2006-12-08 / Columnists

Cross Currents

During Season Of Giving, Take Care Of Family, Friends
Commentary By Joan A. Foley Director, Queens Chapter American Red Cross

JOAN A.FOLEY As one of the most festive times of the year, the month of December reminds us that giving and doing for others is a wonderful way to express love and friendship. It also is a good time to reflect on the year and plan to prepare yourself and family for emergencies in 2007.

Christmas Day also happens to be the birthday of Clara Barton (1821-1912), the founder of the American Red Cross. During the Civil War, as President Abraham Lincoln's special envoy, she helped care for the wounded and became known as the "Angel of the Battlefield." Years later, she observed the Red Cross movement while helping war wounded in Europe.

She worked to persuade the U.S. Senate to support the international Red Cross treaty, and on May 21, 1881, Clara organized the American Association of the Red Cross.

Since that time, the American Red Cross has continued to help our service personnel while also comforting hundreds of thousands here at home during emergencies and disasters. During October and November, volunteers from the American Red Cross in Greater New York responded to nine emergencies in the Rockaways to provide food, housing, financial assistance and/or counseling.

The largest incident was a fire at 57-15 Shore Front Parkway, where the Red Cross helped eight adults and two children. During these two most recent months, Red Cross services aided 23 adults and 18 children in the Rockaways.

Our response shows the importance of preparation, how you can help others, and that the generous gift of your volunteer time and your financial support ensures that the Red Cross is here during a time of need.

Holiday Gift Ideas

As you celebrate in the weeks ahead, if you are inclined to give a gift to a friend or family member, consider one of safety.

Every person should have at least three days of supplies available in an easy-to-carry evacuation kit, also known as a "go bag," in case a fire, flood, building collapse, or storm forces quick relocation.

The Red Cross Disaster Back Packs for one person or two people easily fits in an office cubicle, closet, supply room, or car trunk. It is filled with items to aid an adult for three days during an emergency. Pre-assembled provisions packed in a heavy duty nylon red back pack (11" x 17" x 5") include 14 items such as an emergency blanket, flashlight, batteries, food bar, poncho and a pocket first aid kit.

The contents for both back packs should be supplemented with personal items such as prescriptions, hygiene/grooming products and copies of personal papers (identification, insurance documentation and important phone numbers). Each member of the family, including children and pets, should have a personalized "go bag", as should seniors at assisted living residences and students away at college.

These and other safety items can be found at the New York Red Cross Store at 520 West 49th Street (between 10th and 11th Avenues), Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 6 p.m., or online at www.nyredcross.org . Or, you can contact the Queens office in Briarwood (718-558-0053 or crosscurrents@nyredcross. org) for assistance.

New Year's Resolutions

For 2007, promise yourself that you will become more prepared. Through the Red Cross, many courses are offered in CPR, first aid, lifeguarding, babysitting techniques and even how to administer first aid for your cat or dog. Many classes are available at the Briarwood location.

Call the office or visit us online to learn about Queens programs. Also, please consider becoming a Red Cross volunteer instructor and teach others how to save lives.

Winter Safety

Of course, with the holidays comes the first day of winter. Here are some things to keep in mind during the cold, blustery and snowy days ahead. Enjoy the season and think about ways to become involved with the Red Cross in the new year.

If You Do Get Stuck While Driving:

Stay with your car;

Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or side view mirror for rescuers to see;

Start and heat the car for about 10 minutes every hour;

Move arms and legs to maintain circulation and help you remain alert;

Keep one window slightly open (away from blowing wind) to let in air.

Safety Tips for Shoveling Snow:

Make sure you are in good physical condition;

Pace yourself and take frequent breaks;

Lift with leg muscles, not the back; bend at the knees;

Drink plenty of water;

Wear layers of clothing, and keep hands and feet warm;

If you experience chest or arm pain, stop immediately and go indoors.

After a Winter Storm:

Avoid driving and other travel until conditions have improved;

Check on physical damage to your home;

Report downed power lines and broken gas lines immediately;

Check on neighbors who may require special assistance.

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