Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What's In A Name?

We have seen the baby name books while waiting at the checkout line of our favorite grocery store, and are shocked to see that it is over a hundred pages. I can only imagine the struggle and parents’ indecisiveness of choosing a name that will embody this new life. I began to wonder if the process to name a hurricane is this intricate.

Growing up, I loved watching the weather report during hurricane season, I still do. I finally asked myself, why. Why would a girl from the Midwest, who has never been at risk of experiencing a hurricane, be so captivated by them? The odds are greater for me to be stranded by a blizzard, lose my home to a fire, tornado, or earthquake, than be in a hurricane. Nevertheless, hurricanes are the ones that capture my attention and keep me glued to my T.V. monitoring their most recent activity. Knowing their name brought them to life.

Who started to name them?

For hundreds of years, people from the West Indies named hurricanes after saints. They had a very simple approach to naming these untamable storms, a hurricane struck land, a calendar was pulled and consulted to find the day's saint and presto they had a hurricane name. Things started to get murky in the 1900’s, when people started to create a standard naming system for hurricanes. The first idea was to name them after their longitude-latitude position, but that failed for it made communication difficult. Throughout the years many have tried to devise their own naming systems but they all proved to have their drawbacks, until the World Meteorological Organization took control of the naming process.

The World Meteorological Organization, which is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, meets and draws up a list of names A-Z, excluding Q, U, X, Y, and Z, names starting with these letters are scarce. The WMO realized that hurricanes strike and are followed by many countries, so they expanded the list to contain names from the English, French, Spanish, and Dutch language. Like peoples’ names, hurricanes names are reused and recycled, unless one creates mass devastation, then the name is retired.

Curious to know if you share the name of an up-coming hurricane? I was. 2015 will be the year of Erika. It is not the exact spelling of my name, but I will take it. I am looking forward to see the changing personality of the hurricane that shares my name. Whether it will be temperamental or mellow, I hope that it is not destructive.

The Chicago land area may not be struck by a hurricane, but the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago dispatches volunteers to help those affected by hurricanes. When Hurricane Katrina unleashed her fury on Louisiana the Red Cross mobilized volunteers throughout the nation and provided disaster relief. Over 7,000 people affected by Hurricane Katrina sought refuge in Chicago and the Chicago Red Cross provided them with mental health services, food, and shelter. Hurricanes may not affect us directly, but their aftermath impacts us.

During this hurricane season listen to the weather reports and tract their dynamic personalities.

If you are planning to vacation to a location that is prone to hurricanes visit: Be Prepared.

Monday, June 27, 2011

24 Hours of Passionate Service

Once you get into the routine of working a 9-5 job, you may say that it’s not too bad. But what if you worked a job with an unset schedule where you’re on call on certain days, you don’t know what to expect and your job is never finished? You’d say that’s crazy, right? Well guess what—American Red Cross Disaster Service workers do this everyday. Talk about working a 24-hour job, and loving it.

This is the type of job where volunteers serve others because it’s their passion to help in devastating situations: being impacted by fires, floods, tornadoes or hurricanes. Red Cross does not see this as work but as a service rendered to the human population at the right moment.

Every 80 seconds there’s a home fire in the U.S. and on average, the Chicago Red Cross responds to three to four home fires per day in the Chicago land area. On Tuesday night a fire destroyed the entire side of an apartment and Chicago Red Cross saw the need to set up a shelter for the affected residents. The next day, I was able to get a glimpse of what the neighbors went through with the fire’s aftermath and what it’s like to serve people in need.

We arrived on the scene of where the apartment fire took place at 2:15 p.m. As we stepped out of the truck, I looked across the street to see how the building looked. It appeared that a couple of windows were shattered. The fire didn’t even touch the left side of the apartment complex, but the destruction on the right side took my breath away. What remained of the apartment rooms we looked in was rubble. The stairwell that spiraled down the outside of the building hung suspended in the air burnt to a crisp. I thought the inside apartment was devastating, but the back of the apartment and house is really where all the destruction took place. What used to be the garage no longer existed and the van still sat there but the insides were demolished.

Right then and there I began to see why the people had to evacuate the apartment building and the need for a Red Cross shelter. Not everyone in the apartment units was affected, but everyone was told to pack up and leave the premises. I will never forget the response I heard from one of the apartment residents, “There is no good or bad side to this situation when you have to leave your home.”

It wasn’t until I talked to some of the neighbors that the whole story began to make sense. Initially, the fire started in the garage and set the van that was in front of it on fire. After the van caught on fire the wind carried the flames to the pole that sat in between the house and apartment building. Once the fire traveled up the pole it spread to the apartment’s back porch where the staircase sat.

One of the stories I remembered was a resident saying he was cooking in his kitchen when he heard a loud boom, looked outside his window, and saw fire and smoke coming from the garage. All he could do was tell everyone in the house to get out. “We weren’t just worried about ourselves, but my friend and brother went to the garage and kicked the door in to make sure no one was in there,” said Steve Williams.

Immediately, I began to see the positive impact the Red Cross had on the community. In the 90 degree weather, Red Cross provided bottles of water, snacks and sandwiches, as well as providing information. Red Cross worker Cam C. Anton was on duty at the shelter and when guidance and comfort was needed, he was there to help.

Besides giving people food, drinks and shelter, they needed someone who would listen to them about their frustrations, sadness and fear. Red Cross helped fill the gap.

Red Cross volunteers who provide disaster relief are needed daily during national disasters. Their compassion and commitment to others develops overtime from serving those in their community. That’s what Red Cross did for these residents: provide a sense of hope that life will continue.

For more information about how to volunteer with Red Cross, click here.

Written By Rachel Moten

Thursday, June 23, 2011

“Taste”ful Ways to be Safe at the World’s Largest Food Festival

The long-awaited Taste of Chicago officially starts today at 11 a.m. and will run through July 3 in Grant Park. The “Taste”, as many refer to it, offers its’ guests a wide array of delicious cuisine from Chicago’s many dining establishments.

Countless people will make the venture to Grant Park to check out what this year’s Taste has in store. With various foods from hot chicken wings to zesty pizza bites, it will be near impossible to leave without your stomach bursting at the seams. It may be hard to imagine anything other than good times and great eats, but it is important to keep in mind that emergencies can still happen.

Here are a few situations to consider as you enjoy the Taste this year:

- Choking: Food or small objects can cause choking if they get caught in your throat and block your airway while you’re walking around and eating. Knowing how to perform CPR on adults, infants, and children under 12 can help you dislodge any foreign object if needed. Sign up for a
Red Cross CPR class.

- Heat Exhaustion: Drink plenty of fluids! Avoid alcohol and caffeine, if possible, which can dehydrate the body. Be
prepared for heat exhaustion by knowing how to prevent and treat the symptoms. Also, don’t forget to read our do’s and don’ts of heat wave safety.

- Commuter travel: Whether you are traveling via car, bus or train it is essential to be ready for an unexpected emergency. Planning is a crucial first step toward a calm and effective response. Read our
commuter safety tips and plan ahead.

As you enjoy various musical acts and unlimited fare at the Taste of Chicago this week, remember to be informed and ready in case you experience a sudden crisis. The
American Red Cross of Greater Chicago offers a variety of First Aid/CPR/AED courses for adults, children and infants and safety tips that can help you prepare for any emergency this summer. Please visit for more information.

Written by Hannah Segall, Marketing and Communications Intern

Photo by FreeFlighto46/Flickr

Monday, June 20, 2011

Timber: June Showers Topples Tree

A severe thunderstorm touched the City of Chicago on the early hours of June 9, 2011. The sky was illuminated by the blue of lightning and the earth shook from the vibrations of the thunder. Many people in the Chicago area did not sleep for worry that their homes might flood.

Janice Davis, resident of Dolton, Ill., placed her mother Janet and grandchildren to sleep and closed her eyes for the night, flooding was not a concern. At 4 a.m. she was suddenly shaken awake by a loud bang. Janice ran quickly to her mother’s room for she feared lighting had struck the home. After making sure that her mother and children were safe, she peeked out the window and to her shock saw that the tree had split in half and was hanging from her roof.

The collapsed tree pulled the electric lines and cracked the foundation, leaving the home without electricity.

Janice stated, “Being without electricity and my mom, who suffers from seizure and needs a respiratory aid, scared me half to death.” Janice tried to call friends and family for help without success.

“Before you guys came, I did not know who was going to help us,” Janice told Red Cross responders. The Red Cross provided the family with the security of knowing that they would have a place to rest, plug in the respiratory aid, store medications, and think about taking their next step.

Janice and her family were caught unprepared and without a plan. During disastrous weather, expected or unexpected, it’s key to be prepared. The Red Cross urges families to make a kit that includes some the following:

• Water—at least a 3¬-day supply; one gallon per person per day
• Food—at least a 3-¬day supply of non-¬perishable, easy-¬to¬-prepare food
• Flashlight
• Battery-powered or hand¬-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
• Extra batteries
• First aid kit
• Medications (7¬-day supply) and medical items (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, cane)
• Multi¬purpose tool
• Sanitation and personal hygiene items
• Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, deed/lease
to home, birth certificates, insurance policies)
• Cell phone with chargers
• Family and emergency contact information
• Extra cash
• Emergency blanket
• Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
• Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl)
• Extra clothing, hat and sturdy shoes

Next time the unexpected may occur to you. Be prepared make an emergency kit. For more information visit:

Monday, June 06, 2011

Fires Destroy More than Material Possessions

Just when Janet Clair thought things could not get worse, they did for her on Wednesday afternoon. She has just been laid off from her job and was struggling to care for her six children, when an accidental fire broke out in her home. Her youngest daughter got a hold of a lighter and set one of the bunk beds’ mattresses on fire. She was so scared that she shut the door and didn’t tell anyone. Janet and the two other siblings were taking a nap and awoke to smoke and fire alarms going off. By that time the house was so smoky all Janet could do was grab the kids and rush out the house.

What began as a relaxing day of rest turned into a day of misery, pain, and a nightmare for Janet and her household.

As a Red Cross intern arriving on the scene to my first fire, the house appeared fine from the outside. But to my surprise once I stepped inside that was not the case. A lot of the family members sitting on the couch had looks of disappointment on their faces about the damage the fire did to the house when we entered into the house. It was not until I begin to walk up the stairs that I inhaled the smell of smoke. The first floor of the house remained untouched by the fire, but the two rooms in the attic were destroyed. Holes in the room’s ceilings, shredded pieces of clothing on the floor, and both mattresses to the bunk beds were totally disintegrated.

Janet followed us into the room where the fire started and once the other Red Cross intern asked her a simple question, “How are you?” she broke out in tears explaining she that she didn’t know what her next move would be. That basic question is what triggered in my mind and heart what it means for a family to be a victim of a fire.

Fires have one sole purpose and that’s to burn and destroy. It does not decipher right from wrong, friend from foe, or loved ones from distant. I realized this fire not only destroyed the material possessions for this family, but it devastated their lives.

Janet and her family escaped the fire’s path but it left behind tears, pain, anger, and broken memories. This fire did not destroy everything for Janet, but it left her with a story to tell and more responsibilities to carry from that point on.

At that moment I began to think to myself money cannot buy everything it can only buy so much, but the soul is something money cannot fix permanently. However, the Red Cross appeared to Janet as her only saving hope for the future. Besides providing for her financially, the fact that we were there to listen showed Janet someone cares. That meant a lot to her more than I could ever understand.

Being there made me view Red Cross as a symbol of hope for the pain and misery that many face during a fire. Red Cross is seen as an outlet of hope for others to not just make it through that day but down the road.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

CPR Can Save Lives: Be Prepared at All Times

With temperatures rising and summer season around the corner more people are having heated-related illnesses. If you saw someone pass out at your workplace, in the mall, at dinner, or in a parking lot, would you come to their rescue? The better question is would you know what to do in a situation like this? It’s not just a matter of caring or having a heart to serve others, but the important part is being confident in knowing what you’re doing.

That’s why Tanya Corona-Garza, Rebecca Christy, and Courtney Shimenetto took a CPR/AED Adult and Child Plus class last week at the Chicago Red Cross Chapter. They wanted to walk out of the classroom confident they could save a person’s life if the emergency occurred. A majority of the people who attend these classes go because they need certification or recertification for their jobs, but they all have different professions: nanny, stay at home mother, consultant, student, etc. No matter what profession you hold, knowing how to be prepared for emergencies is important, especially when it involves learning how to save a life.

A quarter of a million people in Chicago take a CPR class that’s administered by the Red Cross. But only 5% of emergencies that occur are reported. The people who come to this CPR class, take it, so that they do not fall into the 5% category.

The Red Cross instructor stated that most people who get their training in this CPR class usually walk out confidently knowing they can save someone’s life. Those who are prepared have a better outcome in an emergency situation.

Upon completing the class, you’re certified for two years. I believe what helps so many people retain the information that they learn is through the interactive and hands-on assignments the instructors walk them through.

A brief overview of what is covered:
•Participants go through booklets and pamphlets
•Watch video series on the importance of CPR and demonstrations on what to do in different scenarios
•Go over the steps of having a kit, making a plan, and being informed when in the house and on the go
•Learned techniques of how to be protected when coming in contact with someone who’s bleeding
•Using a breathing barrier and plastic gloves to prevent disease transmission
•Recognizing and caring for cardiac emergencies
•Practice on mannequins for a child and adult on how to assist a conscious and unconscious person

Attending a CPR class can not only benefit you, but benefit others you encounter on a daily basis whether it’s a neighbor, relative, parent, or child. More than 300,000 deaths are caused by cardiac arrest in the U.S. So knowing what to do in case of an emergency can reduce the number of deaths. Emergency care is now coming to you at the palm of your hands through an American Red Cross app that we have designed with Dr. OZ.

To listen to the audio story along with photos, click on this link: