Friday, August 26, 2011

Do you and your family have a plan?

Making a plan BEFORE a disaster is extremely important, because once it’s upon us, it’s too late to plan!  Your plan should have at least three parts to them, including:

The part I think people often over look is that final step, the plan for after the disaster. 
Assuming that everyone knows where to meet and how to get in touch with one another after a disaster can cause a lot of confusion and worry, which is why we suggest everyone discuss those plans now. 
Your household and family should have a plan that includes:

  • An outdoor meeting place- in case you need to quickly evacuate your home because of a fire or other emergency (I.e. a trusted neighbor’s home, a tree or mailbox across the street, make sure that it is NOT near a fire hydrant)
    • Should be a trusted neighbor's home, or a landmark near your home such as a mailbox or tree
      • Be sure to talk to your children and family about who in the neighborhood you are comfortable with them going to in case of an emergency
    • Having this place will allow you to definitively tell first responders whether there is someone that is still in the house.
  • An out of the neighborhood meeting place- in case your block/neighborhood is closed, your household should have a place that they go to (I.e. a school or a relative's home)
  • An out of state contact number- Often time local lines get tied up during a disaster.  Be sure that everyone in the household/family knows who they are supposed to be getting in contact with out of the state so that messages can be relayed.
  • A plan to list  yourself Safe and Well- This is a great tool that families can take advantage of, but if you’re planning on using it, be sure that everyone in your family knows to look for you listed there. 
For more information on making a plan, click here!

To learn more about what a hurricane is, how they are classified, and how to prepare for one, click here!

American Red Cross disaster preparedness starts long before a hurricane makes landfall, beginning with keeping supplies and equipment on stand-by all year to help people in need. On average, the Red Cross spends about $450 million on disaster relief every year. If someone would like to support Red Cross disaster efforts, they can make a donation to American Red Cross Disaster Relief by visiting, calling 1-800-RED CROSS, texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation, or sending contributions to their local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.     

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hurricane Irene

Photo courtesy of
As we watch the news day after day here in WNY, we keep expecting the news of that pesky Hurricane to subside! The East Coast just had an earthquake, and now a hurricane is hurling towards us? Come on! But alas, no matter how bizarre the phenomenons are, it’s our responsibility to get prepared. 

A cyclone is a low pressure system that generally forms in the tropics.  They are accompanied by thunderstorms and a counterclockwise circulation of winds near the earth's surface in the Northern Hemisphere. There are three types of cyclones:
*A sustained wind is a 1-minute average wind measured at about 33 ft above the surface
  • Tropical Depression- An organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds* of 38 mph (33 knots) or less
  • Tropical Storm- An organized system of strong thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds* of 39-73 mph (34-63 knots)
  • Hurricane- An intense tropical weather system of strong thunderstorms with a well-defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds* of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher
    • Hurricanes are categorized by the strength of their winds, with a category 1 having the weakest speed of wind and a category 5 having the strongest speed of winds. 
      • Category 1: Sustained winds of 74-95 mph
      • Category 2: Sustained winds of 96-110mph
      • Category 3: Sustained winds of 111-130mph
        • Hurricane Irene is currently a category 3
      • Category 4: Sustained winds of 131-155mph
      • Category 5: Sustained winds of 155+mph

The above information is courtesy of NOAA

Because this area of the United States is not particularly prone and/or used to storms like these, it’s important that we take extra time to learn how we can prepare.  That’s why we’ve compiled some great emergency preparedness tips on how to get ready for a hurricane, what to do during a hurricane, and what to do after a hurricane.

Before a hurricane
  • Know the difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning
    • A hurricane watch is when hurricane conditions are a threat within 48 hours so you should stay informed and be ready to act if a warning is issued.
    • A hurricane warning is when hurricane conditions are expecting within 36 hours, you should complete your hurricane preparations, stay informed, and be prepared to evacuate if told to do so
  • Take out extra cash in case the electricity goes out (ATM’s and credit card machines won’t work!)
  • Put all important items (I.e. birth certificates, deeds, wills, titles, cell phones, credit cards, camera) together in a plastic bag so that they do not get wet and so if you need to evacuate you can grab them and go 
    • On your camera or cell phone, take photos of your house and important items in your home so you have a record in case the storm does serious damage to your property
    • Worried about your home flooding? Visit to learn about getting coverage to protect your property
  • Stay informed
    • Be listening to the news or NOAA weather radio for information from the National Weather Service
  • Make sure your emergency supply kit is up-to-date and stocked with everything you and your family needs for at least 3 days
  • Bring in or anchor down anything that could blow away
  • Close and board up your windows and doors with plywood
  • Turn your refrigerator to the coldest setting and keep it closed, that way if the power goes out your food will stay good for longer
  • Turn off propane tanks and turn off small appliances
  • Make sure your car has gas in it in case you need to evacuate
  • Make sure that everyone in your family/household knows what your plans are if you need to evacuate
  • Find out what your community’s evacuation plans are and where shelter locations are
    • If you or someone in your family has special needs think about how you will be accommodating those
    • If you have pets, what is your plan for them? Many shelters don’t take animals
  • If told to evacuate, evacuate! Be sure to avoid flooded roads and washed out bridges 
During a hurricane
  • If you do not evacuate and are in your home, stay indoors and away from glass
  • Listen to NOAA or the news to stay up to date on the storm
  • Close all interior doors and secure all exterior doors
  • Keep all curtains and blinds closed
  • Take refuge in an interior room or hallway on the lowest level
  • Lie on the floor or under a table 

The above information is courtesy of FEMA
After a hurricane
  • Listen to NOAA to stay up to date on the storm
  • Stay alert for extended rainfall and subsequent flooding, even after the hurricane or tropical storm has ended
  • If you evacuated, return home only when officials say it is safe
  • Drive only if necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed-out bridges
  • Keep away from loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately to the power company
  • Stay out of any building that has water around it
  • Inspect your home for damage. Take pictures of damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance purposes
  • Use flashlights in the dark
    • Do NOT use candles
  • Avoid drinking or preparing food with tap water until you are sure it’s not contaminated
  • Check refrigerated food for spoilage. If in doubt, throw it out
  • Wear protective clothing and be cautious when cleaning up to avoid injury
  • Watch animals closely and keep them under your direct control
  •  Use the telephone only for emergency calls

For more information on hurricanes and how prepare for one, check out the Red Cross’ Hurricane Preparedness sheet , FEMA, NOAA, and check out the great information in the video below courtesy of MSNBC.

American Red Cross disaster preparedness starts long before a hurricane makes landfall, beginning with keeping supplies and equipment on stand-by all year to help people in need. On average, the Red Cross spends about $450 million on disaster relief every year. If someone would like to support Red Cross disaster efforts, they can make a donation to American Red Cross Disaster Relief by visiting, calling 1-800-RED CROSS, texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation, or sending contributions to their local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.                                                                     

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

When it quakes, we shake!

As we witnessed right here in WNY, and as you can see below, earthquakes can happen! 

Unlike our friends to the West, we aren’t really prepared to deal with them here on the East Coast.  We’ve been hearing stories about people evacuating buildings during the quake or simply not doing anything at all, but there is a protocol that we should all know and follow when we start to shake from a quake!

If indoors
  • Drop to the ground and take cover under something sturdy (I.e. a table or desk) and stay put
  • If there isn't anything for you to take cover under, crouch down in an inside corner of the building and cover your face and head with your arms
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors, walls, and anything that could fall off the wall or ceiling
  • Use a doorway for shelter ONLY if it is in close proximity to you and you know it is strongly supported, load bearing doorway
  • Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside
  • Most injuries occur when people try to change locations during an earthquake, so stay put!
  • Be aware that the electricity may go out, the sprinkler systems may turn on, and the fire alarms may go off
  • Do NOT use the elevator!

If outdoors
  • Stay outside
  • Move AWAY from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires
  • Most injuries occur from falling debris and collapsing walls

If in a moving vehicle
  • Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in vehicle
  • Try to not stop near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires
  • Drive cautiously once the earthquake stops and avoid roads, bridges, and ramps that might have been damaged

If trapped under debris
  • Do not light a match
  • Do not move about or kick up dust
  • Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing
  • To call attention to rescuers:
    • Tap on a pipe or wall
    • Blow a whistle (you should always carry one!)
    • Try to avoid yelling to prevent inhaling dust
For more information on what to do during an earthquake visit FEMA online!

For more information on how to prepare for an earthquake, what to do during and earthquake, and what to do after an earthquake, check on this Red Cross preparedness sheet!

Think you know everything about earthquakes? Take the QuakeQuiz, courtesy of the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management!
Information courtesy of

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Loads of Hope!

Photo courtesy of
One thing that we all take for granted is having clean clothes, especially after a major disaster.  Flooding devastated parts of North Dakota and has forced many residents from their homes.
Tide Loads of Hope is prepared to help relief workers and families whose clothing and personal items have been impacted.

This program was created in 2005 to provide a free laundry service to families affected by Hurricane Katrina.  Inspired by the resilience and spirit of the people of New Orleans, Tide decided to expand the Loads of Hope program.  Since then they have helped families affected by disaster in Southern California, Texas, Fargo, North Dakota, Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama, and Joplin, Missouri.

Today, the program includes the Tide Loads of Hope truck which has 32 energy efficient Frigidaire Affinity washers and dryers, and a fleet of vans that allow the Tide team to help more families then ever.  The team has washed over 46,000 loads of laundry for more than 36,000 families impacted by disasters.

To help support Tide Loads of Hope, purchase a Tide Loads of Hope vintage tee by visiting them online.  All profits go towards helping families affected by natural disaster.

Want to help support the Red Cross' relief efforts? Visit us online!

Information from this article was taken from an American Red Cross press release.

Monday, August 22, 2011

My favorite!

Photo courtesy of

Presentations are a big part of my position here at the American Red Cross, and over the months I have developed specific passions for sections of each presentation I give.  For example, my favorite part of the Be Red Cross Ready presentation is the “get a kit” portion.  Why you ask? I a very hands on person, and my audience always seem to come alive when I start asking for volunteers to come up and pull items out of my To Go kit.  Not only do they get to get up and stretch their legs, but it's always very interesting, and sometimes humerus, to hear what people, young and old, would use items such as a bag or rubber-bands for during an emergency. 

By the end of this show and tell portion, there are cans, bottles of water, emergency blankets, socks, play money (which is in my kit to represent real money!), granola bars, and books splayed over desks, but I try to save my favorite item for last... my radio!! 

Now, every emergency kit should have a battery or crank powered radio in it so that if the power goes out, you'll still be able to know what is going on in the community.  But I just happen to have a super fantastically deluxe version, which always inspires” ooo’s” and “ahh’s” from my audiences. 

This handy gadget, pictured above, has a built in LED light, a red flashing strobe light, 4 different power sources (crank power, batteries, electric, and solar power), a USB cell phone charger, NOAA weather-band with alert, and an AM/FM digital tuner!! And to top it all off, it is red!   

Do you have a favorite item in your emergency kit? If yes, please share below!!

Don’t have an emergency kit yet? Click here to get more information on how to make one!
Want to get one of these handy all in one radios? Click here to order one!