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Hispanic Heritage Month: Meet Rodrigo Estrada

Tue, 10/05/2021 - 14:08

This month, we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and the many Red Cross volunteers who give their time and talent to our mission. Volunteers like Rodrigo Estrada, who are driven with passion to serve their community.

Rodrigo recently sat down with us to share about his culture, what it means to him and how it has impacted his volunteer work with the Red Cross.

When and how did you get involved with the Red Cross?

“I first joined the Red Cross as a sophomore in high school. I am originally from El Paso, Texas, which is only 5 miles from the US-Mexico border. I grew up in a border community so a lot of the humanitarian crises that the Red Cross was responding to was a local crisis for me. I saw the Red Cross in the front lines helping immigrants and asylum seekers. I was interested in helping out, so I reached out to my local chapter and was taken on as a youth volunteer.”

How has your heritage shaped you into the person you are today?

“My grandparents grew up in a small town in Northern Mexico and immigrated when they were 18 years old to Colorado, where my grandfather was able to find work in the fields as an agricultural worker. Once he saved up enough money for a house, they moved to El Paso, which is where they’ve lived ever since. I grew up really close to my grandparents and I will say that my grandmother is one of my biggest inspirations. She really has a heart of service. Even when she didn’t have much, she would always provide for neighbors in need. When we were on our way to school, if it was raining or there was a dust storm, she would pull over on the side of the road and give them a ride; we were always going to school with someone new in the passenger side next to us.”

“She also always made empanadas, a Mexican dessert, and would give them out to neighbors. If neighbors needed to go to a doctor’s appointment, were elderly, or sick, and without the means of transportation, she would set aside time in her day to take them where they needed to go. I grew up with that example in mind and it really motivated me to follow in her footsteps. What we do at the Red Cross is provide life-saving services and look out for people in our community so for me, being a Red Cross volunteer was a natural extension of my grandmother’s legacy.”

What are three words that describe what your culture means to you?
  • Foundation: I grew up in a predominantly Hispanic community, so I was always surrounded by the culture—it really shaped the way I see the world and the importance of family and community for me.
  • Expression: I view my culture as a way of expressing myself. I would dance Bachata in college, a Caribbean-style dance, which was a really great way of connecting with my culture in college and expressing myself.
  • Unity: The Hispanic community is very diverse and I really learned this in college because growing up here in El Paso, a majority of Hispanic immigrants are from Mexico. But in Chicago, there are established Puerto Rican communities, Dominican communities, Cuban communities… it all just blends in seamlessly and it was really cool to see that intercultural exchange within the Hispanic community.
What are some of your favorite cultural traditions?

“There are so many but I most vividly remember Nochebuena. Traditionally, in the Hispanic community, we celebrate Christmas the night before (Christmas Eve) and it’s when the majority of the family get-togethers and festivities happen. For me, the highlight of Nochebuena was the tamales, traditional Mexican food made of cornflour, wrapped around in corn leaves, and served with different fillings. It’s pretty labor-intensive, but we made them with our grandmother, and I’ll always remember that. Even the tamale itself is supposed to symbolize a gift because you unwrap it, so it has both religious and historical significance for that holiday.”

What advice would you give to anyone who would like to get involved with the Red Cross?

“Don’t be shy! Call up your local Red Cross office or reach out to a current volunteer. We are all super friendly and love welcoming new volunteers to the team. There’s a position for everyone and we love people from different backgrounds, with different talents, and different skills of expertise. It really helps strengthen our work and offers a new perspective to the work that we are doing, especially around conversations of diversity. At the Red Cross, we’ve been having intentional discussions around promoting diversity and inclusion. For example, in El Paso, Texas, we’ve recently established Latino Outreach Committees and resource groups—we really want our volunteer workforce to reflect the communities they serve so we welcome volunteers from all walks of life.”

If you’re looking to join a team of diverse and talented individuals, sign up to become a Red Cross volunteer today. You can help people impacted by disasters and big and small. Learn about our most needed positions at


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Lifesaving Tips for Bleeding Emergencies: A Chat with Red Cross Bleeding Control Expert Dr. Craig Goolsby

Tue, 10/05/2021 - 13:40

In recognition of National Preparedness Month, the American Red Cross Training Services team sat down with Dr. Craig Goolsby, a nationally recognized severe bleeding control expert, to answer common questions about severe bleeding emergencies, provide helpful first aid tips and discuss the new Red Cross First Aid for Severe Trauma (FAST) course.

Dr. Goolsby is the Department of Defense Liaison to the Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council and the principal investigator at Uniformed Services University’s National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health, who helped support the implementation of the grant for the FAST course.

Can people who aren’t medical professionals really help during severe bleeding emergencies?

“I went twice to Iraq as a medical director for a really busy emergency department. I was amazed by the patients we saw who were severely injured but who made it to us alive. The difference between Iraq and the United States was that the military had put together a program to teach soldiers what to do in the event of life-threatening bleeding and equipped them with very simple, easy-to-use equipment that was lifesaving at the point of injury. The soldiers around them could take action that was lifesaving even before a medical person or ambulance could get to them.”

What are the steps you should take if you see an accident with severe bleeding?

“The Red Cross recommends “check, call, care.”

Check: Make sure the scene is safe. When there is life-threatening bleeding, there could be other unsafe conditions such as glass or fire. We don’t want others to get hurt.

Call: Call 9-1-1 and get the ambulance rolling because we know it’s going to take a few minutes to get there.

Care: Stop the bleeding to the ability you can, whether it’s applying direct pressure or using a tourniquet.”

How much time do you have to respond to severe bleeding?

“We really want people to take immediate action. There are a few minutes before an ambulance arrives and what you do in those few minutes will help somebody. Start treating people. If you don’t have a tourniquet yet, you can mimic the course video, where Alex takes her hoodie and places pressure on the wound. If the pressure doesn’t stop the bleeding, it will at least slow it, which will be helpful to that person.”

What do you do if you don’t have a tourniquet? Can you use a belt or a scarf?

 “We get this question quite a bit. The short answer is the best thing to do if you don’t have a tourniquet is to use direct pressure. In fact, the STOP THE BLEED logo is just a hand up. The reason we selected that logo is because you can save a life just by pushing on a wound with your hands. In general, a belt or scarf is unlikely to work. For most circumstances, if you don’t have the right tool, we’d prefer you do the best thing at that point which is apply direct pressure. I’d avoid very narrow things like shoelaces, which can be very damaging and will be unlikely to stop the bleeding.”

Why do people in the FAST course repeat everything back to each other?

 “In the FAST course, you will learn how to use closed-loop communications, which is a way of effectively communicating in high stress environments. For example, if we were in a high stress environment, we’d be very purposeful about using each other’s names. Instead of saying “go get a bleeding control kit,” I would say, “Marie, go get the bleeding control kit” and you would respond back to me, “Okay Craig, I’m going to get the bleeding control kit.” Then when you return, you’d let me know you had it. There’s a lot of things that need to be done on a scene with a bleeding emergency and talking this way keeps people doing the things they need to do and avoids everyone going to do the same thing.

What makes the FAST course special?

 “The program was an opportunity to take what I saw happening on the battlefield and put it into an education program that is really lifesaving. FAST is a way we can empower young people across the country. We also got a lot of support from HOSA-Future Health Professionals in promoting this program to high school students and teachers with a special interest in healthcare. FAST teaches valuable lessons and it can be done at no cost thanks to the grant program that was laid out by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate.”

Find more first aid tips and the full live discussion with Dr. Goolsby on the American Red Cross Training Services LinkedIn page here.

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“This little girl’s story touched my heart”: One Red Crosser’s Story on Helping Afghan Evacuees

Wed, 09/29/2021 - 14:00

“Helping people in need is so important to the work we do at the Red Cross,” said Mikaela Khvang, a volunteer who just returned from a Red Cross deployment assisting Afghan evacuees at the Fort Bliss Doña Ana Range Complex in New Mexico.

Mikaela, a pre-med student from Los Angeles, is one of nearly 800 Red Crossers who have supported evacuation efforts for tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan at U.S. military bases in the United States and around the globe.

Over the past month, the Red Cross has provided health and mental health services to evacuees during their temporary stay at military installations. A key part of the operation is to ensure people have necessities such as hygiene items, clothing, cribs, diapers and more. The Red Cross is also helping to replace prescription medications, eyeglasses, canes, wheelchairs and other basic items that may have been left behind in the rush to evacuate.

Thus far, Red Crossers have provided some 1.9 million relief items — including comfort kits with personal hygiene items, towels, blankets, hand sanitizer, masks, gloves, thermometers, baby bottles, portable cribs and stuffed animals.

For Mikaela, the most rewarding aspect of the deployment has been meeting families and playing with the children she’s met. When she learned of an Afghan family struggling to carry their six-year-old daughter who has cerebral palsy, she knew that she had to help.

“I’ve worked with special needs children previously and hope to one day as a doctor. This little girl’s story touched my heart,” she said. This family has already been through so much, I knew that the Red Cross could help them.”

And that’s just what Mikaela did. She made securing a wheelchair her focus. Working with partner agencies and organizations, she tracked down a delivery of medical supplies and made sure that a wheelchair was set aside for the little girl. “We needed to deliver this quickly and make it a priority,” she said.

When Mikaela delivered the wheelchair to the father and daughter, the child was at first apprehensive. Realizing that she was scared, Mikaela decided to sit in the chair herself and play a game together. “Once we started playing and rolling the chair back and forth, it seemed less scary to her,” she said. The two spent time playing and laughing, eventually holding hands in the chair together.

Mikaela says that helping those who are often overlooked is so important. “If it’s one person I can help, I’m going to help them.” That’s what we do at the Red Cross — provide dignity to people who have faced such hardship. I can’t think of a better way to help someone in need than to provide a wheelchair. I’m glad we could be there,” she said.

Want to learn more about our repatriation efforts? Read here about how the Red Cross and Red Crescent are helping the people of Afghanistan.

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Behind the Scenes of an American Red Cross Histocompatibility Lab

Thu, 09/23/2021 - 08:13
Originally published on the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania Region’s blog.  The HLA laboratory team in Philadelphia. Photo by: Bill Thawley

Most don’t know there is an American Red Cross Histocompatibility Laboratory right here in Philadelphia. It is 1 of 5 nationwide!

This laboratory provides a life-saving American Red Cross service for transplantation. The lab tests for the compatibility of a donor’s organ with the recipient of the organ. For example, those who want to donate a kidney are tested to find a recipient whose body will accept the kidney. This testing is called HLA typing.  HLA typing is also used for matching bone marrow of a donor with someone who has a blood cancer, and to determine whether a platelet donation is a match with someone who has a clotting disorder and needs platelets.

The HLA typing process is complex and requires a special laboratory.

I am an American Red Cross Volunteer and Clinical Laboratory Scientist. I wanted to see this laboratory and understand HLA typing. I called Dr. Mary Philogene, Senior Director. She invited me to visit the laboratory and meet the technologists.

When I arrived, Dr. Philogene introduced me to Selina Taylor (pictured below), a histocompatibility certified technologist. Histocompatibility means finding compatibility among tissues. Selina has over 20 years of experience. She explained HLA is an acronym for Human Leukocyte Antigen. Human Leukocyte Antigens are found on every cell in our body, except red blood cells.

HLA typing and matching are more complicated than red blood cell ABO typing because there are over 15,000 HLA  antigens with more than 22,000 subtypes. Each individual’s HLA type is a unique combination of these antigens and subtypes. There are thousands of HLA types. Finding the right match for a transplant can take months and even years.

Dr. Philogene led me into the laboratory where blood samples are received from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and locally from Jefferson Medical Center, Dupont Children’s Hospital and Christiana Medical Center to name a few.

I met Jaclyn Connor (pictured below) who logs in information for each sample. Another technologist verifies each sample is correctly logged. Because patients and donors are only typed once, it’s critical to make sure each one is properly entered into the laboratory information system.

Next, the blood samples are sent to the laboratory for HLA typing. A process called DNA Sequencing is used to determine an individual’s HLA type.

Jessica Garbacz (pictured below) receives the blood samples. She places the samples into an instrument that extracts the DNA from blood and determines how much DNA is in each individual sample.

Then, Victoria Quann (pictured below) places the purified DNA into a PCR Thermocycler. This instrument increases the amount of DNA in each sample so it can be detected by the DNA Sequencing Analyzer.

Selina Taylor (pictured below) prepares samples for DNA Sequencing by adding tiny droplets of each sample into a small plate with 96 wells, one for each sample.

Victoria (pictured below) inserts this plate into the DNA Sequencing Analyzer. This analyzer produces a graph of each individual sample’s DNA sequence.

The graphs are sent to Alex Sum (pictured below) who analyzes them, identifying HLA type for donor or recipient.

Eric Pimpinella (pictured below) is analyzing graphs from another DNA Sequencing that types platelet donors. Then he reviews reports with the HLA type before sending them to a hospital or a donor registry.

The success of a transplant is dependent on HLA typing by this Red Cross Laboratory. A look “behind the scenes” gave me an appreciation of the life-saving work by these dedicated people!

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National Preparedness Month: Resources to Help Prepare Your Kids for Emergencies

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 07:04

This National Preparedness Month, we are reminded that all community members, no matter their age, can learn and practice emergency preparedness.

Siana-Lea Gildard, the Chief Development Officer for the Central California Region, shared this great story of how teaching youth about preparedness can truly make a difference in their experience during an emergency.

“While at my friend’s house recently, the power went out and my 6-year-old godson, Logan, ran around letting us know what different appliances were off and that the lights didn’t work. Coincidentally, I had brought the ‘Prepare with Pedro Power Outage’ storybook with me and we sat down to read it together.

What I found most enlightening about this was that it really seemed to alleviate much of the anxiety a child might experience when something changes suddenly, like the power going out.

Understanding why these things happen, how to prepare for them and what to do, empowered him to identify what was going on.

In the end, Logan is now a preparedness guru and even showed me he knew where his flashlight was too!”

Since 2015, the American Red Cross has taught more than 1.5 million students emergency preparedness and coping skills and has 15 verified lives saved through their youth preparedness programs. Educating youth, like Logan, about emergencies and teaching them how they can help stay safe and keep calm is crucial to ensuring the entire community is prepared and vital to the Red Cross mission.

Youth Preparedness Resources

Get your little ones prepared for any type of emergency by utilizing these available and free youth preparedness resources:


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Complete Your Caregiver Checklist: Preparing for a Disaster

Tue, 09/14/2021 - 06:37

No one is immune to emergencies and disasters. These devastating events can disrupt the lives of individuals, families and communities, as well as an often-overlooked population many Americans are part of—caregivers.

Responsible for supporting someone who is ill, injured or aging, caregivers are all around us. And in the event of a disaster, they must have a plan in place to keep themselves and the person they care for safe.

No matter what hazard you and your loved one may face—wildfire, home fire or hurricane—adopting these preparedness tips today is critical to developing an efficient response and safe recovery when disaster strikes.

Kristee Lauro, Red Cross Community Preparedness Education and Youth Preparedness Senior Associate, breaks down our helpful tips for caregivers into three parts: assess your needs, build your support network and learn about your community response plans.

#1: Assess your needs

A caregiver’s emergency kit can look much different than that of a non-caregiver. “The best place to start when building your emergency preparedness plan is by identifying and assessing needs of the person that you care for,” said Brooke Dunn, Red Cross Itinerating Assistant Sheltering Manager.

  • Personalize your kit to address your medical and personal needs. Make a list of medications, allergies, medical equipment, health insurance cards and the health history of your loved one.
  • Stock up on a 30-day supply of medication. Make copies of your written prescriptions before having them filled, or ask your doctor or pharmacist for a printed copy of all your prescribed medications.
  • Keep an updated photo of the person you are caring for in case you are both separated.
  • Take inventory of all medical items and assistive devices that you rely on at home and would need to take with you if you evacuate.
  • List all items that require electricity (i.e. refrigerated medicines, a CPAP device or a power wheelchair). If a power outage occurs, plan to have a battery or generator backup for those devices.
  • If the person you are caring for has a service animal, be sure to include their food, water, harness and any additional necessary items they will need in your kit.
#2: Build your support network

Reach out to people outside of your household who can assist in times of disaster. “Have a conversation with the person that you are caring for about the kind of help you will both need, contact information of someone outside the area and concerns that one of you might have as well as options/resources available to address these concerns,” added Dunn.

  • Keep a contact list of your support network. Ensure your network is aware of the needs and conditions of the person you are caring for.
  • Communication is key. Teach others to communicate effectively with the person you care for who may require hearing, visual, speech or other communication adaptations if you are not present.
  • Know how to provide additional emotional and behavioral support to help a person living with dementia or mental health diagnoses.
  • Discuss getting the person you care for a personal or medical ID bracelet so emergency personnel and others outside of their household are aware of their needs.
#3: Learn about your community response plans
  • Kickstart your emergency plan by staying in the know. Start by understanding the types of disasters that can happen in your community and learning about the emergency plans in place to respond to them. If you live in an apartment building or assisted living residence, Lauro recommends reviewing your management’s latest guidance on responding to disasters and emergencies.
  • If a disaster requires you to relocate, allow yourself and the person you care for ample time to move someplace else. Have an idea of an alternate place to stay. Ensure this place has enough electricity and space to support your loved one’s medical devices/needs.

For more resources on staying safe with your loved one, check out Tips on Emergency Preparedness for Older Adults and our recent Facebook Live discussion on debunking myths about caregiving with Melissa Comeau, Red Cross Director of the Military & Veteran Caregiver Network.

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Rescue Royale: Get in the Game with Charity Streaming for Disaster Relief

Fri, 09/10/2021 - 06:52

Calling all gamers and streamers! This Fall, we are launching our first-ever Rescue Royale campaign, a charity stream fundraising event and esports tournament. We are asking members of the gaming and streaming community to come to the rescue to support people impacted by disasters big and small. We respond to more than 60,000 disasters across the country every year, providing shelter, food, relief supplies and more. If you are a streamer and up for the challenge, here is how you can get in the game:

How it Works:

Starting on September 9, gamers and streamers can register to be a part of a month-long stream-a-thon, where you can fundraise for the Red Cross, stream your favorite games, and have the chance to win prizes. You can create your own Rescue Royale fundraiser on Tiltify by playing any game or streaming any activity you’d like OR register to compete in the Rescue Royale Fall Guys Tournament. Oh, and did we mention that the top 20 qualifiers in the Fall Guys Tournament will win a free weekend trip to play LIVE in the Rescue Royale finals at HyperX Esports Arena in Las Vegas on October 16? Qualifiers can also participate virtually, if preferred.

Get Started:

 To start your Rescue Royale Charity Stream-a-thon, follow these steps:

  1. Visit the Rescue Royale Tiltify page.
  2. Click to register and select your local Red Cross region.
  3. Complete and publish your fundraiser to feature on livestream.
  4. Choose any game you’d like to play and host your charity stream campaign between Sept. 9 and Oct. 16

To register to pre-qualify for the Fall Guys Charity Tournament, follow these steps:

  1. Visit the Rescue Royale Tournament Page.
  2. Review all the requirements to qualify to compete in the Las Vegas Finals.
  3. Complete your registration here.
  4. Start hosting your charity steam events and meet all other requirements for a chance to win a free weekend to Las Vegas.

All interested tournament participants must register to compete in the pre-qualifiers and fundraise $350 through their Tiltify fundraiser before Sunday, Sept. 26 for the chance to move on to compete in the qualifiers and finals. Also, tournament participants must be 18 and over to earn the weekend trip to Las Vegas. However, if you are under 18, or do not wish to travel, you can still participate in the Fall Guys Tournament Finals virtually. Whoo-hoo!

The time is now to grab your favorite game and come join the fun. Register for the Rescue Royale event today and help us ensure those impacted by disasters receive the comfort and support they desperately need.

Learn More & Stay Connected

For more information on Rescue Royale and how you can get in the game, visit You can also stay connected with other gamers and streamers by joining the Red Cross Gamers Discord Channel as well as following @RedCrossGaming for the latest updates on all things Rescue Royale.

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Home is Where the Heart is

Mon, 08/23/2021 - 11:53
Originally published on the American Red Cross Gold Country Region blog. 

“Horrible. Horrifying. Unimaginable.” These are the three words that Johnnie Brookwood used to describe the wildfire that drove her out of her home in Greenwood, California. The Dixie Fire, California’s second-largest wildfire in modern history, forced the community to evacuate Wednesday, August 6, 2021, destroying the tiny Northern California mountain town.

Johnnie sought refuge at the American Red Cross shelter in Quincy, Calif. Here she has a safe roof over her head, access to hot meals and relief items. Trained Red Cross volunteers are on hand helping evacuees cope as they await news about whether they will have a home to return to when the fires subside. Volunteers are also replacing prescription medications, eyeglasses or critical medical equipment, like canes and wheelchairs, that were left behind in the rush to get to safety. A Red Cross health services volunteer was even able to connect Johnnie with a local dentist who provided much-needed dental care.

“I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t stay here. I am so stressed, I can barely remember if I have been here for two weeks or two months,” said the 76-year-old woman. “Everyone is so nice here; sometimes I forget I have lost my home. This has become home. Home is where the heart is.”

Johnnie has indeed made her Red Cross cot into her home. She surrounds herself with the things that she loves, wildflowers, rock collections and her artwork. She enjoys welcoming people “inside her home” to offer them candy and show off her prized possessions. Johnnie tries to always keep a smile on her face.

“Things are bad enough, so I stay as cheerful as possible,” she said. “I think it keeps everyone’s spirits up.”

Like many shelter guests, Johnnie still cannot believe that “this devastation happened” to her and her neighbors. “At first, I didn’t think the fire would affect us at all. I have lived in California since 1982 and have never experienced anything like this,” said Johnnie. “Surely Greenville won’t burn, but then it did.”

Johnnie has called the Red Cross shelter in Quincy home for over two weeks. She knows each volunteer by name and they, in turn, have learned how to keep a smile on her face.

“My colored pencils were no longer sharp enough to color with,” Johnnie noted. “A Red Cross volunteer noticed I hadn’t been working on my art and when she found out about my pencils, she went out and bought me a pencil sharpener. I am grateful to the volunteers. I am grateful to be here, and I am grateful that I am alive.”

Johnnie will stay until she is allowed to go back to the wreckage that once was her home. After that, she doesn’t know what will happen.

Red Cross teams will stay in the community as long as needed, helping those affected by wildfire to begin recovery. Caseworkers will be assigned to follow up with evacuees to continue to support them in the weeks ahead to ensure they are connected to available resources.

Volunteers have been here since early July and will continue to support people like Johnnie affected by the dozens of fires that have forced tens of thousands across multiple states from their homes.

If you would like to learn how you can be a force for good for those impacted by disasters big and small, visit

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5 Reasons to Take a First Aid for Severe Trauma Course

Wed, 08/18/2021 - 14:09

Accidents can happen and being prepared with a plan can help equip you to know when and how to respond. The newest American Red Cross course, First Aid for Severe Trauma (FAST) is a national STOP THE BLEED course available for adults and students to learn how to respond and care for someone during a life-threatening bleeding emergency.

Want to learn more about this course? Here are five important takeaways:

1. FAST helps you understand and identify when bleeding is an emergency. When responding to an emergency, being prepared is crucial, especially when life-threatening bleeding is involved. For example, severe bleeding can be considered life-threatening when blood loss equals to a half can of soda.

2. Learn how to assess the scene to prevent personal injury. You can’t help an injured person if you get injured yourself. FAST will teach you how to properly assess the situation and ensure you are providing care safely.

3. Acknowledge who will get the bleeding control kit or call 911. In the FAST course, students refer to each other by name and repeat what they hear out loud. In a high stakes situation, identifying who will help or who needs to take further action makes all the difference. For example, if there are four people responding to a bleeding emergency and someone says, “Go get the bleeding control kit.” Usually, either no one goes or everyone goes – and neither of these situations helps the victim.

4. How to properly use a tourniquet when one is available and required. People with life-threatening bleeding need immediate action and FAST teaches you what to do. Using a tourniquet can be a useful skill but can be difficult to use without proper training.

5. FAST was developed with feedback from students, for students. Not only is the course available for high schools students under the age of 19 at no charge but it was developed with students input in mind.

Learn how you can prepare for the moments that matter with the FAST Course at


The FAST Course is a collaborative initiative between the American Red Cross, National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health at the Uniformed Services University, Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate.

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One Youth Red Cross Volunteer Breaking Language Barriers Within His Community

Wed, 07/14/2021 - 06:48

Meet Mielad Ziaee, a Red Cross volunteer who serves the Texas Gulf Coast Region. He joined the Red Cross two years ago with a desire to do more by serving his community. During his time, he found a unique way to support families impacted by disasters and was recently awarded the 2021 Navin Narayan College Scholarship, a scholarship given to an exceptional graduating high school senior who embodies volunteerism and academic excellence.

Serving the Community

Growing up in Houston, Mielad understood the diversity that surrounds him and embraced his volunteer work at the Red Cross to reflect that.

As a Red Cross volunteer, Mielad has served many different roles. He first joined the Volunteer Services department, where he researched and conducted outreach to diversity organizations. He also worked with Disaster Cycle Services to teach “Be Red Cross Ready” workshops and gave community preparedness presentations. Mielad now works with the Youth department and serves as Chapter Club President. One of his initiatives is “Diversity Calls” for volunteers to explore a variety of cultural topics and enjoy themed meetings about food and music.

Taking Initiative

As a first-generation Persian-American, Mielad’s native language is Farsi. He noticed that, unlike other mainstream languages, there were very few opportunities to learn Farsi. Taking into account that Texas has one of the highest populations of Iranians, this disproportionate access presented an issue; how can volunteers help non-English speaking populations receive access to Red Cross services if they could not communicate with them?

“Language should not be a barrier for people,” said Mielad, “and we shouldn’t expect [them] to learn English either. We should take it upon ourselves.”

Mielad took the initiative to create a language-training program for Red Cross volunteers. With the help of the Texas Gulf Coast Region’s Youth Engagement Specialist and other youth leaders, Mielad organized a program for both adult and youth volunteers to learn basic phrases and scripts in languages including Farsi, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Spanish, Hindi, German, and French.

The program not only taught volunteers how to communicate in different languages but also brought their community closer together. “I can’t emphasize enough how close we all are, both adults and youth. When you have an environment where everyone is excited for a common cause, it creates this warm atmosphere,” says Mielad.

Finding Community Through Volunteering

For Mielad, his volunteer work deeply impacts him. “The most fulfilling part is the smiles on people’s faces. It’s this measurable impact and positive reinforcement that I really appreciate.” Mielad emphasizes how supportive the Red Cross community is and believes it’s why Red Crossers are so dedicated to the mission.

Want to do fulfilling work in your community like Mielad? Become a Red Cross volunteer by visiting


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5 Must-Have Apps to Download This Summer

Tue, 07/13/2021 - 06:20

This summer, stay safe and be prepared for wherever your adventures take you by having these 5 apps installed on your phone or even on your Alexa and Google devices!

Prepare for Tornadoes, floods and more.

The Red Cross Emergency App gives you easy access to safety tips for all kinds of possible disasters. The app can also send you customized emergency alerts if there’s a disaster nearby. Bilingual and offline content makes this app user-friendly, teaching lifesaving skills across the country.

What really sets this Red Cross app apart is the “I’m Safe” feature. If an emergency happens, you can send a message to notify loved ones you’re okay.

 First AidAccidents can happen unexpectedly. By downloading the Red Cross First Aid App, you’ll have access to first aid information at any time. The app includes information for cuts and bruises but also has steps for more serious situations like performing lifesaving CPR.

If you have an Amazon Alexa enabled device or Google Home, you can enable the app to respond to voice commands and questions. To get started, say “Alexa, enable First Aid by American Red Cross”.

 To learn more about becoming certified in Red Cross First Aid and CPR/AED courses or to register, go to

Blood Donations

The next app you’ll want to download is the Blood Donation App. A staple in helping save lives, this app makes donating platelets and/or blood easier and faster. You’ll find nearby drives, appointment assistance, and more information on how to donate. You can also enable the Alexa skill by simply saying “Alexa, enable Red Cross Blood”.

Fire Safety

Another great Amazon Alexa skill to introduce your family to home fire safety is Pedro’s Fire Safety Challenge. Pedro is a Penguin who helps teach coping skills and how to take action during an emergency. Parents can earn badges with children from 4-8 years old on Alexa Echo and Echo Show. Enable your skill by saying “Hey Alexa, open Pedro’s Fire Challenge!

Pet Safety

Pet Safety

Keep your cats and dogs safer with the Pet First Aid App! From everyday emergencies to daily care tips, this app is designed to help pet owners. Creating multiple pet profiles is a feature, as well as entering veterinary contact information. Travelling? This app includes the ability to locate the closest pet friendly hotels.

Parents & Kids

The Red Cross Swim App was designed to keep you and your family safe around the water. This app assists parents in teaching children to swim, provides drowning prevention tips and safety information if you head to a beach this summer. It’s a wonderful companion to the American Red Cross Learn-To-Swim program.

Be ready to take on the rest of your summer with these five must have apps that are free to download and use from the Google, Apple and Android stores.


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Five Common Myths About Caregiving – Debunked!

Thu, 07/08/2021 - 06:51

More than one in five Americans care for someone who is injured, ailing or aging. They are caregivers and might not even know it. In a recent Facebook and LinkedIn Live, Emily Osment, Red Cross senior media manager, sat down with Melissa Comeau, Red Cross Director of the Military & Veteran Caregiver Network, for a live discussion to debunk the common myths about caregiving and provide tips and resources for those caring for injured or wounded service members and veterans.

Myth #1: Caregivers are nurses.

“The caregivers that we’re talking about are not professionals. These are friends, family members, neighbors, maybe even battle buddies that served with you, who are providing care to a wounded, ill, injured, aging service member. There are lots of different types of caregivers that work in the professional realm; home health aides, professional caregivers, nurses, of course, but this is a little bit different. We’re talking about family members and friends. In the military space there are five and a half million military and veteran caregivers, and these people are caring for our wounded, ill and injured.”

Myth #2: It’s obvious when you’re a caregiver.

“My husband deployed both to Iraq and Afghanistan. He has a total of four combat deployments. It was after his fourth combat deployment that we really noticed some of the injuries that he was facing. It was determined that he would need to go to the Wounded Warrior Battalion at Camp Pendleton and really focus on his rehab and recovery. In the midst of it all, I didn’t know I was a caregiver.

I’m going to these medical appointments. I’m on base regularly. I’m talking to doctors and learning about medications and treatments. It wasn’t until I was sitting outside of his scan or a test when a nurse came out and asked me, “Are you Steven’s caregiver?” And I was like, “No, no, no, no, no. My husband’s young. I’m just his wife. I’m just his wife.” She smiled kindly and just said, “You’re probably both.”

Myth #3: You must be physically wounded and/or aging to receive care.

“False. There are a variety of different injuries. In caregiving we tend to talk a lot about activities of daily living; showering, feeding, transferring, that all tend to lean towards physical needs. My husband has what they call the invisible wounds of war; traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, and you wouldn’t necessarily know by looking at him that he’s faced any of those challenges. Traumatic brain injury can go anywhere from mild to severe. They can be cumulative. We’ve learned a lot from military medicine about the brain, especially in IED, blast exposure type brain injuries.”

Myth #4: If you’re a caregiver, that’s all you are.

“Many caregivers are full-time employees, mothers, teachers, they are students, they are colleagues, they are members of your community, so you are never just a caregiver. I really hope caregivers can latch on and know that you are doing some caregiving tasks, but you are always more than just a caregiver. I’m going to tell caregivers. I know you hear that all the time respite, self-care is so important, but that’s really how you find your way out of that intense caregiving. It’s not always appropriate. There is not always time. I mean, there are very acute stages of caregiving where you might be doing it around the clock. You’re not sleeping. You’re not eating. It’s very intense. And to anyone who’s doing that right now, my heart goes out to you. I hope that you’ll engage in opportunities to step out of that role and nourish yourself, whether that’s book clubs or peer support groups or archery, anything that makes you feel good and brings you back to who you are. I really encourage caregivers to do that.”

Myth # 5: You’re on your own as a caregiver.

“We started this saying that one in five Americans are caregivers and there are five and a half million military caregivers, so you’re most definitely not alone. The key here is to find that network, find those groups, connect with people with a similar lived journey. It really can help you not feel so alone, not feel so isolated. When you start talking to others who have gone through things you’ve gone through or are sharing about a journey you might’ve also been on, it is really important to know you are not alone. We’re better together. That’s what the Military and Veteran Caregiver Network is all about.”

If you missed the recent conversation about caregivers and resources available, you can still watch the full chat on Facebook or LinkedIn.

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