Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces at the Jesse Brown Stand Down Event

My name is Lucas Centeno and I am an intern with the Chicago Red Cross in their Services to the Armed Forces division. When I was serving in the U.S. Army the Red Cross helped me when I was overseas, and my mother called the Red Cross to get a hold of me because my father was ill. The Red Cross did an amazing job of keeping me and my Commander up to speed with my dad’s condition, and it was an amazing relief for my mom to know that she could get a hold of me thanks to the Red Cross. I personally thank them too.

The Services to the Armed Forces division of the Red Cross offers Armed Forces members and their families services in pre and post deployment readiness, as well as counseling and communications for emergency situations.

I was so happy to attend my first event with the Red Cross, helping local homeless veterans. From the moment I walked in the door I was on the go non-stop with the nearly 50 volunteers and staff from the Red Cross. We helped to put up tents for the different stations, as well as preparing and serving food, and distributing clothing to the 150 veterans who attended. I felt like I was back in basic training but without a drill sergeant hollering in my face. We also helped to serve food to the 150 homeless veterans.

I got to work for an hour with Cindy Price, a local volunteer with Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces. She is the most amazing person you could ever meet. I shared my stories of Iraq and the military with her. Though she was tired and doing three thousand things at once she took the time to tell me in an interview about what she does and why she loves the Red Cross.

Not only did we at the Red Cross make a difference to those veterans in need but I also got to know so many amazing volunteers and staff from the Chicago Red Cross. I am so honored and blessed to be working with the Chicago Red Cross and their SAF division. There are more upcoming events that the Red Cross SAF will be directly involved with and I will definitely keep you posted.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

4th of July

According to the NFPA more fires are reported on the 4th of July than on any other day of the year. What is the cause? Fireworks. So think twice before you try to launch fireworks at your celebration! Even consumer fireworks cause thousands of people to become injured each year.

Here are a few things to remember this 4th of July...

  • Leave fireworks to the professionals. Don’t attempt to hold your own fireworks display.

  • Check your local newspaper to find out about the public fireworks displayed in your community. This is the safest way to enjoy fireworks. These events are run by trained professionals.

  • Keep children away from fireworks. Even after a fireworks display, children should not touch any remains of the fireworks. They may still be active.

  • Consumer fireworks like sparklers can emit a temperature of up to 1200ْ F. So use caution! Keep sparklers away from your face and skin.

Enjoy your holiday weekend!

These fire facts are brought to you by Team Firestopper! We’re working to stop fires before they start in your community! For more information or fire tips, visit or!

Sources: American Red Cross and the National Fire Protection Association

Friday, June 25, 2010

This Same Message is also Broadcast to Enemy Forces

Why respect international humanitarian law? "It’s good for you whoever you are. The perpetrator is damaged, not just the victim.”

One of eight remarkable classmates said this last night in the Red Cross International Humanitarian Law class I attended at the Chicago Chapter. The class, at no cost to the student, teaches participants about the body of rules and principles that seeks to save lives and alleviate suffering during armed conflict.

My discussion partner for group exercises was a vibrant and dynamic man from the Sudan. Together, we grappled with questions like, “What is dignity?” and “Do you think it makes sense to have laws that limit suffering in armed conflict?” and “Does a certain level of violence have to occur for it to be considered an armed conflict?”

In trying to formulate answers, my classmates and I were reminded of the duties and privileges that come with being human. We gained a new appreciation for the power of neutrality and its ability to create accountability without violence.

Those engaged in wars and armed conflicts are fighting for something. And when the fighting ends, the best we can hope for is that the “something” can be rebuilt on a foundation that is comprised of solid things – goodness, respect, dignity, the humane, innocence.

Even my classmates were careful to respect one another and the constructive nature of the class. They would caveat answers to complex questions with phrases like, “If you set aside whether war is an allowable and acceptable action…” or “Though I recognize that I have the luxury of turning the conflict off with my remote, I think…”

Yes, I learned a lot in the class last night about the Geneva Conventions, the role of the International Committee of the Red Cross and a long, relentless process to adapt humanitarian law to keep up with people’s clever ways of working around it. As our facilitator aptly pointed out, “The law has to change all the time because people want to kill each other and find loopholes to do it.”

But I also witnessed my classmates protect one another’s dignity, and I witnessed our facilitator gracefully admit that we don’t know the answers to many of the questions raised in this tricky business of preserving humanity. Even tweeters who virtually participated, played nice and weighed in respectfully.

We watched several brief videos that are used to educate combatants about the laws that govern humanitarianism during war. They broadcast ideas like, “True fighters will treat wounded opponents with respect and compassion.”

All videos ended the same way, though. “This same message is also broadcast to enemy forces.”

A difficult-to-swallow, but good ending, don’t you think? The reminder that we are all united on one thing, at least -- suffering.

- By Jackie Mitchell, American Red Cross of Greater Chicago, @your_mssunshine

It’s a WHALE of a Time!

W.H.A.L.E. stands for Water Habits Are Learned Early and Longfellow’s W.H.A.L.E. Tales is the American Red Cross’ water safety program for kids. In the past few months, AmeriCorps members have taught thousands of elementary school children about the importance of being safe in, on and around the water.

The kids have been really excited to talk about water safety and all of the swimming they will do this summer! The course emphasizes that whether it is swimming at a pool, Lake Michigan, Six Flags, Wisconsin Dells or any other body of water, everyone should always swim with a buddy in a supervised area. Swimming with a buddy is a lot safer and a lot more fun! Next, the kids learn about all of the different things that a lifeguard does to keep them safe. This gets them to a great activity where they pretend to swim in the classroom and the instructor blows the whistle to test how quickly they stop, look and listen to the “lifeguard.” Initially, it usually takes 3 to 5 whistle blows for everyone to stop. They are reminded that it should only take one and they do it again until they get to one. This can be a mix of kids going too far and jumping on the floor or kids not moving much at all.

With posters in hand, AmeriCorps members test the kids’ knowledge on the basics of pool safety. Kids discuss what rules are and why we follow them. This is a great way to get them thinking about safety and taking it seriously. After that, pointing out safety issues is easy and exciting. Students point out that it is unsafe to run on the pool deck and that we should never dunk someone under water. When asked if it is okay to push someone into the water, the response is usually an adorably loud “no!” They also learn to Look Before You Leap. In this section, students find various safety hazards that could be lurking in the water, especially in lakes, oceans and rivers. As they search the poster, they find jellyfish, stingrays, eels, crabs, sea urchins, rocks, broken glass and an anchor. They also learn about what a current is and to stay out of the water if it is strong. This information is very important, especially in light of recent incidents.

One of the kids’ favorite parts of the class is trying on life jackets. Students demonstrate how to put them on and talk about when they should wear them. They are put into scenarios where someone is drowning and someone else has to save them. They learn how to throw a rope and how to pull someone to safety. Again, there is an emphatic “no” when asked if they should stand up in a boat.

Then the best part comes at the end: coloring books!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Red Cross First Aid Class Helped a Hit Bicyclist

During the summer, DJ Barraca rides his bike to get to work in Chicago. As part of his usual routine, DJ leaves home with two bags, one of which includes his American Red Cross first aid kit. One morning, while DJ was on his way to work, one of his bags got stuck on the front part of his bicycle. He attempted to fix his bags at a stop sign when a semi-truck pulled up in front of him. “I was in this very uncomfortable position, and I ended up crashing into the truck” DJ recalls. “I was very close to work, and I didn’t know how serious my injuries were, until I got to work and I saw my face full of blood” DJ says. Fortunately, he had taken one of the First Aid classes offered by the American Red Cross, and he was prepared with his Red Cross first aid kit. Thanks to what he had learned in class and his first aid kit, DJ was able to tend his injuries, and avoid infection. DJ was safe, his injuries healed, and now more than ever he realizes the importance of being prepared.

DJ is an excellent example of why it is important for bicyclists to be prepared in case of an accident. Knowing how to tend to an injury, whether it’s only a scratch, a cut or just a bruise can make a difference. DJ’s accident is one of many that happen in Chicago. The American Red Cross encourages bicyclists to take a First Aid class, and be prepared to act in case any accident happens when on the road.

For more information visit

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

“Nothing Is Better Than Giving of Yourself”

Today, long time Red Cross volunteer Nellie Brennan will receive her 55 years of service pin at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago’s Disaster Action Teams’ volunteer celebration. Nellie is an amazing, vivacious volunteer who has served the Red Cross through a number of disasters.

“I’ve been north for the Minnesota floods, out west with the Oklahoma City bombing, south for ice storms in southern states, in Puerto Rico for Hurricane Floyd, the north east during 9/11, and at the Notre Dame Convent Haiti shelter in Chicago…” This is just the tip of the iceberg for all Nellie has done with the Red Cross.

Nellie started volunteering in 1951 because she “always wanted to help people, and take care of people.” She introduced her kids to volunteering when they were young since it was such an important part of her life. “We made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the flood workers in the Quad Cities on the Mississippi.” Nellie has willingly volunteered for every type of disaster from floods to fires to serving as a case worker and mental health expert during the after shocks of 9/11.

In our conversation yesterday, I asked her why she volunteered, and why she believes others should volunteer. “For the sound satisfaction to know they are helping people, because there are so many people less fortunate than us that have gone through such horrendous problems. They need the support from people that have this yearning to help people…it’s a self satisfying endeavor. Nothing is better than giving of yourself.”

At the age of 79, there is no end in sight for Nellie’s passion for volunteering. “I never feel or think of my age…I feel more like I’m in my 50’s and can do things of people in their 40’s…on the bus, people stand up and give me their seats, and I think ‘why are they doing that?’ I just don’t see myself as an age.”

Nellie plans on taking a few classes offered by the Red Cross this month, and is still on the list of people to be deployed should a disaster arise. She is ecstatic to be receiving her pin tonight and is so pleased of how proud her boys will be.

After talking with her, I felt rejuvenated. This woman has given so much of her time to helping others and is an inspiration to everyone she talks to.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

How to Celebrate National CPR/AED Week

As we welcome summer back for another year we must remember to be proactive in summer safety. Here at the Red Cross we take safety very seriously. Whether you choose to celebrate summer by a pool, or on a running trail, we hope that you take advantage of our educational course.

The Red Cross offers an online CPR/AED (Automated External Defibrillation) class. This online version offers the convenience of learning in your own home and setting your own pace .

In lieu of National CPR/AED week the Red Cross of Chicago is offering a discount on their popular CPR class. Just visit our website at and enter the code: CPRAEDWEEK to receive 15% off the cost.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Lightning and Fire Safety

This past Memorial Day, lightning is the suspect for starting 3 fires in suburban Chicago. And, according to the NFPA lightning caused an average of 31,400 fires annually from 2002 – 2005. So, what can you do to make your home safer during a storm?

If the lights go out, use a flashlight - not a candle. Candles can flip over, drip, or catch something that is flammable and start a fire. Try to keep a flashlight and extra batteries handy in case you need the extra light!

Unplug or turn off appliances and other electrical items, like computers, and air conditioners. Keep computers connected to surge protectors, so in case the power does turn off suddenly, your electrical equipment is better protected.

Avoid electrical equipment and telephones during an active lightning storm. Use battery-powered TVs and radios instead.

Shutter windows and close outside doors securely. Keep away from windows.

Avoid washing your hands, bathing, doing laundry, or washing dishes during an active lightning storm. Plumbing and water can become a conductor, so proceed with caution during a storm!

If a person is struck by lightning be sure to call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number for help. Anyone who has sustained a lightning strike requires professional medical care. Check the person for burns and other injuries. If the person has stopped breathing, call 9-1-1 and begin CPR. If the person is breathing normally, look for other possible injuries and care for them as necessary. People who have been struck by lightning do not retain an electrical charge and can be handled safely.

Fire safety tips are brought to you by Team Firestopper! We’re working to stop fires before they start in your community! For more information or fire tips, visit or!

Sources: American Red Cross and

Take a Class in Honor of National CPR/AED Awareness Week!

The sun is shining and the birds are chirping which means one thing…it’s National CPR/AED (Automated External Defibrillation) Awareness Week! According to the American Heart Association, effective bystander CPR when provided immediately after cardiac arrest, can double a victim’s chance of survival. The American Red Cross offers a wide range of CPR/AED training classes that will prepare you for emergency situations. So, brush up on your disco and get ready to rock chest compressions to “Stayin’ Alive” while learning how to save a life.

The Red Cross not only offers courses on learning life saving skills; it also offers courses on how to teach others these vital skills. Last week, I stopped by a “Lay Responder First Aid and CPR/AED Instructor” class. The people participating not only were already Red Cross certified, but they were becoming certified to teach others. I walked into the room, where a man named Jason was practicing teaching the first steps for Emergency Assistance. I sat down at a big conference table that was so littered with pamphlets, instructor’s binders, and practice mannequins you could hardly see the surface. The first thing that ran through my mind was, “Wow. These people are investing quite a bit of time to learn all this information in order to teach it to others.”

Jason’s fellow participants in the class acted as his students, and he instructed them in tandem with a video. After he was done, the instructor and group gave him feedback on ways to improve and what they thought he nailed. Jason works at St. Augustine College teaching a variety of classes. When I asked him why he was here taking an instructor’s course today, he responded with, “[The college] needed an English speaking instructor for the students, and I was more than willing to become certified.” Kudos to him and his fellow participants for taking on the job of teaching others how to become Red Cross certified.

Sign up for a class this week, and get 15% off the course fee in honor of CPR/AED Awareness Week! Head to and enter coupon code: CPRAEDWEEK!

Have you already taken a class? Then tell us, have you ever used your training in your day-to-day life? We’d love to hear any stories you have! Have an excellent CPR/AED Awareness Week!