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Friday, October 24, 2014

Peyton's Record-Breaking Passing Pays it Forward

by Patricia Billinger
When Denver Broncos fans gleefully celebrated Peyton Manning's feat surpassing the all-time career passing touchdown record on Sunday, the folks here at the American Red Cross in Denver did an extra celebration dance.

We knew the historic moment not only was worthy of celebration in its own right, but also boded well for the thousands of families who turn to the Colorado Red Cross every year for help after disaster upends their lives.

As expected, the historic achievement -- and Manning's overall stellar performance -- earned him the fans' vote as the FedEx Air Player of the Week. And that, in turn, means that FedEx will be donating another $2,000 to the American Red Cross Mile High Chapter to support disaster relief right here in Denver.
Courtesy of NFL.com

This is the second time this month that Manning has earned the honor (he also was nominated and won Air Player of the Week for his Oct. 5 performance ),  bringing the total donated by FedEx to our community thus far to $4,000. What can $4,000 do for Colorado families affected by disasters?

To give you an idea, with $1,000 the Red Cross can:
  • Provide 500 snacks for hungry residents and first responders
  • Serve 100 hot meals at shelters or delivered in disaster-affected communities
  • Provide food and shelter to 5 families for a day in a shelter
  • Or Supply 200 blankets that evacuees use to keep warm or pad their cot at a shelter. 
 Manning led the Broncos to another solid win last night. If he continues this solid performance -- one that already has some dubbing him the best quarterback of all time -- Manning will be a top contender for the FedEx Player of the Year. If he earns that honor, our generous supporters at FedEx will donate $25,000 to support disaster relief in Denver.

That's a huge reason to cheer -- and a reason to say "thank you, Peyton, for being the best." Every forward pass he completes potentially pays it forward to local residents who've lost everything to disaster.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Volunteers visit homes in Fort Collins most at risk for home fire losses

By Melody Storgaard
On October 18, volunteers from the American Red Cross, Poudre Fire Authority and Hope Worldwide went door-to-door in a Fort Collins neighborhood surrounding Putnam Elementary School in an effort to save lives. The group of volunteers were targeting 139 homes that were selected due to higher risk of loss caused by home fires. Their goal: to provide education and resources to help prevent those home fires in the first place and save lives and reduce property loss in the event of a fire.

The effort is part of a new, nationwide campaign by the American Red Cross to achieve a 25% decrease in fatalities caused by home fires. In Colorado, volunteers are going door-to-door in the highest-risk neighborhoods, asking to test smoke alarms, providing replacement batteries, installing smoke alarms and providing safety tips and preventative information.

Before heading out for the day, the Fort Collins volunteers got a brief training detailing the campaign’s procedures, specifics about smoke alarms being used that day, and important information about the carbon monoxide detectors that Poudre Fire Authority was providing. Everyone gathered their supplies and off they went into the neighborhood to go door-to-door.

When homeowners welcomed the volunteers into their home, the volunteers tested the fire alarms and checked that they had been correctly placed in the homes. When needed, the volunteers replaced batteries or the entire smoke alarm. They also talked to homeowners about being prepared for home fires -- covering the importance of having an escape plan, communication plan, and a meet-up point.

 In one of the homes visited on Saturday, volunteers found that the home had smoke alarms, but the alarms were not working. The volunteers removed the “old” alarms and replaced them with new ones, then tested the new alarms to make sure they worked. The volunteers noticed that the date on one of the non-functioning alarms was 2014!

Yes, you read that right! The smoke alarm had been installed this year. The alarm was not working even though it had been recently installed.

“This is a good example of why you need to always test smoke alarms,” said Susan Ferrari from Poudre Fire Authority. “You never know when one has a problem.”

The Red Cross recommends testing your smoke alarms once a month by pressing the “test” button. If you can’t reach the button, try using the end of a broom stick. Having smoke alarms and knowing that they work could save your life – in fact, the risk of dying in a home fire is cut in half in homes with working smoke alarms, according to The National Fire Protection Association.

The outreach campaign reached more than just the homes near Putnam Elementary – as they delivered messaging and supplies during the campaign, the volunteers found themselves talking about the smoke alarms in their own homes. They discussed when (and sometimes if) their own smoke alarms had been checked – and then started to make plans to replace the batteries or update the alarms in their own homes.

The Home Fire Preparedness Campaign launched on Oct. 11 and will continue over the next five years as the Red Cross and its partners reach out to communities all over Colorado, including additional neighborhoods in Northern Colorado.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Western Colorado Volunteers Train to Serve Community through Red Cross


Instructors teach the fundamentals of Disaster Assessment at the
Disaster Academy  in Grand Junction learn about Disaster 
 The American Red Cross is always looking for dedicated volunteers to help carry out their mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies. Once enrolled a new volunteer needs to be trained so that they can respond when called. Training and recruitment are ongoing efforts at every Red Cross chapter.

In western Colorado those two efforts came together when they held Disaster Academy - 2014 in Grand Junction. During the weekend of Oct. 10-12 volunteers, both old and new, came together to learn how they can play a stronger role in the Red Cross mission. 

Each day was filled with instructor led classes covering many different topics. Friday featured classes about shelter operations,  supervision and  public affairs. Saturday was a full day of workshops on topics like, Disaster Action Team,  client casework, logistics and disaster assessment. Volunteers learned how the Red Cross is structured during a disaster response and how we collaborate with our community partners.

Instructor Bill Fortune presents the Intro to Public Affairs
at the 2014 Disaster Academy
Sunday, the final day, was packed with knowledge featuring classes such as psychological first aid, First Aid/CPR and training for our Red Cross nurses to better understand how they will participate in a disaster response.

This was the second Disaster Academy held in Grand Junction. The first was roughly a year ago and many of the attendees at this year's academy were there as the experienced volunteers helping to train the "newbies". 

First Aid/CPR class was offered at the Western Colorado
 Disaster Academy  to ensure that our volunteers  are
skilled and ready to respond
Thirty volunteers attended the 2014 Academy in Grand Junction. There were 11 different courses taught with a total of 40 hours of instruction.

Many of the attendees were brand new volunteers and all were excited about learning new skills and meeting new people. "These training academies truly help build the capacity of the Red Cross to respond to emergencies," said Eric Meyers, Executive Director for the Western Colorado Chapter. "The three days provided an opportunity for both new and veteran volunteers to gain the skills and training they need to be Red Cross volunteers."






When All Other Communications Are Down - Gold Hill Now Has a Solution

by Patricia Billinger
Drive into the mountains west of Boulder, and you feel transported back in time: rustic wooden mining buildings from the Victorian era hug the hillsides, many roads remain unpaved, and cell phone service is rare. Residents have continued a long-standing tradition of rugged self-reliance because they know that when bad weather or disaster strikes, they may find themselves cut-off from the outside world, often without power, Internet or even phone service.

The devastating Four Mile Canyon fire of 2010 spurred residents in the tiny mountain town of Gold Hill to take action to protect the safety of their residents and their neighbors in nearby communities: they formed a neighbor-to-neighbor “NeighborLink” system to ensure everyone is quickly informed of emergencies, and set up a “SafeSite” location with provisions and a staffing plan to assist residents fleeing neighboring canyons and towns during emergencies.

The Fourmile Canyon fire also inspired the idea of creating an “AirLink” system that would allow for uninterrupted emergency communications between and within isolated mountain communities in Boulder county.
This new HAM radio repeater sits at a high point near Gold Hill
to enable emergency communications.

The danger, isolation and destruction of the 2013 Colorado Floods brought the realization that there was still a gap in their ability to communicate quickly with other towns and with emergency management in order to access and share vital emergency information – at a time when information is needed most, and could make the difference in saving lives.

“Unfortunately, during emergencies, we may lose all usual means of communications: phones, internet, and road. During the floods of September 2013, phone service was not available for several weeks during and after the event. Internet was down as well…We do not have cell phone coverage up here even during normal times. Power was out,” explained Pamela Sherman and Dina Elder in a proposal for the solution: an amateur radio system with a strong enough repeater to carry its signal out of the rough mountain corridors surrounding the town.

On Saturday, Oct. 18, community leaders in Gold Hill installed a radio repeater that is key to the communications system.  Additionally, Gold Hills is also purchasing a variety of other equipment, such as antennae, hand-held radios and power supplies to support the HAM radio network.
A closer look at the HAM radio repeater in Gold Hill, which sits inside a pick-up truck.

The Red Cross is providing a large portion of the funding for the project – up to $5,000. It’s one of several projects the Red Cross is supporting in communities like Gold Hill to improve their disaster preparedness and resilience. In addition to the Gold Hill project, the Red Cross is also supplying VHF radios, HAM radios and related tools, weather radios and pagers to BCARES  and multiple volunteer fire departments, including Pinewood Springs and Big Elk Meadows. The communications equipment will improve the communities’ ability to receive and share vital information during times of emergency.

“We realized that the town could not provide 100% of the needed funding [for the HAM radio network] and requests were made to other organizations to fill the gap. The Red Cross, almost immediately, was the first to step up. You not only showed enthusiasm for the project, but provided substantial additional funding so that it could be completed,” wrote Peter Swift, Chairman of the Gold Hill Town Council in a letter to the Red Cross. “It is this kind of proactive response in anticipating future emergency needs that will not only help the community respond to future emergencies, but could potentially save lives and protect property.”