March 11 – Red Cross Month is a time to think about disaster preparedness | fwbusiness

March is Red Cross Month. Red Cross leadership shines a light on volunteers and staff who build community relationships before disasters strike. Identifying the resources available before a disaster helps communities stay strong during the crisis.

“It’s a way to share with the community the work we do and our intention to make the community stronger,” said Olivia Lusher, Ed.D., executive director of the Red Cross Northeast Chapter. Indiana from the American Red Cross.

A recent devastating fire in an apartment complex near Bluffton saw the Red Cross in action during the disaster. About 50 people were displaced due to the fire.

“Our team was there and is still there. We coordinate with the church and bring food. We make sure people have the basic necessities,” Lusher said. Adding: “Being able to bring the community together and provide shelter, that’s really the mission we’re on.”

The local chapter serves an area covering 10 counties in northeastern Indiana and seven counties in western Ohio. Having a supportive infrastructure in place in every community is key to helping people find the services they need during a disaster.

“We spend a lot of time building relationships in every community we serve. Fort Wayne’s needs are different from those of Huntington or Steuben County. It is important to understand the culture and climate of each community. For example, what DeKalb County might need in terms of emergency management might be very different from Allen County,” Lusher said.

The Red Cross was founded to bring supplies to soldiers on active duty. Today, programs focused on supporting military personnel and veterans are at the forefront of community service.

“Last week, we dropped off 500 comfort kits at the VA Hospital (VA Northern Indiana Health Care System), 2121 Lake Ave. The comfort kits contain essentials like a toothbrush, deodorant and razor” , Lusher said.

In addition to responding to disasters and strengthening the community, the Red Cross offers programs that help save lives.

At a recent meeting with fire department leaders, including Chief Eric Lahey and Deputy Chief James Murua, Lusher discussed plans to promote the Sound the Alarm program. The program emphasizes the installation of smoke alarms and fire awareness.

Currently, tentative plans call for the launch of a local Sound the Alarm campaign this summer. Dates have yet to be set, Lusher said.

“Local Red Cross chapters are working with communities to install smoke alarms. We also do educational preparation, like the two-minute escape plan,” she said.

Another Red Cross program is the Pillowcase Project. Red Cross leaders visit classrooms to teach students various life skills.

“It’s literally a pillowcase. Our coaches explain to the kids what they would need and what they would put in that pillowcase in an emergency,” she said.

Currently, about 1,500 Fort Wayne-area students have benefited from the Youth Educational Readiness Promotion Project, Lusher said.

Disasters can happen at any time. However, March can bring severe storms including tornadoes and flooding. Preparing for a disaster can help save lives and make the ordeal more manageable.

“A disaster kit should contain supplies suitable for all hazards. This way people can be prepared for any disaster. However, some items may depend on the disaster, such as a car cover, rain gear or work gloves. Since you don’t know where you will be in an emergency, have supplies ready for home, work and cars,” said Raven Morton, Red Cross MSOL, Disaster Program Manager.

There is no substitute for thinking ahead and preparing a disaster kit for possible disasters.

“The reality is that it is better to prepare than to repair. We hope no one will ever need CPR or an evacuation plan, but the reality is that tragedies happen every day. The chances of something bad happening are only part of the story. We the people feel pretty empowered to protect ourselves,” Lusher said.

A disaster kit should contain supplies suitable for all hazards. Basic supplies include:

• Water: 1 gallon per person per day (3 day supply for disposal, 2 week supply for home)

• Food: Non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply for bug out, 2-week supply for home)

• Flashlight, battery-operated or crank radio (NOAA weather radio, if possible)

• Extra batteries (similar to item available in Red Cross store), multi-purpose tool

• a deluxe family first aid kit, medication (7 day supply) and necessary medical equipment

• Sanitary and personal hygiene items

• Copies of personal documents (list of medications and relevant medical information, proof of address, house deed/lease, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies), a COVID-19 card

• Mobile phone with chargers (similar to item available in Red Cross store)

• Family and emergency contact details, extra money, emergency blanket, map(s) of the area