Thursday, February 14, 2019

Show Your Love this Valentine's Day 💗 Learn CPR with the Red Cross 💕

By Rose Ellen O'Connor, Volunteer

February is National Heart Month, and the perfect time to learn how to save lives with your American Red Cross. Knowing how to perform CPR and being able to use an automated external defibrillator (AED) during a cardiac emergency are just a few of the many ways you can make a difference. 

Why not show your love this Valentine’s Day by learning how to save a heart-attack victim’s life? 💓

In response to the thousands who die every year in the U.S. from Sudden Cardiac Arrest, the American Red Cross offers CPR and AED (Automated External Defibrillator) classes throughout the Washington area. Nationally, the American Red Cross trains 9 million people a year in life-saving skills.
The difference between a bystander and someone trained in CPR or AED can be the difference between life and death.

More than 356,000 people in the U.S. suffer out-of-hospital Sudden Cardiac Arrest or SCA and nine out of ten die, according to the American Heart Association. That means that one person every two minutes dies somewhere in the country from sudden cardiac arrest, notes, making SCA the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and killing more people than lung cancer, breast cancer and HIV/AIDs combined.

There are rarely symptoms and almost no warning when SCA strikes, says The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation explains that SCA occurs when the heart stops beating. It can happen to all sorts of people, including children and teens. The person suffering an SCA collapses and may gasp or shake as if having a seizure, according to the foundation. The victim’s heart is no longer pumping blood throughout the body or to the brain.

That’s when CPR and AED come into play. There are only a few minutes to spare. To administer CPR, a rescuer places one hand on top of the other in the middle of the chest and pushes hard and fast, using body weight to administer compressions that are at least two inches deep and at least 100 per minute. The victim’s head is tilted slightly back, chin lifted and nose pinched closed. The rescuer places his mouth over the person’s mouth to make a complete seal and blows two times into the mouth to make the chest rise. Compressions are then continued. CPR can buy time until an ambulance arrives. It’s even better if an AED, a padded device that analyzes the heart and may deliver a shock to restart the heart’s normal rhythm, is available.

CPR given within three to six minutes of the onset of cardiac arrest can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival.

The American Red Cross, in conjunction with affiliates, offers a four-hour course in First Aid, CPR and AED. You can receive certification in each of the areas that is valid for two years. The classes are given throughout the region during the day and evening and on weekends. They start at $70 and free refreshers are offered online.

Red Cross also offers web-based training. It allows you to work at your own pace and requires only a short, in-person session to check your skills.

Below is a list of the courses we offer – with classroom, online + classroom, and online only options available:
First AID
BLS/CPS for Healthcare
Babysitting & Child Care
Swimming + Water Safety
CNA Training
CNA Testing
Instructor Training

Register in seconds at and start your journey to save a life.

You can also download the free Red Cross First Aid App for instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies, including sudden cardiac arrest, at your fingertips.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

My Red Cross Story: Kim

By Hailie Duenkel, Volunteer

In 2017, Hurricane Irma swept through the Atlantic – one of the strongest storms in the past century. The catastrophic storm ranked as a category 5 and displaced nearly 40,000 residents in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Kim, a 12-year Red Cross veteran, describes this experience volunteering with the Red Cross as one of her most memorable. “It was very heartwarming. Without the Red Cross coming in, I think many of these people would have died.”

When Kim and fellow Red Cross volunteers arrived, the community shelter was in the care of the county. The community volunteers weren’t equipped to adequately take care of the residents. Babies had dirty diapers, people were hungry, and desperate local residents were clearing the shelter of supplies. Kim assisted the Red Cross to serve over 1.6 million meals and 1.8 million relief supplies to those in the community and provided over 555,000 overnight stays in the shelter. However, this type of extraordinary experience is common for Kim, who has held multiple positions including caseworker, shelter volunteer, and shelter supervisor during her tenure at the Red Cross.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Kim drove an ERV from Fairfax, VA to Southeast Texas and delivered food to those evacuated traveling by canoe. In addition, before her children were born, Kim worked on a DAT (Disaster Action Team) in California and Nevada for 9 years and has deployed to every hurricane disaster area since Hurricane Matthew in 2007.

During Hurricane Matthew, Kim had an especially memorable experience serving as a shelter associate. A veteran displaced during the storm was visibly uncomfortable and unwilling to communicate with shelter volunteers regardless of their persistence. Kim discovered that this man had lost his hearing aid during the chaos of evacuation. Rather than bother the shelter volunteers who were assisting those with more dismal needs, the veteran remained silent. Eventually, Kim and the Red Cross shelter volunteers learned of his impairment and were able to get him a new hearing aide. After that, he “was talking up a storm”, and began the recovery process with new enthusiasm.  It’s connections like these that make the work so rewarding.

Kim cherishes how the Red Cross offers a unique volunteer process that brings people from all lifestyles together for the benefit of the community. People are “completely impartial. They drop all political views, affiliations, etc.” shared Kim as she describes what the Red Cross means to her. “We love each other. I have friends I would never have met, or be friends with in real life, and here we are, thanks to the Red Cross. I have grown so much as a person from this organization.”

Kim has two adult children and currently resides in Haymarket, VA with her husband Eric. She works as a substitute teacher, allowing her to continue with her true passion of volunteering with the Red Cross. She urges people looking to volunteer to find out what they like and to try many things. The Red Cross provides numerous volunteer options that can fit what you are looking for. “Once you find that passion, it’s amazing.”

To become a Red Cross volunteer like Kim, visit

Friday, February 1, 2019

My Red Cross Story: Eric Coates

By Sandy Habib, Volunteer

Three hundred and fifty-four hours! When you do the math, that translates to almost nine 40-hour work weeks - essentially two months.

This is exactly how much time Eric Coates has volunteered with the American Red Cross between January 2018 and January 2019. This is an extraordinary amount of time by any measure, but it’s even more amazing given that Eric manages to give so much of himself and still work full-time.

Professionally, Eric is a Safety Director, ensuring that structures are architecturally secure for people to occupy. It is through his job that he began his work with the Red Cross. In December 2017, Eric was earning his “CPR Trainer” Certification, which includes CPR, AED and First Aid. The course instructor was from the Red Cross and informed him that the organization could really benefit from volunteers with backgrounds like his - in Safety, Engineering and Construction. Eric quickly got involved and did his orientation course on January 6, 2018.

From there, Eric dove head-first, used all of his vacation time from work and embarked on a fantastic journey of Red Cross volunteer work that has taken him across the National Capital Region and as far as North Carolina. In Fayetteville and Wilmington, North Carolina, he ensured that safety standards at Hurricane Florence relief shelters met local and Red Cross guidelines. In Maryland, he serves as a shelter associate. In D.C. and Maryland, he installs residential fire alarms as part of Sound the Alarm, a Red Cross program that educates families about fire safety and ensures that they have functioning fire alarms in their homes. He also works on the March for our Lives LSAP (Life Safety Asset Protection) Go Team, providing support services as needed.

“There are so many opportunities to do good with the Red Cross. I’m going to keep helping my community as long as I can. It’s extremely rewarding to be able to help so many people in need.”
Eric Coates, Red Cross Volunteer

The volunteer opportunities that Eric helps at most often, though, are house fires in the National Capital Region. Regardless of the hour or the wintery temperatures outside, Eric goes to help local families who are distressed after their homes and possessions have gone up in flames. After spending a few hours (usually in the wee hours of the night) helping to get the family settled, Eric heads back home to shower and goes straight to work. He may need a few more cups of coffee than usual to make it through his workday after assisting at a pre-dawn house fire, but for him, it’s worth it.

Volunteering at these house fires with the Red Cross is especially meaningful to Eric. He appreciates how the Red Cross provides those affected with hotel accommodation, food and a debit card to meet their basic immediate needs. Almost as importantly, though, he finds it very rewarding to be able to offer these distraught families much-needed emotional support. He helps them relax - and sometimes, even smile - which is quite a feat in the face of such loss.

Eric proudly explains, “The part of the Red Cross that I love the most is that we’re not a group that gives a debit card and walks away. We do a lot more to get distressed families through the crisis.”

Even talking to Eric is an inspiration. He speaks about the Red Cross and his volunteer work with such exuberance. He loves meeting so many diverse people, and he thrives on the contributions he is able to make to help others. Even more than the extra cups of coffee, it’s Eric’s passion for helping those in need that keeps him energized to continue volunteering with the Red Cross. 

Want to join us as a volunteer? Visit to learn more about opportunities.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

National Blood Donor Month - Commit to Help Save Lives

By Carly Flumer, Volunteer

January is National Blood Donor Month, the perfect time to resolve to be a regular blood donor and help save lives. The American Red Cross urges people to share their good health and resolve to give blood regularly, beginning in January with National Blood Donor Month. 

We can all think of easy, simple ways to help someone, whether it be through random acts of kindness, such as letting someone ahead of us in line, or even lending a listening ear to someone who needs it most. But did you know that there’s also a simple and easy way to save someone’s life? It all starts with your blood - bet you didn’t think of that!

Donating blood through the Red Cross helps all types of people, both young and old. From cancer patients to accident and burn victims, to those undergoing a heart surgery or an organ transplant, your donation will help someone in need in a heart-felt way that makes a lasting difference in their life.

Watch Marquita’s story for example. 🎥
She was diagnosed with sickle cell disease when she was born, and requires blood cell transfusions every 6 months.

Or look at the amazing Hannah 🎥, a 16-year-old cancer fighter, who is surviving on blood donations.

When you donate blood, you not only help patients like these, but you give back to your community. Plus, all different types of blood products are needed, including whole blood and platelets, so your donation will go far in making a difference.

To watch more compelling stories, visit the Red Cross’s YouTube page, or to find out more information about donating blood visit the Red Cross’s Blood Services homepage where you can schedule an appointment at your nearest donation center.

Friday, January 18, 2019

My Day at a Red Cross Blood Drive: Sandy Habib

By Sandy Habib, Volunteer

The American Red Cross urges people to share their good health and resolve to give blood regularly, beginning in January with National Blood Donor Month. Extreme winter weather in some parts of the country and seasonal illnesses often make it difficult for the American Red Cross to maintain a sufficient blood supply at this time of year. Healthy individuals are urged to give now. 

It’s widely known that the American Red Cross is in continuous need of blood donations. Winter, however, is an especially challenging time for the Red Cross to meet its blood demands for many reasons. Regular donors are often busy with the holidays and travel plans. Harsh winter weather and widespread cases of the flu can also be obstacles. The fact is, though, that the Red Cross must collect more than 2,500 platelet and about 13,000 blood donations every day for patients at about 2,500 hospitals nationwide. These blood products are perishable and need to be distributed to hospitals quickly, so it’s imperative that donors continue giving blood year-round to avoid delays in essential medical care.

Giving blood is a rewarding experience for those who are able to do their part and help patients in need. There are many of us, though, who, for a whole host of reasons, cannot donate blood. That doesn’t mean that we can’t make contributions in other ways. For example, on January 10, 2019, I was a Blood Donor Ambassador at a blood drive at the Red Cross office at 123 N. Alfred Street in Alexandria.

Here I am greeting donors as they arrive. This is a rewarding volunteer role
for anyone with free time on weekday afternoons (or some weekends).
As Ambassador, I greeted donors as they arrived and thanked them for coming in. Then I signed them in and provided them with their blood donation information. There was usually time before the donors were called in, so I had the opportunity to chat with them. I met one gentleman who has donated close to 100 times – incredible! I also spoke to some high school students who were excited about donating for the first time. Everyone was friendly and courteous, and I really enjoyed getting to meet all the donors. I commended them all on their selfless act of giving blood.

Like the donors, the staff was very sociable. They were professional, yet charismatic. They played lively music in the background which created a comfortable environment, putting donors at ease. My watch indicated that I volunteered for 3.5 hours, but since I spent the time with so many wonderful people, it felt as though it was about half of that.

The Red Cross blood staff works hard to make sure that facilities
are clean and comfortable for donors. This is the blood drive room
at the Red Cross office in Alexandria, VA. 
Even if you can’t donate blood, there are other ways you can help the cause. Like me, you can volunteer your time at a blood drive. You can make a financial donation. Maybe you can leverage your social media presence to donate your birthday/special occasion, honor someone special or start a virtual drive for your organization to encourage others to donate blood and/or money.  Even better, if you have a large, open space to host a blood drive, you can have up to 50 of your friends/colleagues/family members donate blood in a single day! There are many ways to make an important impact and promote blood drives in your community. The key is to find what works best for you and commit to helping the Red Cross.

Go to to learn more about how you can donate blood to help the Red Cross save lives.

To host a blood drive, go to the “Hosting a Blood Drive” or click here to learn more and apply!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Winter Safety Tips

By Carly Flumer, Volunteer

"Oh the weather outside is frightful…”

Now that we’re in the dead of winter, it’s time to get you and your home ready for a wintry wonderland.

Here a few tips to you and your family safe and cozy during the frost-bitten temperatures:

  • Make sure you have plenty of coats, scarves, and hats to bundle up in.
  • Speaking of going outside, if you plan on shoveling the snow in your driveway or on the sidewalk, make sure to keep hydrated to avoid hypothermia and frostbite. All that hauling is hard work!
  • If you have elderly neighbors, make sure to check on them and maybe offer to help shovel them out as well

Keeping your home safe and warm is important as well:

  • Keep yourself, your family members (including your furry ones!) and things that can burn easily (such as clothing, bedding, and papers) at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.
  • If you have a fireplace, always keep an eye on it or use a fire screen to keep embers from flying.
  • Turn off portable heaters when not in use and especially when you go to sleep.

If you plan on going out (driving) in the snow:

  • Make sure your car’s heating system, brakes, and hazard lights are working properly. Also, make sure your car has enough fuel, antifreeze, and windshield wiper fluid.
  • Keep a scraper and broom in your car at all times to help remove snow.
  • Keep bottles of water and a warm blanket in your trunk in case you get stuck.

For more tips on staying safe during a deep-freeze, be sure to visit the Red Cross’s Winter Storm Safety page.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Why you’re better than 32% of most people

By Ian Seth Levine, Volunteer

I'm not going to try to convince you to donate blood. There's something so sacred about blood that we create folklore centered on creatures taking it from us: the German Alp, the Jewish Lilitu, the Latin American Chupacabra. While these creatures aren't real, our fear of losing something valuable is.  And from that fear stems myths not only about losing blood, but also about freely giving it away. For example, many people think that donating blood is an inconvenient, unnecessary, and painful way to contract an exotic and incurable disease. But much like Dracula, these are only myths.

Here are the facts:
A single car accident victim could need up to 100 pints of blood. If we took all of the drivers who crashed their cars last year in Virginia, we could completely pack Camden Yards, Yankee Stadium, PNC Field, and BB&T Ballpark. A person can donate only one pint of blood at a time, so can you really rely on enough people to step up and donate should you need it?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. Why? 17% of people surveyed who don't donate blood say it's because they "never thought about it." In other words, if you asked one hundred people to help you after a serious collision, the first seventeen would completely ignore you. Then, an additional fifteen people would tell you they're "too busy.”

I'm not going to presume to know your schedule. I know only my schedule. I teach for two universities, write articles and blog posts for American Red Cross, and run my namesake blog about writing. It took me longer than I'd care to admit, but I'm not as busy as I thought. In between my responsibilities were pockets of down time, which I tended to fill with binge-watching and PinstaSnap BookTube. But in less time than it took to watch an episode of Narcos, even I donated blood.


I think blood is fascinating. For example, the milky blue blood of the horseshoe crab is so good at detecting infections it's valued at $14,000 a quart by biomedical companies. Your blood has traces of gold in it. Some insects have violet blood. Dogs have blood types just like humans.

And, if you scheduled an appointment to donate right now, you'd be better than 32% of most people.