Friday, July 29, 2016

Important Red Cross PSA: Top 6 #Sharknado4 Survival Tips

Meteorologists are saying that a fourth Sharknado is about to hit the United States. As we all remember, the Great Sharknado of 2014 (Sharknado: The Second One) was a true tragedy that completely wrecked New York City. Luckily for us, and sadly for them, this time it appears the upcoming Sharknado will be hitting Las Vegas on July 31. For those of you who were lucky enough to miss the last three Sharknados, a Sharknado is a tornado that carries sharks from the water and flings these deadly creatures around various cities. As this inevitable storm approaches we are here to give you tips on how to survive a Sharknado, or any other major disaster.

Tip 1: Make an Emergency Communications Plan

We suggest getting as far away from Finn Shepard as you can during a Sharknado. Since Finn and sharks seem to go together almost as much as peanut butter and jelly, staying away from him might be your best safety plan. Even if you have managed to avoid Mr.Shepard you should still make a communications plan with your friends and family. You should have two designated spots to meet -- one right outside your home, and one outside your neighborhood in case your house gets destroyed by falling sharks. As with any emergency, local phone lines tend to get overloaded or go out of service, because of this, the Red Cross suggests you have contacts outside your immediate area -- long distance calls will be easier to make. Trust us, you will want to know where your friends and family are when the sharks start raining down.

Tip 2: Have a Sharknado Preparedness Kit

Due to the randomness of the weather phenomenon, it is important to have an emergency Sharknado preparedness kit on hand because you never know when a shark may attack. Although we know from previous Sharknados that having chainsaws and lasers are key to beating the sharks, you may want to have some other supplies handy as well. Hopefully a spacesuit will not be needed for this storm since those are hard to come by. Here are some essential items to put in your emergency kit:
  • Potable Water—one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home) 
  • Food—non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
  • Flashlight
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit (We will talk about this more in detail later.)
  • Medications (7-day supply) and medical items
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • Map(s) of the area
  • Emergency blanket (to pull over your head when a shark is heading your direction)

Tip 3: Know your Flood Zone

Sharknados bring heavy rainfall and flooding with them. To avoid becoming a midnight snack for the sharks, check the New York City Office of Emergency Management’s evacuation zone map to find the shelters closest to you.

Tip 4: Download free Red Cross Disaster Apps

Download the free American Red Cross emergency mobile apps for iPhone and Android for tornado, flood and hurricane alerts, as well as first aid information and more. When severe weather (and/or sharks) loom, you want to stay informed. Our mobile apps provide lifesaving tips and real-time information about severe weather threats. These apps are available in English and Spanish.

Tip 5: Take First Aid Training and Assemble a First Aid Kit

In a Sharknado simple first aid skills are just as important for life saving as chainsaw skills are. You’ll need to perform some basic first aid techniques when others have been wounded fending off sharks or if family members have been injured while evacuating. Having a first aid kit ready is also helpful. You can find a premade kit from the Red Cross Store. If you decide to assemble your own first aid kit, make sure to include the following items: 
  • 2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
  • 25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
  • 1 roll of adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
  • 5 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)
  • 5 antiseptic wipe packets
  • 2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)
  • 1 blanket (space blanket)
  • 1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
  • 1 instant cold compress
  • 2 pair of non-latex gloves (size: large)
  • 2 hydro-cortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each)
  • Scissors
  • 1 roller bandage (3 inches wide)
  • 1 roller bandage (4 inches wide)
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches)
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)
  • Oral thermometer (non-mercury/non-glass)
  • 2 triangular bandages
  • Tweezers
  • First aid instruction booklet

Tip 6: Take a Citizens Preparedness Training Class

The 2014 Sharknado inspired New York state officials to begin a free online Citizens Preparedness Training program open to all residents. For those that have never practiced preparedness, this training gives a comprehensive review of how to prepare for all kinds of common disasters, what to do when disaster strikes, and what actions you can take to help recover.

After completing all of these steps you will be prepared for a Sharknado, and any other type of disaster. Good luck out there.

*This post is based around a real movie based on a fictional event. These tips are real.

Monday, July 25, 2016

In Case You Missed It - July 25

Red Cross provides assistance to residents of Hempstead apartment fire.

Over the last 7 days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 71 adults and 26 children following 51 local disasters. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities (see below).

Last Week in Review

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

Monday, July 18, 2016

In Case Your Missed It - July 18

Red Crossers supporting riders at the Town of Babylon's 9th Annual Soldier Ride

Over the last 7 days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 114 adults and 30 children following 30 local disasters. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities (see below).

Last Week in Review

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

Thursday, July 14, 2016

5 Red Cross Tips for Staying Safe While Playing Pokemon Go

Since the much-anticipated release of Pokemon Go less than a week ago, you can find would-be trainers on nearly every corner of NYC, capturing wild Pokemon and battling at local “gyms”. The game is a major hit around the world as well, attracting millions of fans to “catch ‘em all” in the latest version of this popular game series. But the excitement behind the mobile game has also revealed a few risks players face while pursuing rare Pokemon. Here at the Red Cross, safety is very important to us, so we wanted to share a few tips for Master Trainers to stay safe while playing their favorite new mobile game.

1. Get a Portable Battery Charger and make a Pokemon Go Kit

Many trainers have probably noticed that playing Pokemon Go can quickly drain your smartphone’s battery. So pick up a portable battery charger to get you through long gameplay sessions, and while you’re at it stock up on other preparedness supplies like a flashlight and first aid kit to create a Pokemon Preparedness Go Kit which will keep you ready for any adventure or emergency.

2. Enable Battery Saver Mode and Be Mindful of Your Surroundings

One of the potential pitfalls to how much fun people are having playing Pokemon Go are the real-world accidents the game can cause. To minimize risks, you don't have to constantly look down at your screen while playing. Avoid incoming buses and other hazards by enabling the Battery Saver option under the Settings menu so when you hold your phone upside down by your side, the screen will dim. Not only will you save valuable battery life, but your phone will still vibrate to alert you of any new Pokemon that have popped-up nearby, so you don’t have to worry about missing Pikachu while you walk.

3. Travel in Groups

In addition to injuries, there are some safety concerns that have arisen while playing. When playing in the evening or traveling to locations that you aren't familiar with, please use the buddy system and travel in groups to minimize your risk of falling victim to any nefarious plans of Team Rocket. Besides, it’s way more fun to play Pokemon with friends!

4. Stay Hydrated

Pokemon Go’s much anticipated launch started in the middle of a hot summer season. Going out and meeting other trainers in parks and public spaces is great, but make sure you stay hydrated and learn the signs of a potential heat-stroke. Not only will it help you keep hydrated, but it might help you catch a few more water-type Pokemon.

5. Download First Aid and Emergency Apps

By heeding the advice of this guide, hopefully you'll avoid emergencies. But accidents can still happen and maybe someone less prepared might need your help. Download the Red Cross’ First Aid and Emergency Apps to become a real-life hero who knows what to to do during an emergency. You'll also be alerted of flash flooding or tornadoes to avoid beyond those created during your Pokemon battles.

Using these safety tips, you should become a Master Trainer in no time. We hope you’ll have fun trapping and training all the Pokemon you can catch!

Bonus Tip: Greater NY Red Cross headquarters is also a Poke Stop! Stop by for a Blood Drive or First Aid and CPR Class and collect some Pokeballs and Potions while you're at it!

Client Services...The Road to Recovery!

By Stan Frank, American Red Cross

If your house or apartment burned down tomorrow and you lost everything, what would you do? Where would you go? How would you live? What would you need to recover your life? These are the questions Red Cross Client Services answers every day in New York City for victims of fires, floods, building vacates and other emergencies.

Chris Losavio, NYC Regional Casework Manager
Chris Losavio, Regional Casework Manager, oversees the Client Services Office located on the first floor of the midtown Manhattan headquarters of the Greater New York Red Cross. Chris joined the Red Cross as a Case Manager after Hurricane Sandy struck in 2012. When his contract was over, he worked as a Program Associate at Enterprise Community Partners. Chris rejoined the Red Cross in 2015 as Regional Casework Manager.

A graduate of Rutgers University with a major in Psychology, Chris has broad experience in all aspects of recovery and helping individuals move from helplessness to self-sufficiency. “Although what our responders do for residents in the immediate aftermath of a disaster is very important,” he says, “what we do after that is critical for their long-term recovery. What the Caseworkers do is the heart of what we do for those we serve.”

Chris manages a staff of three veteran caseworkers: Lilliam Rivera-Cruz, Patrick DeOssi and Meaghan Wood. Lilliam, who has more than 20 years of experience at the Red Cross, began working for the organization in 1993 in Brooklyn, then moved to the Queens office as Assistant Manager, and subsequently worked as a volunteer Service to the Armed Forces Caseworker and in the Emergency Communications Center in Manhattan. In 2005, she became a Client Caseworker. “My passion in life is to help others,” she said. “As a Caseworker, I come to work every day like it is my first day and I go home every night with the feeling I helped someone in need. There is no better feeling!”

The New York Client Services Team: Meaghan Wood, Lilliam Rivera-Cruz and Patrick DeOssi
Patrick DeOssi, a graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, began working as a volunteer in Logistics in 2009 at the Greater New York Headquarters. He became a “Jack-of-all-Trades” and did everything from setting up shelters for displaced disaster victims, to handling transportation needs for the Chapter, to organizing corporate events with volunteers from major companies such as American Express and Anheuser Busch. From there, he moved on to become a full-time Responder, and about a year ago began working as a Caseworker in Client Services. “My whole career has been dedicated to public service,” he said. “Working in Client Services gives me the satisfaction of helping people literally rebuild their lives after a disaster."

Meaghan Wood, a graduate of SUNY Purchase, joined the Red Cross in 2014 after working for Teach-For-America in North Carolina and serving in the Red Cross/AmeriCorps program for one year. In the AmeriCorps program, Meaghan gained hands-on experience as a Responder at the Greater New York Headquarters, and later trained other Responders in the field. In January 2015, she was deployed to Cape Cod where she did damage assessment after the massive snowstorm Juno devastated the Cape with 31” of snow and caused major coastal flooding. Two months later in March, when a gigantic gas explosion destroyed several buildings in New York’s East Village, Meaghan was called on to organize a reception center in a local library and set up a Client Assistance Center to handle emergency casework needs for dozens of displaced residents.

When someone comes into the Client Services office, the first thing Caseworkers do is review the case notes submitted by the Responders, who were first deployed to the scene of the disaster. They learn the details of the disaster, the condition of the residence, the number of displaced people, what financial assistance and temporary housing have already been provided to the individual, etc. Then, they meet privately, one-on-one with residents and assess their needs. If necessary, they utilize interpreters to translate for them. Primary needs typically include housing, clothing, food, mental health/health services and infant needs.

Housing is usually the first priority. On average the Red Cross is able to provide emergency housing for displaced residents in local hotels for two to three days. Caseworkers are then able to provide alternatives for more permanent lodging. One such option is to refer them to HPD, the NYC housing agency, which can make arrangements to temporarily place households in longer-term housing facilities. Partner organizations such as the Samaritan Village’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) are also able to assist families. Sometimes, caseworkers work with sympathetic apartment building owners to relocate their displaced tenants to other buildings which they own.

The caseworkers can also issue Client Assistance Cards which are debit cards that can be used to purchase clothing, food, household supplies, furniture, etc. If necessary, additional emergency assistance is also available via one-time emergency grants. Additionally, the Greater New York Red Cross works with various retailers who are able to sometimes donate merchandise to disaster victims. One example are Bob’s Discount Furniture and Ikea.

When a disaster such as a fire strikes, residents frequently lose all of their personal possessions such as their credit cards, drivers licenses, Social Security cards, birth certificates, citizenship papers, income tax information, banking records, immigration cards, veteran ID cards, etc. The Caseworkers provide displaced residents with information on how to recover such documentation. When needed, caseworkers will also help contact victims' families or relatives to keep them informed about their loved ones.

Mental health services may be helpful for people affected by disasters. Professionally-licensed Mental Health Volunteers are available (in person or by phone) in the Client Services office and in the field. As you can imagine, losing your home to a fire, flood or other disaster can be devastating and emotional reactions often result. If desired, Mental Health volunteers will listen confidentially to displaced residents and their families about effects of the disaster and discuss how they can best cope. Spiritual Care Workers and referrals for on-going emotional counseling can also be arranged. In addition to mental health services, Caseworkers can also provide vouchers for other disaster-related health needs, such as the purchase of eyeglasses, contact lenses, medications, etc.

Chris and his caseworkers are sometimes called upon to address recovery needs outside the New York area. Lilliam, for example, just returned from Texas where she was deployed for two weeks to help victims left homeless by the recent floods there. She was stationed in Houston where she was Co-Manager at a local service center. There she supervised local Caseworkers and other volunteers from all over the U.S. to ensure the recovery needs of affected families were met.

Client Services at the Red Cross is where disaster victims take the next step towards recovery. Thank you to Red Cross workers like Chris, Lilliam, Meghan and Patrick for ensuring that no one has to face this daunting process alone.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Notes From Deployment - West Virginia Flooding

A few weeks ago West Virginia experienced catastrophic flooding in large parts of the state, uprooting and displacing thousands of people from their homes and disrupting countless lives. In the wake of this historic weather event that tragically took nearly two dozen lives, the Red Cross has been on the ground offering temporary shelter, food, health services, emotional support and much more. Staff and volunteers from the Greater New York Region have deployed to join the flood relief efforts. This week, several of these Red Crossers will share their stories, impressions, observations and photos from West VA. Here is a collection of snapshots from their days on the ground.

Andrew Sindell is the Manager of Volunteer Services for the Metro NY North Chapter and deployed on July 7 to manage volunteers in West Virginia.

Thursday, July 14 | Andrew
Today I worked with local volunteer ERV (Emergency Response Vehicle) drivers to support an event this Saturday sponsored by Tzu Chi. Tzu Chi is an international disaster relief organization the Red Cross has worked with in New York. The event will be supported by our volunteers who will be distributing items and driving the ERV trucks to West Virginian residents affected by the flooding.

Lilliam Rivera-Cruz is a caseworker at the Greater NY headquarters. In West Virginia, Lilliam is helping in different roles, including casework and damage assessment.

Wednesday, July 13 | Lilliam
Today was my first experience with an Integrated Care and Condolence Team (ICCT). The ICCT provides services to families and friends of missing, injured and deceased loved ones. A wide and confusing range of emotions may be experienced after a loss: denial, disbelief, numbness, anger, blame, sadness and crying. Our team included Disaster Mental Health, Health Services, Individual Client Services and Spiritual Care. It is a very important, yet emotional task. The therapy dogs were brought to the office as well.

Andrew Sindell is the Manager of Volunteer Services for the Metro NY North Chapter and deployed on July 7 to manage volunteers in West Virginia.

Wednesday, July 13 | Andrew
Our main goal moving forward is to provide additional truck drivers and find volunteers to assist with administrative projects.
Right now we are working on placing EBV's (Event Based Volunteers) as drivers in the Greenbrier County area which was one of the hardest hit areas. Greenbrier County is in the Southwest part of the state and they are currently continuing bulk distribution.
We have one shelter that is still operating so we are actively recruiting volunteers.
We also have groups of volunteers that are working with us to complete various projects such as cleaning Emergency Response Vehicles and making cards to thank our volunteers.

Ana Torres is a volunteer from Westchester deployed as a caseworker from July 5-17. Caseworkers meet with affected residents one-on-one to provide Red Cross assistance and to connect them to available community resources.

Monday, July 11 | Ana 
Right now I’m doing casework in the parking lot of a school that is completely destroyed; we’re sitting outside in a tent at tables with our computers. People come in and we verify the damage to their home. For many who sustained damage we are able to give them a debit card with emergency funds for basic necessities. We also make sure they go to FEMA. One woman came in after the damage to her home was assessed, her house was destroyed and we were able to help her, her husband and their two kids. Another woman came in and met with us; once we had all her information she told us she could fix her own house, that we should find someone else who needs the money more to give the funds to. We will be here until 8 p.m., we were here yesterday, we are here today and here tomorrow.

Lilliam Rivera-Cruz is a caseworker at the Greater NY headquarters. In West Virginia, Lilliam is helping in different roles, including casework and damage assessment.

Monday, July 11 | Lilliam
Today, I worked with five families.
On the way to our operations headquarters I stopped to have a mini lunch. When I was ready to pay my bill, the cashier approached me about her sister who had been affected by the flooding and received a Red Cross debit card [for emergency assistance]. I gave the cashier my Red Cross phone number so I could answer her questions.
Then, as I was walking to leave the restaurant, a man approached me and asked if his mother, who lost everything during the floods, could speak to me before I leave. I sat down with the entire family and discussed how they could receive additional assistance. "The Red Cross is amazing,” said the man. "Thank you."

Sunday, July 10 | Lilliam
Over the course of yesterday and today, we have canvassed 41 houses in the town of Rupert, doing damage assessments.
Roads in the city of Crawley were closed due to floods. Part of the street is gone with rocks all over. Today, my team member and I visited houses one by one performing damage assessment in specific areas. We also spoke to families and offered disaster mental health services. Every visit, every interview, every moment has its own unique emotion: the look in their eyes, the tears running through their face, the thank you and hugs!

Andrew Sindell is the Manager of Volunteer Services for the Metro NY North Chapter and deployed on July 7 to manage volunteers in West Virginia.

Sunday, July 10 | Andrew

I am working in Staff Services with EBV's (Event Based Volunteers) from the local community to try to place them into open opportunities we have. Some are driving trucks, working in the warehouse, helping with damage assessment and many other administrative projects. So far we have placed over 120 EBV's on this operation since it started in late June. I also traveled to volunteer reception centers to see what the needs were for other organizations so I could make appropriate referrals.

Patty Jones, a volunteer from New York City, is virtually deployed to a call center here in NYC to support the victims of the West Virginia floods.

Saturday, July 9 | Patty
We record as much information as we can into the call log, which is a spreadsheet. Sometimes we can respond to the calls ourselves, like I did for a woman who needed debris removed from her porch. Most of the repairs and cleanup were done themselves but her husband is in his seventies and she thought it would be too much. So I put them in touch with a local volunteer organization I knew of to help remove the debris. There are many calls from other people who have done most of the repairs and cleanup, they just need a little extra help. Based on what I’ve heard and seen in the call logs, West Virginia residents are very resilient. They’ll share their story and tell me what’s been going on and what they’re doing to fix it.
One call I got was from a homeowner whose house was destroyed in the floods. I directed him to a nearby Red Cross service center and connected him with a caseworker to help go through the recovery process.

Monday, July 11, 2016

In Case You Missed It - July 11

The Hunter College Red Cross Club and Red Cross Volunteers installing smoke alarms in the Bronx.

Over the last 7 days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 63 adults and 43 children following 37 local disasters. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities (see below).

Last Week in Review 

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Kicking Off the Holiday Weekend with Summer Safety on Good Day NY

by Kate Walpole, American Red Cross
(L to R): Greg Kelly, Andy Slutsky and Rosanna Scotto.
Last Friday, Red Cross certified lifeguard and water safety instructor Andy Slutsky appeared on FOX 5's Good Day New York. The morning show’s theme was a pool party to kick off the Fourth of July weekend. Anchors Rosanna Scotto and Greg Kelly made sure to remind people to be safe while having fun. Andy talked about pool safety and why it’s important to make sure both adults and children know how to swim.

Andy is the owner of Aquatic Solutions, Inc., an American Red Cross Authorized Provider and Licensed Training Provider organization that provides training and services to aquatic and camp professionals through Red Cross classes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 10 people die in the U.S. from unintentional drowning every day; 1 in 5 of them are children 14 years or younger.

Andy discussed the importance of constant and active parental supervision of children swimming even when a lifeguard is present. He urged both adults and children learn how to swim because it can help prevent drowning. According to a Red Cross survey, more than half of all Americans (54 percent) either can’t swim or don’t have all of the basic swimming skills.

The Red Cross and its Scientific Advisory Council recommend that everyone learn to perform critical water safety skills, referred to as “water competency.” The skills, performed sequentially, include being able to:
  1. Step or jump into the water over your head;
  2. Return to the surface and float or tread water for one minute;
  3. Rotate in a full circle and find an exit;
  4. Swim 25 yards to the exit; and
  5. Exit from the water. If in a pool, be able to exit without using the ladder.
Participation in formal swim lessons can reduce the likelihood of childhood drowning death by 88%. To find classes for your family, contact your local aquatic facility and ask for American Red Cross swimming and water safety programs, or visit

"My most important tip is to watch your children very carefully and be near them at all times," urged Andy. "Always be right next to them when at a pool or beach. In a split second they can get into a dangerous situation. Another important tip is to get kids, and adults for that matter, swimming lessons if they do not know how to swim. Adults often take kids into the water and, if they themselves are not good swimmers, they can endanger themselves and their child in the event they get into deep water. Also, making sure children have a US Coast Guard-approved PFD (Personal Flotation Device) is key to safety if they are not proficient swimmers."

Andy also performed a hands-only CPR demonstration. This simple-to-learn and easy-to-remember technique increases the likelihood of surviving cardiac emergencies that occur outside medical settings for those who are not CPR certified.

"It is always an honor to represent the American Red Cross and last week's interview on Good Day New York was so much fun," said Andy. "We were on a rooftop pool with fantastic weather overlooking most of NYC and the hosts and production team were really great and made it very enjoyable for everyone."

To watch Andy discuss water safety on Good Day New York, click here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

In Case You Missed It- July 5

Image from Safety Town Education Program (Photo: Matt LaMonica)

Over the last 7 days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 113 adults and 35 children following 39 local disasters. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities (see below).

Last Week in Review

Upcoming Events and Opportunities
  • Calling all golf lovers! Barclays is looking for support at the PGA tour playoffs this summer from August 23-28 in Farmingdale, LI. Signing up gets you full admission to the tournament for you and a guest. Learn more about this great opportunity. Don't forget to select American Red Cross as your affiliation when you register! 
  • July 5, 6 & 11: Red Cross blood drive: 1 to 7pm: 520 West 49th Street, Manhattan. Schedule an appointment to donate today. 
  • June 25: #GetAlarmedNYC is coming to Wakefield, Bronx. Volunteer to help out, or sign up to get a free smoke alarm installed in your home.