Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Through the Eyes of DAT: Disaster Action Team

Dale City Apartment Fire, February 9, 2015

Written by: Sara Cook, Red Cross DAT Volunteer

At 10:25pm the American Red Cross in the National Capital Region Disaster Action Team (DAT) responded to an apartment fire on Boxwood Drive in Dale City, VA.

The first task for the five DAT Responders, as always, is to touch base with the Fire Department. Afterwards they reached out to four families, a total of 15 people scattered around the immediate area waiting in their cars to keep warm in the frigid and rainy night. DAT immediately offered blankets and tried to secure a warm meeting area to begin the process of getting them all a place to settle in for the night. DAT also provided Comfort Kits to all of the victims of the fire, which include a toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, tissues, soap, and other daily essentials.

It was a very long and cold night for all of the responders and residents. When the Building Inspector finished his review of the building, he allowed the unaffected residents to remain in their homes. Two other families were provided with a local hotel room for 3 nights. All of the effected individuals were provided with emergency funds for food and immediate clothing needs.

With all of the residents’ immediate needs met, DAT departed the scene at 1:30am. The next day, a follow-up team met with the family that was unable to have a household representative present at the time of the fire, which gave the DAT team an opportunity to see one of the other families from the night before. It isn’t often that DAT Responders get a chance to see their clients a second time. They had three generations of boys at the apartment working together to retrieve the contents of the house and take them to storage. They were all in very good spirits saying, “We’re just blessed that no one was hurt.” After catching up on recovery plans and talking about what to do with soaked mattresses (throw them out, they don’t dry), DAT left them to get reorganized and move on from the fire.

Every 8 minutes, the American Red Cross responds to a home fire or other emergency. You don't have to be a DAT team member to help home fire victims in your community. #GiveWhatFireTakes to install smoke detectors, provide clothes, or financial assistance.

See more of Sara Cook’s photos.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Volunteer Profile - John Desiderio

Volunteer of the Quarter Award

Volunteer Profile

Written by: Megan Sanko, Red Cross Volunteer

John got his award in January 2015
For American Red Cross Volunteer of the Quarter Award recipient, John Desiderio, the choice to volunteer with Walter Reed National Military Medical Center’s Gastroenterology Clinic followed years of military service. 
His volunteer work began in January 2010 as a way for he and his wife to give back to a medical system they valued. “I came from an environment shaped by 41 years of quick assessments and quick decisions,” says Desiderio. “I quickly learned that volunteering with the Red Cross is special. I needed to take the extra time…to be more attentive to what others feel is important-especially patients.… I never have to ask myself if what I do as a Red Cross volunteer makes a difference.” No doubt his fellow volunteers and the patients appreciate the difference he makes through his devoted support. Service members experience unique challenges associated with military life, and John enjoys giving them the critical and constant care they need

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Celebrate National Blood Donor Month

The Season of Giving Continues

Written by: Kathleen Mundie, Red Cross Volunteer

Did you know that one pint of blood can save up to three lives?

The American Red Cross is saluting all of its blood and platelet donors for their life-giving contributions to ill patients. Blood and platelet donors have helped supply community and military hospitals with the blood they need for transfusions, cancer care, and other treatments. We commend our donors for their service and encourage the whole community to contribute lifesaving resources.

It is crucial that the community at large comprehend the importance of donating blood.  Hospitals are always in need of all types of blood, especially type O negative, A negative, and B negative. That is because every two seconds someone in the US needs blood. To learn more about all blood types and about what happened to donated blood, visit RedCrossBlood.org.

Are you ready to roll up your sleeves? Start a SleevesUp virtual blood drive campaign to honor a special occasion with a blood drive. You can even download a Blood App to register for a local blood drive. There’s so many different ways you can help make a difference by saving a life!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Every Single Day

Volunteer Profile

Candice during a campaign with Grecia Ocampo & David Pradoes. 
Candice Covin has been volunteering with the American Red Cross for the past 6 month, but her commitment to the organization began seventeen years ago as she was serving in Kuwait as a Staff Sergeant in the Army.

“My husband and I were deployed way out in the middle of nowhere,” she recounts. “Our family had not been able to get in touch with us for some time, and they were beginning to worry. So they reached out to the Red Cross, and the organization tracked us down. One hot afternoon a Red Cross representative showed up where we were stationed and delivered the message. I had no idea the Red Cross did that and was touched by their commitment to my family and our troops.”

After several years volunteering in her community, Candice decided that she wanted give back and began training as a volunteer with the Red Cross in the National Capital Region. Now, as a Response Leader for a Disaster Action Team, she has been onsite for 10 fires affecting everything from single family homes to an entire apartment building. While the disasters are difficult situations, she is pleased to be able to provide support and resources when those affected need them the most.

“I was particularly moved by the woman we helped the day after Thanksgiving,” she shared. “A fire had broken out in her apartment and quickly spread throughout the unit. We arrived shortly after the fire department, and when she saw us – well she was overwhelmed. She cried and smiled because the Red Cross was there to help her when no one else was.”

Candice went on the share that, “a lot of people don’t realize that the Red Cross responds to every kind of disaster – big and small. The volunteers are there to help people, and I am proud to be a part of what the Red Cross does every single day.”  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Five ways to get ready for flu season

Five ways to get ready for flu season

Written by: Michelle Fordice, Red Cross Volunteer

Do your kids seem sneezy? Has your coworker just admitted that they have felt awful all day, but they just couldn’t miss work? Sounds like it’s flu season! Flu season usually peaks in January or February, and reports of cases are already growing in the Washington D.C. metro area. So how do you keep yourself from becoming a miserable lump in bed? Read on!

Get the flu shot.
Get the flu shot every year to minimize illness. The CDC recommends “a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease,” and advises that it’s never too late in the season to get vaccinated. Not sure where to get the shot? Flu.gov offers a searchable directory for finding a provider near you here. Remember, the flu vaccine will only protect you for one flu season, so make sure you get it every year.

Practice good health habits.
There are many every day preventative actions you can take to reduce the chances of getting the flu. Eat a balanced diet, get plenty of rest, be physically active, manage your stress, and drink plenty of fluids. Moderate exercise on a near-daily basis can be a good immune booster. In addition to the direct benefits, regular exercise usually leads to better sleep and reduced stress. Combine flu prevention with your New Year’s Resolutions and pick one activity to do every day. For a complete list of moderate exercises, check out the CDC

Know what to look for.
Do you know what the signs of the flu are? The CDC lists commons signs of the flu as fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and vomiting or diarrhea. And how do you differentiate the flu from a cold? The flu tends to come with a fever, body aches and sets in much faster than a cold. Remember, some people are more prone to getting the flu. For a list of people at high risk, visit the CDC.

Stop the spread of germs.
Help us all out and do your part to stop the spread of germs. Here are some tips:

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Bring disinfecting wipes to work to help keep your desk clean.
  • Since commuters in the D.C. metro area are likely to use public transportation, consider picking up a travel pack of tissues and a small bottle of hand sanitizer to use after holding onto that Metro poll or escalator handrail.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze towards your elbow or upper sleeve, rather than your hands.  
  • People with flu can spread it to others up to six feet away, so minimize your contact with those who are sick. If you are an employer, adopt business practices and a company culture that encourages your staff to stay home when they are ill.
  • If someone in your home is ill, make sure you disinfect items that are regularly touched.
How to be prepared.
The flu is contagious. You can infect others a day before symptoms appear and up to a week after becoming sick. Stay home and protect those around you. The CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (without the use of a fever-reducing medicine).
But before you get sick, consider preparing a “sick-day box.” Being sick is bad enough, but having to run to the grocery store when you’re feeling miserable is even worse (Plus, you’re exposing others to your germs). Consider keeping a bin in the closet that has all of the things you’ll want when you’re feeling icky. Some ideas:

  • Cans of soup
  • Easy to eat foods, like applesauce
  • Boxes of tea. Teas with ginger, lemon, peppermint, or chamomile are all good choices for sick days. Don’t forget the honey!
  • Cough drops
  • Disinfecting wipes and disposable gloves to make cleaning up easier
  • Tissues
  • Lip balm
  • Ginger ale or other calorie containing clear juices
  • Gatorade, or other electrolyte sports drinks. (If you’re short on space, you can get these in powder form.)
  • Heat packs. You can make these by filling a small bag (make sure it’s 100% cotton so that it can go in the microwave) with rice, deer corn, oatmeal, or beans. You can also add cloves, lavender, rosemary or other good smelling spices for some extra therapy. These bags can be spritzed with water and put in the microwave to create a reusable heat pack that’s great for aches and pains. 
  • Items for a bath. Have Epsom salts and an essential oil, like lavender, eucalyptus or peppermint on hand to create a relaxing bath.
  • Any medications you feel you may need. Check regularly to make sure they have not expired.
  • If you have children, you may want to set aside a few puzzles, games, and books that are special for sick days. A new set of pajamas or fuzzy socks to laze about in can also make a kid’s day brighter.

Good luck, germ fighters! 

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 redcross.org/takeaclass 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!