Red Cross Responds, Offers Safety Steps As Bitter Temperatures Cover Much of U.S.

cold-thermometerThe American Red Cross is helping people impacted by the frigid cold air covering two-thirds of the country, and offers steps people can take to stay safe during this dangerous weather.

Red Cross workers are opening shelters and warming centers for people affected by the extreme cold, and working with local emergency officials to respond if needed as the cold weather moves to the east. Officials report as many as 117 million people are living under dangerous wind chill warnings, advisories and watches.

Sunday night 280 people stayed in 19 shelters in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Massachusetts because of the weather. The Red Cross has helped people in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts since the current winter onslaught began last week.

PLEASE GIVE BLOOD The bitterly cold weather has already caused the cancellation of nearly 125 Red Cross blood drives in 17 states, resulting in almost 4,000 uncollected blood and platelet donations. Despite the weather, hospital patients across the country will still need blood. Please consider making an appointment to donate blood or platelets when it is safe to do so in your area.

You can make an appointment to give blood online at redcrossblood.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS. To give blood, someone must be at least 17 years of age, meet weight and height requirements and be in general good health. Donors should bring their Red Cross blood donor card or other form of positive ID with them. Some states allow 16-year-olds to give with parental consent.

COLD WEATHER SAFETY TIPS As this latest outbreak of cold air moves across the country, people could experience wind chills as cold as 60 degrees below zero in some areas. To stay safe during this dangerous weather, follow these steps:

  • Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm. Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing body heat.
  • Someone should seek medical attention immediately if they have symptoms of hypothermia, including confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering.
  • Watch for symptoms of frostbite, including numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy feeling skin.
  •  Don’t forget family pets – bring them indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
  • Avoid frozen pipes – run water, even at a trickle, to help prevent them from freezing. Open the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals out of the reach of children. Keep the garage doors closed if there are water lines in the garage.
  • Keep the thermostat at the same temperature day and night to help avoid freezing pipes.
  • Download the Red Cross First Aid App for quick, expert advice on what to do in case of an emergency. This free app is available on the Apple iTunes or Google Play stores.

HOME FIRE RISK INCREASES DURING COLD Red Cross workers are also responding to numerous home fires across the country. During extremely cold weather, the risk for a fire in someone’s home can increase. To avoid fire danger, you should remember the following:

  • Never use a stove or oven to heat the home.
  • If using a space heater, place it on a level, hard surface and keep anything flammable at least three feet away – things such as paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs. Turn off space heaters and make sure fireplace embers are out before leaving the room or going to bed.
  • If using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
  • Use generators correctly – never operate a generator inside the home, including in the basement or garage.
  • Don’t hook a generator up to the home’s wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment someone wants to power directly to the outlets on the generator.

Red Cross Continues Large Sandy Relief Operation

Residents should listen to local authorities as widespread power outages and
storm damages make travel dangerous

The American Red Cross is continuing a major relief operation throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast to shelter and assist people affected by Superstorm Sandy. Millions awoke this morning to power outages, fallen trees, scattered debris, and flooded neighborhoods and the Red Cross is working hard to get help where it is needed.

Nearly 11,000 people spent Monday night in more than 250 Red Cross shelters across 16 states including New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Indiana, and Michigan. These numbers could increase as the storm moves into cities like Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee with heavy wind, rain and snow.

“Our first priority is to get people the help they need – providing families and individuals with a safe place to stay and food to eat,” said Charley Shimanski, senior vice president of Disaster Services for the Red Cross. “While it is too early to know the full extent of Sandy’s damage, we expect to be working with a variety of partners to help people for the next several weeks.”

The Red Cross has mobilized 1,700 disaster workers from all over the country who have served more than 25,000 meals and snacks so far. We have also activated167 response vehicles and shipped in more than 230,000 ready-to-eat meals. This is a huge disaster, bigger than any one organization can handle and the Red Cross is working closely with multiple partners including a variety of civic groups, advocacy organizations, professional organizations and houses of worship to share their expertise and volunteers.

SAFETY AFTER THE STORM In areas hit by this storm, the Red Cross urges people to check on their neighbors, make sure everyone is okay, and take care of each other until help arrives. Everyone should follow the direction of their local officials during this disaster – evacuate if told to do so, stay in a safe place and off the roads until the storm is over, and do not return home until officials say it is okay.

To find a Red Cross shelter, people can download the Red Cross Hurricane app, visit the Red Cross web site, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), or check local media outlets. People can let their loved ones know how they are by using the “I’m Safe” button on the Red Cross Hurricane App which can be found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross. People can also register on the Red Cross Safe and Well website to let loved ones know they are okay. To register, visit http://www.redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

With more than 7 million people without power as of Tuesday morning, residents should take precautions to ensure the safety of themselves and their loved ones. For those without power, surround food with ice in a cooler or refrigerator to keep food cold for a longer period of time and keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Use flashlights, not candles. Residents should also turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment and any appliances, equipment or electronics that were on when the power went out to avoid damaging them when the power is restored. Finally, eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car as traffic lights will be out and roads congested.

FINANCIAL AND BLOOD DONATIONS NEEDED “The Red Cross response to Sandy is very large and will be very costly, affecting a massive area spanning much of the eastern half of the country. We need the public’s help now,” said Shimanski.   

Financial donations help the Red Cross provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance to those affected by disasters like Hurricane Sandy. To donate, people can visit http://www.redcross.org, call 1-800-RED-CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to someone’s local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

Approximately 300 Red Cross blood drives have already been cancelled due to the storm, and more are expected. The Red Cross is urging immediate blood and platelet donations in areas unaffected by this storm and asks that people in the affected areas consider donating blood once the storm passes through and it’s safe to do so.

Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental permission in some states), meet height and weight requirements (110 pounds or more, depending on their height), and who are generally in good health may be eligible to donate blood. To schedule an appointment, please go to redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS.

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation’s blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.

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