Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Alleviating Back to School Anxieties

by Carol Grinage, volunteer contributor

It’s that time of year again when parents are excited because their children are returning to school; however, despite the relief parents may feel now that summer is over, children may not feel the same relief. Instead, children may feel anxiety.

For some children, returning to school is filled with the excitement of reuniting with friends from the previous school year and meeting new teachers. For other children, however, back to school causes a host of concerns.

The concerns that a child may experience can depend on the child’s age. Younger children or children attending school for the first time may experience concerns about being separated from a parent or another caregiver. Adolescent worries may involve social anxieties such as will they fit in and will they have the “right” clothes.

Concerns a child may have are:
  • Who will be my new teacher?
  • Will any of my friends be in my class?
  • Will I fit in?
  • Are my clothes okay?
  • Will the other children be mean?

One of the best ways to alleviate or reduce some of these concerns is through preparation:

  1. Make sure your child has the correct supplies for school. To do this, contact the school and/or the teacher to receive a supply list. Some schools will have prepared packets that they sell directly to parents, or they can provide a preferred store to purchase supplies. 
  2. Take your child shopping for back-to-school clothes. Although you may be tempted to want to choose what your child wears for the first day of school, don’t. Let your child choose his/her own clothes. It is not necessary to purchase an entire wardrobe for back-to-school. For most children, the key clothing item is what they wear the first day of school. 
  3. Discuss fears that your child may have. Fears are normal, and by addressing these fears, your child knows that back-to-school anxiety is something many children experience. 
  4. Discuss the “what ifs.” Sometimes children are afraid of what could happen, such as what if I don’t like my teacher or what if my friends no longer like me. Discuss these issues and make a plan because a plan gives the child some semblance of control if something feared does occur. For example, if a child fear getting lost and not being able to find the bathroom, take the child to school and walk around and locate the bathrooms and the classroom.
  5. Visit the school, meet the teacher, and plan the route to school. Make the school routine familiar so that when the first day of school rolls around, the routine will be familiar and not anxiety producing.
  6. Focus on the positive aspect of returning to school. Ask your child to name three things that they look forward to with the return to school.
  7. Prepare the night before. When the first day of school arrives, make sure that clothes and lunches and snacks are ready the night before. Make sure your child goes to bed early, eats a good breakfast and arrives early to school. Lastly, if possible, arrange for your child to go to school with a friend because there is strength in numbers.

As you help your child deal with back-to-school anxiety, remember that this anxiety is only temporary, and that within a few weeks, everyone will be back to the school year routine.  Good luck!

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Red Cross Guide to the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards

By Emily Ergas, intern contributor

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time of year again! The Primetime Emmy Awards will take place tonight, August 25th at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles and will air on NBC at 7 PM Central Time. With Seth Meyers hosting, the show is sure to be full of laughs, questionable fashion choices and talent.

Everyone has their opinions on the nominees whether good (yay Game of Thrones!) or bad (what about Orphan Black? The Americans?).  In order to be fully prepared to judge who should win and who should not, we here at the Red Cross have supplied a listing of TV series to sample along with some relevant information each show probably needs to incorporate in its characters' daily lives.

The Walking Dead – It’s only been nominated for two Emmys this year in Outstanding Special and Visual Effects in a Supporting Role and Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series, but this series is a fan favorite without a doubt. With zombies milling about, it’s best to find a nice and fortified shelter in which to live/hide. These guys should get the Red Cross shelter app which provides detailed maps and locations of the nearest shelter.

Game of Thrones – Another huge fan favorite, it leads the nomination count with 19! It’s obvious to us that characters on this show should become familiar with our pet heat safety tips. Even dragons need some cooling off! And if you think the dragons are just fine in the heat, let’s protect those direwolves, goodness knows their owners aren’t lasting.

Orange is the New Black – This Netflix original series based on a woman’s experiences in prison has gained fans and critical acclaim alike. It received 12 nominations this year, including the first nomination for a transgender actor. All the women in this series deal with prison life and life after major upheaval which takes a toll on their mental health. We recommend looking at our Disaster Mental Health Safety page to learn how to cope with the aftermath.

True Detective – Equal parts mysterious and gripping, this HBO series about two detectives on the hunt for a serial murder sees both of its leads nominated in the Best Actor category. While rumors continue about who will be the cast next season, we’d like to strongly suggest any characters on this show pick up a Red Cross survival kit. They should be prepared for whatever awaits.

House of Cards – The first original online-only web series to receive Emmy nominations follows up with 13 nominations for its second season of political drama. Since these characters’ lives revolve around their work, it’s probably best that their workplace is fully prepared.

Modern Family – Another Emmys, another round of nominations for this hit classic comedy about a modern family in California. With the arrival of a new baby this past season, we think his brother and cousins should brush up on their babysitter training with our class.

Breaking Bad – Entering the Guinness World Records this year as the highest rated show of all time, this show about a high school chemistry teacher who turns to a life selling methamphetamine (meth) to provide for his family after his cancer diagnosis, definitely 100% needs to check out our chemical emergency preparedness tips. Also the home fire safety page. Seriously.

There are a few of the big names nominated this year. For the complete list, visit http://www.emmys.com/awards/nominees-winners. Tune in on August 25th to see who the winners are! (And if you’re like me, tune in early to check out the fashion as well.)

Good luck to all the nominees from the American Red Cross!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

How Should Senior Citizens Prepare for a Disaster?

By Carol Grinage, volunteer contributor

August 21st is Senior Citizen Day! It is a day to celebrate our older generations; the contributions they've made and the roles they have in our lives. It is also a day to remember to take care and think of them. With disasters occurring daily throughout the world, it is important to remember that our older generations should be just as prepared.

How do senior citizens prepare for a disaster? When I first mentioned this topic to my mother, she became angry, and she said, “Senior citizens don’t prepare any differently than other people.”

I respectfully disagreed and mentioned the number of senior citizens who died in the Chicago heatwave years ago.

My mom, then, regretfully agreed, “Yes, we do have to consider our lives today. We still think we are 20 and can do everything that we used to do until an emergency occurs, and we realize that we don’t have the same bodies that we had at 20 and can’t do the things we used to be able to easily do.”

After some discussion and research, here are some ways seniors can prepare for a disaster.

  1. Prepare an Emergency Kit
  2. Make a Plan
  3. Be Informed

Prepare Your Kit

Make an emergency kit. Put medications, identification, contact phone numbers, prescriptions, and vital information in this kit. Also, put enough food, water, and medical supplies for three days in it.

Because this kit may be heavy, it is better to put it in smaller bags that may have wheels. Make sure that you put your name on it and on any wheelchairs, canes, or walkers or any items that will not be placed in the kit.

Make a Plan

You may not think a disaster will occur in your area, but you never know. As the saying goes, “Better safe than sorry”. When an emergency does occur, you will be glad that you have a plan in place.

Discuss your action plan with family members and have at least one emergency contact who does not live in the area. This contact is necessary because quite often it is the local phone service that may not work, but you will be able to contact someone outside of the area. This person will need to know your whereabouts and contact information.

In addition, plan a meeting place whether it is a shelter or someone’s home. If you no longer drive, plan transportation; whether it is emergency senior transportation or a friend or relative who will pick you up. If possible, car pool so that people are not searching for one another.

Where will your pets go in an emergency? Quite often people don’t consider their pets in the emergency plan, and sadly, some people don’t seek shelter for them during an emergency. Before an emergency happens, see where you can shelter your pet until you return home if an evacuation becomes necessary.

Be Informed
What emergency is most likely to happen in your community?
Earthquake? Hurricane? Winter storm? Flood? Tornado?

Think about what type of emergency is most likely to occur, and base your plans on that type of emergency.

Also, how will you be notified of an emergency? Will it be on the television? Radio? Community alarm system? Phone call? Determine how your community warns people of a possible disaster, and make sure you have a system in place so that you will be alerted.

If you are in a retirement community, check to see what plans are in place. Sometimes, the community has already established emergency procedures and a safe place for residents. See if this information is available.

When to Prepare

The best time to prepare for an emergency is before it happens. Discuss plans with friends and family. If you no longer drive, make sure you have transportation arranged and a safe place in mind. Lastly, update your emergency kit every six months and throw out any expired food or medication. Also, review your emergency plans a few times a year to make sure contact information and shelters have not changed.

Go to RedCross.org/Prepare for more information!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

World Humanitarian Day—The World Needs More

by Suzanne Wiley, volunteer contributor

"Things just started to fly. I heard an explosion and everything was upside down. I don't know, I don't know where they all are.''

This is Mahal al-Khatib’s answer to a journalist’s inquiry immediately after a car bomb exploded outside a converted hotel serving as the United Nations Headquarters in Baghdad Iraq. Mahal al-Khatib was a secretary working for the UN along with hundreds of other aid workers helping to find homes for displaced Iraqis, distributing food, repairing electricity and defusing land mines scattered around the country. 

On August 19, 2003, a cement truck packed full of bombs exploded underneath a window of the office of Brazilian UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello. The terrorist attack—the worst attack on the UN in history—killed 22 people and injured at least 100 more. 

One month later, another car bomb exploded in the UN’s parking lot, killing two and wounding 12. On October, 27, 2003, just a little over two months after the devastating attack on UN headquarters, a series of car bombs injured over 220 people all over Baghdad, including an attack on the International Committee for the Red Cross office. It was the first time for a suicide bomber to attack the Red Cross. Fifteen people were killed when an ambulance sped into the Red Cross compound, exploding at its entry gate. 

The rush of attacks drove the United Nations to create World Humanitarian Day. Every year, on August 19, the United Nations encourages everyone to not only honor and remember humanitarian workers from around the world who have died while serving and helping others, but also celebrate those dedicated to responding to the needs of victims of disaster and war worldwide.

“More People Than Ever Before Need Our Help”

The World Humanitarian Day 2014 theme is “The world needs more…” The United Nations is asking everyone to step up, become a humanitarian, and join the Messengers of Humanity community to stand up and make a difference in the world. Becoming a humanitarian does not cost money, or time, nor do you need any type of specialized training. In fact, you might just be a humanitarian already. The definition of humanitarian is 

1. Having concern for or helping to improve the welfare and happiness of people
2. Involved in improving people’s lives and reducing suffering

When I asked my 200 plus Facebook friends what the world needs more of, I received these responses:

These reasons why we have World Humanitarian Day—we believe in the human spirit and passing these positive qualities to others. To help others in need during a crisis surely requires patience, compassion, humility, kindness, and love. You might be thinking you are too busy, too tied down, not financially able or too frightened to drop what you are doing and travel overseas to help. However, what the United Nations emphasizes is that humanitarians usually serve in their home countries. World Humanitarian Day starts right here. In our backyards, in our neighborhoods and in our surrounding communities. It is as simples as offering a hug or a warm blanket to someone who just lost their house in a fire, or as far reaching as Fort Worth doctor, Kent Brantly working for Samaritan’s Purse who responded to the needs of thousands suffering from Ebola in West Africa. World Humanitarian Day honors those who have lost their lives in the line of duty—not because they were paid to be there, but because of their love, compassion, understanding, empathy, tolerance, acceptance, hope, kindness and peace. 

The world needs more… volunteers. Won’t you start becoming a Messenger of Humanity today and sign up? There are many ways to volunteer. After all, more people than ever before need our help.

What do you think the world needs more of? Add your hashtag below!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Local Red Cross Volunteer Featured in Weatherford NOW Magazine

This story is reposted from the August 2014 issue of Weatherford NOW Magazine. To read the complete article, visit the online issue and turn to page 24. Thank you to Weatherford NOW for sharing this great story about one of our amazing volunteers!

A Helping Hand
by Amber D. Browne

Growing up along the Gulf Coast in Corpus Christi, Larry Bushwar became familiar with the threat of tropical storms and hurricanes. His parents rode out a few of the storms when he was a child, and he saw first-hand the destruction caused by Mother Nature. "Disasters do not
discriminate between races, gender or economic status. I saw how people from all walks of life stood together to help their fellow neighbors in tough times," Larry explained. "Even though I was a child, those things stick in your mind forever."

As an adult living in Wichita Falls, Larry experienced another brush with a natural disaster. He had recently graduated from The University of Texas at Austin and was working for the Internal Revenue Service. A massive tornado touched down near his apartment complex during the spring of 1979. 

"That was my first time to see a tornado up close. I actually saw the tornado. It was huge,” Larry explained. 

As an IRS representative, Larry worked with residents who had been affected by the destruction of the tornado. “I guess this is where I really realized how helpful I could be in a disaster,” he said. “I saw how all these people and organizations all came together for the common good of our fellow neighbors.”

That instinct and determination to help others led Larry to the American Red Cross. He volunteers with the Red Cross as a government operations liaison and a disaster assessment coordinator. His primary focus is working with state and city officials during a disaster.

To read the complete article, visit the online issue and turn to page 24.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Encourage the youth in your life to celebrate International Youth Day!

By Sydney Holt, volunteer contributor

In 1999, the United Nations General Assembly declared August 12th as International Youth Day.  Fast forward to “twenty fourteen,” a time when youths face complex issues across the social and digital spaces. To educate this key population, the UN declared this year’s theme, "Mental Health," to raise awareness on this important topic, as well as many others.

Start this important conversation with the young ones in your life, and encourage them to learn more about what youth do around the world to support the Red Cross/Red Crescent/Red Crystal Movement.

RC Red Cross youth members attended the recent Malaysian Red Crescent Youth Festival - Putrajaya 2014

A Red Cross Youth Program in the Philippines

Happy International Youth Day from the American Red Cross!

Monday, August 11, 2014

RV There Yet? The Road Traveled for Disaster Relief

By Lisa Morgan, American Red Cross Communications Associate

If you’re a nature-loving, cross-country driving, general enthusiast who packs up and goes on a moment’s notice, then the American Red Cross has a place for you with Escapees RV Club. Instead of being deployed by plane, train or automobile, they are deployed via RV’s as a member of the American Red Cross Disaster Operations Volunteer Escapees (DOVES).

John & Anita Laffey, Red Cross volunteers

DOVES have been advancing and supporting the Red Cross mission since its inception –when Escapee RV Club members rushed to the impacted areas on the Eastern seaboard to help those impacted by the events of September 11, 2001.

DOVES have only one mission:  to support American Red Cross disaster services by:

1) Recruiting Escapees RV Club members for Red Cross Disaster Services
2) Assisting DOVE members in obtaining training as Red Cross disaster operations volunteers
3) Providing DOVE members with timely information about Red Cross disaster relief operations
4) Providing volunteer assistance to the Red Cross whenever and wherever practical

Earlier this summer the Club hosted its 54th Annual Escapade, an RV rally where DOVES leadership team recruited for new members to add to the over 200 members on the roster. Additionally, DOVES coordinated a blood drive and provided a Red Cross Training Institute to train other DOVES at the Elkhart, IN chapter. The courses provided were shelter operations, forklift class, bulk food distribution, client case work and psychological first aid. The class with the highest attendance was the forklift class, with Dallas chapter volunteer instructor, John Laffey. CROWN Forklift generously donated a brand new forklift to for use in the five hour course.

“I teach them how to stack the pallets so that the contents don’t spill and the load has even distribution,” said John. “One of the things they learn is that if they can’t see over their load they need to operate the lift in reverse or moving backwards so they can safely see where they are going.”

“The DOVES can be viewed as gems hidden around the country”, said Mahlon Stacy, vice president of DOVES. “While some DOVES are new to Red Cross, many DOVES bring both life experience and Red Cross experience to the game. They will be valuable assets to the Red Cross in times of disaster.”

DOVES are not only valuable resources during national disasters, they are also valuable resources during blue sky times.  They can provide support for:

  • Local disasters
  • Community events (blood drives, community fairs, etc.)
  • Replace local members out on vacation or unavailable for other reasons
  • Administrative tasks or any other short-term projects while they are in the local chapter area
  • Instructors who can teach basic or advanced level classes.

“DOVES love to assist Red Cross chapters in any way that is needed,” said Anita Laffey, president of DOVES.  “If one of us is traveling through your area, we’ll cheerfully empty trash cans, clean cambros, make phone calls—we’ll even bake chocolate chip cookies for you!” Anita goes on to say that DOVES are here to serve. “If Red Cross chapters will let us know what they need, we’ll do our best to help them.Whether we are helping to run a shelter in a huge disaster like Hurricane Sandy or teaching Client Casework at a local chapter, we love to support Red Cross disaster services.”

Anita is excited as she enters her term as president of this unique group of disaster responders. DOVES have the distinction of being deployed while maintaining all of their creature comforts. “We’re kind of like turtles carrying our homes with us,” she said.

For more information on how to join the American Red Cross as a DOVE, please email: RequestADOVE@dovebof.org.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Heading Into the Storm: Do's & Don'ts

By Emily Ergas, intern contributor

As Texas residents, we are no stranger to tornadoes and the threat they pose to our communities. This August, Into the Storm, aims to bring an action packed suspense story of one town’s fight to survive while being hit by tornadoes left and right.

Watching the trailer, we’ll give you a play-by-play on the right and wrong things the characters are doing in reaction to the tornadoes. Feel free to watch along!

[Watch the trailer here.]

Know your community’s warning system: (:13) Check. As graduation ends, the siren goes off to warn everyone of an approaching storm. (Though the rain is also a hint.)

Go to the nearest sturdy building or shelter: (:18) Well done. Everyone from outside moves into the school in a quick, orderly fashion.

Pick a safe room – this should be a basement, storm cellar or interior room on the lowest floor with no windows: Mmmm, half credit here. (:20-32) Everyone moves into a hall, on the lowest floor, away from windows. However, windows at the end of the hall cause damage and pose a significant risk to the characters.

Prepare for high winds by removing diseased and damaged limbs from trees: (:22) Obviously not done, as a tree limb comes crashing through the hall window, almost harming a student.

Watch for tornado warning signs: (:51) Characters confirm that large hail is a result of an approaching storm, but then decide to go towards it...they are storm chasers, trained to do this, however.

Stay out of damaged buildings: (:55) Two characters stand in the middle of a clearly damaged building. This is a very poor idea.

If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter: immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and drive to the closest sturdy shelter: (1:44) Several buses and cars are seen driving away from a tornado, but they seem to be trying to outrun the storm more than looking for a sturdy shelter. This is also never a good idea.

Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines and report them to the utility company immediately: (1:49) As a power line whips onto the road, a character swerves the car. Good job watching out, but if he doesn't report it, it’s going to remain a danger to everyone else.

Overall, the characters seem to react somewhat appropriately to the tornadoes in the trailer. Hopefully, the movie will emphasize important safety procedures, but for the facts, make sure to visit RedCross.org. And look out for Into the Storm in theaters TODAY!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Don't Strike Out - Stay Safe in the Heat

by Bridgette Joye, volunteer contributor

Summer in Dallas/Fort Worth is well underway and temperatures are on the rise! With the warmer, longer days, there’s an increase in outdoor activities; including the Rangers/Yankees series starting tonight in Arlington.

Here are a few tips to stay safe in the heat at Globe Life Park or any other time you’re outdoors this summer: 

Stay hydrated! Try to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day and grab a bottle of water at the ballpark.

Make sure whatever team attire you’re wearing out there is loose-fitting and light-colored.

Don’t forget to wear sunscreen when spending any time outdoors; especially at a baseball game where you could be sitting outside for over two hours. 

While everyone knows about protecting their skin from the summer heat, remember that the sun’s intensity is also dangerous for your eyes. Keep them covered with sunglasses or a Rangers baseball cap!

Try to park your car in the shade as much as possible. Also, never leave your pets or children in a parked car, unattended – even if it is in the shade. The temperature in the vehicle will be even hotter than it is outside.

Stay safe out there this summer, & GO RANGERS! 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Inside a Red Cross Response to a Dallas Apartment Fire

By Kay Pinkerton, volunteer contributor

A tenant’s burning candles led to a predawn blaze Saturday, April 12, at the Mayan Palms apartment complex located in Southeast Dallas.  The four-alarm fire consumed 36 apartments, destroying the homes and possessions of more than 50 tenants.

Thankfully, no deaths were reported. 

The American Red Cross was on the scene, offering blankets, safe shelter and emotional support to the fire victims.
A Mayan Palms tenant wrapped herself in a Red Cross blanket after escaping the flames that ripped through her apartment.  Her relative, Virginia Reyez, later searched for the woman’s belongings in the tangled debris of wood, glass and metal -- all that remained of the apartment.  Reyez used the same Red Cross blanket to wrap and protect a surprising find.    

The woman’s jewelry box.
“It’s one of the most valuable things she owns now,” said Reyez.
 Being Grateful

The Red Cross opened a shelter at Samuel Grand Recreation Center after the fire was contained.  There, Red Cross volunteers provided information, support and a listening ear to fire victims who had lost their homes. 
Inside the shelter, Minnie Sessions sat in a row of chairs next to her son and his wife.

"I was asleep, woke up and smelled smoke. And I said, 'I know I ain't cooked,'" recalled Minnie.
She walked into the living room of her apartment. "I went in there and seen all that smoke," she said. "I grabbed a tub of clothes and drug them out with me."

Minnie's son, Freddie Sessions, admitted he felt overwhelmed by the day’s events. Still, he was grateful for his mother’s life, and appreciated the help and support she had received.
"She didn't have a jacket, and someone gave my mother a jacket,” he said. "There are good people out there.  To see them come out, you know, and help her. To be there for her.”
“I'm very grateful for the Red Cross organization,” said Sessions.
Helping Your Neighbor
Back at the scene of the fire, a young apartment resident surveyed the damage while recalling that morning’s frightening events. 
“I hear all this, this screaming.  ‘Fire!’  I woke my baby up, and we went outside,” said the woman.  “I saw a guy get one person out.  They had to break the fence down to get him out because he was on a cane.”
The woman was saddened by the devastating loss.  
“My apartment’s okay,” she said.  “But our friends?  Our close neighbors are going through this.  And there’s nothing we can do.”
At the Red Cross, there is something we can do. 

Red Cross disaster relief helps victims get back on their feet and resume their lives as quickly as possible. The organization also supports emergency workers, links family members outside the disaster area, and provides blood and blood products to disaster victims. 

For more information about the Red Cross and its services, or to learn how you can help, visit www.redcross.org/dfw.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dog Days of Summer: Pet Heat Safety

by Carmen Wright, volunteer contributor

Dear Owner,

Listen, I know you like summer because of outdoor barbecues and swim parties, but don’t forget about me. Now, it’s not that I’m ungrateful for the hamburger patties you “drop” off the grill or the hot dog buns you conveniently leave on the edge of the countertop—thank you for those. But when it gets this hot, don’t forget I’m sporting a full fur coat and bare feet. Here is a quick list of do’s and don’ts to keep your furry four-legged friends happy. 


leave me in the car—it’s like an oven in there. And if you see one of my fellow furry friends in a car, track down their owner immediately (and give them a good talking to).
take me on walks when it’s hot outside—remember those bare feet? A nice morning walk or evening stroll will do. 
leave me outside for more than a few minutes—even with shade, I’m going to get hot pretty quickly. Now if you installed that dog door you’ve been promising…
ignore me—if you see heavy panting, excessive thirst, uncoordinated behavior, or dizziness, chances are I’m suffering from a heatstroke. If that’s the case, take me inside, put some ice packs on me and give me small amounts of water and ice cubes. 


brush me or give my fur a good trim so I’m a little bit cooler in this weather.
leave me plenty of water and make sure I have shade when I’m outside. A fan is nice, but it’s not going to help me cool down very well. 
put ice cubes in my water, or better yet, make some peanut butter popsicles! 
wet my neck, feet, and belly so I can cool down faster. If we do go for a long walk, I wouldn't object to wearing a cooling vest—it’s so much less embarrassing than that bumblebee costume you tried to get me in last year. 
make a plan for a power outage
download the Pet First Aid App from the American Red Cross. Those guys think of everything. 

Oh!  And do keep dropping those hamburger patties, maybe even one with cheese on it?


Your Pet

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Water Park Safey Tips for a Fun & Safe Summer Outing

by Munira Syeda, volunteer contributor

Summer is here and that means lots of fun time with family and friends. At Red Cross, however, we also want to make sure that you have a safe summer. 

If you and your family are planning to head to any of a number of water parks in North Texas this coming holiday weekend, please follow these important safety tips.

1. Wear comfortable clothing, such as a loose shirt and shorts, comfortable shoes, and a hat or sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Be sure to apply waterproof sunscreen generously and protect your skin against sunburns and skin cancer.

2. Follow all instructions for water rides and activities, including designated height and experience levels. Children who are under 48 inches and not strong swimmers should wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.

3. Actively supervise children and don’t be more than arm’s length away from them. To avoid the scenario of a child getting separated or lost, use a buddy system. Also designate a meeting place in case a family member gets separated.

4. It is a good idea to have all family members learn how to swim. You can enroll your family in age-appropriate Red Cross swim classes.

5. Keep yourself and your family hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Avoid caffeinated drinks since they contribute to dehydration. 

6. Practice cleanliness and stay healthy. Shower before participating in a water ride or activity. Wash your hands well after using the toilet. Take your children to the bathroom frequently throughout the day. If you have a baby, use waterproof diapers and change your baby’s diaper in designated changing areas.

7. Avoid alcohol consumption. Alcohol impairs judgment, balance and coordination; affects swimming and diving skills; and reduces the body’s ability to stay warm.

8. If you see someone in trouble, call a lifeguard immediately and follow their instructions.

For more water safety tips, visit RedCross.org. Have a safe summer!

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Importance of Practicing Lightning Safety

by Suzanne Wiley, volunteer contributor

Are you the type that gets a kick out of rubbing a balloon on your younger sibling’s head to watch their hair stand up on end? No matter your age, it always looks hilarious, right? 

Have you ever experienced that same charge without rubbing a balloon on your head or after shuffling on the carpet and touching something metal? Way back when I was a silly little girl whose main concern was fun in the sun, my friend and I were swimming in a resort pool at the Lake of the Ozarks. Foreboding gray clouds had formed in the distance. We failed to realize we were putting ourselves in great danger. You see, a severe thunderstorm was brewing and the static electricity in the air was so intense, our hair was standing up on end just as if we had rubbed a balloon on each other’s heads. 

The clouds in the sky that day were statically charged with electricity—a clear sign to get out of the water and go inside. Luckily, we did become alarmed and went inside. Our child wonderment and amusement could have been cut short that day; lightning kills more Americans a year than tornados and hurricanes. The only other weather event that causes more fatalities is flooding. Indeed, NOAA isn’t wrong when they say that lightning is the most “underrated weather hazard.” 

Lightning Facts

Scientists and weather specialists are still trying to figure out lightning, but what we do know is that the mixture of a storm cloud’s water droplets and ice, air currents and ground evaporation cause turbulence inside the cloud, polarizing the cloud’s structure. Positive charges form in the upper part of the cloud, while negative charges form in the bottom. This reaction causes an electric charge not only in the cloud, but also on the ground below. When these two electrostatic charges meet, a lightning bolt strikes. 

A lightning bolt can hold up to 300 million volts of electricity and can heat the air around it five times hotter than the sun’s surface. Every day around the world there is an estimated 2,000 thunderstorms. All thunderstorms produce lightning. On average, that is eight million lightning strikes a day. 

It does not necessarily have to be cloudy and rainy for lightning to strike, either. Lightning has the capability to strike 10 miles away from its originating thunderstorm. If you hear thunder—the sound lightning makes—you can be struck. (We see lightning before we hear it, because light travels faster than sound.) Even 30 minutes after a storm passes, you can still be struck by lightning, so stay indoors or in your shelter 30 minutes after you hear the last round of thunder, or see the last lightning strike. 

There are many myths floating around about lightning safety. Did you know that many victims of lightning strikes were either standing under a tree or in their garage? Though lightning is not attracted to any certain item, like a metal fence, there are many good conductors for electricity—water, concrete and metal being the top conductors. There are three factors that go into where lightning strikes—height, space and isolation. One thing that is true about lightning—it tends to hit the tallest thing around.

Even though only about 10 percent of the 400 Americans hit by lightning a year die, more than half suffer long-term devastating effects such as brain damage, memory loss, and severe burns. Over your lifetime, you have a one in 3,000 chance of being struck by lightning. But here is the good news: most lightning strikes are completely avoidable! Don’t wait too long to seek shelter like I did as a kid. If clouds form and it turns dark, you see lightning or hear thunder seek shelter right away—not “just after this inning.” 

When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors! 

Whatever you do, do not stay out in the soccer field or baseball diamond. When storm clouds form, you hear thunder or see lightning seek shelter indoors. Baseball dugs out, concrete bathrooms or picnic table shelters and shades are not safe. Lightning travels through concrete. Your best bet is to seek shelter in a building with electricity and plumbing. Like I said above, it is true what you have always been told, lightning will strike the tallest thing, so don’t be the tallest thing, nor stand under the tallest thing. The second leading cause of lightning strike fatalities is due from standing under a tree. If your only option is trees, do not pick a large, isolated tree. Seek shelter under a small cluster of shorter trees. And for goodness sake’s put down your umbrella! That metal tip at the top might just as well be Benjamin Franklin’s lightning rod! 

Bring your pets inside, as well. Doghouses will not protect your pet. While inside, do not shower, bathe, wash dishes, or use a corded phone. Lightning can travel through wires. Stay away from windows and go all the way inside if you are in the garage. Cell phones and battery-operated electronics are safe to use during a lightning storm. Listen to the weather, turn on your NOAA-approved emergency weather alert radio, or download the American Red Cross app to stay current on when it is safe to go back outside. It is definitely not the time to fly a kite, raise a flagpole, or wear your 5-inch heels. 

If you are outside and nowhere near home, your car, as long as it is not a convertible and the windows are rolled up is a safe place to seek shelter from a lightning storm. If no inside shelter or vehicle is accessible, do not remain in an open field, try to pick a wooded area and assume the “lightning position.” This position will not guarantee you will not be hit, but you have a better chance of remaining safe. To assume the lightning position, squat or crouch down on your feet. Roll up with your feet together, head down and wrap your arms around your knees. Do NOT lie down. 

Get off and out of the water immediately if you are swimming or boating and seek shelter indoors. If you happen to be too far out from shore, stop all activities such as tubing, skiing, or swimming, and go into the cabin of the boat. For boats without cabins, crouch down in the bottom. Do not touch any of the electronics in the boat. If you do not have a lightning protection system, remove or lower all metal poles, like the antenna or lights. Do not touch two different metal things at the same time. 

It is safe to touch someone hit by lightning. You will not get shocked. They need immediate help. Perform CPR if necessary and call 911. 

Because of the frequency of thunderstorms and increase in outdoor activities, summer is peak season for lightning. To be safe, always pay attention to the weather, and cancel any outdoor activities if there is any threat of thunderstorms. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

World Refugee Day – More Than a Number

by Lauren McMinn Clarke, volunteer contributor

Every year, on June 20th, countless international civic groups, including the American Red Cross and the United Nations, celebrate World Refugee Day. This annual celebration honors refugees and displaced persons for their courage and resilience in the face of conflict and strife.

This year, the Restoring Family Links program of the American Red Cross is working with partners and members of the refugee community around the United States to celebrate World Refugee Day. The Restoring Family Links program works two ways; it initiates cases here in the United States to loved ones abroad, and it also connects displaced refugees overseas back to family members in the US. 

In Texas, we receive an average of 4,500 refugees per year. In fact, the North Texas region is the second busiest region in the United States for the Restoring Family Links program. The primary source of refugee cases coming to the Dallas area is from Iraq, because there is a large Iraqi population spanning the Metroplex. After that most cases to Dallas come from East Africa, from refugee complexes in Kenya and Uganda. 

Recently, our Dallas Red Cross team was able to reconnect a local family with a refugee family member in East Africa. After our volunteers did a great deal of internet research, tracking down addresses and phone numbers, the team reached out to the family in a local apartment complex via phone. The message wasn’t received, so our team went out in person to the address, donned in their Red Cross vests. After visiting the apartment, it was clear the family had moved. As our volunteers were leaving, the landscape staff of the complex stopped and asked why the Red Cross was there. When they heard, they led our staff to the complex office and found a new phone number for the family. The next day, our team was able to deliver a message from the cousin in Uganda to the family here in Dallas.

Are you interested in helping? We need volunteers. The Red Cross team appreciates volunteers with abilities that may include: an interest in interacting with people of different cultures, knowledge of current global events, ability to speak a different language and availability of time (because it is a very involved process).

If you are not already a Red Cross volunteer, please visit our website to sign up for a volunteer orientation and at the appropriate time, designate your interest in International Services and Restoring Family Links.

If you are interested in more information on our local Restoring Family Links program, please contact Alexis Chase at alexis.chase@redcross.org (Metro Field Specialist, Service to the Armed Forces and International Services), or Jack Wilson at jack.wilson@redcross.org (Assistant Director, Service to the Armed Forces and International Services).

Lastly, there is a local event being held this Saturday, June 21, 2014 (10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.) at which the American Red Cross will be in attendance. More information can be found here, http://www.catholiccharitiesdallas.org/world-refugee-day.

Eight Summer Safety Tips from American Red Cross

by Kay Pinkerton, volunteer contributor

It’s here!  Another searing, sweltering, steaming, scalding, sizzling, scorching, fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk Texas summer!

To ensure a fun and safe summer for you and your family, the American Red Cross offers the following safety tips. 

  1. Fluids.  When conducting outdoor activities on hot days, drink, drink, drink.  Consume plenty of cold fluids – especially water.   Stay away from alcohol when conducting hot weather activities, however.   The risks include heat-related illness and accidents.
  2. Sunscreen.   Use sunscreen when spending time outdoors – even on cloudy days.  The FDA recommends using broad-spectrum (protects both UVA and UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater. Apply 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every 1-1/2 to 2 hours. When the sun’s UV rays are strongest (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), wear broad-brimmed hats and loose-fitting clothing for extra protection. 
  3. Grilling.  According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 27 percent of home fires involving grills started on a courtyard, terrace or patio. Keep propane and charcoal BBQ grills a safe distance from your home, deck railings and overhanging branches. Keep children and pets away from the grill area.  Never leave a grill unattended.  And keep your grill clean – grease or fat buildup can cause fires. 
  4. Exercise.  Early morning is normally the best time to work out, especially if the day promises blast-furnace heat conditions. For intense activities, drink a glass of water before leaving the house. Carry a bottle of water or a hydration pack such as a CamelBak®.  Replenish your electrolytes while running, cycling, or other intense exercise. 
  5. Swimming.  Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death for people ages 5 - 24.  Never leave a child unattended when near the water. If a child is missing, check the water first.  Even for strong, adult swimmers, use a buddy system while in the water due to issues such as fatigue or muscle cramps.  
  6. Boating.  According to the U.S. Coast Guard, life jackets could have saved the lives of more than 80 percent of boating fatality victims.  Wear a life jacket at all times while boating.  Another leading factor in boating fatalities is alcohol.  Boating and liquor simply don’t mix.  
  7. Helmets and safety gear.   Helmet use may reduce head injury risk, reports the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.  When biking, skateboarding or other such activities, wear a comfortable, properly fitting, approved safety helmet.   Always fasten the safety strap. 
  8. Red Cross classes.  Consider enrolling in a Red Cross home pool safety, water safety, first aid, or CPR/AED course.  It could mean saving a life.  
For more information on enjoying the lazy days of summer – safely – or to enroll in a safety course, visit the American Red Cross website