Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Swept Away with Royal Wedding Fever

Cancel that Friday morning appointment, because the wedding of the year is about to take place. That’s right, Prince William and his fiancée, Kate Middleton, will wed this Friday, April 29 at Westminster Abbey in London, England.

With royal weddings such a rare and special occasion, everyone seems to be going a little bananas about the Royal Wedding between the young couple, which is expected to draw thousands of onlookers in central London and television viewers around the globe. But can you blame us? Who doesn’t love a spectacular wedding full of extravagant hats and decor? With a guest list that includes huge names like Sir Elton John, Victoria & David Beckham, Guy Richie and various royal families from around continental Europe, it’s nearly impossible to escape the publicity of this stunning extravaganza.

Although I won’t be able to attend the special occasion due to… uh, scheduling conflicts… you can bet that I, along with thousands of others, will be sitting front row in our living rooms watching the extraordinary celebration take place. For many of the residents of London, they will have an opportunity to view the ceremony and procession at various landmarks, including Westminster Abbey and Parliament Square. This is where we, the Red Cross, come in.

In order to provide help and safety in case of any emergencies, large or small, during the ceremony, the British Red Cross emergency response teams are expected to scatter over 100 staff and volunteers throughout central London. Specifically, the British Red Cross will staff 80 first aid volunteers, 15 communications and equipment volunteers, 3 first aid posts in Parliament Square and 3 to 6 volunteers at the media village located in Green Park.

Adam Hiley, the British Red Cross emergency planning officer in London stated, “As this is a large scale public event, we have been planning and preparing for it for the past three weeks now. We are deploying equipment and teams for first aid cover to ensure that well-wishers and tourists gathering in central London can be attended to in the event of any emergencies.”

We hope that assistance from the British Red Cross won’t be needed during the ceremony this Friday. However, just as the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago, the British Red Cross is always ready to prevent, prepare and respond to emergencies, whether big or small. So go ahead and pour yourself that bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats and take a sigh of relief in front of your television Friday morning, knowing that our good friends from the British Red Cross will be around to help this historic and exciting celebration go forth with safety.

Make sure to check out some of the exciting local Royal Wedding events right here in Chicago.

David Roth is an intern at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago. He is currently a junior at DePaul Univeristy and dreams of gracing the cover of US Weekly.

Photo from Flickr: Royal-News

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Earthquake Ready?

Photo by: Carola Solís / Chilean Red Cross

On December 1998 for approximately 15 seconds it seemed that I was in the center of the world. I was 13 years old when I experienced my first earthquake while on vacation with family in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo in Mexico. I had just finished swimming the beach and was ready to head to dinner at a local restaurant. I decided to walk-out of the house before the rest of my family watch the fireflies. As I started my descent down the stairs I felt a slight shaking. Standing alone at the center of the staircase the vibrations of the earthshaking escalated slowly from the soles of my feet to the top of my hair. All thoughts vanished as time stopped, all I could feel was the gentle shaking beneath and the warmth of the air filling my lungs.

Since I was born and raised in Chicago, I was never educated on earthquake preparedness in school or at home. There is a misconception among people that an earthquake will not strike the Midwestern part of United States. We get tornados, blizzards, thunderstorms, and flooding but not earthquakes. However, the probability that an earthquake will strike is higher than we expect.

Reality set in on April 18, 2008 when a 5.2 earthquake hit West Salem, Illinois. The shaking was felt in the Chicago land area. It was said to be one of the strongest earthquakes to hit this part of the country in 40 years. Those that felt the shaking in the early hours of the morning shared their experience through calls to radio stations and friends, but as the shock wore off, so did talk about
earthquake preparedness.

On January 12, 2010 we watched as a 7.0 earthquake devastated the island nation of Haiti. A year later we once again bared witness as a magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit the western coast of Japan causing a Tsunami. People around the world were able to see the true impact that an earthquake can inflict on a country and its people. Seeing the images of the search for the missing and hearing the stories of those who had been rescued, awaken within us our survivor instincts. We started to ask ourselves whether we were
prepared for an earthquake or any catastrophic natural disaster.

Can a devastating earthquake the size of Haiti or Japan, strike the Midwestern United States?

It can. The Midwest is on one of the largest fault lines in the United States, called the New Madrid fault. The New Madrid Fault extends through northeastern Arkansas, southeastern Missouri, western Tennessee and Kentucky, and southern Illinois. According to USGS the probability of an earthquake of magnitude 7 or higher is of 7-10% and of magnitude 6.0 or larger is of 25-40%. With the potentiality of an earthquake striking, the Heartland of America taking measures to increase
preparedness is essential for damage control and to lessen the impact on people.

prepare people for earthquakes, the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago has joined The Greater Central United States Shake-Out initiative. The Shake-Out which will take place April 28, 2011 at 10:15 CDT, it is a large earthquake drill where people will practice to DROP, COVER, AND HOLD ON! The purpose of The Greater Central United States Shake-Out is to inspire communities to get ready for earthquakes, and to prevent disasters from becoming catastrophes.

Here at the
American Red Cross of Greater Chicago we will be practicing DROP, COVER, AND HOLD ON! These simple three steps can increase the probability of surviving and recovering from an earthquake.

Join us on April 28th 2011 at 10:15, register for free at and pledge your family, school, business, or organization’s participation in the drill. Registered participants will receive information on how to plan their drill and how to create a dialogue with others about earthquake preparedness.

During an earthquake remember:

• DROP to the ground (before the earthquake drops you!)
• Take COVER by getting under a sturdy desk or table
• HOLD ON to the table until the shaking stops.

For more information on Earthquake Preparedness visit

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Red Cross is a Blessing to this Family

Photo by Daniel Cima

Tough times often get tougher before they can get better. To help the thousands of people affected by the severe storms in the South this past week, the Red Cross has set up several shelters to provide relief in the form of temporary housing. The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago deployed two of our own local volunteers to Raleigh, North Carolina to help provide assistance. Below is the story of how one family is enduring the disaster aftermath.

The following story was written by Allen Crabtree, American Red Cross disaster relief worker.

Gilda Brisbon and her family know what it’s like to be homeless, but when they moved into their home in the King Charles Road neighborhood in Raleigh, North Carolina three years ago they thought that those days were behind them. However, on Saturday, April 16, everything changed when their home was destroyed by a class EF1 tornado and they lost everything but the clothes on their backs.

“My daughter Brittany was home alone when it hit,” said Brisbon. “I had heard the warning sirens and was hurrying to get home. I looked at my watch and it was 3:31pm when I saw the black funnel cloud coming right at me.” She took refuge in a nearby friend’s house with her grandson Anthony, struggling to keep the door closed against the storm.

Daughter Brittany saw the lights flicker on and off, felt the house shake and heard the sounds of the storm and a large tree in their yard being uprooted. She took refuge in the laundry room, fortunately suffering only minor cuts and bruises as the tornado demolished all but the kitchen and the laundry room. “It rained very hard for about five or ten minutes, and then everything got quiet,” she said. “I ran from the house to find my mother, and had to climb under and over many trees that were knocked down.” She added “the houses on either side of ours were untouched, but ours was destroyed! That’s just not fair!”

The Brisbon’s stayed Saturday night and Sunday at the nearby house of their friend, Latesha Winston and her two children. The power was out in the entire neighborhood, however, so when they heard that there was an American Red Cross shelter open at the Garner United Methodist Church in Garner, NC, they all took refuge there.

Red Cross Shelter Manager Judy Cox said that many of the families staying at the shelter have similar stories. They have lost power, some have had their homes destroyed, and all are extremely grateful for the Red Cross help in their time of trial.

“This is the first time that we have ever stayed at a Red Cross shelter, but we know about homeless shelters from the 93 days we were without a place to call home,” Brisbon said. “Your shelter here is so much nicer than that other place where we stayed, and all of your people are so kind to us and treat us wonderfully. The Red Cross is really a blessing, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

Brisbon and her family are not sure what they will do next. Their home has been condemned and they must now find a new place to live, but they have been through tough times before and are positive that they will make it through this challenge that life has thrown at them.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Not a Typical Tuesday

Image courtesy Chicago Tribune, unedited video screencapture

Every morning I make the decision of taking either the brown or red line. But today, it was neither. At 9:30 this morning, none of my fellow Fullerton commuters were going anywhere for a while.

There’s a pattern when uncertainty strikes: confusion, anxiety, panic, frustration.
Just because I am a Red Crosser doesn’t mean I am always calm and collected (in fact, I am certain I would have been more at ease had I carried a Red Cross Safety Tube).

In attempt to ease confusion, straining my ears to listen to both the muffled announcements from the CTA and surrounding crowds got me nowhere. I turned to the classic default of a public relations person: Twitter. Nothing yet- so I knew it was a fresh incident. Second public relations default: ears. A girl next to me said her friend had heard of a derailment. But that was it. Checking Twitter again, there it was- “Brown line derailed. Major CTA delays going south.”

Slowly, the information poured in. Upon learning the accident was just a few hundred feet north of us, crowds became eager to find a way to get where they were going.

A strange thing happens when disasters strike. We’ve seen it with Haiti and Japan, but not everyone gets to witness the intimate local bonds when everyday disasters happen.

Though I wasn’t directly on the scene of this disaster as Red Cross personnel, I still felt the energy of our mission to respond. After spending 30 minutes waiting on one of the many motionless trains affected by the delay, I (like any true city-paced Chicagoan) was getting restless. As CTA passengers, we all had the same goal: just get where we wanted to go. But how we did it was a bit remarkable. Deferring to a Red Cross commuter safety tip -- Learn alternate routes and ways to get where you need to go -- I followed suit. All in the same situation, people began to pile with strangers into cabs to help each other reach their destinations efficiently. I was one of them.

Uncertainty is part of the culture in working in the disaster response field, but the comfort in that is the part that proceeds the “un-”. There will always be help. There will always be a way.

“We’re always there.”

Friday, April 15, 2011

At the Scene of a Home Fire

Almost everyday Chicagoans hear about a house fire in the news. It’s something that happens so often and impacts so few at a time that we tend not to give it too much attention. It’s disregarded as “another fire somewhere in the city”, but the story looks very different if you experience it personally. It’s not numbers you look at then, it’s the faces. And knowing that you’re standing in someone’s burned up home makes the fire very real and extremely scary.

Last week, I was on scene with Red Cross responders at a fire on Chicago’s south side. The blaze started at 1:30 p.m. in a two story home which housed a family of four. Within minutes, the flames got completely out of hand and swallowed up the entire structure. Three of the residents were not at home at the time, but unfortunately, the one person who was there, was trapped on the first floor bedroom. The firefighters soon came to his rescue and dragged him out, but not before he received serious burns and had inhaled a lot of the smoke.

When I arrived with the Red Cross disaster volunteer team, the house and the family were in a mess. The mother, Catalina, was desperately trying to salvage some items from the char ridden house. One of her sons, Marcelo, was in the hospital with serious injuries, and her other son, Jose, was pacing around the place with an expression of complete daze and confusion. The frame of the house was still standing but everything else was in ruins. There were big holes in the ceiling and the floors. The windows were out and all the furniture was badly burned.

The Red Cross volunteers sat the family down in their van, helped calm them down, listened to their story and comforted them as best as they could. They also provided them with assistance for food, shelter and clothing.

The immediate security that your donations provide to the victims of a fire help them recover from the shock of the incident, and gives them a warm and safe place to stay and collect their thoughts. Every little bit counts-ask someone who’s been through a fire.

Keep yourself and your family safe from fires- click here for some fire safety tips.

Written by Maliha Sadiq

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hometown Heroes

Working with the Red Cross, we constantly hear amazing stories of generosity. Sometimes, we hear stories that take generosity to a whole new level, whether they are related to donations, rescues, service or anything in between. Last Week, ABC Good Morning America published a story about a live kidney donation that was made possible through the wonders of one of our favorite social medias: Facebook.

When Jeff and Roxy Kurze found out that Jeff’s kidneys were failing, their world was shook. Hearing the bad news that it would take approximately five years for Jeff to receive an appropriate kidney, Roxy turned to social media. By simply posting a facebook status asking anyone to forward her information on live donors with type O blood, Roxy and Jeff received the miracle they had been desperately hoping for.

Fortunately for us at the Red Cross, we get the opportunity to publicly thank individuals who have made life changing differences in the lives of others. In fact, we have the honor of recognizing everyday local heroes once a year at our annual Heroes Breakfast, which is being held on April 14. The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago is honoring 18 heroes in 11 categories. One of which, is also a live kidney donor from Evanston, IL.

After hearing from his favorite cashier at the local Jewel Osco that her kidney was failing, Dan Coyne, a school social worker, offered his matching kidney to Myra de la Vega. The two did not know each other very well, but Dan felt compelled to help. The procedure took place last spring and Myra and Dan have since become family.

Along with Dan, we have an amazing group of individuals who have all done heroic acts over the past year. We have heroes ranging from military mothers, a World War II nurse, fire fighters to even a teenager who by the age of fifteen has already made an impact to many children living with epilepsy. Take a moment to learn more about each of our local heroes.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Guest blogs from (Red Cross) dogs

By Sanford Carlos
About me
Likes-peanut butter treats, short walks (prefer to be inside sitting on a warm lap)
Dislikes-having my teeth brushed

So we love each other alot, right? Would you help me if I needed you? Do you know how?

April is Pet First Aid month and the perfect time to talk about my somewhat sorted past. I’ve had a torn ACL that required surgery, eaten a rubber ball that blocked my digestive system and more. All pretty common stuff in the life of a 5-year old dog but still scary for my owners/parents/humans, take your pick on what you’d like to call them but they take care of me. I’m just glad they knew what to do when I was sick because they took an American Red Cross pet CPR/first aid class and could recognize when I was hurting.

Here’s a recent video about the classes (it shows the really cute pet manikins used for the training). The classes teaches how to recognize when your pet is in distress, how a two-liter bottle can save your pet’s life (hint: it makes the whole mouth to snout thing easier), how to do a simple splint, help a dog who is choking and more.

Here’s the page on all things pet safety (including a pet safety disaster checklist)Oh and this study from the LA Times shows most pet owners would perform CPR on their pet.

So would you take the course? Have you ever been in a situation when you wished you had? Comments from people and pets accepted.

Sanford Carlos’ human companion works at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago.