A few months ago I asked Tammy Prater of the East Texas Red Cross if I could write a blog post about their services. Thankfully, she agreed. The Red Cross offers more services than I knew about. Chances are that you may not be aware of the many things they do, so I'd like to share them with you here.
The purpose of the Red Cross is to alleviate human suffering during times of emergency by combining the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.
The Tyler and Longview area Red Cross started in 1917. I don't know about you, but I always enjoy learning about the origins of things. The main office for the North Texas region, of which east Texas is a part, is in Dallas. As of now between 90%-96% of the work done is on a volunteer basis. There are over 300 local volunteers giving their time, energy, and talent to the Red Cross of North Texas. The chapter covers 11 counties with only 4 full-time employees.
Disaster Cycle Services
The goal of the Disaster Services is to teach Prepare > Respond > Recover > Prepare full circle.
Did you know that single-family house fires are the most common disasters in east Texas? When a family is displaced due to a fire, they don't always have a place to go. The Red Cross may provide a hotel for those in need. If multiple dwellings are affected by the fire mass locations such as churches, schools, or community centers may open their doors to these families.
When the Red Cross provides disaster relief it can include
Services to the Armed Forces
Something I had no idea the Red Cross offered was assistance specifically for military families. They have done this since the Spanish American war. There are approximately 130 military families in Gregg County alone.
Assistance with emergency communication is just one of the services provided. If you've ever had a loved one overseas who you were unable to reach during a crisis I'm sure it was frustrating and stressful. For future reference, your local Red Cross is able to help you get in touch with them. They can help you communicate a birth announcement, find a hospital, doctor, or funeral home.
Another way they help is a joint effort with the military aid society. They may provide money to repair your vehicle. Grants are also available.
CPR & First Aid
1,100 participants have taken the CPR and First Aid course provided through the Red Cross in Gregg County. You are able to book a class online. They also offer a skills test.
How Can You Help?
When the community is prepared for emergencies it can save lives, time, and money before a disaster ever occurs. Volunteers of all ages are encouraged to participate in the Red Cross. Children under 18 are welcome to help with their parents. As a matter of fact, the Boy and Girl Scouts help the Red Cross often. They can always use Food Vendors who are willing to help supply meals. Community volunteers are able to train and participate in exercises throughout the year. The Red Cross also needs shelter locations ready for the call. If you are able to assist in any way please reach out here. Donating blood is another way you can help supply a need.
The Pillowcase Project
When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans the Red Cross saw a way to help children and families prepare for the future. The Pillow Case Project started with an idea to have emergency necessities on the ready in a kit. Disney became a corporate sponsor almost immediately. 3rd -5th graders are taught the basics of preparedness depending on the need in their area. In East Texas, house fires and tornadoes are our biggest contenders. Children are given a pillowcase and a list of things they should keep inside of it. The list includes a flashlight, batteries, snacks, etc. They're also instructed on how to cope with fear through deep breathing. At the end of the lesson, they're tested on what was taught through games and participation. FEMA is a funding partner for a new Preparedness Program for pre-K through 2nd graders similar to the Pillow Case Project.
Sound the Alarm - Save a Life
A few years ago the Red Cross discovered that 70% of people did not have working smoke alarms. This was a preventable hazard. The goal of Sound the Alarm is to reduce injuries and deaths from fires. Last year they installed around 300 smoke detectors for people in the area for free. They partnered with Meals on Wheels, Volunteer Fire Departments, and the Back to School Safety Fair to discover who had a need.
On average a fire has been burning for 2 minutes before a smoke alarm sounds
Here are some tips to help you keep your family safe:
Have an evacuation plan
Practice the plan at least once a year
Use maps to plan your evacuation route and decide on where to meet
Get a new smoke alarm every ten years
Test your alarm weekly
Maintain it by dusting it before your weekly test
The Red Cross Emergency App
The outdoor emergency system is for outdoor alerts, but there are times you don't hear that alarm. The app can wake you up. People who are out in the country don't have an outdoor alarm. This could be life saving for them. The app is customizable and offers many benefits for free. It's available in Spanish too.
First aid and pet first aid are included
Choose the alerts that are important to your location (There are over 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts)
Access information on what to do before, during, and after an emergency
Activate "Family Safe" to notify loved ones that an alert has been issued in their area and check to see if they are safe
Monitor activity across the country to know what is about to occur in the locations of your family and friends
Gain guidance on topics from home fires and water safety, to first aid
It's linked to national shelters
If you already volunteer for a nonprofit, hats off to you! The reason I write about community services is to encourage people to find a place that they would be able to serve. or are able to donate to. The Red Cross has provided 204 services to 130 military members, veterans, and families in 2018 along with 156 individuals who received disaster assistance in Gregg County alone. There were also 1,110 people who enrolled in CPR and First Aid training. Keep up the great work everyone.