American Red Cross urges Preparedness for “Deceptive Killers” – Offers Wicked Winter Weather Safety Tips for Your Home and Vehicle

January 5, 2009

As temperatures drop across the country and we head full steam ahead into the winter season, American Red Cross is urging families to take the following actions now to prepare for hazardous winter weather.

“Winter storms can be ‘deceptive killers’ since the majority of winter-related deaths are caused by events related to the heavy snowfall, high winds, and freezing rain that often accompanies them,” said David Pattengale Emergency Services Director. “People can become trapped at home without utilities or other services. Motorists can become stranded in their vehicles. Walking and driving can become hazardous. But people can stay safer if they listen to the advice of local authorities and take action to get prepared ahead of time.”

The Red Cross recommends everyone prepare for severe weather conditions in the following ways:

Get a Disaster Supplies Kit For Your Home:

  • Three-day supply of water (one gallon of water per person per day for drinking and hygiene).
  • Three-day supply of non perishable, high-energy food and a manual can opener.
  • First aid kit and essential medications.
  • Battery-powered or hand-cranked radio.
  • Flashlight, and extra batteries.
  • Extra warm clothing, including boots, mittens, and a hat.
  • Copies of important documents (birth certificate, title/deed to home, insurance policies, etc) in a water-proof container.
  • Get a Disaster Supplies Kit For Your Vehicle: (all of the above plus)
  • Blankets or sleeping bags.
  • Jumper cables.
  • Fire extinguisher (5 lb., A-B-C type).
  • Compass and road maps.
  • Shovel.
  • Tire repair kit and pump.
  • Flares.
  • Extra clothing to keep dry.
  • Sack of sand or cat litter (for tire traction).
  • Tow rope.

Make a Winter Storm Plan:

  • Be prepared to shelter at home in case of severe weather. Have additional food and water stored to last seven to fourteen days.
  • Have extra blankets on hand.
  • Ensure that each member of your household has a warm coat, gloves or mittens, a hat, and water-resistant boots.
  • Assemble a disaster supplies kit for your home and vehicle.
  • Have your vehicle winterized before the weather gets severe.
  • Decide how you would communicate with your family members should you be separated and unable to travel when a winter storm hits.

Be Informed:

  • Learn how you would receive information from local officials should hazardous winter weather affect your neighborhood.
  • Know the difference between a winter storm WATCH (a winter storm is possible in your area) and a winter storm WARNING (a winter storm is headed for your area).
  • Consider getting first aid and CPR training in case you need to respond in an emergency before professionals arrive on the scene.

If the Power Goes Out:

  • Do not use candles for lighting if the power goes out. Use flashlights only.
  • Use items in the refrigerator first, then freezer, then non-perishable foods.
  • Use generators correctly If you have a portable generator and the power goes out, always plan to keep the generator outdoors. Never operate it inside, including the basement, garage, and carport or near any open windows. Connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.
  • Do not hook up a generator directly to your home’s wiring.

Hazardous Winter Travel:

The American Red Cross strongly urges everyone to monitor weather reports and follow the directions of local authorities. If travel is absolutely necessary during potentially dangerous winter weather, inform someone of your travel route, destination and expected arrival time. Store a disaster supplies kit in your vehicle and remember to keep the gas tank near full to avoid ice building up in the gas tank and fuel lines.

In Case of Snow or Black Ice:

  • Stay with your vehicle. Do not try to walk to safety as you risk developing hypothermia and/or frostbite.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) to the antenna for rescuers to see.
  • Start the vehicle and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes won’t back up in the vehicle.
  • As you sit, move your arms and legs to keep blood circulating and to help you stay warm.
  • Keep one window away from the blowing wind slightly open to let in air.
  • Leave the overhead light on inside the vehicle when the engine is running so you can be seen.
  • After the snow has stopped falling, raise the hood to indicate you need help.

In Case of a Flood:

Move to higher ground away from rivers, streams, creeks, and storm drains. Do not drive around barricades . . . they are there for your safety.

If your vehicle stalls in rapidly rising waters, abandon it immediately and climb to higher ground.

For more information about how you can prepare for a variety of winter weather-related disasters including winter and ice storms, power outages and floods contact your local American Red Cross office at: (815) 963-8471 or visit:


The Red Cross Offers Holiday Travel Tips for a Safer Trip to Grandma’s

December 18, 2008

The American Red Cross Helps Winter Drivers Stay on Track

With thousands of people in Rockford hitting the road for holiday travel in the coming weeks, the Rock River Chapter urges families and individuals to take precautions against the deceptive dangers of wintry weather and prepare for winter travel. According to the US Department of Commerce, almost 70 percent of winter injuries related to snow and ice take place as a result of vehicle accidents. But there are steps people can take to stay safer while traveling this winter.

“The American Red Cross recommends that people prepare for disasters and other weather emergencies wherever they spend a lot of time, and for many of us that includes our vehicles,” says Cedric Johnson, Community Relations Coordinator at the Rock River Chapter. “As we gear up for holiday travel, it’s even more important that we all take simple steps to help keep ourselves and our loved ones safer while on the road.”

The American Red Cross offers the following preparedness tips before hitting the road:

Winter-proof your vehicle:

  • Get your vehicle checked by a mechanic and pay extra attention to the battery, tire pressure, heater, defroster, wiper blades and washer fluid.
  • Carry a disaster supplies kit in your vehicle at all times with basics like non-perishable food, water, a battery-operated radio, flashlight, first aid kit, emergency flares, and jumper cables.
  • Make sure your kit includes winter items like a shovel, windshield scraper, blankets, and sand or cat litter for tire traction.
  • Try to keep your gas tank as close to full as possible in case of an emergency and to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.

Before you travel:

  • Let your family or friends know your destination, your primary and alternate route, when you plan on leaving and when you expect to arrive. If your vehicle gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
  • Pay attention to the weather forecast. Your local TV and radio stations can provide updated storm information that can help you avoid treacherous weather.
  • Motorists should also be cautious about animals on the highway.

If you are stranded:

  • Stay with your vehicle and don’t attempt to walk to safety. It’s easy to become disoriented in wind-driven snow and exposure increases your risk of developing hypothermia and frostbite.
  • As you sit, exercise your arms and legs to maintain body heat.
  • Use the heater for 10 minutes every hour and leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so you can be seen. Open the window a crack for fresh air and to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Keep the exhaust pipe clear from snow and ice so fumes won’t back up in the vehicle.
  • Make it easier for rescuers to find you by tying a brightly colored cloth to the antennae.
  • After the snow has subsided, raise your vehicle hood to indicate you need help.

For additional winter safety tips and information on building a disaster supplies kit for your vehicle, contact: (815) 963-8471 or visit

St. Bridget’s School in Rockford, Illinois Donates to the Red Cross Emergency Overnight Shelter Donation

December 12, 2008

We’d like to thank St. Bridget’s for their generous donation to our Emergency Overnight Shelter!

St. Bridget's School Emergency Overnight Shelter Donation 12.11.2008

St. Bridget's School Emergency Overnight Shelter Donation 12.11.2008

American Red Cross Shares Holiday Fire Safety Tips

December 11, 2008

As the holiday season moves into full swing, the American Red Cross-Rock River Chapter urges families to follow simple safety tips to keep the season merry and to prevent holiday fires.

First, the Red Cross recommends keeping all potential fuel sources, including decorations and evergreen trees and wreaths, at least three feet from heat sources such as candles, heat vents, fireplaces and radiators.

In addition, holiday lights and candles need to be turned off or extinguished before leaving the room or going to bed, and especially before leaving home.

If you are entertaining guests, designate a responsible family member to walk around your home ensuring that candles and smoking materials are properly extinguished once guests leave.

During the winter holiday season the incidence and severity of home fires dramatically increases. In fact, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, each year nearly 47,000 fires occur nationally during the holidays claiming more than 500 lives, causing more than 2,200 injuries, and costing $554 million in property damage. Many of these fires are caused by home heating sources, unattended cooking, and candles.

“Last year the Rock River Chapter responded to more than 100 home fires and provided families with immediate emergency assistance including shelter, food, counseling and more,” said Dave Pattengale, Director of Emergency Services. “In addition to following safety precautions with holiday lights and decorations, this is a great time for Rock River Valley families to make sure that their smoke alarms are functioning properly and practice their home fire escape plan.”

At a minimum, smoke alarms need to be installed outside of each sleeping area and on each level of your home. If you sleep with closed doors, install alarms inside sleeping areas too. Use the test button to test each smoke alarm once a month. All smoke alarm batteries need to be replaced once a year. Fire escape plans should include at least two escape routes for every room in the home. Also chose a convenient meeting place at a safe distance from your home. Practice your escape plan at least twice a year with all family members.

The Red Cross recommends following the below tips to help prevent holiday home fires:

Christmas Tree Care

  • Purchase flame retardant metallic or artificial trees.
  • If you purchase a real tree, make sure that it has fresh, green needles that aren’t easily boken. Keep live trees as moist as possible by giving them plenty of water.
  • Use a sturdy tree stand designed not to tip over.
  • Keep trees at least three feet away from heat sources, including fireplaces, portable heaters, radiators, heat vents and candles.
  • Make sure that any light strings or other decorations for the tree are in good condition and follow manufacturer’s instructions for their use. Do not use anything with frayed electrical cords.
  • Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree.
  • Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood burning stove.
  • Safely dispose of trees as they become dry and needles begin to drop.
  • Dispose of trees through recycling centers or community pick-up services. Dried-out trees should not be left at home or in a garage, or placed against the home or garage.

Holiday Lights and Decorations

  • Always unplug tree and holiday lights before leaving home or going to bed.
  • Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear.
  • Avoid overloading electrical outlets by not linking more than three light strands.
  • Use decorations that are flame-resistant or flame-retardant.
  • Place decorations at least three feet away from fireplaces, portable heaters, radiators, heat vents and candles.

Holiday Candles

  • Remember that lit candles are fire. Always extinguish candles before leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate a tree.
  • Keep candles at least 12 inches away from trees, evergreens, holiday decorations, and other items that can catch on fire like clothing, papers and curtains.
  • Use candle holders that are sturdy, won’t tip over easily, are made from a material that cannot burn, and are large enough to collect dripping wax.
  • Place candles only where they cannot be reached or easily knocked over by children and pets.
  • Consider using battery-operated “flameless” candles that are scented and have a flickering affect.

For more information on fire safety, or to learn more about American Red Cross programs and services please visit: or call: (815) 963-8471.

December 16th – Send a Viditalk Holiday Message to the Troops for Friends and Family Members 6am-7pm

December 5, 2008

On Tuesday, December 16th the American Red Cross – Rock River Chapter will be on hand at the Chicago Rockford International Airport’s (RFD) Main Terminal to record VidiTalk web videos to forward to servicemen around the globe. From 6am to 7pm friends and family members can record a two-minute streaming video, which will then be e-mailed to their loved ones in the service overseas.

The Red Cross is a lifeline to members of the U.S. Armed Forces, sending communications all over the world on behalf of family members who are facing emergencies or other important events. “This project gives people the opportunity to send their support to our soldiers who, while valiantly serving our country, may need this boost from back home,” says Dr. Robert Willis, Executive Director of the Rock River Chapter.

In addition to bringing their loved one’s e-mail address to the video taping, friends and family members are also invited to bring an ornament to decorate the “Operation Tree of Honor” located in the Airport’s Main Terminal. This tree was presented to RFD by the Friends of Camp Grant in honor of the 33rd Illinois National Guard Troops who were deployed to Afghanistan on December 1st. The Friends of Camp Grant are also collecting Christmas cards to send to the Guard Division.

VidiTalk is a powerful, cost effective, easily implemented solution to improve communications. It enables users to easily create and send high-quality personal video messages (Vidis) from their computer to recipients on high-speed or dial-up connections. Vidi messages can also be streamed to cell phones and other wireless devices. The user creates a video message on their computer where it is automatically compressed, encoded and sent to the hosting server. The VidiTalk server returns a hyperlink to the creator for placement into email, instant messages or any electronic document. Recipients click on the link and view the streamed video message in a customized playback screen using Microsoft Windows Media Player.

Cyber Monday Deal: Michigan Fan Auction – Just One Day Left

December 1, 2008

Originally, reported on, there is just one day left to bid on an auction a Michigan fan who is trying to find a new team for his allegiance.

So, he’s auctioning off his allegiance to the highest bidder and helping the Red Cross and donating 80% of the profits to the Disaster Relief Fund.

Interview with Disgruntled Michigan Fan

1. Why did you decide to auction off your Michigan allegiance?

I have been an avid University of Michigan fan for my entire life. In 2001, my employer moved my to Northeast Ohio. Since then, Michigan has been pitiful, and the Buckeye fans are really good at constantly reminding me of it. In fact, I would say that Buckeye fans in Northeast Ohio are a quite aggressive bunch! After I put some thought into it, I figured this auction would be a fun way of raising some funds for the American Red Cross – as well as helping me stay sane in the heart of Buckeye country.

2. Which school do you hope wins your affections?

I just hope it isn’t Ohio State.

3. Why did you decide to donate the proceeds from this auction to the Disaster Relief Fund?

I work with our local Red Cross representative, helping to organize the blood drives at my place of employment. I greatly respect the Red Cross and their focus on saving lives. I don’t think people realize the impact the American Red Cross when it comes to helping those in need. The Red Cross was a perfect fit, and I was fortunate that they have partnered with eBay. It was an easy choice.

If you win the auction you get:

So, if you’re looking for something to buy on Cyber Monday you can help the Red Cross and a frustrated Michigan fan choose a new team to cheer on – bid now!

Happy Thanksgiving from the Red Cross – Rock River Chapter & 8 Tips to Keep You Safe

November 27, 2008

Have a Safe Thanksgiving: Even with the best preparations and precautions, accidents can happen

The American Red Cross wants to remind everyone of important safety issues that will help ensure a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday.

Since Thanksgiving usually involves preparing lots of food, cooking safety should be a priority. Unfortunately, cooking fires are more likely to occur on Thanksgiving Day than any other day of the year according to the National Fire Protection Association.

The Red Cross offers the following tips to prevent home fires this Thanksgiving:

  1. Monitor your cooking at all times. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of Thanksgiving Day home fires.
  2. Keep potholders and food wrappers at least three feet away from heat sources while cooking.
  3. Wear tighter fitting clothing with shorter sleeves when cooking.
  4. Make sure all stoves and ranges have been turned off when you leave the kitchen, and that ovens are turned off when you leave the house.
  5. Set timers to keep track of turkeys and other food items that require extended cooking times.
  6. Turn handles of pots and pans on the stove inward to avoid accidents.
  7. Follow all manufacturer guidelines regarding the appropriate use of appliances.
  8. After guests leave, designate a responsible adult to walk around the home, making sure that all candles and smoking materials are extinguished.

Finally, it’s important for every household to make sure to have working smoke alarms. In a recent study commissioned by the Red Cross and National Fire Protection Association, 37 percent of respondents admitted to disabling a smoke alarm when it went off unexpectedly. The Red Cross encourages people to install smoke alarms on every level of their house and outside sleeping areas and to test the batteries once a month.

Even with the best preparation and precautions, accidents can happen. Cooking-related burns are a common hazard of the Thanksgiving holiday. For a superficial burn, cool the area by running it under cold water until the heat eases and then loosely cover the burn with a sterile dressing to help prevent infection. A critical burn requires medical attention.

Choking is another threat to a happy holiday dinner. Common causes of choking include talking while eating; eating too fast; and trying to swallow large pieces of poorly chewed food. If you feel as if food may be caught in your throat, never leave the room-stay where others can see you and help if your airway becomes blocked.

To help someone who is choking, remember “FIVE-and-FIVE Can Keep Them Alive.” First, ask the person if they are able to breathe and if you can help. Once you know the person is unable to cough, speak or breathe, have someone call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number.

Lean the person forward and give FIVE sharp back blows between the shoulder blades with the heel of your hand. If the obstruction isn’t dislodged, stand behind the person and give FIVE quick, upward thrusts into the abdomen. Repeat back blows and abdominal thrusts as necessary. If you are alone, you can perform abdominal thrusts on yourself, just as you would on someone else. Thrusts can also be administered by leaning over and pressing your abdomen firmly against an object such as the back of a chair.

For more Red Cross fire safety and first aid information visit or if you’d like to volunteer at the Rock River Chapter go to our website.