any first aid and food items are not expired and in need of replacement. Test and replace if needed the batteries in your portable radio and flashlights. Use the Red Cross emergency supplies kit checklist to make sure you have the items you need in your kit.

Check and practice your escape and communications plans. In the event of a home fire, you might only have two minutes to escape your home. If you and your family are organized and know the plan, it can help reduce panic, speed escape and save lives. Do you know multiple escape routes from the rooms in your home? Do you have pre-arranged spots to meet safely outside? Do you have a communication plan to reach each other or someone else in an emergency? Check out our resources for developing a disaster preparedness plan.

Use technology to help you prepare and stay informed. Red Cross apps for your smartphone can help with first aid, storm preparedness and much more. Check them out and download the free apps today!

Think International Humanitarian Law Doesn’t Matter to You? Think Again!

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photo: American Red Cross

 

by Emily Esposito

According to a recent American Red Cross Survey, only about half of adults and less than a quarter of young Americans are familiar with the Geneva Conventions and International Humanitarian Law (IHL). Maybe even more surprising, more than half of adults and our nation’s youth think that torturing enemy soldiers is acceptable at least some of the time. And more than a third of Americans (young people included) believe that torturing a captured American soldier is acceptable at least sometimes.

You might ask why IHL should matter to you or if it should matter that most Americans don’t know what IHL is. Americans serving in the military or living abroad could be protected under IHL. The American Red Cross has information and resources to help you understand what IHL is and how it affects you.

What is IHL? IHL is a set of rules that regulates the conduct of armed conflict to protect civilians, aid workers, prisoners of war, and wounded soldiers. Most of these rules are listed in the Geneva Conventions, drafted after WWII and ratified by most countries, including the United States.

Does IHL Matter?  IHL protects people affected by conflict across the globe. While fighting and war on American soil hasn’t taken place in years, that doesn’t mean Americans aren’t immune to conflict and war crimes. Most of us know at least one American soldier who is or could be deployed to fight in a conflict abroad or an American living abroad (think study abroad students, aid workers, diplomats, etc.) that could all be protected under IHL should a conflict erupt.

If armed conflict broke out in your country, civilians not taking part in the conflict (likely your own family) would be protected against violence, would not be taken hostage and could receive aid from a Red Cross society. Do you have family members or friends in the military? Under the Geneva Conventions, wounded soldiers would be given treatment and never tortured.

The U.S., along with many nations around the world, has ratified the Geneva Conventions and many of the subsequent protocols that update the Conventions. Whatever your views on torture or IHL, the U.S. has agreed to abide by certain principles under the Conventions. These principles help to preserve human life and protect civilians around the world. Humanitarian principles are at the core of the Red Cross mission; the Red Cross works to raise awareness of and respect for International Humanitarian Law through education programs and activities. To learn more about IHL, visit the American Red Cross IHL web page.

To volunteer for the Red Cross visit http://www.redcross.org/ct/volunteer

Emily Esposito is an International and Military Services volunteer with the American Red Cross Connecticut and Rhode Island Region. 

Tropical Storm Arthur Reminds Us to Prepare

By Mario Bruno, CEO, American Red Cross Connecticut and Rhode Island Region

While we all look forward to the holiday weekend, Tropical Storm Arthur has formed in the Atlantic off the coast of Florida, becoming the first named storm of Hurricane season. Although the storm is not forecast to bring hurricane conditions our area, Arthur is a reminder that we are vulnerable to hurricanes and severe weather here in New England. So, while we may have a slightly wet Fourth of July, consider this an opportunity to check your readiness without the pressure of an impending storm.

You don’t have to think too far back to remember some major storms in our area. From the February 2013 blizzard, to Hurricane Sandy, the October snowstorm of 2011 and Hurricane Irene, we have seen weather disrupt our daily lives and cause serious property damage.

Some of these storms brought storm surges to coastal areas or downed trees. In several cases, prolonged power outages affected many communities. So take a few minutes to think about the impacts you faced at home or at work and consider how you can make yourself more resilient in the face of future storms.

Planning now will help you better cope with emergencies. The American Red Cross has information and tools to help you prepare. Most tasks are simple and can be broken down into smaller steps that won’t be a burden. Start with the three most basic building blocks – a kit, a plan and knowledge about the risks in your community:

  • Create an emergency preparedness kit with food and water, and other basic supplies for each family member to last at least three days. Remember to include essential medications, copies of important documents and special items for children and pets. 
  • Plan what to do in case you are separated from your family during an emergency and what to do if you have to evacuate. Coordinate with your child’s school, your work and community’s emergency plans.
  • Be informed about what disasters or emergencies may occur where you live, work, play and pray, and how to respond as safely as possible. Find out how local officials will contact you during a disaster and how you will get important information. 

To help you through those three steps, here are some resources: 

  • Download any of the Red Cross free disaster-specific mobile apps—particularly the Hurricane and First Aid apps—to get lifesaving preparedness information in the palm of your hand before and during emergencies. Red Cross apps can be found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross or by going to redcross.org/mobileapps
  • Visit the Preparedness section of redcross.org for life-saving information, tools and tips to help you prepare for emergencies.  
  • Get free checklists and downloadable tips at redcross.org/preparednessfastfacts.
  • Use the Red Cross Ready Rating™ Program (readyrating.org). It’s a free, web-based program designed to help businesses, organizations and schools to become better prepared. Members complete a self assessment of their current readiness level and receive immediate, customized feedback with resources to improve preparedness. First Aid Emergency Drills help businesses train their staff for emergencies and disasters.  

Preparation is the best protection against the dangers of a hurricane or other disaster. A few simple steps now will pay big dividends when the next storm hits.

Are You Ready for Hurricane Season?

Volunteer Jason Harris writes today’s blog post. Jason, a new volunteer with the Red Cross, is putting some of his personal experience with hurricanes and his interest to good use in suggesting some basic ideas for personal preparedness.

Hurricane season began June 1. Are you ready? Have you made a Hurricane Preparedness List? Everyone should have a plan, no matter if you live on the coast or inland, because power outages can happen anywhere. I know it can seem a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. I’ve done it and will give you some tips to prepare based on my personal experiences. For details, I will provide links to online resources, because if I write about everything this blog post will start looking like a college term paper.

Check and organize your supplies in a space where they're easy to reach.

Check and organize supplies in an easy to reach space.

To get started, I thought about how I had prepared for storms in the past. I had gotten my water, batteries and non-perishable items together, but really not anything else. I know I didn’t get enough water to sustain me, my wife and our two cats. You don’t want to forget about your animals. They will need food and water as well. Before doing research for this post, I didn’t know you should have a three-day supply of water on-hand. This means a gallon of water per day per family member. During Hurricane Irene, my wife and I were without power for nine days. I used water from our bathtub, which we filled before losing power, to flush the toilet. I also retrieved water from the creek down the street to sustain our water supply. I didn’t drink the water from the creek, but it did come in handy for toilet water, stretching our drinking water supply. Remember also that you don’t have to purchase bottled water. You can easily fill empty containers or soda bottles before a storm.

Disaster Mitigation

Take time to know your risks and make a plan.

When you put together your non-perishable food items such as ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables, make sure you have a manual can opener to open those cans since electric ones won’t work without power.

Another good device to have on hand is a multi-tool. The tool’s name says it all. These multi-tools can include a can opener, knife, pliers and a screwdriver to name just a few of the items you can find in this one awesome tool. If MacGyver was still airing on television, he would have replaced his Swiss Army knife with a modern multi-tool.

You will also need flashlights, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio and an extra supply of batteries for the flashlights and radio. If you have rechargeable batteries, make sure they are charged up before the storm hits. Make sure cell phones are charged as well. You may want to invest in a portable power station, the kind advertised for jumping car batteries. Many of these units come with an LED work light and USB power port, and can be useful for charging cell phones and tablet computers. I have used mine more to charge my cellphone and my wife’s phone more than to jump my car battery.

And here’s another tip that can easily be overlooked. Make sure to have cash on hand because if the power goes out, credit cards and ATMs will be useless.

My wife and I weathered our nine days after Hurricane Irene with a lot of books, flashlights and trips to our families’ houses, as they owned generators. We learned a lot, and will be better prepared next time.

If you want to make a plan, check out redcross.org for more information. The Red Cross web page on Hurricanes will provide information to help you prepare for and cope with a hurricane. And there are lots of links to other resources like the Red Cross Hurricane App for your phone.

Red Cross Disaster Response Puts it All in Perspective

By Jennifer Callahan, Disaster Workforce Engagement Manager, American Red Cross Connecticut and Rhode Island Region

On Thursday, January 17, I was honored to be part of the Red Cross response to a partial building collapse in Meriden. The residents had been displaced the previous day and were housed by the City of Meriden. The City established a space at a local hotel where displaced residents could meet with Red Cross Disaster Action Team volunteers to assess other needs and provide some basic personal care items to the 17 families affected by the disaster.

The day was filled with surprises. Nothing can quite prepare you for the positive outlook some of our clients have, even in the face of such uncertainty. All of these families have lost belongings, some temporarily and some permanently. Each family is currently looking for a new place to live in the middle of the coldest winter in years. Disaster Action Team member Ginny Brezza and I met with a couple that has already been through a great deal of uncertainty and adversity. The gentleman has been facing many challenging health issues for over 20 years. He has conquered brain tumors for most of his life. This couple also has a 5-year-old son and a family who loves them very much. When Ginny and I complimented them on their positive outlook, they told us that when you’ve been through what they have been through, “this is nothing.” They had gone back into their apartment with a chaperone and retrieved the things that are impossible to replace: their wedding album, her grandmother’s engagement ring, her parents’ wedding album. They told us, “The rest is just stuff, and stuff can be replaced.” As we were wrapping up, we told the couple that we’re not worried about them at all, as their positive attitudes will surely carry the day for them. As our Red Cross team was leaving about an hour later, the gentleman was bringing two huge boxes of toys through the hotel lobby. When he saw us, he laughed and said, “See? We’re already getting presents!”

We had a rotating group of families in our Emergency Response Vehicle and at one point in the day volunteers Tom McKee, Ginny Brezza and I had a veritable comedy show going on. The clients appreciated our lightheartedness almost as much as we appreciated theirs. Sometimes a kind word or a laugh at just the right time makes all the difference.

I am grateful that I had the opportunity to witness the caring and compassionate nature of our volunteers firsthand and I look forward to many more opportunities to do so. My eyes filled with tears more than a few times, which I will consider an occupational hazard.

A big thank you to volunteers Ginny Brezza, Andrew Curtis, Lionel Dunlap, John Glendon, Barbara LaFreniere, Tom McKee, Laurie Murphy and Area 2 (South Central Connecticut) Senior Emergency Services Director Sue Parker for their great teamwork!

Area 2 Senior Emergency Services Director Sue Parker’s team included volunteers from both Area 2 and 3 (Central and Northern Connecticut), who worked as one cohesive team and got the job done. The fact that we managed to have some laughs and to talk about the news of the day helped a great deal, but I know that was only possible because we have the world’s best volunteers. It is our volunteers who make us the greatest organization on earth. Thank you for stepping up day after day and night after night. We would be nothing without your dedication and we salute the sacrifices you make in the service of those in need.

Get involved! To learn more about Red Cross volunteering, click here.

Help Now: Become a Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Volunteer

If you are a licensed mental health professional with a desire to help people, the American Red Cross has a fulfilling volunteer opportunity for you. Join us to support people who have been impacted by residential fires, disasters and other emergencies.

American Red Cross disaster response includes an important emotional support and mental health component aimed at helping people to cope with the emotionally difficult nature of disasters and to begin their own recovery.

There are a variety of ways to help and time commitments to choose from. The first step? Register and learn more here.

American Red Cross Helping One Person After Torrington Fire

The American Red Cross is helping one person with emergency housing, food and clothing needs after a fire earlier Monday on Griswold Street in Torrington.

The Red Cross is also providing comfort kits, containing age and gender appropriate personal care items such as toothbrushes, deodorant, shaving supplies and other items a family might not have been able to gather in the rush to escape the fire.  Children’s kits include a stuffed toy. 

American Red Cross disaster assistance is free of charge, a gift made possible by generous donations and the work of volunteers.  For more information about the Red Cross and how you can help, visit www.redcross.org 

American Red Cross Helping Seven People After Fires in New London, Danbury, Meriden

The American Red Cross is helping seven people after Saturday fires in New London, Danbury, Meriden.

The Red Cross is helping two adults with emergency housing, food and clothing needs after a fire Saturday night on Wayne Lane in Meriden.

In Danbury, the Red Cross is helping two adults with emergency housing, food and clothing needs after a Saturday afternoon fire on Peace Street in Danbury.

The Red Cross is helping three adults with emergency housing and food needs after a Saturday morning fire on Riverview Street in New London.

In all cases, the Red Cross is also providing comfort kits, containing age and gender appropriate personal care items such as toothbrushes, deodorant, shaving supplies and other items a family might not have been able to gather in the rush to escape the fire.

American Red Cross disaster assistance is free of charge, a gift made possible by generous donations and the work of volunteers.  For more information about the Red Cross and how you can help, visit www.redcross.org.

American Red Cross Helping Four People After New Britain Fire

The American Red Cross is helping a family of one adult and three children with emergency housing and food needs after a fire Thursday night on Seneca Street in New Britain.

The Red Cross is also providing comfort kits, containing age and gender appropriate personal care items such as toothbrushes, deodorant, shaving supplies and other items a family might not have been able to gather in the rush to escape the fire.  Children’s kits include a stuffed toy. 

American Red Cross disaster assistance is free of charge, a gift made possible by generous donations and the work of volunteers.  For more information about the Red Cross and how you can help, visit www.redcross.org.

American Red Cross Helping Two People After Hartford Fire

The American Red Cross is helping two adults with emergency housing, food and clothing needs after a fire late Monday night on Bliss Street in Hartford.

The Red Cross is also providing comfort kits, containing age and gender appropriate personal care items such as toothbrushes, deodorant, shaving supplies and other items a family might not have been able to gather in the rush to escape the fire. Children’s kits include a stuffed toy.

American Red Cross disaster assistance is free of charge, a gift made possible by generous donations and the work of volunteers. For more information about the Red Cross and how you can help, visit www.redcross.org.