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The American Red Cross has unveiled a sweeping new national effort to prepare our country for a disaster or national emergency. Greenwich will join more than 1,000 American Red Cross chapters, Blood Services regions and Armed Forces Emergency Services stations nationwide in working to make the United States safer from disaster through the "Together We Prepare" campaign.

While the scope of the program is national, its focus is on individuals and how every person can help prepare for disaster. In the current unsettling world of nonspecific terrorist threats and heightened military alerts, "Together We Prepare" can bring greater peace of mind to the American public. The campaign will make individuals, homes, workplaces and neighborhoods safer.

The "Together We Prepare" campaign highlights five important steps to preparing for disaster: make a plan, build a kit, get trained, volunteer and give blood. These five actions can help us to protect ourselves and our loved ones whether we face house fires, hurricanes, acts of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction or other unforeseen events.


First, the Red Cross challenges everyone to make a plan. Preparedness and vigilance are the hallmarks of our new national reality, and planning for disaster is an essential step in preparedness. Families, businesses and schools - everyone needs to know what to do and where to go in the event of a disaster. Making our communities safe must be a priority.

The Red Cross has identified many elements of a successful disaster plan. Among them are being aware of possible disaster scenarios and practicing what to do if evacuation is needed. Family members should pick a place to meet outside the home in case of a sudden emergency, like a fire, or outside the neighborhood in case it's too dangerous to return home. It is also important to designate an out-of-town person whom family members will contact to check on each other if a disaster occurs and they are or become separated. Leave these contact numbers at your children's schools, your workplace and with close friends and family.


Next, the Red Cross wants everyone to build a kit. Whether you are evacuating or "sheltering in place" (staying where you are), a disaster supplies kit can save lives. Use an easy-to-carry container such as a duffel bag or large, covered plastic trash container, and include the following essential items: food supplies that do not require preparation or refrigeration; at least three gallons of water in a tightly sealed container per person (roughly three days worth of water); special needs items for any member of your household (such as infant formula, medicines or items for seniors or people with disabilities); first aid supplies and a first aid reference book; a small flashlight and extra batteries; a change of clothing; sleeping bags or bedrolls; a battery-powered radio or television and extra batteries; cash; and copies of essential documents. It is very important to check all perishable and dated items at least twice a year, including things like food, batteries and medications.


The third element of "Together We Prepare" is training. The Red Cross wants to educate and inspire people to help others. Knowing what to do when disaster strikes means getting trained-and the Red Cross can help you do that. The Red Cross provides at least four areas of training the Red Cross provides that are appropriate for disaster preparedness.

Community Disaster Education helps people prepare for disasters and other unexpected emergencies.

"First Aid" classes teach citizen responders how to sustain life and minimize pain and the consequences of injury or sudden illness until professional medical help arrives.

CPR training teaches how to care for breathing and cardiac emergencies in adult, child or infant victims until professional medical help arrives.

Automatic external defibrillator (AED) training teaches how to recognize the signals of a heart attack and how to deal with the first few minutes of cardiac arrest until professional medical help arrives.

And, finally, our "School Safety Initiative" packages Red Cross materials together that help schools prevent, prepare for and respond to violent incidents, natural disasters and other emergencies.


Helping others prepare by volunteering is the fourth element of disaster preparedness. We are inviting people to serve as a part of the Red Cross and help prepare our community in case of emergency. The needs of Greenwich are many, and the potential for a disaster is inescapable.

Approximately 1.2 million people volunteer for the Red Cross, making up 90 percent of the American Red Cross work force. Those are incredible numbers, but more are needed to provide services to everyone in your community-especially if a disaster occurs.


Last, we can prepare for disaster together by donating blood. Compassionate Americans nationwide have been donating blood since before the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, to ensure a sustained and secure blood supply for all Americans. This blood is readily available whenever and wherever it's needed - for the military, for other blood centers in America and for all 5,000 of America's hospitals.

More healthy blood donors are desperately needed. Demand is high throughout the year and disasters strain supplies. Did you know that every two seconds a person in the United States needs a blood transfusion? Or that blood stocks need to be replenished constantly? Red blood cells have a shelf life of only 42 days. Platelets have a shelf life of only five days.

It's easy to save lives by giving blood, yet only five percent of the eligible U.S. population donates. Typically all healthy men and women who are at least 17 years old and weigh 110 pounds or more are eligible to donate blood.


With the "Together We Prepare" campaign, the Red Cross wants to remind everyone that we're all in this together. The Red Cross believes that people will respond to a call to work together to make our community safer. People want to help - they are just looking for the opportunity to do so.

Chartered by Congress in 1905, the American Red Cross is mandated to maintain a national system of disaster relief. And through our presence in every community across the country, we are ideally positioned to help people prepare for the unexpected.

The Red Cross has been responding to disasters for more than 100 years. We respond to more than 67,000 disasters every year - from an entire region uprooted by a hurricane to a single family devastated by a house fire. This time, the Red Cross wants to collaborate with you and your neighbor to make us safer before disaster strikes. Together, we can prepare ourselves, our families and our communities.

When we come together, we become something bigger than us all. For more information on "Together We Prepare" and its five actions, including how to make a plan, build a kit, get trained, volunteer and give blood, contact your local Red Cross chapter.