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

 

 

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Northern Illinois Flooding Follow-up

After the flooding which started on July 12th, response efforts from the American Red Cross continued with the opening of a MARC in Stephenson County on August 4th.

The American Red Cross opened three multi-agency resource centers (MARCs), one in Lake County, McHenry County, and the third in Stephenson County. These MARCs collectively served over 2,000 families with 20+ agencies on hand to provide a variety of resources along with hot meals, relief supplies and financial assistance

Testimonials from the Stephenson County MARC, like this one from Allison Hartman, showed the impact the American Red Cross had:

“The experience was horrible from the rain, I mean we lost everything. The Red Cross really helped out. They helped me get some new clothes for the baby and a few groceries. They really helped a lot”

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HOW TO HELP
: The Red Cross depends on financial donations to provide immediate disaster relief. Help people affected by Illinois tornadoes and severe storms by visiting redcross.org or calling 1- 800-RED CROSS. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from these disasters.

By: Rebecca Pilipchuk, Marketing & Communications Intern at the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Roller Derby’s Make em’ Bleed Kicks Off In Chicago

Known for being a tough contact sport, roller derby has a soft spot for giving back.

 

August 13th kicked off World Roller Derby week with the sport’s 82nd birthday celebration at Coliseum Park in Chicago where the sport was invented by Leo Seltzer, a Chicago native. World Roller Derby week pays homage to its Chicago roots while giving back to the community. During the celebration, donor registration was open to attendees for the blood drive “First Blood.”

The “First Blood” blood drive will be hosted at the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois on Sunday, October 29 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Roller derby athletes will be there in full uniform (skates too!) signing autographs, taking photos, handing out buttons, giving temporary tattoos and hosting some fun giveaways. You can register to donate by going here and entering the code DERBY to find the Chicago drive or you can call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-773-2767).

Roller derby is giving back nationwide! In collaboration with Brown Paper Tickets and the American Red Cross, roller derby will be hosting a series of blood drives across the country, called Make em’ Bleed. Over the past 4 years, this collaboration has collected more than 900 units of blood.

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By: Rebecca Pilipchuk, Marketing & Communications Intern at the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

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

Illinois Residents Look Ahead After Torrential Rainfall and Subsequent Flooding

Illinois Residents Look Ahead After Torrential Rainfall and Subsequent Flooding

July 12 was the beginning of what would turn into one of Northern Illinois’ worst flooding disasters. With rainfall levels exceeding those seen in the 2013 floods, residents living along the rivers and lakes in Illinois were hit the hardest. The counties most affected by flooding and power outages included Cook, Lake, Kane and McHenry. The storms also impacted DuPage, Ogle, Stephenson and Winnebago counties. infographic_blog_8.1.2017

The American Red Cross was on the scene from the start, opening four shelters that day in Round Lake Beach, North Chicago, Grayslake, and Chicago. Three more shelters were opened since then and mobile feeding units were dispatched to provide assistance. These shelters offered a safe place to stay and a hot meal for hundreds of residents who had been forced out by the flood waters.

The Red Cross also collaborated with other organizations to open three Multi-Agency Resource Centers (MARCs) located in Round Lake Beach, McHenry County and Stephenson County.  These resource centers allowed those affected by flooding to have a one-stop-shop for assistance. Each MARC provided meals, clean-up supplies specific to flooding, counseling and support services and housing resources from 20+ partner agencies.

Anita Harris, whose apartment complex flooded, sought refuge in the Red Cross shelter located in North Chicago.

“The Red Cross has been so helpful. I don’t have any family in the area, and there was no one to help me. I felt so alone, but here’s this agency and somebody loves you, somebody cares. Their red and white colors will stay with me for a long time,” said Harris. 

Other residents, like Marquita McGee, also found comfort from the Red Cross: “It’s a blessing. It’s a true blessing because without them I couldn’t provide any meals for my kids because I can’t cook at home, I can’t bathe them. They don’t have their freedom; everyone is out of their comfort zone you know what I’m saying? So it’s just such a blessing to have them- to have Red Cross to be there.”

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As the floodwaters recede those affected still have a long road ahead. The Red Cross understands that the aftermath of a disaster is a stressful time. Call the Red Cross Flood Hotline at 847-220-7495 for assistance. Click here to explore some ways to help in your recovery.

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As always, the Red Cross would like to thank its wonderful volunteers for their continued dedication to serving others. American Red Cross volunteers carry out 90% of the humanitarian work of the Red Cross. If you are inspired to action, visit http://www.redcross.org/volunteer.

By: Rebecca Pilipchuk, Marketing & Communications Intern at the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Brookfield Zoo Blood Drive

Brookfield Zoo Blood Drive
Monserrat Figueroa spent her 10th birthday up close with a southwestern hawk while her mother rolled up a sleeve to help save lives. She and her siblings gathered around Saguaro the hawk with wide eyes to learn more facts about the bird. As her mother exited the blood donation room, Monserrat detailed the experience. The 3rd Annual Brookfield Zoo Blood Drive gave the chance to donate life-saving blood while also enjoying a day at the zoo with family. 
 

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“Are you proud of your mom for helping people today?” I asked Monserrat. She nodded her head excitedly. Her mother, Rocio Figueroa, was one of over 200 people who donated blood at the event on August 2nd. 
 
Many of the donors had given blood before. A couple donated together for the second time, a young girl donated for the third time, and an elderly man shared that he had donated to the Red Cross over 15 times before. When asked about his reason for donating, he answered that it was because he felt like he should. Without a direct connection to someone in need of blood, he had the empathy and the drive take action.
 

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Thank you to all of the donors who found their reason to donate to blood at the Brookfield Zoo.
Join the American Red Cross at a blood drive near you to help save lives.
By: Lucia Varlotta, American Red Cross Communications Intern

VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT: Steve Wise

VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT: Steve Wise

Steve Wise spent his career helping others and keeping people safe in the rail industry.  After 37 years at TTX, he retired in 2016, when he began his volunteering journey with the American Red Cross.  He brings his passion for safety and wealth of experience to several roles within the Illinois Valley Region and beyond.

“Being a Red Cross volunteer and having the opportunity to help people, often on the worst day of their life, has been such a blessing.”

“Being a Red Cross volunteer and having the opportunity to help people, often on the worst day of their life, has been such a blessing,” said Wise. There are several synergies between his past and present.  At TTX, there was no better feeling than keeping people safe and making sure they went home each night injury free. With the Red Cross, he is able to bring comfort to people in their time of need.  The work is not just rewarding, it is heartwarming, and a way for Steve to payback for the many blessings in his life.

Wise covers a broad range of roles from DAT (Disaster Action Team) Captain and Lead Responder to Case Work Supervisor and External Relations, mostly as part of the Romeoville Red Cross office.   He works extensively with Jeremiah LaPlante and credits him with being an extraordinary teacher. Jeremiah is a great example of the many wonderful people Steve has met along the way.

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Steve enjoys operating as part of the DCS team, working with those in need.  “With the Red Cross you learn disasters can strike anyone, at anytime, often when they least expect it,” he said.  Steve finds his work with DCS incredibly gratifying.  He also enjoys serving in multiple roles and works with new volunteers to help them get up to speed on disaster response efforts. Steve also works with external relations helping people, organizations and municipalities prepare and respond to emergencies.  And in his spare time, he does some recruiting too.

One particular experience that really stands out for Steve took place last year during the Louisiana floods. He was working as a virtual case representative, helping people who were displaced. A call came in from a woman who was having technical trouble.  While working through the verification process it was clear that the address on file did not match.  Steve asked if there was another address it could be listed under. The woman’s response was something akin to,”you mean my home that was destroyed?” The starkness of that response really hit home.

Recently, Steve spent much of his time helping those impacted by flash flooding closer to home. He was one of many volunteers that dropped everything to do what he could to assist afflicted residents. The Red Cross’s continuing response covers everything from lodging, food and emotional support and currently includes multiple shelter locations. Volunteers have distributed over 1,000 clean up kits and continue to support people across the flooded areas.

It’s moments like those when you realize how desperately the Red Cross is needed and can see the direct impacts it has on the lives of others. Ninety percent of the Red Cross workforce made up of volunteers. Thankfully there are many people like Steve that are there to help, just when they need it the most.

Steve has been blessed in many ways which drives his passion for giving back. He loves spending time with his family.  He lives in New Lennox with his wife Bridget, who he credits as an inspiration and is incredibly supportive of his efforts. They have three wonderful sons, Brad, Mark and Chris, all living out of state, two in California and one in Minnesota, so they do a fair amount of traveling.  Steve imagined he would write and teach in his retirement.  In many ways, his work with the Red Cross fulfills his desire to teach and he has already written three e-books and plans to do more.

His advice to prospective volunteers?  “Open your heart. There are so many in need waiting for your help and so many ways to serve with the Red Cross”. You too can make a difference.

Join Steve and the 4,000 plus volunteers serving northeastern Illinois.