Friday, February 8, 2013

Shoveling Tips for the Heart and Back

Be heart healthy and back friendly while shoveling this winter with these tips:

·         If you are inactive and have a history of heart trouble, talk to your doctor before you take on the task of shoveling snow.

·         Avoid caffeine or nicotine before beginning. These are stimulants, which may increase your heart rate and cause your blood vessels to constrict. This places extra stress on the heart.

·         Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is just as big an issue in cold winter months as it is in the summer.

·        Dress in several layers so you can remove a layer as needed.  Synthetic fibers help wick away perspiration better than natural fibers.

·         Warm your muscles before shoveling by walking for a few minutes or marching in place. Stretch the muscles in your arms and legs because warm muscles will work more efficiently and be less likely to be injured.

·        Pick the right shovel for you. A smaller blade will require you to lift less snow, putting less strain on your body.

·        Begin shoveling slowly to avoid placing a sudden demand on your heart. Pace yourself and take breaks as needed.

·       Protect your back from injury by lifting correctly. Stand with your feet about hip width for balance and keep the shovel close to your body. Bend from the knees (not the back) and tighten your stomach muscles as you lift the snow. Avoid twisting movements. If you need to move the snow to one side, reposition your feet to face the direction the snow will be going.

·       Most importantly, listen to your body. Stop if you feel pain.

Red Cross Urges Generator Safety

As we face this ongoing winter storm, some in our region may plan to utilize back-up generators if there is a power outage. While generators are handy to have during inclement weather, it is important to practice generator safety to protect your home from dangerous carbon monoxide fumes and generator misuse.
Under no circumstances should portable generators be used indoors.  This includes inside a garage, carport, basement, crawlspace, or other enclosed or partially-enclosed area, even with ventilation. 

Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO buildup in the home.  The CO from generators can rapidly lead to full incapacitation and death, but CO can't be seen or smelled.  Even if you cannot smell exhaust fumes, you may still be exposed to CO. If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air RIGHT AWAY - DO NOT DELAY.

To avoid electrocution, keep the generator dry and do not use in rain or wet conditions.  To protect the generator from moisture, operate it on a dry surface under an open canopy-like structure, such as under a tarp held up on poles.  Do not touch the generator with wet hands.

It is a good idea to install battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery back-up in your home, according to the manufacturer's installation instructions.  If CO gas from the generator enters your home and poses a health risk, the alarm will sound to warn you. Test the battery frequently and replace when needed.

Be sure to turn the generator off and let it cool down before refueling.  Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.  In addition, store fuel for the generator in an approved safety can and do not keep this can near a fuel-burning appliance, such as a natural gas water heater in a garage.  If the fuel is spilled or the container is not sealed properly, invisible vapors from the fuel can travel along the ground and can be ignited by the appliance's pilot light or by arcs from electric switches in the appliance.

Plug appliances directly into the generator.  Or, use a heavy duty, outdoor-rated extension cord that is rated (in watts or amps) at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads.  Check that the entire cord is free of cuts or tears and that the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin.

Never try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet, a practice known as “backfeeding.”  This is an extremely dangerous practice that presents an electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbors served by the same utility transformer.  It also bypasses some of the built-in household protection devices.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Winter Storm Preparedness Tips

The Red Cross recommends that individuals and families prepare for winter storms by:
  • Assembling an Emergency Preparedness Kit: Pack a winter-specific supply kit that includes a warm coat, hat, mittens or gloves, and water-resistant boots, along with extra blankets and extra warm clothing for each family member. Sand or non-clumping kitty litter is good to have on hand to help make walkways or steps less slippery. Additionally, make sure you have a first aid kit and a supply of essential medications, canned food and can opener, bottled water, flashlights and a battery-powered radio with extra batteries in your home in the event of a power outage. 
  • Heeding Storm Warnings: A Winter Storm WATCH means winter storm conditions are possible within the next 36 to 48 hours. People in a watch area should review their winter storm plans and stay informed about weather conditions via NOAA Weather radio, or local radio or television stations. A Winter Storm WARNING means that life-threatening, severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours. Individuals in a warning area should take precautions immediately. Stay tuned to local media to keep up with forecasts.

  • Preparing Your Home and Car:  Winterize your vehicle and keep the gas tank full, which will help to keep the fuel line from freezing. Make sure your home is properly insulated by installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic from the inside to help keep cold air out. Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected every year. If you lose power and heat, running water at a trickle from a faucet helps to prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Use Technology to Prepare and Stay Safe: Download Red Cross preparedness apps for your smartphone. Our free apps have tips and real-time information to help you prepare, as well as tools to help you keep in touch during and after a major storm. Get the apps for iPhones or Android phones at “Our Hurricane app has useful information for any kind of storm, including the ability to set your location and get fast notification of weather alerts.
For more information on winter storm preparedness, visit

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The American Red Cross and Black History Month

February is Black History Month and the American Red Cross is celebrating the contributions of African Americans to the Red Cross mission and legacy. African Americans have proudly shared in the humanitarian work of the American Red Cross since its founding in 1881. From Frederick Douglass to Dr. Jerome H. Holland to everyday working volunteers and staff, African Americans were and continue to be supporters, contributors, and change makers in the Red Cross organization. 

Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, met Frederick Douglass shortly after the Civil War in 1865. Barton's assistance to African American soldiers during the war was well known, especially her assistance to the all-black Massachusetts 54th Regiment, which had been recruited by Frederick Douglass. The bravery of the soldiers of the 54th Regiment was well documented and formed the basis for the 1991 film "Glory."  Barton and Douglass forged a friendship that lasted many years. Douglass lent his support as one of the founding members of the American Red Cross. His name appears on the 1882 United States Ratification of the Geneva Convention, signed by President Chester A. Arthur.

The legacy of Jerome H. Holland, African American educator, businessman, author, civil rights proponent, diplomat and 1985 Presidential Medal of Freedom winner, lives on through his mission of helping to provide the safest blood possible to those in need. The American Red Cross Jerome H. Holland Laboratory for the Biomedical Sciences is named in his honor.

Holland was the driving force behind the current phase of biomedical research and development at the Red Cross; the national center for biomedical research and development. A true visionary, Holland recognized the importance of blood research and the benefits it could bring to human health. The Holland Lab continues his legacy today through the American Red Cross Research and Development Program.

African Americans continue to contribute significantly to the work of the Red Cross. Leaders such as Gwendolyn T. Jackson, Red Cross National Chairman of Volunteers, 1989-1991, helped pave the way for generations to come. African Americans continue to work and volunteer in leadership positions at the American Red Cross.

Read more at:  American Red Cross History