Monday, September 26, 2011

Reporting a Robbery via Facebook. Strange News?

The Associated Press reported today that a woman used Facebook to ask friends to report a robbery.

I love reading the news, not just the regular stuff but the water-cooler-conversation inducing fodder too. I was looking for a mindless diversion, something like this, “Pumpkin Found Hanging in Pear Tree” when I clocked on the “strange news” link in my e-mail this morning.

Today’s story hit a little closer to home, it was about a woman who used Facebook to ask for help after a robbery. Maybe it’s because I work where I do and stories about “tweeting for help” have become commonplace for us at the Red Cross but I think this is actually pretty common. We even did a recent study “Social Media in Disasters” that backs this up. It showed that about half of the respondents said they would consider asking for help during a disaster or to report a crime via social media channels; 3 out of 4 of those would expect help to arrive within an hour.
Would you turn to social media for help in a disaster or emergency? Have you already done so? Tell me your story.

Martha Carlos is the Communications Director at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago

Friday, September 23, 2011

AmeriCorps Volunteers Help Carry Out Lifesaving Mission of the Red Cross

AmeriCorps has been a long time partner of the American Red Cross that helps the Red Cross achieve it’s mission by paying special attention to the neighborhoods and communities that are in need of life saving services, but are least likely to be able to afford them. This federal initiative is carried out locally by full and part-time participants that focus on a mission that is quite similar to that of the Red Cross. AmeriCorps embraces:

•Getting Things Done by helping a community meets its education, public safety, environmental and other human needs through direct service
•Strengthening Communities by fighting illiteracy, building affordable housing and helping communities respond to disaster
•Encouraging Responsibility by fostering civic engagement through service and volunteering
•Expanding Opportunity by providing members with job skills, invaluable experience, and scholarship or loan repayment for school or job training

Members go through an extensive training process to provide service to society through community organizations. This week, I had the opportunity to meet new members of the AmeriCorps program that were in CPR training at the Rauner Center, the offices of the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago. Talking with Chris Schifeling and Anne Bowlby gave me a better understanding of their role within the Red Cross.

Chris spent two years working with Teach for America and wanted to continue to have “direct contact with communities in need.” The values of the American Red Cross and the politically neutral aspect of our mission statement stood out to him. He is looking forward to helping communities in Chicago that do not receive assistance and has truly enjoyed getting to know the other AmeriCorps members during his training.

Anne is very aligned with the service aspect of AmeriCorps and the Red Cross. Prior to her training at the Chicago Red Cross, her only experience with the Red Cross was through blood donations. She believes in the “trickle down effect” that important training programs from the Red Cross can have on communities, and encourages those who are looking to do service to “lend a hand wherever you can.” She knows that the practical implication of skills learned from AmeriCorps and the Red Cross will help her “give back to [her] community.”

AmeriCorps members are invaluable in our attempt to enact the mission of the Red Cross. The AmeriCorps program is dedicated to bringing Red Cross safety and health programs to underserved neighborhoods, schools and communities throughout the State of Illinois. AmeriCorps members help us with health and safety programs that include CPR, first aid, HIV/AIDS awareness, community disaster education, youth programs and more. Through our partnership with AmeriCorps, the Red Cross is able to reach youth, minorities, low-income communities and senior citizens.

Get involved in the life saving mission of the Red Cross and AmeriCorps and make a positive impact in the community you live in. Visit to sign up for classes, view safety tips or to make a donation.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Children’s Playroom Reduced to Ash: Early Detection of Smoke Could Save Your Home and Lives

The first thing Michael Green heard wasn’t a smoke alarm; it was his daughter Jasmine rushing downstairs to tell him her room was full of smoke. Faulty wiring started the fire, which slowly filled the walls with smoke while Jasmine and her friend played with toys.

“I’m still in shock, but I knew I had to keep my cool and do what was best for my family,” said Michael as he wiped away sweat from his forehead with a paper towel.

As soon as Michael realized there was a fire upstairs, he rushed both children outside, where he could now see flames climbing up the walls of his house. Michael called 9-1-1 and cut off the power, but it was too late to save the second floor of his recently-remodeled home.

By the time the American Red Cross arrived, the entire upstairs was in ruins. Toys, videogames and DVDs were covered with ash, and the family’s new puppy wandered around sniffing at the charred remains. Jasmine’s bedroom had holes ripped out of the walls and ceiling; even her Mickey Mouse pillows were smeared with soot.

Michael’s wife Adrianne sat with Jasmine in silence, both of them dripping in sweat from the boiling heat. Adrianne’s face was like stone as she sat in shock, holding her daughter by her side. Adrianne received a call at work and rushed home to find half her home had been scorched by fire. Her hands shook as she accepted a bottle of water from Michelle, a Red Cross disaster relief worker. Michelle explained to Adrianne how the American Red Cross could help her family through this difficult time. Due to the severity of the fire the Red Cross would be able to provide the Green family with financial assistance, shelter, toiletries, clothing, food and water.

Sixty-five percent of fire related deaths happen in homes without working fire alarms. Smoke alarms provide a few minutes of advance warning in the event of a home fire, and that extra time can save lives. It is important for all homeowners to follow these safety tips:

•Install smoke alarms in every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
•Test fire alarms once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year.
•Talk to all family members, especially children, about a fire escape plan.
•Practice the escape plan twice a year, if not more.

Michael and Adrianne were grateful that their family made it out safely, realizing how fortunate they were to only lose possessions. The American Red Cross of the Greater Chicago Region encourages every family to be prepared for fire disasters. More information about how to be prepared, including safety tips, are available on the Chicago Red Cross website

Written by: Joshua Enright Gleason

Thursday, September 08, 2011

With Great Tailgating Comes Great Responsibility

The NFL season is officially underway and Chicago fans are hopeful to get another shot at the NFC Championship. There’s hope for the Bears to finally reach the Super Bowl again for the first time since 1985, but most importantly, this new season means that tailgating has officially begun!

Anytime there’s a home game in Chicago, fans arrive at Soldier Field long before to take advantage of some of the best tailgating in the country. Tailgaters love to grill out and have some hot food to go along with their cold beverages on game day. It’s great to get out and support our team, but while celebrating it’s important to prepare and handle food properly to prevent food borne illness. The CDC estimates that food borne diseases cause approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year. The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago wants to make sure everyone enjoys the fun and excitement of NFL football safely by providing some food safety tips:

•Do not prepare food more than one day before tailgating unless it is to be frozen.
•Don’t cook food partially ahead of time. Partial cooking of food allows bacteria to survive and multiply.
•When packing your cooler, be sure raw meat and poultry are wrapped securely to prevent juices from contaminating ready-to-eat food.
•Transport cold foods in a cooler to minimize bacteria growth.
•Keep foods covered to prevent contamination by insects.
•If you can’t keep hot food hot during the drive to your tailgate, chill the food in the refrigerator before packing it in a cooler.
•Cook only the amount of food that will be eaten to avoid the challenge of keeping the leftovers at a safe temperature. (Also they won’t let you bring it in the stadium!)
•When you take food off the grill use a clean plate, and be sure not to put cooked food onto the same plate that once held raw meat.
•Include lots of clean utensils for preparing and serving.
•Bring water for cleaning if none will be available at the site. Pack wet disposable clothes, moist towelettes and paper towels for cleaning hands and surfaces.

When gearing up for Sunday’s game, remember to be Red Cross Ready and prevent food borne illness. You want to feel your best when watching Chicago play! For more safety tips on grilling, first aid or commuter safety when traveling to the stadium, visit

Remember to be prepared and… Go Bears!

Written by Joshua Enright Gleason

Photo Courtesy of Chicago Tribune

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Staying Safe During Back to School Season

As summer comes to an end and parents prepare their children for another school year, there are important topics to address aside from which school supplies and clothes to purchase. Discussing safe practices for back to school should be high on the list, and can make all the difference in determining your child’s well being. While the “when I was your age, I had to walk 4 miles, uphill, both ways, in the snow to get to school” joke may be out dated, many children still walk, bus, bike ride or car pool to and from school every day. It is a parent’s worst nightmare to imagine anything ever happening to their child, so it is wise to take precautions so accidents can be avoided.

The International Walk to School Month is an initiative to celebrate the benefits of walking and it’s only a month away. This means more children walking, rather than taking the bus, biking, or catching rides to and from school. No matter how your child commutes to school, the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago offers safety tips and steps parents and children can take to make this back to school season safer.

Tips for Pedestrians
• Never walk alone – always travel with a buddy.
• Pay attention to all traffic signals and crossing guards along the way.
• Never cross the street against a stop light.
• Be cautious of who is around you – never talk to strangers.

Tips for Bike Riders
• Avoid ill-fitting clothing that could get caught in spokes, pedals or restrict movement.
• Wear reflective colors and material to be more visible to street traffic.
• Always wear a helmet when riding a bicycle.
• Walk your bicycle across all intersections.

Tips for School Bus Riders
• Line up facing the bus, not along side it.
• Never reach under the school bus to get anything that has rolled or fallen beneath it. The bus driver may be sitting too high up to see you.
• After getting off the bus, move immediately onto the sidewalk and out of traffic. If there is no sidewalk, try to stay as far to the side of the road as possible.
• Wait for a signal from the bus driver before crossing the street. Walk at least 10 steps away from the front of the bus so the driver can see you.

It is vital to sit down with your child to discuss safety tips for a stress-free commute to school. Knowing how to prevent unexpected emergencies is the first step in ensuring a great and successful school year. Check out the American Red Cross commuter safety tips for more information. Happy back to school!

Written by: Hannah Segall, Marketing and Communications Intern

Photo courtesy of Visual Photos