Expect the Unexpected: Download our Tornado App!

When you hear the word “tornado”, Revere, Massachusetts is probably not the first place that comes to mind. However, on July 28, a tornado unexpectedly touched down in Revere, leaving a significant amount of property destruction in its wake. Any natural disaster, especially a tornado, often arrives without much warning and with little time to prepare. In this technological age, people are constantly using mobile devices to stay connected to those around them. Our society is becoming increasingly reliant on smart phones and tablets, especially as a lifeline for emergency information. In fact, a recent Red Cross survey shows that apps are now tied with social media as the fourth most popular way to get information during emergencies – behind TV, radio and online news sites. In response to this statistic, the Red Cross has created an extremely useful tornado app. This app gives people local and real-time NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) tornado watch and warning alerts- whether it’s in the area where they live or places where friends and family live. In addition, Tornado app users are provided with immediate access to information on what to do before, during, and after tornados with preparedness information developed by trusted Red Cross experts.

Once you have downloaded the app, it is important to familiarize yourself with it. One of the most important parts of this app is the alert feature. In the event of a tornado, a high-pitched, siren and “tornado warning!” message will sound when a NOAA tornado warning is issued in the area – even if the app is closed. In addition, an “all clear!” alert lets users know when a tornado warning has expired or been cancelled. These alerts are particularly useful because many tornados happen in the overnight hours. If the owner of the device is asleep, away from the radio, TV or in places where weather band radios may not work, the app’s audible alerts can help to save lives. In addition to providing users with alerts, there are also features like checklists to help families create an emergency plan, a toolkit with a flashlight, strobe light and an audible alarm, locations of open Red Cross shelters, and an “I’m safe” button that allows users to signal to family and friends that they are out of harm’s way.

Nearly one-fifth of Americans say they’ve received some kind of emergency information from an app they’ve downloaded, making the Red Cross app development effort even more important. The Tornado App is just one of many disaster-specific apps that can be useful during a natural disaster. During Superstorm Sandy, more than 400,000 people downloaded our Hurricane App. Right before and during Sandy, users spent the most time reading the preparedness information, tracking the storm, and reading and then sharing NOAA alerts through social media. The ability to share this information on social networks or by text or email can provide a peace of mind for frequent travelers or those with family in other parts of the country. Immediately after Sandy, people used the app to locate Red Cross Shelters and to let loved ones know that they were safe.

As we saw with the tornado in Revere, natural disasters can occur in places we wouldn’t expect. With the touch of a screen, you will be downloading an app that can potentially save your life. It is user-friendly and full of great information, so what are you waiting for? Download it to your device now!

The app is free and available in English and Spanish. It’s designed for iPhone, iPad and Android smart phones and tablets. All of our apps can be found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross or by going to redcross.org/mobileapps.

While apps can help you prepare for disasters, it’s important to remember that they are not a substitute for training. To learn more about Red Cross First Aid and CPR courses or to register, go to redcross.org/takeaclass.


Disaster Services: Unsung Heroes

Disaster Services Vehicle On Site

Disaster Services Vehicle On Site

As a communications volunteer with the Red Cross, I have heard and written about several disaster responses and even had the oppurtunity to speak with several Disaster Service volunteers over the past month. While all these stories range in terms of size of the disaster and number of people affected, there is always one underlying fact that remains: the heroic commitment and service of our Disaster Service volunteers. These volunteers are men and women of our communitties who have dedicated time and effort to undergo training, so that when a call comes in for any type of emergency, they are willing and able to respond bringing material and emotional comfort to this undergoing truly horrific circumstances. It is one thing to read and write about how volunteers in Lawrence responded to 3 fires in one night, or how Cape Cod volunteers opened up and ran shelters to support large amounts of tourists stranded on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard during Hurricane Arthur, and another experience to actually speak to these dedicated, yet humble, citizens.

I have only had the chance to physically speak to these amazing people twice in my time with the Red Cross, as when they are not either physically responding to a disaster, or running the gears of the behind the scenes to ensure continued Disaster Service support, they are also committed members of their respective communities. My first experience speaking with a Disaster Service volunteer happened at a volunteer management training sesssion. We split into small groups and were asked to go around and share an experience; this volunteer chose to share a story about one of his responses. While the details of the story were interesting, it was clear from the way he spoke that this volunteer truly cared about helping those displaced during a disaster, and he even went above and beyond to help talk down a person who was undergoing a panic attack due to the trauma that often accompanies such unfortunate tragedies. From this man’s story it became clear that not only does he have to be a skilled tactitian in planning out who will need what aid in the form of basic living supplies, food, and emergency money, but also has to be a shoulder to cry on and provide strength and surety in order to help their fellow man. The effort this takes is truly herculian, yet all disaster volunteers are more than willing.

My second oppurtunity to speak with a Disaster Services volunteer occured when I was attempting to write up her story for our website and social media. She and I ended up speaking on the phone concerning the details of her response, and yet I learned so much more than the simple facts of this particular disaster. I learned the depths to which our volunteers are willing to go in order to ensure comfort and support to those whom we serve. After an unfortunate event left almost a score of people homeless, this volunteer spent hours calling hotels going so far as to call hotels from miles away in order to try and find housing for all the people affected. When even reaching out to hotels almost 50 miles away didn’t work, instead of admitting defeat, this volunteer helped work with each of the people in order to find friends and family that could finally host them. It was clear from this volunteers tone of voice that this level of effort is no less than those who suffer from disasters deserve.

What amazes me most about these two, and all other disaster volunteers like them, is that they are volunteers. They do not recieve monetary compensation for their efforts, nor do they often recieve widespread praise. Yet every hour of every day there are disaster volunteers prepared to drop their lives in order to come to the aid of their fellow citizens. Trying to help get the stories of these heroes’ efforts out to the public has truly been a privilage, and when I have the time and the training I hope to be able to provide this type of support to my community as well.




Meet one of our shinings stars

Meet UMass Medical School student,  honoree of the Massachusetts Department of Education’s “29 Who Shine” award and Disaster Action Team member of Red Cross of Central Mass, Jennifer MacDonald!

On May 8, Jennifer was recognized for her contributions to the commonwealth by Governor Deval Patrick at the fourth annual recognition ceremony. Each honoree is a Massachusetts resident “who has made an outstanding civic contribution to the state and intends to remain in the commonwealth upon graduation.”  Yes, we are claiming you for the foreseeable future Jennifer!

MacDonald began her residency at Clark University and her first volunteer experience was with our very own DAT team of which, she is still an active member of today.  MacDonald is part of a team of volunteers who attend to needs of community members that have been affected by a house fire or other catastrophic disasters.

We are proud to have one of our own being recognized for her immeasurable help in the community!



Red Cross offers brush fire safety tips

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????The triple threat of warm weather, strong winds and dry leaves can leave Massachusetts very vulnerable to brush fires.

Here are a few tips to follow to reduce the risk of brush fires:

1) Burn brush only where permitted by your town or city. It’s important to pick a clear spot away from your home. All it takes is one strong wind to lead to a potential disaster.

2) Double and triple check your home’s gutters to ensure they are clear of flammable debris. Identify a reliable water source in the perimeter of your home in case of emergency.

3) Make a plan with your family and neighbors if necessary in the case a brush fire breaks out. Selecting a meeting spot and 2 or 3 evacuation routes will ensure your family and friends are prepared.

4) We love Emergency Preparedness Kits at the Red Cross and this is another great instance in which it would come in handy. Have a first aid kit ready along with bottled water, maps of the area, flashlight and nonperishable food.

Take a #TeddySelfie!

Dawn Leaks poses with her teddy

Dawn Leaks poses with her teddy

No matter how large or small a disaster is it can turn a persons life upside down in an instant. To restore hope and symbolize the very real help Red Crossers bring to those in need, teddys are given to children (and sometimes even adults) to aid in restoring a sense of security.

So take a selfie that counts! The Red Cross wants to see you and your teddy strike a pose. Tweet us at @RedCrossMA on Twitter.

-Emily Dechambeau

Shop H&M, support the Red Cross

Our friends at H&M are hosting a special campaign just for us: a customer donation program.

Between now and May 18, customers can make a donation to the American Red Cross of Massachusetts when they shop at H&M. H&M will match all donations, and donors will receive a tax-deductible receipt.

Red Cross volunteers will participate in special store events to share information on disaster response and answer questions. Come see us!

  • May 14, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
    H&M, 305 Washington St., Boston
  • May 15, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
    H&M , 100 Newbury St., Boston
  • May 16, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
    H&M, 100 Cambridge Side Place, Cambridge

Don’t miss it! Red Cross on City Line this weekend

VND & DMPlans this weekend? Cancel ’em and get in front of your TV.

Tune into WCVB’s City Line to catch Chief Development Officer Valerie Navy Daniels and Donna Morrissey, Communications Director of Blood Services, talk about Red Cross efforts during the Boston Marathon.

What:  April 13, 2014: Boston Strong: The one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombings is quickly approaching and Boston has proven that it is stronger than ever. Numerous organizations have continued to help those impacted by the marathon violence. Valerie and Donna re-live their experiences from last year and how people can prepare for a new year of celebration.

Where: WCVB

When: Sunday, April 13, 12 p.m.

Why: The American Red Cross of Massachusetts is supporting the community in a variety of ways during the bombing anniversary and Marathon Monday. With mental health support, blood drives and  a strong volunteer presence, we stand together, Boston Strong.




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