Thursday, November 15, 2018

Winter is Coming

Winter is coming! Or, to be more accurate, winter is here with much of the region under winter storm warnings and/or watches starting Thursday. Here in Western and Central New York, we're more than more than familiar with winter weather, but it's still important we're all prepared for the upcoming storms and weather that could make travel and being outside difficult:

  • Download the Emergency App for iPhone or for Android to get real time weather alerts, shelter locations, and additional safety tips
  • Talk with your family about what to do if a winter storm watch or warning is issued. Discussing winter storms ahead of time helps reduce fear, particularly for young children.
  •  Listen to local area radio, NOAA radio or TV stations for the latest information and updates.
  • Be prepared to evacuate if you lose power or heat and know your routes and destinations. Find a local emergency shelter.
  • Check emergency kit and replenish any items missing or in short supply, especially medications and medical supplies. Keep it nearby.
  • Be sure you have ample heating fuel.
  • If you have alternative heating sources, such as fireplaces, wood- or coal-burning stoves, or space heaters, be sure they are clean and in working order.
  • Check that your fire extinguisher(s) is in good working order, and replace it if necessary.
  • Bring your companion animals inside and ensure that your horses and livestock have blankets if appropriate and unimpeded access to shelter, food, and non-frozen water 
Driving in Winter Conditions
  • Keep in your vehicle:
    • A windshield scraper and small broom
    • A small sack of sand for generating traction under wheels and a set of tire chains or traction mats
    • Matches in a waterproof container
    • A brightly colored (preferably red) cloth to tie to the antenna
    • An emergency supply kit, including warm clothing. Bring enough of the following for each person:
      • Blankets or sleeping bags
      • Rain gear, extra sets of dry clothing, mittens, socks, and wool hats
      • Newspapers for insulation
      • Plastic bags for sanitation
      • Canned fruit, nuts, and high energy snacks (Include a non-electric can opener if necessary)
      • Warm broth in a thermos and several bottles of water
      • Keep a cell phone or two-way radio with you. Make sure the battery is charged.
      • Plan to travel during daylight and, if possible, take at least one other person with you.
  • Keep your vehicle’s gas tank full so you can leave right away in an emergency and to keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive. If your vehicle gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
  • Before leaving, listen to weather reports for your area and the areas you will be passing through, or call the state highway patrol for the latest road conditions.
  • Be on the lookout for sleet, freezing rain, freezing drizzle, and dense fog, which can make driving very hazardous

  • If You Become Stranded
    • Stay in the vehicle and wait for help. Do not leave the vehicle to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100 yards (91 meters). You can quickly become disoriented and confused in blowing snow.
    • Display a trouble sign to indicate you need help. Hang a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) on the radio antenna and raise the hood after snow stops falling.
    • Run the engine occasionally to keep warm. Turn on the engine for about 10 minutes each hour (or five minutes every half hour). Running the engine for only short periods reduces the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and conserves fuel. Use the heater while the engine is running. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, and slightly open a downwind window for ventilation.
    • Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so that you can be seen.
    • Do light exercises to keep up circulation. Clap your hands and move your arms and legs occasionally. Try not to stay in one position for too long.
    • If more than one person is in the vehicle, take turns sleeping. If you are not awakened periodically to increase body temperature and circulation, you can freeze to death.
    • Huddle together for warmth. Use newspapers, maps, and even the removable floor mats for added insulation. Layering items will help trap more body heat.
    • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. Severe cold can cause numbness, making you unaware of possible danger.
    • Drink fluids to avoid dehydration, which can make you more susceptible to the ill effects of cold and to heart attacks.
    • Avoid overexertion. Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Shoveling snow or pushing a vehicle can bring on a heart attack or make other medical conditions worse
    Staying Safe Outside
  • If you must go outside, protect yourself from winter storm hazards:
      • Wear layered clothing, mittens or gloves, and a hat. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Mittens or gloves and a hat will prevent the loss of body heat.
      • Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from severely cold air. Avoid taking deep breaths; minimize talking.
      • Watch for signs of hypothermia and frostbite.
      • Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses much of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly away from the body.
      • Stretch before you go out. If you go out to shovel snow, do a few stretching exercises to warm up your body. This will reduce your chances of muscle injury.
      • Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a vehicle, or walking in deep snow. The strain from the cold and the hard labor may cause a heart attack. Sweating could lead to a chill and hypothermia.
      • Walk carefully on snowy, icy sidewalks. Slips and falls occur frequently in winter weather, resulting in painful and sometimes disabling injuries.
      • If you must go out during a winter storm, use public transportation if possible. About 70 percent of winter deaths related to ice and snow occur in automobiles.
  • To protect your home during winter storms:
    • Learn how to protect pipes from freezing.
    • Make sure your home heating sources are installed according to local codes and permit requirements and are clean and in working order.
    • Make sure your home is properly insulated. Caulk and weather-strip doors and windowsills to keep cold air out.
    • Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside to provide an extra layer of insulation to keep cold air out.
    • Consider buying emergency heating equipment, such as a wood- or coal-burning stove or an electric or kerosene heater.
      • Stoves must be properly vented and in good working order. Dispose of ashes safely. Keep a supply of wood or coal on hand.
      • Electric space heaters, either portable or fixed, must be certified by an independent testing laboratory. Plug a heater directly into the wall socket rather than using an extension cord and unplug it when it is not in use.
      • Use a kerosene heater only if permitted by law in your area; check with your local fire department. Use only the correct fuel for your unit. Properly ventilate the area. Refuel the unit outdoors only, and only when the unit is cool. Follow all of the manufacturer's instructions.
    • Consider storing sufficient heating fuel. Regular fuel sources may be cut off. Be cautious of fire hazards when storing any type of fuel.
    • If you have a fireplace, consider keeping a supply of firewood or coal. Be sure the fireplace is properly vented and in good working order and that you dispose of ashes safely.
    • Consider installing a portable generator, following our safety tips to avoid home fires and carbon monoxide poisoning
    • Consider purchasing flood insurance, if you live in a flood-prone area, to cover possible flood damage that may occur during the spring thaw. Homeowners' policies do not cover damage from floods. Ask your insurance agent about the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) if you are at risk. More information on NFIP is available at

    Tuesday, October 23, 2018

    My Deployment Experience: Mark Kumro

    Mark Kumro, a Red Cross volunteer for three years, was one of the volunteers who made the trip to the Carolinas to help with Hurricane Florence relief.  Mark became a volunteer after retirement and says that anyone who is considering volunteering should consider the Red Cross because of the variety and flexibility of ways you can help.

    In the Carolinas, Mark worked in an Emergency Response Vehicle and a regional kitchen, helping deliver food to shelters.  This is Mark’s third deployment. To help provide support to residents of the affected communities, Mark and the other Red Cross volunteers talked positively and asked how they were doing. He says the people in the community were very appreciative of the work being done to help them. One story that stuck out to Mark was a disabled man who always seemed to be in a good mood even after the disaster, and enjoyed visiting with Mark and the other Red Cross volunteers. Mark says that he always feels good to give back and help.

    Joseph Levy, Communications Intern

    My Deployment Experience: Diane Sargent

    Diane Sargent, a Red Cross volunteer for the past 17 years, was one of the WCNY Red Cross Volunteers who traveled to North Carolina to help with the Hurricane Florence relief.  Diane has been a Red Cross volunteer since 2001 and became a volunteer after being inspired by seeing the Red Cross working in New York following 9/11. 

    Diane was assigned to work in disaster assessment, going into areas to determine the severity of the damage. Diane has recorded about 50 previous deployments.  She views the work as very rewarding and would tell people considering volunteering to, “Jump in, you’ll love it and want to do it again.” While in North Carolina, Diane worked long hours and spoke to many people but one person that stood out to her was an elderly woman whose house had been flooded. The woman had some health issues and lived alone, so Diane spent a lot of time listening to her story and providing support.

     Diane says that each assignment is a little different but one reoccurring observation is seeing regular people working together to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies. She values her work with the Red Cross and says it is very rewarding.

    Joseph Levy, Communications Intern

    Saturday, September 15, 2018

    21 Western and Central New York Volunteers Supporting Hurricane Florence Response

    20,000+ people in more than 200 shelters overnight Thursday

    BUFFALO, NY, Saturday, September 15, 2018 21 American Red Cross volunteers and two Emergency Response Vehicles (ERV) from the Western and Central New York Region are deploying to support the response to Hurricane Florence (updates in bold):

    NAME                                    HOMETOWN          ACTIVITY                 LOCATION
    John Thomas Aldasch            Canastota                   Sheltering                   North Carolina
    Pete Bonaccorso                        Fairport                         ERV Driver                   North Carolina
    Donna Davis                       Burdett                     Gov Ops                    South Carolina
    Michelle Fiermonte                Syracuse                     Sheltering                   North Carolina
    Laurie Hagen                             West Seneca                  Sheltering                      North Carolina
    Charlene Hanson                   Niagara Falls              Health Services          South Carolina
    Chuck Haupt                       Owego                       Distribution            South Carolina
    Thomas Lee Hough                East Syracuse             Sheltering                   North Carolina
    Tom Margrave                    Cortland                   Spiritual Care         North Carolina
    Diana McLaughlin                 Rochester                   Staff Services              South Carolina
    Lewis Montemaggi                 Pittsford                      Sheltering                   North Carolina
    Lorraine Morris                      Bath                            Customer Service       North Carolina
    Donald Nelson                   Endwell                    Sheltering                South Carolina
    Deborah Scherberger             Rochester                   Sheltering                   South Carolina
    Christine Schutterop        Pittsford                   Sheltering                North Carolina
    Steven Schwartz                Buffalo                      Staff Relations        South Carolina
    Mark Sennett                         Fairport                       Sheltering                   South Carolina
    Beverly Skinner                      Liverpool                    Health Services          South Carolina
    Deb Thompson                          Lima                               ERV Driver                    North Carolina
    Mary Jane Uttech              Marathon                 Health Services      North Carolina
    Barbara Woodarek           Great Valley             Feeding                     South Carolina

    In addition, four regional volunteers are supporting the response virtually: Lucille Frisicano of Webster, Sarah Perkins of Pittsford, Nancy Hall of Trumansburg, and Suganthi Roy of Rochester.

    The American Red Cross is helping people in multiple states as Hurricane Florence pummels the Carolinas with strong winds, heavy rain and dangerous tidal surges. Twice the size of Louisiana, Florence is inundating communities and leaving hundreds of thousands without power.
    As Hurricane Florence comes ashore, the Red Cross is providing safe shelter and comfort for evacuees across six states. More than 20,000 people sought refuge in more than 200 Red Cross and community shelters Thursday night to escape the storm’s wrath. View some of their stories here.

    As of midnight, 14,000 people were in 124 shelters in North Carolina, and 5,600 people in 59 shelters in South Carolina. An additional 430 people stayed in 23 shelters in Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee and Maryland.

    About 2,000 Red Cross disaster workers from all over the country have been mobilized to help shelter, feed and support people affected by Florence. Working with partners, the Red Cross has served 47,000 meals and snacks in North Carolina and South Carolina. To bolster relief efforts, the Red Cross is mobilizing nearly 100 emergency response vehicles and more than 120 trailers of equipment and supplies, including 100,000 ready-to-eat meals and enough cots and blankets for more than 42,000 people.

    Some evacuation centers may not have cots, food, running water or electricity; they are meant to safely house people for about 72 hours until the storm passes and weather conditions improve. If needed, local government officials may transition evacuation centers into emergency shelters if residents can’t return home after the storm passes. The Red Cross supports pre-landfall evacuation centers and post-landfall emergency shelters with trained workers, shelter supplies and other aid.
    Since September 11, more than 2.5 million weather alerts have been sent through Red Cross apps to help people make lifesaving decisions.

    HOW YOU CAN HELP The Red Cross depends on financial donations to be able to provide disaster relief immediately. Help people affected by Hurricane Florence by visiting, calling 1- 800-RED CROSS or texting the word FLORENCE to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
    Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from this disaster.

    The Red Cross honors donor intent. Donors can designate their donation to Hurricane Florence relief efforts by choosing that option when donating on or on 1-800-RED CROSS.
    The best way to ensure your donation will go to a specific disaster is to write the specific disaster name in the memo line of a check. We also recommend completing and mailing the donation form on with your check.

    PLEASE GIVE BLOOD More than 140 blood drives have been canceled through early next week due to Hurricane Florence, resulting in over 4,200 uncollected blood and platelet donations. Eligible donors in unaffected areas are urged to make an appointment now to give blood or platelets to help maintain the nation’s blood supply. There is a critical need to platelet and type O blood donations. Appointments can be made by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
    Get tips on how to prepare and stay safe at

    About the American Red Cross:
    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.