Saturday, October 4, 2014

World Animal Day

By Michelle Fordice, Volunteer Contributor

Today is World Animal Day! Celebrated on the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, this day celebrates all animals. Here at the Red Cross we especially want to recognize the animals that serve in times of disaster.

Animals serving during disasters

Dogs have helped the Red Cross since early in its history. Check out this footage of a training exercise for dogs searching for wounded soldiers during World War I. 

And these photos of Red Cross dogs searching for wounded soldiers just before and during WWI.

Dogs today still serve in search and rescue missions. Here is a group of local search and rescue dogs deploying to assist in mudslide recovery efforts in Washington state earlier this year.

Search and rescue dogs serve in all sorts of conditions, whether they are searching through the snow...

... jumping out of helicopters...

... or taking their noses on the water by boat.

Other dogs serve as therapy dogs immediately after a disaster or during stressful recovery. This group of golden retrievers from Lutheran Church Charities comforted Boston locals in April of 2013 after the Boston Marathon bombings.

Watch how Red Cross volunteers and their animal companions have helped at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

How you can get involved

Do you think your pet could make a good therapy animal? Check out the resources below to see how to get involved in our own community.

National Capital Therapy Dogs is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization that provides animal-assisted therapy to many people in health facilities, schools, and libraries in more than 30 facilities in the DC, Virginia, and Maryland area. They also accept cats and some other animals in their program.

People, Animals, Love sends out its 320 volunteers and their pets throughout the DC area. Their visit program accepts all sorts of animals, from birds, to dogs, to guinea pigs!

Some dogs have the right breeding and personality traits to be a search and rescue dogs. Learn more about search and rescue dog training in our area by visiting the Virginia Search and Rescue Dog Association.

And don't forget... everyone's pet is their own personal superhero, so make a disaster plan for your furry family members with information from the Red Cross and protect your pet by downloading our Pet First Aid App

Monday, September 29, 2014

September in a Nutshell

What is the EV-D68 Virus?

By Squiggy the Squirrel

You may have seen on the news or heard on the radio lately about the respiratory virus that has been spreading across our country. Enterovirus D68, also known as EV-D68, is a rare but not a new virus. It was first identified in California in the 1960s but there have been fewer than 100 reported cases since that time, until recently. 

From mid-August to mid-September, over 150 people from 40 states, including DC, Maryland, and Virginia, were confirmed to have respiratory illness caused by EV-D68. It's expected that more states will have confirmed cases in the upcoming weeks.

EV-D68 spreads from person-to-person when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or touches contaminated surfaces. The virus causes mild to severe respiratory illness. Initial symptoms are similar to those for the common cold: runny nose, sore throat, cough, and fever. As it progresses, symptoms that are more serious may occur, including difficulty breathing, dehydration, and potentially respiratory failure. Infants, children, and teenagers are most likely to become ill from the virus. Many of the children affected so far had asthma or a history of wheezing.

There's no specific treatment for EV-D68 and no vaccine, so the illness has to run its course. Most people recover completely and few need to be hospitalized.

What Should You Do?

Below are some tips to help prevent the spread of EV-D68:

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Carry hand sanitizer with you; use it especially when on public transportation, in large groups, or public places
  • Use tissues
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unclean hands
  • Buy sanitizing wipes to frequently clean cell phones, computers, and toys
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick
  • If you're sick, stay home from work or school
  • Get your flu vaccine. While flu vaccinations don't prevent EV-D68, flu season is just around the corner and now's a good time to get your annual shot!
  • Take a course. The Red Cross Online Family First Aid and Pediatric CPR course includes lessons on how to respond to respiratory and cardiac emergencies. Go to for more information.

Share these tips with family and friends so we can all work together to prevent the spread of this virus! It's National Preparedness Month, after all - so let's prepare!


Thursday, September 25, 2014

6 Steps for Preparing Your Business for a Disaster

By Michelle Fordice, Volunteer Contributor

Is your business ready to respond to - and recover from - a natural disaster? According to the Insurance Information Institute, 40% of businesses fail after a natural or man-made disaster. Moreover, Americans spend about 20% of their time at work and we all want to be safe while we 're there. Here are six steps to help your business prepare for a disaster.

Commit to preparedness

Think about who you need to get involved to prepare your business for a potential disaster. Is your senior leadership committed? Who on staff needs to be a part of developing how the organization responds to emergencies? What resources are available? 

Conduct a hazard vulnerability assessment

Know your area. Consider what situations are most likely to arise. For example, when it comes to extreme weather, D.C. is most likely to suffer from tornadoes, snow, and floods. Are you ready for those situations?

Know your business. Are there any unique factors to your industry or the area that your office is located that make you more susceptible to a particular kind of emergency? 

Asses your staff and resources. Know the physical capacity, supplies, equipment and human resources of your organization. Have you spoken to your insurance carrier to see what situations are included in your coverage? Who on your staff has a cool head in tense situations? Who has been trained in basic first aid and CPR? 

Develop an emergency response plan

Create a team that develops and maintains an emergency response plan for the business. Prepare a written emergency response plan that addresses the hazards you have identified. Are staff members assigned to particular tasks within that plan?  What are escape routes? Do you need to make any considerations for the special needs of employees with disabilities and medical conditions?

Prepare a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP). Are you prepared to perform essential business functions under a broad range of circumstances? What would happen if you lost access to your records or your facility? Are your suppliers prepared for an emergency? After you know your staff is safe, how will you inform your customers that the service you provide may be interrupted?

Implement an emergency response plan

Train your employees on the new plan. Consider sponsoring a training session for employees in topics like first aid and CPR. (The Red Cross offers training programs for businesses.)  

Acquire safety equipment and supplies.

Provide employees with resources to be ready at home, on their commute, and at work. Make sure you have emergency contact information for each employee in a place where you could access it during an emergency. 

Test and improve your emergency response plan

Conduct drills. People are more likely to respond appropriately when they have had practice. Remember that you should repeat drills at least annually and that new hires will need to be trained.

Consider how everyone performed on the drill. What didn’t work and what items were you missing?

Make improvements. 

Help your community prepare

No business survives without the community it serves. Once you have prepared your business, help prepare your community. Consider hosting a blood drive or donating supplies or services to a local emergency effort. 

Think you’re ready? Try taking The Red Cross Ready Rating assessment. This is a free program that measures your organization‘s level of preparedness and provides tools for making improvements.

Additional Resources:

American Red Cross Ready Rating 123 Assessment
American Red Cross Ready Rating Resource Center
Small Business Association Emergency Preparedness Resources for business
University of Florida Disaster Handbook

Friday, August 29, 2014

August in a Nutshell

Ready, Writing, and Preparedness!

By Squiggy the Squirrel

It's officially that time of year - back to school - and everyone's favorite squirrel (yes, that's me!) prepared a list of items I need to buy for the new year:
  • Pencils
  • Pens
  • Notebooks
  • Crayons
  • Ruler
  • Glue
  • First Aid kit
  • Flashlight

You may be wondering why I added those two last items on my shopping list. Do they seem out of place to you? Wouldn't the school handle those items? The answer is most likely yes. But what about after school? Many kids come home after school and are alone for a few hours before their parents or guardians get home from work. If your child is too young, they shouldn't be left alone. Consider after-school child care, after-school programs or sports, or a babysitter. But if your child is old enough, you may believe they're responsible and able to be left alone after school until you come home from work. If this is the case, here is a list of things you should do in your home to make sure your child is prepared and safe. 

What parents/guardians should do in their homes:

Create an emergency contact list including 9-1-1, work and cell phone numbers of parents/guardians, and numbers for neighbors and extended family members. Put the list in a place that's easy to spot, like the refrigerator or near your landline phone. 

  • Have a stocked first aid kit and flashlight in an accessible place in the home. Make sure your child knows where they are, is familiar with the items in the kit, and knows how to use the flashlight.
  • Come up with an emergency plan with your child so they know what to do in case of a fire, injury, or other emergencies. Practice the plan.
  • Lock up or hide out of reach any dangerous items like guns, knives, power tools, razor blades, scissors, and other objects that could be harmful.
  • Make sure detergents, polishes, pesticides, car fluids, lighter fluids, and oils (potential poisons) are out of reach, hidden, or stored in locked cabinets.
  • Limit any cooking a young child can do. Make sure at least one working smoke alarm is installed on ea ch level of your home.
In addition, here are some other back to school safety tips:
  • Make sure your child knows his/her home phone number and address, parents/guardians' work phone numbers, and how to dial 9-1-1.
  • Remind your child not to talk to strangers or accept rides from someone they don't know.
  • Research your school's emergency plan and how you would be notified if an emergency happened at the school. Ask your child's teacher questions if you have any.
  • Remind your child that the best thing they can do if an emergency happens at school is to stay calm and listen to their teacher.
  • Make a copy of the emergency contact list discussed earlier and tape it to the inside of one of your child's notebooks.
I hope you find these tips helpful! Good luck with the new school year! Don't hesitate to leave a comment if you have any questions. 


Thursday, August 28, 2014

So You Started the School Year. Now What?

By Sarah Oldham, Volunteer Contributor

You've prepped for that first day back at school - from the outfit you wore to the friends you sat with at lunch. But you're school year's just starting and there's a lot of work ahead of you. Now what? 

Goal Setting

I've set myself several goals for this school year to make far-reaching and intelligent decisions. concentrate on studying, and have a healthy social life. As I look forward to the school's seasoned events, like Homecoming and the football games, my objective is to meet new people and stay safe. Additionally, it's not a bad idea to get to know my teachers and not hold back on getting extra help when needed. What personal goals will you set?


Being a 16-year-old teenager, driving has become a large priority. It's very common to come across teen drivers that aren't cautious. Since I'll begin to drive on my own starting in October, I'm making it a huge priority to drive with awareness and watch out for other teen drivers this school year. Whether it's driving safety or something else, it's important to set your priorities for the year ahead. 

Extracurricular Activities & Future Plans

As an upcoming junior, this year I'll be facing several challenges, such as test preparation and college level classes. To equip myself for this school year, in addition to volunteering with the Red Cross I've also become a member of the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS), started SAT practice, and volunteer tutoring. It's vital to me that I experiment with various types of activities, like leadership clubs and Best Buddies. These activities are not only helpful for college admittance, but can also help guide you in deciding what you want to do in the future. Explore all the opportunities that are out there. You never know where they'll lead you!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Back to School Basics

How to Be Prepared for the First Bell

By Sofia Caballero, Volunteer Contributor

The Red Cross stresses preparedness not just for emergencies, but also in everyday life. Are you ready for your return to school? High schoolers, here are some tips for your transition into the new semester.

Before Your First Day

Make sure you know your schedule well before you walk in. When you know where you're going, it'll be easier to focus on the information you're getting from your teachers. Find a map of your school and plan out the routes from class-to-class ahead of time. If you're freshman, go to your orientation. It'll give you an edge if you know where all your classes are and it's a good idea to meet your teachers. 

When packing for your first day back, make a list of everything you need. If you know what supplies your teachers want, make sure you've bought them. Even if you don't know what you need, take some pens and a folder or binder. You'll get forms and syllabi, and it's wise to start organizing everything on day one. 

Unless you want a poor grade and a dirty look from your teacher, do not forget your summer assignments! It seems like a lot to remember, but all of this will help you start off your year on a good note.

The First Day of the Year

Now that you're prepared, actually going back will be easy. A good impression is not difficult to make, but can be important. Having a good relationship with your teachers may help you later on. To ensure you come across as a good student, get to class on time, introduce yourself, and turn in your homework. Taking simple steps like these can make a big difference by the end of the year. 

If there are student you don't yet know, talk to them. It's always better to have friends in your classes. The first day is a good way to ease back into routine. Don't stress about it and it will be easy.

After the First Day

You've only just started! Now, you've got a long year ahead of you. Two words of advice: DON'T PANIC. Maintain a routine schedule for getting homework done, playing sports, and spending free time. If this is difficult for you, take it in steps. Once you master getting homework done on time, add a sport or club. Check what extracurricular programs your school offers. Try to find clubs that can benefit you, but still pertain to your interests. 

Don't forget to make time for volunteer work (which can always be found at the Red Cross). Take advantage of all the programs you have access to. 

Finally, and most importantly, enjoy yourself! Don't worry so much about school that it overwhelms you. Take each day like you did the first and you'll be fine. After all, it's all about being prepared.

Friday, August 1, 2014

5 Things You Didn't Know About the Red Cross in World War I

By Michelle Fordice, Volunteer Contributor

The approach of the 100th anniversary of World War I causes many of us to reflect on the impact of that conflict. The war was a formative one for the Red Cross. Though the organization celebrated its 50th birthday just a few weeks after Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, there was no assurance that the humanitarian zeal of its leaders and volunteers would be enough to alleviate the suffering of the war that was about to rage through Europe and the world. 

In an August 15, 1914 circular to the national Red Cross societies, Gustave Ador, president of the organization, remarked, “From today, the Red Cross is called to an intense labour of a kind never seen before.”  Yet, despite setbacks, challenges and even failures, the Red Cross rose to the occasion. 

Here are 5 things you might not have known about the Red Cross in World War I.

The Red Cross Supported a Massive Information Gathering Campaign for Displaced Civilians and Prisoners of War 

When President Ador instituted an international agency to respond to inquiries about prisoners of war, as dictated by the 1907 Hague Convention, he staffed it with nine members of the International Committee, two boy scouts and a student. Their first list of prisoners of war arrived with 29 names. Soon they realized that the changed nature of warfare meant that displaced civilians would also need to be found, and added that challenge to their mission.

Word of their efforts soon got out and within two months they were receiving 3,000 inquires a day from families. By the end of the war, for French prisoners of war alone, they would fill 228 volumes, each 400 pages, with information about individual soldiers and their whereabouts. By 1918, 120,000 people had arrived in person looking for assistance.

In spite of these staggering numbers, the most inspiring part of this story is the people who were involved. Many of the first volunteers for the agency were travelers who had been stranded in Geneva by the fighting.  These bankers, teachers and homemakers took up the call to help. Eventually 1,200 volunteers would work in shifts around the clock to answer the calls of families looking for their loved ones.  

From Comic Books to X-Ray Machines, the Red Cross Provided a Vast Amount of Services and Material during the War

The Red Cross provided more than you might think during the war. The Danish Red Cross quickly amassed 20,000 books for prisoners of war, soliciting comic books in particular so that the soldiers would not “forget how to laugh.”

The American Red Cross brought enough bandage material to Italy to “provide a five-and-three-quarter girdle of gauze around the world,” and some British medical units in the field came with their own mobile x-ray machines.

In August of 1916 one of these x-ray teams reported that they had examined, “not only 49 heads, 58 thorax, 8 abdomen, 27 pelvises, etc. but 2 horses and a mule.” Canteen units supplied troops with necessities and comfort items.

In a single month in 1918, the Red Cross in Vichy distributed free items that included, “78,278 packages of tobacco, 7,480 tubes of toothpaste, 7,650 toothbrushes, 3,650 combs, 3,460 so-called comfort bags (small cloth bags filled with treats and necessities), 2,850 packages of chewing gum, 1,650 cakes of soap, 1,245 bars of chocolate, and 1,200 sticks of shaving soap.

Other gifts for the troops included pencils, matches, shaving brushes, cards, washcloths, sweaters, razor blades, checkers and other games, thread, pipe cleaners, drinking cups, gloves, canes, socks, pajamas and underwear.”

During the battle at St. Mihiel, Red Cross volunteers served over 160,000 gallons of hot cocoa. Across the war zone Red Cross volunteers hosted holiday celebrations, wrote letters for injured soldiers, delivered mail, arranged funerals and recorded the gravesites, tended the sick and wounded, and more.

Activities Surrounding World War I Caused the Red Cross in the United States to Blossom

When the war began, the American Red Cross only had 107 chapters. American Red Cross members did respond to the war from its outset, sending mercy ships and fundraising, but they were outpaced by their European counterparts. Yet, when Congress voted for war in April of 1917, Americans embraced the cause and turned out in droves to support the Red Cross. By the end of the war, the American Red Cross had 3,864 chapters and nearly a quarter of the country’s population—28 million people— were members. 

Americans supported a variety of Red Cross operations as old services expanded and new ones were added, such as the motor corps and canteen services. Even President Wilson grazed sheep on the White House lawn and auctioned off the wool for the cause.

Red Cross Supporters Got Creative with Their Fundraising

Like fundraisers today, Red Cross volunteers were faced with the challenge of needing to raise huge sums money to meet their goals. They often approached this problem in creative ways. In Britain, Lady Northcliffe called on the women of the British Empire to donate their pearls. She collected 3,597 pearls and had forty-one necklaces made. They sold at auction for £84,000. 

Others followed her example of organizing auctions. By the end of the war, Christie’s auction house hosted seven sales that raised £322,000. American Red Cross President, Henry Davison convinced Wall Street bankers to turn out their pockets and Henry Ford to donate 5,000 Model Ts. Harry Gardner, the ‘human fly,’ scaled a New York skyscraper in a white suite with a large red cross painted on his back to draw attention and draw in funds. 

Even the average volunteer got in the game: An Ohio woman donated a hen and a dozen eggs that was auctioned for $2,002.

The Red Cross Sponsored a Project to Create Masks for Disfigured Soldiers

After receiving support from the Red Cross, sculptor Anna Ladd began creating realistic portrait masks for soldiers with faces marred from shrapnel, burns and other wounds. Ladd custom-made pieces for each soldier, recreating noses, ears, and jaws. Each mask consisted of a thin copper form covered with hard enamel painted to match the wearer’s skin tone. Even mustaches were recreated with real hair fastened to the mask.  These masks allowed the men to feel more comfortable in public. 

Ladd wrote, “People get used to seeing men with arms and legs missing, but they never get used to an abnormal face. And so these men are the object of aversion to almost everyone. A man who is repulsive to look at cannot get a job which will bring him in contact with the general public, and so it is so much harder for these men, who have already given so much, to earn their living.”  

With their self-esteem bolstered, these men went home ready to start over. They sent letters back to Ladd reporting of how they found new jobs and got married. One man, who had not wanted his mother to see his face, finally returned home after two years. By 1918, Ladd’s studio had produced 185 masks. It seems a small drop in the bucket against the estimated 20,000 facial casualties of the war, but for those men it was an invaluable service. 

Want to learn more? This article referenced the following materials:

Alexander, C. (2007). Faces of War: Amid the horrors of World War I, a corps of artists brought hope to soldiers disfigured in the trenches. Smithsonian Magazine

Gavin, Lettie. (1997). American Women in World War I. Niwot, Colorado: University Press of Colorado.

Martin, I. (2002). 'When Needs Must': The Acceptance of Volunteer Aids in British and Australian Military Hospitals in World War I. Health and History, 4(1), 88-98

Morehead, Caroline. (1998). Dunant’s Dream: War, Switzerland, and the History of the Red Cross. New York, New York: Carroll & Graff Publishers, Inc.

Woolley, A. (1986). A Hoosier Nurse in France: The World War I Diary of Maude Frances Essig. Indiana Magazine of History, 82(1), 37-68.

Zeinert, Karen. (2001). Those Extraordinary Women of World War I. Brookfield, Connecticut: The Millbrook Press, Inc.