In 2005, as Hurricane Katrina was about to make life in New Orleans miserable, students at Loyola University were told to go to their dorm rooms, grab whatever they needed and head for higher ground. Campus was being evacuated. Now! Rather than stuffing their clothes, computers and clutter into their backpacks, as one might expect a college student to do, they all came marching out of their dorms with their possessions packed in their pillowcases. They just tossed the pillowcases over their shoulders like they were Santa Claus or had a highly successful night Trick or Treating.
Their move was either lazy or genius. Either way, it captured the attention and imagination of the New Orleans Red Cross CEO Kay Wilkins. If college students can pack their belongings in pillowcases and evacuate in an emergency, maybe that would be a good way to teach children how to prepare for an emergency. As it turns out, it was.
The Red Cross eventually partnered with Disney to create what has become known as the Pillowcase Project. Disney drew up special pillowcases with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and other characters on them that the kids could color in, and the Red Cross drew up a special curriculum for teaching emergency preparedness to those in grades 3-5. Today, more than 500,000 kids have pillowcases and know how to be prepared for an emergency.
“Our Pillowcase Project is a great example of how easy it is to be prepared for an emergency,” says Debbie Smith, Community Executive for the Ohio River Valley American Red Cross. “Being prepared isn’t just for children, though. Everyone needs to be prepared. You never know when an emergency might occur. With September being National Preparedness Month, this is a perfect time to begin creating a kit, establishing a plan and making sure you’re ready for any of the emergencies that might strike at a moment’s notice.”
To help, we’ve created a few helpful tips:
APPS Put great preparedness and disaster information at your fingertips by downloading the free Red Cross mobile apps. A great place to begin is with the all-inclusive emergency app, which covers 17 different types of emergencies, quizzes, alerts and information on what to do before, during and after an emergency. Or, the Red Cross also offers 17 individual apps that range from first aid to hurricanes to wildfires or earthquakes. Children and adults alike will like the Monster Guard app, which helps teach preparedness for real-life emergencies at home with the help of friendly “monsters.” The Red Cross apps can be found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android or by searching redcross.org.
Get an emergency kit. An emergency kit is the best way to get ahead before disaster or emergency strikes. Having things in one place and close at hand can make a difference for everyone in the household. Store your kit in an easy-to-carry container that someone can use at home or take with them in case they have to evacuate. The Red Cross also recommends having at least two weeks worth of supplies at home. The Red Cross Store has items available, ranging from a hand-crank radio to a fully stocked deluxe emergency preparedness kit. You can personalize your kit with your own likes, but it should at least include:
- Three-day supply of non-perishable foods and water—one gallon per person, per day for drinking and hygiene purposes
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First aid kit, medications and medical items
- Copies of important documents (proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
- Extra cash
Install smoke alarms. Each day seven people die in home fires and another 36 are inured. Home fires are the biggest disaster that people face. Your chance of survival can be doubled by one simple move; installing smoke alarms. If there’s a fire, a smoke alarm will alert you long before you smell the smoke or see the flames, giving you precious time to escape. The Red Cross will install them for free, just call and set up an appointment: 740-354-3293.
Make a plan .In addition to installing smoke alarms, the other vital part of surviving a home fire is developing a fire escape plan—and practicing it with your family. Walk through your home and locate all exits and escape routes, and do not forget to include windows. Always pick a place to meet outside. Make sure your family practices a fire escape plan at least twice a year.
Be informed. Know what situations may occur where you live. Make your families familiar with what to do during tornadoes, floods and extreme heat and cold. Winter is right around the corner, so now is the time to learn what to do during a winter storm. Remember that emergencies like fires and blackouts can happen anywhere, so everyone should be prepared.
Save a life. Learn first aid and CPR/AED so that you have the skills to respond in an emergency before help arrives, especially during a disaster when emergency responders may not be as available. The Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED classes are designed to help everyone recognize and respond appropriately to cardiac, breathing and first aid emergencies. Our program offers the following benefits:
- Two-year certification with free digital course
- Choice of materials-download free digital materials or purchase affordable print course materials
- Free access to digital course materials
- Fresh branding images and materials
- Easy access to certificate printing and tracking
- Concise learner-centered course design emphasizes hands-on skill