8th Annual Disaster Preparedness Summit

8th Annual Disaster Preparedness Summit

For the eighth year, the American Red Cross hosted its annual Disaster Preparedness Summit. This year, the summit focused on the topic of bioterrorism and featured various speakers and panel discussions.

Many of those in attendance were hoping to gain something they could take back to work with them. Kin Lee works in business continuity and disaster recovery, and said he is “looking for what I can find out here and apply to my business.”

Latesha Tubbs is an emergency management coordinator and she found a lesson in communicating on a large scale, “how to do a uniform message to the public and how important that is. Even in words you use, like terrorism and how that can spark fear in the public.”

Higher education had a large presence in the day, even aside from the fact that the summit was held on the DePaul University campus. College professors and administrators attended on behalf of their students and institutions.

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University of Chicago Medicine’s Brenda Battle welcomes guests.

David Ibrahim works at the University of Illinois at Chicago. According to him, UIC has been engaging more and more with the American Red Cross in the past six months. He believes higher education should be part of emergency planning and response, “we’re center hubs, we have facilities that can help with mass evacuation, we have a lot of resources that we can provide.”

Another professor, Charles Stewart, voiced similar thoughts when speaking about the benefit of these events, “the community as a whole, we all have to be at the table to come up with a plan and a solution.” Stewart is a current professor at Southern Illinois University and a retired First Deputy Fire Commissioner. His students are in public safety and he uses his background to prepare them for what he calls the “what ifs” of emergencies.

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Disaster Summit attendees meet.

One of the popular sessions of the day was a panel on bioterrorism preparedness and response planning in Illinois, featuring representatives from different levels of government such as the Illinois Army National Guard and the Chicago Department of Public Health. Ibrahim thought it was great “for them to speak to the response infrastructure through state officials and see how they’re in constant communication.” Meanwhile Tubbs enjoyed the topic, “My favorite was the last presentation, the panel… It brought a lot of attention to bio-watch, a subject that’s not really covered in biomedicine.”

The day’s topic went over well with attendees who applauded the timeliness of the issue. Nurses, professors, and business men found direct applications to their careers from the information at the Disaster Preparedness Summit.

Written By: Eleanor Lyons, Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer

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Volunteer Spotlight: Greg Dely

Volunteer Spotlight: Greg Dely

Greg Dely always felt helping people was the right thing to do. In 1972, he served the Village of Stickney as a Reserve Police Officer and later became a firefighter. His responsibilities soon grew and he became Deputy Fire Inspector for the City of Hickory Hills. Greg then served as the Safety Director of Brookfield Zoo for almost a decade where he started the first ever safety program. He also spent time working in safety for Argonne National Laboratories. Greg maintained his EMT license for 18 years and has worn many hats during that time.

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It was while holding his most recent position with the Department of Veteran Affairs at Jessie Brown Hospital in 2014  when Greg discovered the American Red Cross. Greg walked from his office at Jessie Brown Hospital the few blocks to 2200 West Harrison where he signed up to volunteer in Disaster Action Services, or DAT. Greg soon realized that working for DAT was the obvious choice for him.

 

“Volunteering for the Red Cross was the natural next step after retiring, especially DAT,” Greg said. “I used to run in and out of burning buildings.” Through volunteering with DAT, Greg still has the opportunity to safely help people outside while providing comfort to clients of the Red Cross.

 

Being the one to give assistance when needed comes as second nature to this gentle man. Greg has served with the Chicago DAT Team since January of 2014, and he says he actually prefers the light traffic during the 12am to 4am shift. It’s something other members of his DAT team are very grateful for.

 

Greg fondly remembers his days as a trainee and one of his first responses at an apartment fire in Forest Park.

“There were 50-60 senior citizens standing on the streets. It was cold outside. I called dispatch and told them to send the troops!” Greg said. Soon, Greg was given a promotion to Lead DAT Responder and has been the weeknight go-to responder for more than three years.

 

Outside of volunteering, Greg spends time crafting miniature military dioramas. These scenes are recreations of historic events, which is an avid interest of Greg’s. Not many people know that for almost 25 years, Greg has participated in the reenactment of the Civil War battles. Originally marching in the infantry, Greg picked up reading music and learned to play the Fife at the age of 58. Greg played the flute-like instrument at the front of formation and marching across the Wheatfield of Gettysburg. He remembers playing “Battle Hymn of the Republic” during the battle’s 145th anniversary. Being a part of that anniversary as well as the 150th were very special, memorable moments for him.

 

Greg says if he were to give advice to people considering a volunteer position with the Red Cross, he says “Do it. Just do it. Self-gratification comes from helping people. There are people out there that are hurting. It’s awful. (Volunteering is) paying back your community.”

 

We wish Greg the best of luck in his retirement.

 

Written by Ira Meinhofer, Disaster Program Specialist and Public Affairs Volunteer

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

 

 

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