Vigilant Vortex

Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross
Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Last week, more than 50 Red Cross workers from joined our partners in the Minnesota National Guard and more than 30 other agencies in “Vigilant Vortex”, a large-scale exercise to practice our ability to coordinate response efforts to a string of powerful tornadoes across our region. The Red Cross had significant activity during two days of the 5-day exercise, with shelters opened at Camp Ripley and in Duluth, and Government Operations workers coordinating efforts in Emergency Operations Centers across the state. The Red Cross received compliments on our participation from several partners, including the presentation of a plaque from special guests from the Croatian Armed Forces, who were visiting during the exercise and wanted to express their thanks to the Red Cross for all that we do. Congratulations on a job well done to Terry Sluss and all of the disaster relief workers who helped to make this exercise a success! To learn and see more about the exercise, click here to read a Star Tribune feature story and click here to see the paper’s photo gallery.

Red Cross awards Wisconsin teen the Certificate of Merit

Story and photos by Andrea Bredow/American Red Cross Volunteer

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Becca Thomas (c) used her lifesaving skills when she noticed River Falls Swim Club teammate Marissa Metzler chest up and unconscious in a pool.

Three Wisconsin teens put their lifesaving skills to use one early morning at swim practice back in 2012. Becca Thomas used her Red Cross lifeguarding skills when she noticed River Falls Swim Club teammate Marissa Metzler chest up and unconscious in the pool.  Becca rushed into action and immediately got Marissa out of the pool.

From there it was a team effort. Jon Heiniger began chest compressions while his mother, Sonja, did the mouth-to-mouth portion of the rescue. Meanwhile, 15-year-old Ben Heiniger ran for the AED. All of that took place within a minute.

Fast thinking and Red Cross lifeguard training saved Marissa’s life. Their heroic actions earned Becca Thomas the national Red Cross Certificate of Merit, and Jon, Sonja and Ben awarded the Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action.

The Red Cross awards about 100 Certificates of Merit each year across the country.
The American Red Cross awards about 100 Certificates of Merit each year across the country.

The Red Cross awards about 100 Certificates of Merit each year across the country. The Certificate of Merit is the highest award given by the American Red Cross to an individual or team of individuals who saves or sustains a life by using skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Health and Safety Services course. The certificate is signed by the President of the United States, who is the honorary chairman of the American Red Cross. The award package also includes a citation, medallion and lapel pin. The Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action is a local award that can be given to individuals who are not Red Cross trained but use lifesaving skills to help save someone’s life.

For more about the story, watch the Fox 9 news clip. To learn lifesaving skills, take a Red Cross class.

Take Time To Teach Nine

Dollhouse used for teaching fire safety to children. (Photo credit: Eduardo Sanchez Beltran/American Red Cross)

With fall season just around the corner and summer coming to its final weeks, time goes by fast. Tuesday August 5, 2014 is National Night Out, a day when many are focused on bringing the people together through community events throughout the day.

But, the good question is, are you prepared if a disaster occurs? If your answer is yes, we give you a high five! But, if you answered no, we’ve got you covered. There’s no need to feel the pressure to be prepared, but we can help you be ready ahead of emergencies.

For National Night Out, the American Red Cross has a new initiative called, “Take Time to Teach Nine.” This initiative educates people in the importance of having a family disaster plan, taking CPR/AED courses, and downloading and using the Red Cross mobile apps.

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Dollhouse toy used to teach fire safety to children. (Photo credit: Eduardo Sanchez Beltran/American Red Cross)

“Emergency preparedness doesn’t have to be long conversations,” says Libby Sweeney, Community Outreach and Events Intern for the American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Region. “Red Cross staff and volunteers will be taking time to teach nine other people steps they can take to be better prepared.”

The initiative consists of Red Cross volunteers working with neighborhood groups and showing kids fire safety, including through use of a dollhouse at several locations. “This is a more casual approach to teach people while they hang out with their neighbors,” says Sweeney. The outreach initiative also has preparedness materials, giveaways and support, as needed.

To find out more information on how to teach your community about building an emergency kit or developing a disaster’s plan, visit the American Red Cross website. Or you can contact Libby Sweeney at 612-460-3674 or libby.sweeney@redcross.org.

Story and photos by Eduardo Sanchez Beltran/Communications Intern, American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Region

 

How to find a shelter location 101

Story by Rick Graft, Debra Brooks and Khue Tran, American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Region Disaster Relief Volunteers

A Red Cross logistics truck, or "LIRV", that responds to disasters. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross
A Red Cross logistics truck, or “LIRV”, that responds to disasters. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

During recent flooding in Minnesota, Jordan High School was approved as a shelter site in case of human or natural disaster.  We want to share the story with you about how the site was selected and about some unplanned and terrific community outreach.

We wanted to show that the Red Cross was there to support the community, so we took the logistics truck rather than a regular car to Jordan High School. We parked the truck outside the main doors of the school. Once there, parents and students saw the Red Cross presence while we were in the high school doing the shelter evaluation work with school officials.  At the end of our visit, the principal kindly asked us if we could show her the truck contents.

Sample shelter kit supplies carried on a Red Cross logistics truck. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross
Shelter supplies carried on a Red Cross logistics truck. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

As we walked to the truck, Debra saw some students and parents and invited them to join us. When I opened the back door of the truck, they were impressed with what and how many supplies and kits we carried. This became a teaching moment to affirm our commitment to the community and how the Red Cross handles disaster responses.

One young teenage girl went from worrying about an unknown terrible thing happening in her school to a double-thumbs up because we were ready with disaster supplies. All the students and parents were pleased to help the Red Cross and they appreciated how the Red Cross would help them in return. They were grateful we wanted to help their community, and so this ended up being a public relations success.

Our visit gave us the opportunity to survey the site, to build trust and a partnership, and to learn from the local community of what they were experiencing and anticipating. As we do on all of our survey calls, we spent a little time explaining the bigger picture of how we would set up a shelter and how to use it. The benefit of sharing our story is that the community started to think with us, and came up with creative solutions and additional spaces that we would never think of by just looking at a floor plan.

Red Cross volunteer Rick Graft during recent flood damage assessment in Blakely Township, MN.
Red Cross volunteer Rick Graft assessing flood damage in Blakeley Township, MN, June 24, 2014. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

The school district superintendent signed the agreement as we completed the opening inspection.  The superintendent, principal, and custodian all brainstormed with us to find space and solutions to our anticipated needs, so we set up the expectation that they could be contacted 24/7 during an actual need for opening a shelter.

At the end of the day, we came away with a shelter partner who feels comfortable working with us and can tell others an important part of the Red Cross story.  And on a slightly humorous note, we did not have to do this at two in the morning during disaster response!

Click here to learn more about American Red Cross disaster relief.

Top 5 ways to beat the heat – Red Cross style

m8540173_167x82-heatwave-31)     Jump in the water! Swimming is a great way to cool off on a hot day. Remember to always swim with a buddy, “reach, throw, don’t go” if you spot someone in trouble, and always wear sunscreen. Download our free Red Cross swim app for water safety tips, quizzes, badges and more.

2)     Be neighborly. Extreme heat pushes bodies to the limit – check on your neighbors, especially ones without air conditioning or with special needs. Be even more neighborly and bring them ice cream.

3)     Heat stroke or heat exhaustion? Do you know the difference and what to do? If not, download our free Red Cross First Aid app for the answers to this and other summer challenges like insect stings.

4)     Take a class. When you feel like you’re melting like the Wicked Witch of the West, be smart and stay inside. Then, grab a cool beverage and check out Red Cross online courses, like Babysitting Basics.

5)     Prepare. While you’re inside, check those smoke detector batteries, restock your emergency supplies kit, and go over your family’s emergency plan. But don’t, be this guy.

Celebrating Volunteer Service

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The 2014 American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Volunteer Awards at the ceremony in June. Photo credit: Andy King.

This past June 24 was a special night during our 2014 Volunteer Recognition event. That night 21 volunteers from our Red Cross region were honored for their outstanding service.

These volunteers were recognized for their generous dedication of fulfilling the Red Cross mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.

These volunteers take time to teach, prepare and help their neighbors. They are among 1,100 volunteers giving time and expertise in a Red Cross region that serves more than 4.3 million people in 43 counties in northern Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

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Audrey Waage, center. Photo credit: Andy King.

They are moms and dads, high school and college students, and friends and family members who care about their communities and are ready to serve every day. Some of the words that describe these individuals include: “humble, compassionate, fearless, enthusiastic, creative thinkers, engagers, teachers, and mentors.”

The Red Cross thanks this year’s volunteer honorees and all of those who give time to help others often in their greatest time of need.

The 2014 volunteer recipients and their award categories:

Red Cross volunteer award recipient Sara Schomburg (c). Photo credit: Andy King.
Sara Schomburg, center. Photo credit: Andy King.

Diane Dunder: Distinguished Volunteer Leader of the Year Award

Outstanding Volunteer Group Award: St. Croix Valley Disaster Health Nurses Anne Headrick, Mary Menter, Patricia Bell, Maria Saterbak, Millie Jones, Nancy Mortwedt, Jane Norbin, Cheryl Blythe, Flora Holmberg, Roger Jacobson, Dianne Polasik, Iona Holsten and Vonnie Thomas

Tami Jensen: “Behind-the-Scenes” Volunteer Award

Sara Schomburg: Youth Volunteer Award

Audrey Waage: Disaster Volunteer Award

St. Croix Valley Disaster Health Nurses. Photo credit: Andy King.
St. Croix Valley Disaster Health Nurses. Photo credit: Andy King.

Dave Adriansen: Health and Safety Recognition Award

Pj Doyle and Kathryn Schmidt: Outreach Volunteer Award

Randi De Mel: Rookie Volunteer-of-the-Year Award

A region-wide committee comprised of staff and volunteers reviewed the nominees in each category and voted on a winner.

Post by Eduardo Sanchez Beltran/American Red Cross. Click here to learn more about Red Cross volunteer opportunities. 

You’ve heard about the flooding, right?

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Red Cross relief workers on the US-Canadian border. Photo credit: Jenn Hamrick/American Red Cross

While most of us had our summer attention turned to beach towels and BBQ’s, others in our Red Cross region donned their disaster work clothes and supported the flooding response on the US-Canadian border. Most of the relief work focused on assisting residents and local government officials as they prepared for high waters along several lakes and rivers in Koochiching and northern St. Louis counties.

More than 50 Red Cross volunteers served during the response. Some people responded virtually — working from their home base (wherever that is in Minnesota or Wisconsin) — organizing food donations, coordinating workers or arranging technology support for the operation. Others had their high-water boots on-the-ground in and around Loman, Ranier or other flood-affected areas in northern Minnesota. There, they handed out cold beverages, bandaged cuts or surveyed threatened neighborhoods where residents worked hours and hours placing sandbags in advance of the flooding.

Most would agree that it’s a privilege to work with people who put aside their lives for a time when others –generally strangers — need them. Thank you to everyone, especially the volunteers, who served during this flooding response.

It’s time now to get some rest before you’re needed again.

Click here to see photos from the response.
Click here to learn about becoming a Red Cross volunteer.

The Greatest Gift

The 2014 Run for Blood is only weeks away. Proceeds from this annual event benefit American Red Cross North Central Blood Services. In other words, your participation, whether you run or walk, helps the Red Cross provide life-saving blood to someone like our own Jacqueline “Jacks” Michaud, who needed blood to save her life after childbirth. 

Jacks Michaud and her family.
Jacks Michaud and her family.

I was 17 years old the first time I gave blood in the gymnasium of my high school.  I never questioned the choice of giving, I gave because I could (and it got me out of 5th period).  After that initial experience, I have continued to give. I give because I can; I have never expected anything in return.

Fast-forward years later as my husband and I are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our first child.  I am nine months pregnant, round and happy despite the morning sickness lasting all nine months.  My husband and I had read every book, taken every class, and planned, planned, planned for baby.  Our daughter arrived on June 3rd at 3:33 a.m.  We were instantly in love and in awe of this seven-pounds nineteen-inch little person who came into the world with a smile on her adorable face. However, with all my planning I was not prepared for what happened next.

Our joy was soon cut short as I began to experience medical complications after my labor and delivery.  The post-delivery complications caused me to hemorrhage.  I remained confident and euphoric in my post-delivery baby bliss, but soon began to feel ill and faint.  I only remember truly becoming disturbed when I witnessed the nurses exchanging glances of worry when documenting the continued blood loss.  At that moment it became real, my life was no longer about myself, just a few moments prior my entire existence changed, and now I was responsible for a little baby and her entire existence.  Fear set in.

Jack's infant daughter.
Jack’s infant daughter.

The next memory I have is of my nurse hanging a lovely red bag of blood on my I.V. stand. I remember thinking to myself that some generous person, whoever they are, will be forever tied to me, giving me a part of them so that I can be a mom, thankful that they gave because they could.

On that joyous day, I was thankful that I was able to receive the needed transfusions my body needed.  I was able to be with my baby and my husband, and enjoy the precious newness and beauty of parenthood while putting aside the fears of hours past.

That day I made a commitment to myself the moment I received that first pint of beautiful red life.  I promised that I would be a better and more consistent blood donor, knowing that just maybe one day my donation could help another.

Every year around the time of my daughter’s birthday, my son’s birthday and my own birthday I donate blood because I can.  It is the greatest gift I can give.

Story by Jacqueline Michaud
Mom, Blood Donor, and Red Crosser

Click here to register for the 2014 Run for Blood, which will be held July 26 on Thomas Beach at Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. Not a runner? You can donate blood on race day.

Heroes Breakfast Highlights

Thank you to everyone who supported our 2014 Heroes Breakfast! More than 450 guests shared a wonderful, inspiring morning while meeting this year’s Heroes and learning more about their extraordinary acts of courage, resiliency and generosity. Below, we share photo highlights of the event. Click here to see the Heroes videos. 

Give Life Hero Kate Ross (l) with Red Cross board member Tom Meyer. Photo credit: Andy King
Give Life Hero Kate Ross (l) with Red Cross board member Tom Meyer. Photo credit: Andy King
Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern. Photo credit: Andy King
National American Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern. Photo credit: Andy King
Military Hero Dennis Davis (l) and Red Cross Social Advocate Kevin Schreifels. Photo credit: Andy King
Military Hero Dennis Davis (l) and Red Cross Social Advocate Kevin Schreifels. Photo credit: Andy King
Local Red Cross CEOs Geoff Kaufmann and Phil Hansen. Photo credit: Andy King
Local Red Cross CEOs Geoff Kaufmann and Phil Hansen. Photo credit: Andy King
USBank CEO Richard Davis. Photo credit: Andy King
USBank CEO Richard Davis. Photo credit: Andy King
Around 450 people attended our 2014 Heroes Breakfast in Minneapolis. Photo credit: Andy King
Around 450 people attended our 2014 Heroes Breakfast in Minneapolis. Photo credit: Andy King
The 2014 Heroes (l-r): Zoran Pedisic, Shane Linehan, Kate Ross, Sydney Book, Dennis Davis and Pat Harris. Photo credit: Andy King
The 2014 Heroes (l-r): Zoran Pedisic, Shane Linehan, Kate Ross, Sydney Book, Dennis Davis and Pat Harris. Photo credit: Andy King
Local Red Cross board co-chair Lori McDougal. Photo credit: Andy King
Local Red Cross board vice-chair Lori McDougal. Photo credit: Andy King
Red Cross President & CEO Gail McGovern takes a group "selfie" with the Social Advocates. Photo credit: Carrie Carlson-Guest
Red Cross President & CEO Gail McGovern takes a group “selfie” with the Social Advocates. Photo credit: Carrie Carlson-Guest

Celebrating 100 Years of Red Cross Aquatics

Commodore Wilbert E. Longfellow, founder of the Red Cross Water Safety Program and members of the YWCA Life Saving Corps. (Source: Red Cross photo archive.)
Commodore Wilbert E. Longfellow, founder of the Red Cross Water Safety Program and members of the YWCA Life Saving Corps.

For the past 100 years, the American Red Cross has helped millions of kids, teens and adults learn how to swim and become lifeguards and instructors. In our Northern Minnesota Region last year, more than 47,500 people took Red Cross Learn-to-Swim, lifeguarding or water safety instructor classes.

This month, during the Red Cross Aquatics Centennial, celebrating 100 years of Red Cross water safety education, we’d like to encourage everyone:

  • to make sure that they and their families can swim
  • to know basic water safety
  • to know how to respond to an emergency

We feel a particular urgency for promoting the steps above because a new national survey conducted for the Red Cross found that 80 percent of Americans said they can swim, only 56 percent of those self-described as swimmers can perform all five basic, or “water competency,” skills for swimming ability:

  • step or jump into the water over your head
  • return to the surface and float or treat water for one minute
  • turn around in a full circle and find an exit
  • swim 25 yards to the exit
  • exit from the water; if from a pool, exit without using a ladder
New survey shows only 56 percent of self-described swimmers know water competency skills.
New survey shows only 56 percent of self-described swimmers know water competency skills.

Overall, the survey found that 54 percent of all Americans can’t swim or don’t have basic swimming ability. Moreover, only 33 percent of African-Americans reported having swimming, or some basic water skills. While 51 percent of white Americans reported the same.

The numbers do not lie. There is a great need for people to take steps for learning how to swim. And so, during our aquatics centennial, the Red Cross kicks off a campaign that seeks to cut the drowning rates in half in 50 cities in 19 states. This campaign will take place in 10 cities this year and expand to all 50 cities in the years ahead.

Here’s some good news: Minnesota is not among the 19 states. Why? It has a low drowning rate compared to other states. And yet, 40 people drowned in non-boating water emergencies in 2012 (most recent reported year from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources). You can help bring down that number.

Adults and children should know how to be safe in the water. In the land of more than 11,800 lakes as well as more than 6,500 rivers and streams…and who knows how many swimming pools…parents and swimmers should learn about water safety and know how to respond to an emergency. To find an aquatics center offering Red Cross swim classes near you, click here. To find other health and safety, such as CPR and First Aid, click here.

Have a great summer!

*The national public opinion survey was conducted for the Red Cross April 17-20, 2014 using ORC International’s Online CARAVAN omnibus survey.

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