The Pillowcase Project: Reaching the One Millionth Child

Next week, the American Red Cross Pillowcase Project will reach its one millionth child! This program aims to increase awareness of natural disasters and teach safety, emotional coping and personal preparedness skills to students in grades three through five (eight to 11 years old).

Learn, Practice and Share 

In this program, trained Red Cross volunteers help students learn how to create an emergency supply kit by packing essential items into a pillowcase, which makes it easier to transport items in the event of a disaster or emergency. Students are also given the opportunity to personalize their pillowcase and encouraged to share what they’ve learned with their loved ones.

Making a Difference

Leading up to reaching The Pillowcase Project’s one millionth child, Pillowcase Project teams are holding events throughout the Chicago and northern Illinois region, most recently in Will County’s Bolingbrook through a partnership with Will County EMA.

Vanessa Murray was the presenter from Will County EMA.

“I’ve always been interested in preparedness and being safe,” Murray said. “And that is what really draws me to presenting Pillowcase Project on a regular basis.”

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As the children decorated their pillowcases and learned about preparedness, they were able to be a part of the One Millionth Student milestone through a celebration and received special certificates.

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Since the project’s first pilot launched in 2013, teams have engaged 35,000 volunteers to partner with more than 13,000 schools, community organizations and partners to reach students. As a result, 11 lives have been saved. The American Red Cross has also supported international pilot programs in six countries abroad.

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“Sound the Alarm. Save a Life”

A Story to Learn From

Less than a year ago, some family members of mine woke up in the middle of the night. Outside, their dog barked over and over again, and for a moment, they tried to ignore the dog and go back to sleep. But he kept barking, until finally one of them got up and looked out of their window. In their backyard, a huge pile of wood had caught fire.

The two of them rushed outside and they threw bucket after bucket of water onto the fire, narrowly avoiding the rusty nails sticking out of the wood. They kept the flames at bay until the fire department arrived. The next day, the fire extinguished, they learned that it had been started by some ashes and embers that were thrown on the wood. Their young child had assumed that the ashes had cooled down enough to be safely disposed of, but they were not.

In this instance, everyone was fine, and nothing besides some old wood was damaged. Still, the story is a reminder that fires start and spread quickly, and nobody can fully insulate themselves from the risk of such a tragedy.

Misunderstanding House Fires

Still, people often don’t accurately predict their own safety from fires. House fires constitute the majority of disasters that the American Red Cross responds to. The danger of house fires is heightened by the knowledge that forty percent of people admit to having forgotten to turn off a stone or oven, which are the leading cause of fires. And more than a third of people use stoves, kerosene lanterns, or space heaters, and heating equipment is involved in a fifth of all home fire deaths.

To add to this, the majority of people overestimate how much time they will have to flee a burning home. According to experts, some people will have as little as two minutes to safely exit. When a house is burning, every second matters, especially when babies, children, or the elderly are involved. Every day, seven people die in the United States as a result from a home fire. Tragically, many of these happen in homes without working smoke alarms.

Many of these deaths would have be preventable if victims had working smoke alarms in their house.  The sound of a smoke alarm can make the difference when warning people within moments if a fire had started in their house. Smoke alarms give people time to gather their children and ensure that everyone leaves the house quickly. Property may be damaged, but people will survive.

How You Can Help

The Red Cross is teaming up with local fire departments and other agencies to Sound the Alarm, installing free smoke alarms across the country in homes that need them. It is part of the larger Home Fire Campaign, which since beginning in 2014, has installed over one million alarms nationwide. And it has been credited with helping to save over 400 lives.

This Spring, you can help be a part of this. Sound the Alarm is only made possible by volunteers. It is our volunteers who installed one million smoke alarms, and our volunteers who have helped save over 400 lives. We are so thankful to anyone who signs up to volunteer to help Sound the Alarm.

The event kicks off on April 28 in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, and volunteers will be installing smoke alarms for the next five Saturdays. For more information on how to volunteer for Sound the Alarm, you can contact visit www.soundthealarm.org/northernIL.

Thank you for serving and saving lives with us.

Written by Gordon White, Communications Intern for the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

Learning how to save a life

Learning how to save a life

One of the best things you can do to prepare yourself for an emergency is to get CPR certified. As a Red Cross intern, I could see different classes being set up and knew that this was definitely an opportunity I should take advantage of.  My high school had required me to get certified as a freshman, but that was almost eight years ago, and my current medical understanding was largely based on fictional medical TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy. I realized that was far from sufficient and began to worry that I would find myself in a life or death situation with no idea what to actually do. So, after looking through the available classes, I signed up for the Adult and Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED class at the Red Cross’ 2200 W Harrison location.

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The class was scheduled for a cold Tuesday morning in March. When I got there, I found a classroom with around a dozen people from a variety of professions and backgrounds, paper packets, and a DePaul grad student named Kelly as my instructor. Over the next five and a half hours the class covered how to respond to a wide variety of different medical emergencies. With so much information in one day I was a little worried about getting overwhelmed and retaining everything. However, that was not the case at all. The combination of instructional videos, interactive exercises and practice on CPR dummies made everything easily digestible and memorable.

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I cannot recommend taking the CPR/AED training enough. In just a few hours, you’ll learn how to react to emergencies ranging from a sprained ankle to cardiac arrest. I left the class with a newfound confidence and sense of preparedness. Signing up takes five minutes or less. Just go to www.redcross.org/courses to find the class and location that best suits you. You never know when you’ll be the person others look to in an emergency. You could be the one to step up and save a life.

Written by Hannah Nicholson, Communications & Marketing intern for the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

American Red Cross Disaster Summit 2017

American Red Cross Disaster Summit 2017

“It takes a community of resilience to build a nation of resilience,” said Winfred Rawls, Deputy Director and Emergency Officer at the Illinois Department of Public Health. He stood on stage looking out at over 200 community members at the American Red Cross Disaster Preparedness Summit. Thought leaders from across the Midwest had gathered to build community strength in the face of bioterrorism. 

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Attendees gather to learn about Private Sector Response to a Bioterrorism Event.

The 8th Annual Disaster Preparedness Summit focused on the Bioterrorism and the Impact of Public Health in Community Recovery and Resiliency. The Summit taught community members about the need to prepare for the threat of bioterrorism and the ways public and private sectors are doing so. Speakers and attendees were encouraged to share their experiences and ideas to further improve our preparedness plans.  

The University of Chicago Medicine’s Brenda Battle welcomed all attendees to the conference held on DePaul University’s campus in Lincoln Park. “We must look to the future so we can be prepared,” she expressed with determination.  

One group of panelists discussed bioterrorism preparedness and response planning in Illinois. Dr. Kate Ballering of Hasset Willis & Company (HWC) defined bioterrorism as “the intentional release of pathogens to cause illness or death in people, animals or plants.” Ballering reported on humanity’s long history of using biological disease as a weapon, and the very real possibility of a bioterrorism event in our future. Other panelists informed attendees about alert or prevention systems currently in place. Emma Ratajczak, BioWatch’s Jurisdictional Coordinator, explained that the BioWatch system monitors and tests the air surrounding major American cities, including Chicago, for intentionally released harmful pathogens. This federal system can provide an early warning for a bioterrorism attack. 

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Panelists on stage discuss response planning in Illinois.

A second group of panelists examined the private sector response to a bioterrorism event, and agreed on the importance of private businesses having community partnerships. Christopher Shields of the Chicago Department of Public Health also stressed the need for collaboration within our community by declaring that, “Diseases do not know boundaries. Diseases move so our jurisdictions are all in the game together.” 

During a specialized breakout session, speakers outlined the effectiveness of Illinois’ response to the Ebola outbreak, and the different ways to treat a Highly Contagious Infectious Disease. At a second breakout session, Anthony Williams, mental health therapist and chaplain of the Illinois Army National Guard, explored the psychological impact of disaster. Williams pointed out that the survivors of terrorism event can have lasting psychological and emotional scars that may remain long after infrastructure has been rebuilt. Williams asserted that mental health treatment cannot be overlooked in times of disaster because a community is only as strong as the people within it. 

 

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Anthony Williams during Psychological Impact of Bioterrorism Breakout Session.

FBI Supervisory Special Agent Jeremy W. Francis closed the conference by honoring the first responders lost in the 9/11 terrorist attack. “That day nothing else mattered. Not even their own safety mattered more than saving a life,” Francis reflected on this selfless reaction. He encouraged our community to take action and be more prepared now than we were then. Francis emphasized that through positive organizational culture paired with increased awareness and training, we can improve our preparedness and mitigate impact or loss from any future terrorist attacks. 

As attendees began to file out, Lisa Mallory-Nance from the Cook County Department of Public Health lingered in the hall to continue conversation about the next steps we can take together. She voiced her takeaway from the Disaster Summit, “Today we fostered a sense of urgency. An urgency to prepare for the possibility of a bioterrorism event that is not as far-fetched as we may once have believed. Just because it has not happened yet, does not mean the work and systems that have been developed are not useful. We have built and must continue building these relevant systems.” 

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Speakers receive applause from guests.

Thank you to all of the attendees, speakers and sponsors for coming together to continue strengthening our community at this year’s Disaster Summit. 

Written By: Lucia Varlotta, American Red Cross Communications Intern

 

 

7 People Die in Home Fires Every Day — You Can Help Save Lives in Chicago

7 People Die in Home Fires Every Day — You Can Help Save Lives in Chicago

Click here to read the article that originally appeared on Make it Better.

In December 2016, a Chicago resident and her adult grandson were asleep in their second floor apartment. A loud booming noise from the lower level woke them up in the middle of the night. The grandmother opened her apartment door and found the hallway fully engulfed in smoke. “I remember the smoke alarms going off,” she told the Red Cross during a check-in call after the fire. Her grandson ran down the front stairway to help the neighbors. Despite health issues, the grandmother knew she had to urgently get out of the building and managed to escape on her own out the back of the complex with her cat under her arm. Everyone in the building was able to escape unharmed. The Red Cross provided her and her grandson with assistance to stay in a hotel after the fire, where she stayed for about 12 days until they moved in with her sister.

The resident recalled the April 2016 day when the Red Cross installed three smoke alarms in her home. The volunteers helped her create a home fire escape plan and left a dry erase board and pen with her to hang on her refrigerator.

Every day, seven people die in home fires, most in homes that lack working smoke alarms. Sadly, children and the elderly disproportionately lose their lives. That’s why the Red Cross rallied an army of volunteers and launched our Home Fire Campaign in 2014. This fall, Red Cross volunteers and our partners will install 100,000 free smoke alarms in high risk neighborhoods nationwide.

Sound the Alarm installation and fire safety events will take place in more than 100 communities across the country, providing a lifesaving service in our quest to reduce death and injury from home fires. Thank you to our local partners, the Chicago Fire Department and the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC), for making this campaign possible in Chicago and northern Illinois. Learn more about Sound the Alarm.

There are several ways you can get involved with Sound the Alarm!

Volunteer to help Sound the Alarm. Save a Life.

  • Visit SoundTheAlarm.org to find events in your local community and join neighbors in going door-to-door to install free smoke alarms, replace batteries in existing alarms, and help families create escape plans.
  • Make this life-saving campaign a group activity. Invite friends and family to register.

Donate to help Sound the Alarm. Save a Life.

  • Visit SoundTheAlarm.org to help families prepare, respond and recover from home fires.
  • Your donation will help educate families on fire safety; install free smoke alarms in high-risk neighborhoods nationwide; and provide food, comfort and aid to those who have been affected by a home fire.

Together, we can Sound the Alarm about fire safety and help save lives.

American Red Cross: Sound the Alarm infographic

Couple Recovers After Destructive Home Fire

Couple Recovers After Destructive Home Fire

“We hit rock bottom,” said Nick Tedeschi. “And the Red Cross gave us a start.”

Nick and his wife, Shirley, were going about their daily routine on Feb 13, 2016, when their condo caught on fire. They were left with the clothes on their back. “You never expect, when you leave for the day, to come back and have lost everything,” said Nick. Their Valentine’s Day plans were derailed as they tried to recover.

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Nick and Shirley lost everything in the home fire.

The Red Cross responded to the fire, caused by a next door neighbor’s cigarette, to help them get back on their feet during the immediate recovery after their loss.

Nick reflected on that time, “I was totally gutted out.”

He talked about the months following the fire as a very difficult time. He would wipe his tears away and keep it inside while he was at work, delivering supplies to customers throughout the loop. He didn’t want anyone to know.

Nick and Shirley showed resiliency, and even humor, during a difficult time. Nick said he watched his house burn down while eating a bowl of chili he had picked up on the way home. He laughed, looking back on it, because the chili was from a local chain called Firehouse Subs.

They moved into her daughter’s basement for a few months until they were able to purchase a new home. “We were blessed tremendously,” Nick reflects.

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The house that Nick and Shirley purchased after a fire destroyed their previous home.

Now, he and his wife live in a house and, Nick says, they do things differently. They triple check everything before leaving the house, they put in new smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, and they keep flammable things away from their house – they don’t even have a grill. “We have backyard BYOF parties: bring your own food,” said Nick.

In 2017, Nick plans to volunteer for the Red Cross to answer telephones at a Red Cross telethon. “You guys did so much. It gave us a starting point.”

Learn more about the American Red Cross Home Fire Prevention Campaign.

By: Cat Rabenstine

Helping our communities prepare, recover and flourish from disaster

Helping our communities prepare, recover and flourish from disaster

Guest Post by Jeff Winton, President, Astellas USA Foundation

When Jeff Winton was a child, his rural farming community in upstate New York was struck by a series of disasters, including a fire that burnt down his house and a set of tornadoes that devastated his town. As Astellas USA Foundation president, Winton understands that disaster can strike when we least expect it, and that being prepared can ease the burden of those affected. He explains how Astellas USA Foundation is helping communities prepare, recover and flourish when the unexpected happens.

When I was a young boy, one Sunday afternoon I discovered that my home had caught fire and destroyed several rooms in the house. Fortunately, I was able to alert my parents in time before the entire house was destroyed. As I look back on that moment, I remember American Red Cross volunteers being there for my family and me, helping us sort through the wreckage and move forward from the loss.

Around the same time, another disaster struck my community. A set of tornadoes took out the small farming community I lived in, destroying dozens of homes and buildings and killing a massive number of livestock. Looking back, I’m again reminded of Red Cross volunteers on the scene, helping us recover.

These personal experiences with disaster have driven my passion to ensure that all communities, no matter how far removed, are prepared when disaster strikes. At Astellas USA Foundation, we believe that crisis prevention and recovery are at the forefront of building sustainable communities. It is essential to provide communities with proper resources and education, to help ease the burden of those most affected so they that may recover and flourish when the worst happens.

Growing up in a rural community, we were miles away from the nearest large city and amenities, including hospitals. That made it more difficult for emergency responders to reach my town quickly, so we often had to wait longer to receive help. With that perspective and experience, I believe our support of at-risk and far removed communities, both in Chicagoland and across the Americas, is especially crucial.

Continuing our seventh year of support of the Red Cross, in 2016, Astellas USA Foundation donated funds to purchase 23,000 smoke alarms, helping 9,200 families be more prepared for home fires. Special emphasis was placed on low-income, elderly, disabled and youth populations, who are more at risk for a fire, and more likely to be severely affected than the general population. We are ensuring these populations are educated and equipped to secure their homes.

In addition to fire safety efforts, Astellas USA Foundation supports the Red Cross to be on the scene when disaster strikes. This year, we’ve provided relief to victims of the floods in Louisiana and Texas, Canadian wildfires, and the earthquake in Ecuador. Due to our longstanding commitment to this partner, we were honored with the Wesbury Leadership award this summer from the American Red Cross of Chicago for our efforts to prepare and strengthen communities.

But relief comes in many forms. We also work with Americares, which provides medicine, supplies, education and training to more than 900 health facilities across the United States, helping 5 million low-income patients receive care they might forgo due to cost. We’re also building self-reliance in rural communities in El Salvador to help them build a more sustainable future after the food crisis that resulted from El Niño. By working with World Food Program USA, Astellas USA Foundation is helping new mothers and young children receive the nutrition they need to thrive and be healthy. To do this, we helped these mothers access SuperCereal+, a supplemental food to eradicate hunger and malnutrition during their children’s crucial developmental years.

We call this Living Smart – or, preparing our communities today for what could happen tomorrow. Astellas USA Foundation enlists the help of Astellas employee volunteers through the Living Smart Program. So far, employees have participated in blood drives (most recently collecting 48 pints of blood, which could help Red Cross save up to 144 lives) and provided the Red Cross with a first-of-its-kind energy efficient emergency response vehicle to reach people affected by disaster.

I’ve experienced first-hand how devastating and unexpected disasters can be. But I’ve also seen how help from organizations like the Red Cross can turn around a seemingly hopeless situation by providing resources and support to ease the burden of those most affected. Astellas USA Foundation looks forward to continuing its support of these organizations so that our communities can prepare, recover and flourish from disaster, facing the future with confidence.

This story was cross-posted with permission and is also available here.