Red Cross Volunteer Gail Mcgaugh on “Why I Help”

By Sharon J. Alfred, Red Cross Senior Journalist Volunteer

There are many reasons people choose to become Red Cross volunteers. According to Gail Mcgaugh, a volunteer for the American Red Cross of Central California, participating in a Red Cross Home Fire Campaign was an ideal way to learn fire safety tips and to get to know members of her community.

Red Cross volunteers in Fresno install smoke alarms in their community

Mcgaugh has volunteered for years as a member of the Central Valley chapter in her hometown of Fresno, California. Visiting homes to install smoke alarms as part of the home fire campaign gives her the opportunity to connect with her neighbors, as she explains the importance of fire safety and how to prepare.

She has met many memorable people as a home fire campaign volunteer, including:

  • A revered elder of a Native American tribal nation
  • A hearing-impaired man establishing a lifelong bond with his new service dog
  • A colorful artist and publisher, and her gorgeous pet cat
  • A retired Marine who found a second calling as a Red Cross volunteer

“The random of act of knocking on a stranger’s door to give them the tools they need to survive a home fire,” Mcgaugh says, inspires her again and again. And people aren’t shy about expressing their gratitude. “When I am on a home fire campaign, I get thanked and hugged by everyone.”

But Mcgaugh doesn’t just install smoke alarms and teach home fire preparedness. She is involved in many other Red Cross projects as well. For example, she leads the Madera, Merced, and Mariposa County region’s Pillowcase Project, a program that teaches elementary school children how to build their own emergency preparedness kits.

“I truly enjoy meeting community partners and building lasting relationships and goodwill towards the Red Cross within our communities,” says Mcgaugh.

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Keeping Pets and Owners Together in Wake of the Ferguson Fire

Red Cross and CCADT shelter over 500 pets of wildfire evacuees

[Photo Credit: American Red Cross]

Fleeing from wildfires can be traumatic and having pets close has been proven to reduce stress and comfort owners driven from their homes by fire. This inspired Katrina Poitras, Central Valley Red Cross Disaster Program Manager, working with Naomi Slam at the Central California Animal Disaster Team (CCADT), to provide emergency pet shelter at select Red Cross shelters.

Evacuees won’t have to shelter separate from their pets, as the Red Cross tests out the new shelter model with pet shelters serving Madera, Mariposa, and Merced counties. Housing evacuees with their pets has been shown to lower stress level of humans and animals alike.

Pet owners staying at the shelter are responsible for the care and feeding of the pets cohabitating with them. CCADT CEO Naomi Slam recommends owners bring a few key items with them to the shelter: “Bring your pet’s carrier, ensure they’re up to date with vaccinations, and bring their preferred food… so there aren’t any upset tummies.”

The practice of cohabitating pets and owners in shelters was implemented at the Ferguson Fire’s New Life Christian Fellowship shelter and expanded upon moving to the Mariposa Elementary School shelter due to the increase in both shelter evacuee and pet populations.

Interviews with shelter residents confirmed the effectiveness of the new shelter plan and the calming effect of having personal pets in the same shelter with them.

The presence of pets also increased bonding among shelter residents and volunteers, and kept children occupied through playing with and learning about the various animals.

Learn more about general pet first aid during emergencies, plus how to plan for your pet before disaster strikes. Download the Red Cross Pet First Aid app for more tips.

Get Prepared California! Auction

Auction-Graphic.pngWith an unprecedented amount of large-scale natural disasters over that last several months, many striking right here in California, we’re even more grateful for our volunteers, donors and partners. This incredible level of response demonstrates the need for preparedness and what it means to have a kit, make a plan and be informed. And, while we are fortunate that we did not have to respond to a major California earthquake through all of this, being prepared for an earthquake of any size should always remain a top item on all of our lists.

One long-time Red Cross partner, the California Earthquake Authority,  places a high priority on educating California homeowners and renters about how to stay safe during an earthquake, and how to reduce the risk of earthquake damage and loss. One of the programs they promote, the Brace & Bolt Retrofit, stands to benefit qualifying California residents with critical financial assistance in preparing for earthquakes.

For qualified persons, the Brace & Bolt Retrofit will cover up to 50% of the cost of retrofitting a California home for earthquakes. More specifically, expenses cover the bolting of a home to its foundation to keep it from sliding off during an earthquake, and a subsequent bracing of the house’s supports. CEA’s program also provides homeowners with a list of qualified retrofit contractors.

But, that not all. Each year, CEA plays an instrumental role in the Great California Shake Out and, every year since 2012 they have shown their commitment to Red Cross emergency preparedness and disaster relief by hosting the Get Prepared California! Auction.

This year, the auction runs from April 2nd to April 30th and, as in the past, it will raise funds to help support American Red Cross disaster relief and preparedness efforts—right here in California.

The money raised will help us distribute blankets, provide hot meals at shelters or out in communities affected by a disaster via our Emergency Response Vehicles and, offer hygiene items to people who may have lost everything.

Thanks to the generous support of bidders and the efforts of CEA and iHeartMedia, after six years, the funds raised to date by the annual auction have exceed $1 million dollars—with more than $171,000 being raised during the 2017 auction, alone.

Check out just a few of the incredible prizes you can win at this year’s auction:

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Please, join our local Red Cross in helping to make this year’s auction a great success. Visit the official Get Prepared California! Auction webpage beginning April 2 to bid and please, share this link with your friends, family and loved ones.

Wildfire Burn Areas Bring Threat of Landslides

Recent wildfires may be contained, but the threat of new natural disasters linger in impacted communities. Wildfire burn scars are more vulnerable to landslides, meaning that many neighborhoods recently evacuated due to fires are once again seeing their homes threatened.

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December 2014 – The local Red Cross responded to a landslide in Camarillo Springs, opening an emergency shelter and providing relief to evacuated residents.

With rainfall impacting most of our Central California Region next week, the Red Cross is offering the following safety tips:

PREPARE

Landslides generally happen in areas where they have occurred in the past. Learn about your area’s landslide risk.

Learn about local emergency response and evacuation plans.

Create and practice an evacuation plan for your family or business.

Assemble and maintain an emergency preparedness kit.

Watch the patterns of storm water drainage on slopes near your home, especially where runoff water converges.

Beware that at typical homeowner’s policy does not include landslide or mud flow coverage. Talk to your insurance agent today for more information.

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Make sure your emergency kit has a three day supply of food and water (one gallon per person, per day). Also include a flashlight, radio, extra batteries, first aid kit, medications, hygiene items and more. Visit redcross.org for a full emergency kit list.

RESPOND

During severe storms, stay alert and awake.

If you suspect imminent danger, evacuate immediately. Inform affected neighbors if you can, and contact your public works, fire, or police department.

Listen for unusual sounds that might indicate moving debris, such as trees cracking or boulders knocking together.

If you are near a stream or channel, be alert for any sudden increase or decrease in water flow and notice whether water changes from clear to muddy.

Consider evacuations of larger or numerous animals.

RECOVER

Stay away from the slide area until officials say it is safe to enter.

Watch for flooding, which sometimes follows landslides.

Check for injured and trapped persons or animals near the slide without entering the slide area.

Help people who require special assistance.

Look for and report broken utility lines to appropriate authorities.

Check your home’s foundation, chimney and surrounding land for damage.

Replant damaged ground as soon as possible because erosion caused by loss of ground cover can lead to flash flooding.

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Red Cross volunteers reunite missing loved ones at a recent Thomas Fire shelter.

Ready When the Time Comes

Your local Red Cross is on alert and working closely with government officials in order to respond quickly in the event of a landslide in our community. Volunteers are ready to open emergency shelters, providing relief and comfort to anyone affected by potential disasters.

Make sure your family is prepared for disasters big and small. Get preparedness information and find emergency shelter locations at your fingertips by downloading the Red Cross Emergency App, free for smartphones and tablets. Search for it in your app store, or text “GETEMERGENCY” to 90999.

Pizza Man Dan

Pizza, volunteering, and newly formed friendships. Sounds like a great day, right? That was the theme of the Home Fire Campaign that the American Red Cross of Ventura County held on January 14th, 2017. Volunteers met early in the morning and divided into teams with different functions such as installers, educators, recorders, and translators. They installed hundreds of smoke alarms in the Oxnard area. Kimberly Coley, the Executive Director of the American Red Cross of Ventura County, explained that the volunteers go through orientation and training onsite. The American Red Cross of Ventura County was able to recruit the owner of Pizza Man Dan, Dan Collier, to donate pizzas to feed the volunteers.  Coley stated, “The generous donation from Collier was amazing and greatly appreciated.  The message of the American Red Cross is an important one, and we are pleased to hear that our message managed to reach Collier as well.”

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When Dan realized the goal of the event he felt compelled to help. Collier described how he became familiar with the American Red Cross, and the lifesaving work that we provide.  Collier explained that he found out about the Red Cross after losing his brother in-law to a home fire in New York two months prior.  Collier said the fire started while he was asleep, and that his life could have been saved if the smoke alarm in his home had been connected.  Collier said when he was approached by the Red Cross to assist with the event he jumped at the opportunity.

“When I heard the goal of yours was to install 400-500 smoke alarms in one day here in Oxnard it was not only great timing, but I wanted to do what I could to help spread awareness to people that were as unfamiliar with the work of the Red Cross as I was.  I am impressed with the work that the American Red Cross is doing, and all the volunteers that have dedicated their whole Saturday.  The least I can do is provide lunch for them.”

Dan also mentioned that the American Red Cross was the first and the only organization that arrived at the scene of the fire of his brother in law’s home before it was out. He explained that they offered everything they said they would. He praised the program for carrying out the same services in New York as well as in California. The volunteers offered emotional, financial, and other visible support when his family needed it most.

This event turned out to be a huge success.  Red Cross volunteers managed to install 518 smoke alarms, educate 676 residents, and create 278 safety plans for families in the event of a disaster.

Collier returned three months later to provide lunch for volunteers and provide vouchers for pizza to families at the Camarillo Home Fire Campaign on April 8, 2017.  On this occasion, community volunteers managed to cover 53 homes, install 158 smoke alarms, and educate 212 residents.

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Dan Collier may not have heard much about the American Red Cross prior to his family’s unfortunate loss, but he has continued to show his support and help families potentially avoid such an accident.  Like many others in the region, Dan may not have heard much about the Red Cross prior to his unfortunate incident, but now that he has experienced the importance of home fire safety first hand, he is committed to making sure no one else must go through the same tragic experience.

Next Saturday the American Red Cross of Ventura County will host another Home Fire Campaign in Port Hueneme, California.  Once again Pizza Man Dan will be supporting our volunteers with lunch, and participating families with vouchers.  Sign up to volunteer here: http://www.redcross.org/local/california/central-california/home-fire-safety

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Ready for Wildfires: 5 Steps to Prepare your Family and Home

The drought may be over for most of California, but that doesn’t mean the threat of wildfires is gone. In fact, many fire experts agree that this summer the threat may be even worse. The weather has only started to heat up, but the Central California Region has already seen thousands of acres burned due to fast moving grass and wild fires.

California Wildfires

That’s why it is so important for us to be prepared for what is already shaping up to be a busy wildfire season. Here’s five steps that you can take to make sure you’re ready:

  1. Know your risk and stay informed. Make sure everyone in your family is familiar with the National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS). Keep an eye on the weather, especially humidity and wind levels. Pay attention to red flag warnings in your community.

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    Photo: CAL FIRE | calfire.ca.gov
  2. Clear your defensible space.
    By clearing brush and other debris within 100 feet of your house, you greatly improve your home’s chances of surviving a wildfire.
  3. Review your homeowner’s insurance policies. Prepare or update a list of your home’s contents. Store digital copies of your insurance paperwork, other important documents, and photographs on an easy-to-grab thumb drive or in secure cloud storage.
  4. Get a kit and make a plan. Keep essential items in an emergency preparedness kit that you can take with you in the event of an evacuation. Make sure to include food, water, medications, and hygiene items. Get the full list of recommended supplies here. Every member of the family should be prepared for disasters big and small – not just wildfires. Make sure everyone knows how to respond to a disaster, and can get out of the home in two minutes or less.
  1. Download the Red Cross Emergency App. Get more emergency preparedness knowledge at your fingertips, and even find shelter locations near your during a disaster with the free Red Cross Emergency App for smartphones and tablets.
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Wildfire tips from the free Red Cross Emergency App

When fires strike in our community, the Red Cross will always be there to help. But by following these important steps, the process of responding to and recovering from a wildfire will be much easier for every member of your family.

Check our more safety tips and download the full wildfire safety checklist on redcross.org.

Cold Springs Rancheria HFC

On Saturday, March 11, 2017 AmeriCorps Disaster Team member Bushra Zamzami met with 12 volunteers in Cold Springs Rancheria for a Red Cross Month Home Fire Campaign. Bushra set out Saturday morning from our Fresno location to not only install smoke alarms, but to help spread awareness to the Cold Springs Rancheria of Mono Indians of California. The American Red Cross has proudly been working towards an ongoing effort with Indian Country for the past two years to increase preparedness within the communities.

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This being the first HFC within Cold Springs Rancheria was an absolute success. The group managed to canvas over 30 homes. More than 20 families were educated on home fire safety, and together 27 lifesaving smoke alarms were installed. While installing the alarms one of the tribal citizen volunteers mentioned that her home had caught fire not too long ago. At the time of the fire she did not have any smoke alarms installed within her home. She was thankful to be a part of something so impactful and helpful. After experiencing firsthand how devastating a fire can be she was excited to help her fellow tribal citizens with installing smoke alarms and helping make sure they had a home fire escape plan.


Bushra wanted to especially thank Team 3 consisting of, Suha, Arlene, and Jennifer. Their team managed to install the most alarms for the day (12), and snagged the notorious “Golden Smoke Alarm Award”. The Red Cross also gifted the tribe 2 tool kits and step ladders to help reduce home fire related injuries and deaths in the area.
Not only was this our first HFC for the area, but it was also an all women group that completed the task. What a way to kick off “Women’s History Month”, Clara Barton herself would be proud. Great job everyone!

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Ryan Henry Jackson
Communications Coordinator