Friday, March 25, 2011

Life Happens, Learn CPR

You enter your favorite French bistro with your friends on a Saturday night and are quickly seated at a quaint table right next to a window with a fabulous view of Chicago nightlife. Your waitress pours you a glass of water and gives you a few minutes to look at the menu while she runs to the back room to find your group a bottle of wine. Your best friend cracks a joke about the man across the room that looks like George Clooney and everyone at the table bursts out laughing. All of sudden, a man at the table next to yours collapses head first into his walnut salad. Everyone in the restaurant realizes that the man needs help but no one is trained in CPR. Your table watches in horror, unable to assist in anyway but to flag down a waiter and call 9-1-1. Later, you learn that the man did not survive.

Many may think that the probability of something like this occurring is relatively unlikely, but it was a reality for Nicholas Swain. While catering an event, a man collapsed and died before the ambulance was able to get to the location which was only a couple of blocks away from a hospital. Nicholas and his coworkers from Blue Plate, a catering company, decided to take the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago CPR course to be prepared for this type of incident.

CPR and First Aid are life saving skills that everyone young or old should have, because emergency incidents can occur at any time. On March 19th the Red Cross’s Save-A-Life event offered free CPR and First Aid classes throughout the nation. The event was in honor of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords who was shot in the head during a congressional rally in Tucson, Arizona. After the initial hit, her intern Daniel Hernandez provided first aid assistance and saved her life.

On Save-A-Life Saturday more than 11,000 individuals were trained. Like Nicholas and his colleagues, they also realized the importance of being prepared.

Nicholas and the catering staff come into contact with a variety of people and the probability of an incident where the use of CPR for emergency assistance is high. When working in the hospitality industry being able to perform CPR and the Heimlich maneuver can safe a life. According to a report conducted by the Center for Disease Control in the U.S. 60% of choking in children ages 0-14 was related to food. Food related choking incidents can occur anywhere from the home to a restaurant. It is important for restaurant, catering, and other hospitality industry staff to be able to perform procedures such as the Heimlich to prevent choking.

Being prepared can save lives, whether it is from learning how to prevent a fire to rescue support through CPR, the key is to be prepared. We encourage everyone to take a CPR class and to visit the prepared section on our website .

Take action and learn CPR like Nicholas, his co-workers at Blue Plate, and the 11,000people who dedicated their time on Save-A-Life Saturday. Next time a person starts choking or collapses it may be up to you to save their life. Be ready. Be prepared.

Written By: Lauren Snyder and Erica Serna

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Relief for the Rising Sun

Before the American Red Cross rose out of bed last Friday, devastation in Japan had already broken loose. The sun wasn’t even up as I flipped on the news to see bold red headlines and images of people clinging to the remnants of what used to be their own homes swept away by waves and swallowed by cracks in the earth.

I knew it was going to be a challenging day for the Red Cross -- a day of perseverance.

We are not alone in anything we do. Just as we stand by victims’ sides for comfort, we have our own partners who we rely on for support despite any daily event.

One of our most trusted partners in times like these, Threadless, never fails to utilize its talent to do good. It was only a matter of hours before we got word the original T-shirt company would donate 100% of proceeds to Japanese relief efforts and honor those affected by including their memory in a design for hope. They literally rose to the challenge faster than we would see Friday’s sun set.

By voting for your favorite t-shirt online featuring Japan, you can help directly, and look pretty cool wearing the winning design at the same time, too.

Just as we stand by Japan in times of crisis and hardship, can you stand to rise in times of relief? We promise it comes in your size.

Written by Katie Wilkes

Monday, March 07, 2011

Home Fires Destroy Memories Every 80 Seconds

The American Red Cross responds to fires more than any other disaster. More than hurricanes. Earthquakes. Tornadoes. Fires occur in the United States every 80 seconds.

In Chicago, disaster volunteers are called to home fires about three to four times a day on a normal day. They arrive on scene oftentimes while firefighters are still there, and they provide families with food, shelter, infant formula, teddy bears for the kids, access to medication… whatever the family needs to survive.

This relief is almost entirely delivered by volunteers and funded by donors.

When we arrive, more often than not, we encounter families who are grateful. Though they may have lost everything, they say “thank goodness” that their loved ones survived.

“Everything else can be replaced,” they say.

When a family survives a fire without deaths or injuries, they usually first think of their pictures – the memories that can’t be replaced. One of my most striking memories as a disaster volunteer was helping this family wipe away smoke damage from baby photos that we were relieved to find intact.

With a single click, you can capture a memory with your camera and keep it forever, but only, if your home is not one of the 70,000 that will burn this year.

Today, in a single click and in a matter of moments, you can join a movement on Facebook to honor those who aren’t so lucky.

Visit get a glimpse of what it’s like to lose your most precious memories. At the end of your visit, all of your photos will be fully recovered.

At some point in your life, though, someone close you will lose their photos forever to a real fire and will not be able to recover them. Be a part of their relief, before they need it.

Share the experience with the people you love most.

Pledge a donation for every photo you can’t imagine life without.

Feel grateful.

Here's how your donation will help if you take the extra step to help a family that has been devestated by fire:

- $3 provides a comfort kit with hygiene items that preserves a client's diginity
- $6 provides a wool blanket to keep them warm if they are displaced
- $10 provides one meal
- $20 provides two meals
- $25 provides breakfast, lunch and dinner to a shelter resident who lost their home in a fire
- $50 provides five blankets for a family
- $75 provides food and shelter for a cleint for one day in a shelter
- $100 provides ten hot meals
- $150 provides supplies, such as soy formula, wipes, diapers, etc, to shelter one infant
- $200 provides one month's worth of emergency supplies for two families
- $1,000 saves the day - covers a day's worth of disaster response in the Greater Chicago region.

The experience requires a high speed browser and internet connection, as well as Facebook connect permissions.

Friday, March 04, 2011

I've Seen Stranger Things

If you’re wondering why these three unlrelated animals are posing in a perfect pyramid for this photographer, flickr user Telemachia explains below.

“After three days of storms and rain, we found these three floating in a pool filter, clinging to each other to survive. All of them were exhausted from the effort and were reluctant to part ways after being rescued.”

If there’s anything I’ve learned from being with the Red Cross, it’s that adversity brings strangers together. It doesn’t matter where they’re from or how they feel about each other. Being a part of the Red Cross disaster response is a learning and growing experience for both the clients and the volunteers, especially when you have the opportunity to listen to people’s stories fresh after a life-changing disaster. Chicago’s main breed of disaster is home fires and the victims have usually lost much of their home and belongings. Disasters like these can be tragic, but somehow adversity never fails to uncover the hope and sense of community that blooms among people who have all undergone the same powerful experience together.

This week we had the pleasure of meeting Charles, a resident and survivor of a Chicago apartment fire that happened earlier this week. He and several other residents are housed in one of the Red Cross emergency shelters nearby, and we were able to speak with him about his experience during the fire.

The first thing you’re going to notice about Charles is that he is wheelchair bound. The second thing that will strike you is when he tells the story of how he escaped the building through a second story window.

When the fire started, smoke began to fill the hallways almost immediately. Charles was in the room next door, so he closed his door and blocked the bottom to delay the smoke’s progress. He then went to open the window, but by the time he’d opened it the smoke was already filling his room.

It was then, he said, that he knew “It was time for me to go out the window, instead of just opening it.”

There were people outside on the ground floor helping others escape the building. The fire department hadn’t arrived yet and once they saw that Charles was still inside, everyone encouraged him to use the window to get out. They gathered up mattresses under his window so he wouldn’t be hurt when he fell, and helped him get away from the flaming apartment. “If it wasn’t for everybody helping each other, a lot of people would’ve gotten hurt.” He says, “It was that immediate help that was right there when it was needed, they took it on their own to help me.”

Volunteers Jackie, Kyle and I were so moved by Charles’ story that we haven’t stopped talking about all week. It goes to show that in the face of immediate danger people will be there to stuff mattresses under your windows to help you out of a fire, and they’ll share stories with strangers over a cup of coffee in the relief shelter.

Charles’ inspirational story can help us be better prepared for a disaster just by showing that we can accept the role of “helper” in an emergency. None of the residents thought of themselves as victims that night. Instead most of the 50 people were able to evacuate with practically no injuries and share a unique bond, though strangers, because they were survivors.

By Monica Ray
Photo credit to Darren aka Telemachia

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Red Cross Month -- Join Us

Today marks the beginning of Red Cross Month. This is a time of awareness, volunteerism, and generosity. Red Cross Month is a reminder that we couldn’t carry out our mission without the support of our volunteers, followers, and staff.

One disaster that goes under the radar for many Chicagoans is fires. People usually think of hurricanes, tornados or earthquakes. Home fires may seem to have minimal impact but the people that are affected in a year by fires can equal or surpass those of a hurricane or earthquake.

Last night alone, Disaster Services for the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago provided shelter, food, and comfort care to over 50 individuals affected by an apartment fire. On the weekend they responded to six fires where a total of 30 adults and 20 children received assistance. In the past 3 days the Red Cross of Greater Chicago has assisted over 100 individuals.

Robert, one of the people impacted by last nights fire, stated that after seeing thick white smoke making its way through the halls of his apartment complex he knew it was time to leave everything behind and evacuate. Like people affected by a large scale hurricane or tornado individuals affected by a home fire in a matter of minutes loose everything that they hold dear.

Robert is one of many that are displaced daily by home fires. Disasters happen all around us on a daily basis. This month you can help by raising awareness, volunteering or donating to the Red Cross.

Written by: Erica Serna