Tax Smart Giving Strategies and the CARES Act

Like you, the American Red Cross of Alaska is adapting and changing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying economic uncertainty. We are grateful for the generous support our donors have provided for our work over the years. As we adapt to our new reality, we would like to bring new tax rules for charitable giving included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act to your attention. 

You may deduct gifts of cash to most public charities to offset as much as 100 percent of your income!  For the 2020 tax year only, you may deduct cash contributions to the American Red Cross and most other public charities to offset up to 100 percent of your income. Ordinarily, the income tax charitable deduction for cash gifts is limited to 60 percent of your income. This 100 percent limit allows especially generous donors to reduce their 2020 federal income tax to zero. If you are even more generous, you can carry forward unused cash contribution deductions for up to five years. Contributions to donor advised funds or supporting organizations are not eligible for this deduction. Your ability to deduct up to 100 percent of your income with cash gifts is reduced by your gifts of appreciated assets such as publicly traded securities and real estate.  That means your charitable deductions in 2020 cannot exceed 100 percent of your income, but you may be able to carry unused charitable deductions forward to future years. 

It may not be the tax-wise choice to deduct up to 100 percent of your income.  Because federal income tax rates are progressive, it is not a given that it will be to your advantage to deduct 100 percent of your cash contributions in 2020. Check with your financial or other advisors to determine whether the 100 percent deduction makes sense for your specific circumstances. 

If you don’t itemize, you may reduce your taxable income by $300 for your charitable contributions in 2020.  If you do not itemize your deductions in 2020, both single and married joint filers are allowed an “above the line” adjustment that deducts up to a total of $300 for charitable contributions of cash to public charities. 

Required minimum distributions from retirement plans are waived for 2020.  Most required minimum distributions from retirement plans have been eliminated for 2020. Check with your financial advisor to see how this temporary rule will apply to you. Minimum distributions that have already started are still required from some defined benefit pension plans, but some required minimum distributions that would have started in 2020 may not have to start until 2021. 

Qualified charitable distributions are still a great way if you are 7) and a half years of age or older to make contributions.  If you are 70 and a a half years of age or older, a qualified charitable distribution (“QCD” or “IRA charitable rollover”) allows you to make a tax-free gift of up to $100,000 to the Red Cross from your IRA. While the benefit of using a QCD to satisfy your required minimum distribution has been waived for 2020, a qualified charitable distribution remains a great way to make tax advantageous contributions, especially if you don’t itemize your deductions. 

The CARES Act, which was necessary to address the far-reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, provides additional tax incentives to encourage charitable giving. You have important priorities for your family and loved ones, and we know that their health and financial well-being come first. When you are ready, we will be here to help you shape a charitable gift plan that suits your needs and allows you to keep helping with our important work.  Please contact Carol Eames at Carol.Eames@redcross.org or call (503) 502-5877 to learn about the many ways you can support the American Red Cross. 

Sophia Metters: Helping Others Save Lives

By Angela R. Wilson/American Red Cross of Alaska          

Many jobs require up-to-date lifesaving skills – from health care providers and first responders, to teachers and babysitters. Though, those of us who do not face health emergencies every day can also benefit from American Red Cross lifesaving skills training. With a wide array of first aid, babysitting, and swimming and water safety courses available, the Red Cross can provide you with the training and skills you need to prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.

American Red Cross Training Services aims to provide students with best-in-class health and safety training programs, products and tools, to prepare them to react and possibly save lives during emergencies. The ultimate goal of the Training Services program is to educate class participants on the skills needed to improve their confidence to save lives in emergency situations in the workplace or in their communities.

Sophia Metters is an American Red Cross Training Services instructor that teaches a variety of courses at the Red Cross of Alaska Regional Headquarters in Anchorage, as well as at additional locations throughout Anchorage and Wasilla, Alaska.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, course protocols have been altered to care for the safety of both instructors and Red Cross class participants nationwide. Even with these modifications, the Red Cross continues to offer essential Training Services courses, which help medical professionals and other health workers stay current on their certifications during the pandemic.

Metters continues to teach in person three to four times a week, while exercising current federal and state-recommended COVID-19 safety precautions, such as: 

  • The number of class participants has been cut in half
  • Proof of screening must be in place before taking an on-site course
  • Participants must have their temperature taken and hands washed before entering the lecture room
  • Participants must maintain a distance of six feet from others
  • Participants must wear a mask and gloves

Red Cross training courses help participants develop a strength of knowledge and confidence, while building trust within the realm of safety awareness and preparedness for disasters. In order to build that level of strength, a uniformed curriculum nationwide is not enough.

Training Services programs across the nation must also integrate instructors with a number of qualities – compassion to help others, a desire to educate students with the hope of saving lives, a sense of pride in the services they offer, and last but not least, an assurance that the mission, values and vision of the American Red Cross are met.

The Red Cross of Alaska has the privilege and the honor of working with Metters. Her passion to help others is beyond the regular standards of being an instructor.

“I love helping people save lives and I love meeting new people,” Metters said. “One of the most rewarding things about being an instructor is hearing stories of people responding to emergencies because of the training they received from me.”

Some of the Red Cross courses Metters instructs are:

  • Instructor training courses that satisfy the requirements of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), such as a bloodborne pathogens training course, which is designed for those who are at risk of exposure to blood and other bodily fluids in the workplace. The course teaches how bloodborne pathogens are spread, how to avoid exposure and what to do if exposed to infectious material.
  • Basic Life Support (BLS) course provides participants with the knowledge and skills they need to assess, recognize and care for patients who are experiencing respiratory arrest, cardiac arrest, airway obstruction or opioid overdose.
  • Babysitting courses teach that though every situation is unique, there are some universal skills and techniques that every babysitter should have:
    • Care for Infants and Children
    • Basic First Aid
    • Child Behavior
    • Age-Appropriate Activities
    • Emergency Protocols
    • Professionalism
    • Leadership
    • Growing Your Business
  • Adult and Pediatric First Aid, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), Automated External Defibrillator (AED) courses incorporate the latest science and teach students to recognize and care for a variety of first aid emergencies such as burns; cuts; scrapes; sudden illnesses; head, neck and back injuries; heat and cold emergencies; and how to respond to breathing and cardiac emergencies to help victims of any age – adults (about 12 years and older) and pediatric (infants and children up to 12 years of age). Students who successfully complete this course receive a certificate for Adult and Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED, which is valid for two years.
  • Wilderness courses are designed to teach individuals how to deal with emergency situations by using first aid skills in delayed-help environments.

Other in-person and online courses offered include:

  • OSHA-compliant CPR, AED and First Aid
  • CPR/AED for Professional Rescuers Instructor Bridge
  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Training                              

Any instructor in our society hopes to fill a void in their community. That hope feeds their passion. “I believe the courses I teach meet the needs of the community,” Metters said.

To learn about and sign up for available Red Cross Training Services courses, please visit https://www.redcross.org/take-a-class.

“Do you have any smoke alarms, and are they working?”

By Angela R. Wilson/American Red Cross of Alaska

Ms. Sarah Leonard, a Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest and AmeriCorps Member, has been serving as a full-time volunteer with the American Red Cross of Alaska for the past year. Leonard is mostly responsible for the preparedness programming in the Southcentral territory, but she also serves as a duty officer on a Disaster Action Team (DAT), and handles casework and recovery planning in order to assist residents displaced by disasters. She has presently volunteered over 1,000 hours in less than a year.

Sarah Leonard, Preparedness & Casework Specialist

JVC Northwest and AmeriCorps is a supportive organization to Red Cross that has programs to help individuals desiring to learn more in-depth about different humanitarian cultures. Candidates are sent to a specific location within a specific geographic area as a volunteer for a year.

The Red Cross has partners, donors, employees and volunteers that form a powerful support system to assist in providing whatever may be needed to support individuals and families before, during and after disasters, and each group offers support to the humanitarian cause in their own way. The most significant common thread among the supporters is their shared passion for the vision, mission and values of the Red Cross.

“Sarah has thrown herself into Red Cross over the last year, approaching all aspects of her position with energy and enthusiasm, which has been picked up by volunteers and staff alike,” said Maria Caruso, Disaster Workforce Manager for the Red Cross of Alaska.

Teaching youth preparedness courses is one activity among many that Sarah has done in her tenure with the Red Cross as a Preparedness and Casework Specialist. Red Cross youth preparedness programming includes courses and resources like The Pillowcase Project and Prepare with Pedro, which are part of the American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign. Red Cross volunteers work closely with schools and youth-serving organizations to raise awareness of disaster risk and build resiliency among young people.

Sarah teaches The Pillowcase Project to youth ages 3rd through 5th grade in Southcentral Alaska.

Also in support of the Home Fire Campaign – a nationwide Red Cross program created in 2014 that aims to reduce home fire deaths and injuries – Leonard teaches families about home fire safety and installs smoke alarms, free of charge to residents.

“Her willingness to help with anything and everything has been a huge asset to our program,” said Caruso. Leonard has visited over 100 homes in the Anchorage area in less than 10 months.

“I have replaced fire alarms older than me!” Leonard laughed.

“One rainy afternoon, a fellow volunteer and I had a smoke alarm appointment in a quiet part of town. We trudged up to the front door, equipped with our ladder, electric drill, a box of new smoke alarms, a clipboard, and some screws. An elderly couple greeted us at the door and welcomed us in. The two of us politely took off our boots to avoid dirtying their carpets, and we started with the usual exchange of ‘Hello, how are you? What a rainy day!’ And finally – ‘So, do you have any smoke alarms, and are they working?'” reflected Leonard.

When carrying out this outreach program, Red Cross volunteers can go into the community and spend time building relationships and trust while sharing home fire safety information and installing new, 10-year lithium battery smoke alarms, free of charge to any individual or family that needs them.

Volunteers Sarah and Irene prepare to make home visits to share home fire safety information and install free smoke alarms in homes in the Anchorage area.

As Leonard remembered the elderly couple from that day, she remarked, “It was so fun to share a bit of time with them, meet their dog and talk about our own pets at home, and talk about why we volunteer with the Red Cross.”

“I enjoy explaining how much I love the commitment, dedication, kindness, and compassion of Red Cross volunteers and staff, and how I have loved my time serving with the Red Cross of Alaska,” said Leonard. “I hope to continue volunteering with the Red Cross in the future!”

If you’d like to learn more about Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest, visit their website at https://jvcnorthwest.org. To learn more about the American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, please visit redcross.org/homefires.

Red Cross offers tips to help keep you safe this summer

By Angela R. Wilson/American Red Cross of Alaska

Summer safety is paramount. Learning safety methods for outdoor fun from organizations like the American Red Cross should be a priority on your ‘to-do’ list.

Every year, more than 6.25 million people receive Red Cross training and information in first aid, water safety, and other skills that help save lives. With safety training comes awareness, self-confidence, and bragging rights for being ‘disaster ready’ and armed with the knowledge to help save lives when necessary. The Red Cross offers an array of safety courses to best fit your needs during any season of the year.

In addition to courses and tips on first aid and water safety, the Red Cross also offers safety tips to keep in mind while participating in fun activities this summer, such as camping, hiking and road trips. Before having outdoor fun, be aware of:

  • COVID-19: Summer fun will be a bit different this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. If your community is reopening, know what precautions to take in public settings. Keep at least 6 feet between yourself and others and wear face coverings, especially in crowded areas. Do not place face coverings on children under age 2. Stay at home if you are sick.
  • Camping:  Know the level of ability of those in your group and plan accordingly. Make sure you have enough food, water, extra clothing, bug spray, bear spray or bear bells, blankets, gasoline in your vehicle, emergency items for first aid and car trouble, along with other items your family may need to enjoy a safe camping trip.
  • Hiking: Make sure to have food, plenty of water, proper footwear for the conditions you expect to face, layers of clothing and protection against bears, bugs, sun and local poisonous vegetation. To learn more about what supplies you should have when hiking in Alaska, please visit https://www.alaska.org/advice/what-to-wear-hiking.
  • Grilling: Summer is also a popular time for grilling family meals at home or at your campsite. Yet grilling fires spark more than 10,000 home fires on average each year. To avoid this, always supervise a barbecue grill when in use. Don’t add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited. Never grill indoors – not in the house, camper, tent or any enclosed area, and keep the grill away from the house or anything that could catch fire. Make sure everyone, including children and pets, stays away from the grill.

When living in Alaska there are other events that may occur during the summer. We as Alaskans must remember that at any time, we may find ourselves in the middle of a flood, rock or mudslide, or some other disaster while enjoying summer sun and activities out in the wilderness or on the road system.  Here are a few additional tips that may help keep you safe if one of these disasters should occur:

  • Flooding: If you encounter flooding while driving this summer, be safe and turn around. Head for higher ground and stay there. If you know the area near your home or where you’re planning to camp is prone to flooding, be prepared to evacuate quickly if necessary. Follow evacuations orders and do not attempt to return to the area until officials say it is safe to do so. Do not forget to use your protective clothing that you packed for emergencies if you get wet. Staying dry and warm is important.
  • Rock slide or mudslide: If you are planning on taking a road trip this summer, be well rested and alert and use your seat belt. You may also encounter mud or rock slides while on roadways. When driving during inclement weather, be especially alert for collapsed pavement, mud, fallen rocks and other indications of possible debris flow. Even though we have summer sunlight during the late evening hours in Alaska, we still need to keep our headlights on and clean.
  • Heat and sun exposure: It’s also important to remember to protect yourself and your family from extreme heat and sun exposure during summer months. According to Seattle Children’s, the temperature inside a car can increase 20 degrees in just 10 minutes and 40 degrees in an hour. This can happen even if it feels cooler outside the vehicle.

The first official day of summer is just ahead – the perfect time of the year to enjoy what Alaska has to offer, and to keep the safety of you and your loved ones top of mind as you are out in the wilderness or on the roads. Stay safe and have fun out there, Alaskans!

A History of Helping Others

By Angela R. Wilson/American Red Cross of Alaska

The American Red Cross was established in Washington D.C. on May 21, 1881 by Clara Barton. Barton was inspired by the Swiss International Red Cross Movement when she visited Europe after the Civil War.

Clara Barton (1821-1912). American philanthropist, was born in Oxford, Massachusetts. In July 1881, The American National Association of the Red Cross, with Miss Barton as president, was incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia. The following year the Government ratified the Treaty of Geneva. Miss Barton held the position of president of the American Red Cross until 1904. She died at Glen Echo, Maryland, on April 12, 1912.

Barton led the Red Cross for 23 years in the United States and during that time, the Red Cross conducted its first domestic and overseas disaster relief efforts, and aided the United States military, along with assisting with peacetime relief work as part of the International Red Cross Movement. Prior to the First World War, the Red Cross introduced its first aid, water safety and public health nursing programs. During the worldwide influenza pandemic of 1918, Red Cross nurses came forward to help combat the virus. To read more about the history of Clara Barton and the founding of the American Red Cross, visit: www.redcross.org/museum/history/

Our local Red Cross of Alaska was established in 1917. The Alaska Region has a long, rich history of providing vital, life-saving programs and services. We responded in the aforementioned devastating flu pandemic of the 1920’s, World War II, and the Good Friday Earthquake of 1964, to name a few. In 1964, Governor William A. Egan designated the American Red Cross as the official relief agency to provide emergency assistance to Alaskans affected by disasters. If you would like to learn more about our history in Alaska, please visit https://www.redcross.org/local/alaska/about-us.html.

Fast forward through a long history of helping others to today, year 2020. During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Red Cross continues to stand strong in helping those in need throughout the world, because emergencies don’t stop, even during a global pandemic. The current focus is on keeping staff and volunteers safe from COVID-19 while continuing to assist those in need during disasters of all sizes. Communities across Alaska and around the country count on the Red Cross for help every day – and supporting those communities is at the heart of what we do. Our work never stops, and we remain focused on delivering our lifesaving mission each day.

Red Crossers from our Mat-Su Valley territory support public health providers at COVID-19 testing sites across the Mat-Su Borough in April and May, 2020.

If it were not for Red Cross workers from all walks of life that step up to assist our humanitarian organization by implementing strategies to their fullest capacity and collaborating with partners, volunteers and entire communities, individual efforts to help people in their time of need would be an incredible hardship and an unbearable sight to witness.

Nationwide, the Red Cross also continues to offer many of the same safety and preparedness courses that were offered during its early years like first aid and water safety, along with a few extra courses that accommodate our evolving society like babysitting, life guarding, Automated External Defibrillator (AED), home fire safety, and workplace safety preparedness courses.

Thank you to all that have given in some capacity to the Red Cross over the course of our history as a humanitarian organization. If you would like to volunteer for the Red Cross of Alaska, please contact us at 907-646-5401 or visit redcross.org/volunteer.

Red Cross Offers Water Safety Resources As Summer Approaches

By Angela R. Wilson/American Red Cross of Alaska

According to the Department of Fish and Game, Alaska has over 12,00 rivers, 3 million lakes and numerous creeks and ponds. We also have pools and hot tubs, indoor water parks, and let’s not forget – bathtubs. Water can be entertaining as we swim, fish, and enjoy other recreational activities. Bathing can also be a wonderland for younger children.

Unfortunately, there is a dark side when it comes to water and our activities, even in the bathtub. If you are not properly equipped, or are too young to be in or around water, there is a higher probability of injury or death compared to a person who is properly equipped with training and skills in water safety. Official water safety training is the best method to ensure the safety of you and your family against possible injury or death this summer.      

The American Red Cross offers water safety courses nationwide. Here in Alaska, there are a handful of online water safety courses available that teach participants how to recognize, prevent and respond to emergencies in, on or around the water. Drowning can occur quickly and silently, in nearly any place water is found. Summer is coming and Alaskans are ready to get outside and play (per the guidelines surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic).  Why not be proactive and get fully prepared for summer fun by taking water safety courses from the Red Cross? There are courses available for Alaskans of all ages.

Drowning Statistics

Why is it important to know the facts and ensure everyone in your family is prepared for water activities? According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are approximately 10 deaths per day in the United States due to unintentional drownings, and approximately one out of every five people who die from drowning in the U.S. are children 14 and younger.

According to a case-control study by Brenner et al, participation in formal swim lessons can reduce the likelihood of childhood drowning death by 88 percent. You can read more on the association between swimming lessons and drowning in childhood here.

General Water Safety

Red Cross water safety courses identify and discuss water safety tips that help people stay safe in, on or around the water. They also include safety tips for specific aquatic environments, including home pools, hot tubs, waterparks, lakes and rivers:

  • Adults should actively supervise children.
  • Inflatable children’s toys and water wings can be fun, but they are no substitute for a life jacket and adult supervision.
  • Swim as a pair near a lifeguard’s chair – everyone, including experienced swimmers, should swim with a buddy in areas protected by lifeguards.
  • Reach or throw, don’t go! Know what to do to help someone in trouble, without getting yourself in danger; know how and when to call 9-1-1; and know CPR. Visit redcross.org/Alaska for CPR course information.

Every family should make sure that both adults and children can swim and that parents make water safety a priority this summer. Adults need to know how to be safe in the water and know how to respond to a water emergency before they can protect their children.

Personal Water Safety for Adults

According to an American Red Cross Training Services survey, more than half of all Americans (54 percent) either can’t swim or don’t have all of the necessary basic swimming skills. The Red Cross recommends that everyone learn to perform critical water safety skills, also known as ‘water competency.’

Throughout the past century, the Red Cross has provided Americans of all ages with the knowledge and skills necessary to avoid and respond to aquatic emergencies and has provided people with basic information about boating and personal watercraft safety, as well as safety in natural water environments.

Some of the basic skills participants can expect to learn in a swimming and water competency course include:

  • Jump into deep water from the side and recover to the surface while maintaining position by treading or floating for 1 minute.
  • Rotate one full turn then turn as necessary to orient to the exit point; level off; then swim front crawl and/or elementary backstroke for 25 yards, then exit the water.
  • Identify and discuss water safety tips for specific aquatic environments, including home pools, hot tubs, and waterparks.
  • Explain strategies, such as avoiding aquatic emergencies in and around natural bodies of water and staying safe while boating or operating personal watercraft. 
  • Explain and demonstrate techniques that can be used for self-rescue in the event of an aquatic emergency.
  • Understand techniques that can be used to assist others in the event of an aquatic emergency.
  • Show an increase in your distance/length of time you are able to swim the front crawl, sidestroke, breaststroke, elementary backstroke and tread water.
  • You may also learn how to prevent overexposure to the sun and recreational water illnesses (RWIs).

Water Safety Resources

To find classes for your family, contact your local aquatic facility and ask for American Red Cross swimming and water safety programs, or visit redcross.org/take-a-class.

For those with a pool or hot tub at home, the American Red Cross and the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF) have developed an online safety course for pool and hot tub owners.

Alaskans can also download and view the free American Red Cross Swim App. It promotes water safety education and help parents and caregivers of young people learning how to swim. There are specific features designed for children to enjoy games, videos and quizzes. Downloading the app is free if you search for ‘American Red Cross’ in your app store or at redcross.org/apps

Empowering Youth to Prepare for Emergencies

By: Angela R. Wilson/American Red Cross of Alaska

As of late, our world has been altered to a place of uncertainty. We hear every day across the nation how the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has affected us all in an unprecedented way. Unfortunately, even though this frightening new virus has entered our lives, all the previous hardships continue.

On average, seven people die and 36 people suffer injuries as a result of home fires every day across the nation. More than $7 billion in property damage occurs every year due to home fires as well.

Home fires and other emergencies have not stopped because of COVID-19. However, together we ensure that families are better prepared for home fires and other disasters across Alaska if we pull together and ensure everyone has the home fire prevention and disaster preparedness information they need – including children.

The American Red Cross offers various opportunities for your children to learn or refresh themselves on home fire safety and disaster preparedness tips through fun and easy-to-use computer or mobile phone applications. If you have a four-legged family member, the Red Cross offers Pet First Aid tips as well.

Monster Guard App

Moster guard

  • The free Red Cross Monster Guard App provides games that can help save lives. Children between the ages of seven to 11 years old can learn ways to stay safe from home fires, earthquakes, floods and other disasters by role playing as different monster characters. You can go to redcross.org/monster-guard or text ‘MONSTER’ to 90999 for a direct link to download the app. The app provides an interactive and exciting way for children to learn, practice the lessons and share the information they learned with their family and friends. The best user experience is playing the game on a tablet, but it also works well on other mobile devices. Children should ask a parent or guardian for permission to download the app.

The Monster Guard App is a complement to The Pillowcase Project – a youth emergency preparedness program also developed by the Red Cross.

The Pillowcase Project

PIllowcase screenshot 2

  • The Red Cross Pillowcase Project is a free curriculum designed to increase children’s awareness and understanding of natural hazards and reduce their fears.  Eight to 11 year old children learn safety and emotional coping skills, along with personal preparedness skills. The program was originally created in New Orleans, inspired by university students who carried their belongings in pillowcases during evacuations for Hurricane Katrina.
  • In the class, students receive a pillowcase to decorate and use as a personal emergency supplies kit. Children are also encouraged to work with adult members of their households to create an emergency plan and supplies kit after they finish the class.
  • The curriculum is structured by a “Learn, Practice, Share” framework and all students who participate in The Pillowcase Project learn to prevent and stay safe in the event of a home fire and are encouraged to make a home fire escape plan and practice a home fire drill at home.

Prepare With Pedro

Prepare with Pedro

  • Prepare with Pedro is a 30 to 45-minute preparedness education program for Kindergarten through second grade students (ages four to eight). The program teaches students how to stay safe from home fires and features a story about a penguin named Pedro.
  • Students learn a coping skill and receive a storybook to share what they have learned with their family members.
  • The Prepare with Pedro curriculum was standardized based on existing Red Cross youth preparedness curricula, up-to-date scientific information, specialist-developed psychosocial coping skills, and proven youth education pedagogy.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all in-person The Pillowcase Project and Prepare with Pedro activities are on hold until further notice. If you are interested in learning more about the program or setting up a presentation as soon as it is safe to do so, please contact sarah.leonard@redcross.org or autumn.simons@redcross.org. During this time, you can also download storybooks in English and Spanish for your children to work on at home. 

Pet First Aid App

Pet first aid

The American Red Cross Pet First Aid App helps dog and cat owners provide emergency care until veterinary assistance is available. Owners also learn the healthy signs of a dog or cat so that they can recognize health problems early. With videos, interactive quizzes and simple step-by-step advice it’s never been easier – for youth or adults – to learn and practice Pet First Aid.

  • In the app, you can learn first aid steps for over 25 common pet situations through a combination of text, video and images, in addition to identifying common toxic substances.
  • The app includes a programmable veterinary contact number, for easy use when needed.
  • Download the free app by searching for American Red Cross in the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store for Android, or by visiting to redcross.org/apps.

Engage the entire family today through Red Cross youth preparedness programs and free mobile apps that provide instant access to expert advice on what to do before, during and after emergencies, including emergencies involving pets. These award-winning apps have saved lives, have provided millions of localized weather alerts and warnings, and have provided information on safe places for residents to turn to before, during and after severe weather in their area. If you have already downloaded the apps or taken part in our preparedness programming, now is the time to contact loved ones and pass tips and resources on to others who may need them during this time. For more information on all of the Red Cross of Alaska programs and services available in your area, visit redcross.org/Alaska.

 

Coping in Today’s World

By Renee Bossart/American Red Cross of Alaska

Anxiety related to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a normal response to all of the changes you are experiencing around you. For many of us, our typical day-to-day routine has been interrupted, and our movement restricted. So, these changes naturally bring about some anxiety. To help alleviate your stress, here is a list of things you can do:

Avoid sensationalism. It can be challenging to tell the difference between speculation and facts on many popular websites and social media pages. Instead, get the latest information from official sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

Follow the current CDC health guidelines and recommendations. Keeping up-to-date through the CDC website will allow you access to all of their current recommendations. Practice good hygiene, such as washing your hands often – especially when returning home from a public space – and wear a face covering while in public settings.

Keep your thoughts grounded in reality. When we are in a difficult situation, our minds may automatically run through all of the worst case scenarios. The worst possible outcome isn’t likely to occur if you are following precautions, and worrying about it will only exhaust you. You will not have the energy to respond appropriately if you are exhausted, so try your best to stay grounded in the present.

Practice breathing techniques. If you find yourself anxious, try focusing on your breathing. Take deep, slow breaths and explore the feeling of your lungs expanding in your chest and your heart rate slowing. After a few minutes, you should feel noticeably calmer.

Spend time doing calming activities. Take on a puzzle or try a new painting project. You know best what will be both enjoyable and relaxing for you. Make time for these activities in your day.

Take a walk outside. The outdoors is not off-limits, as long as you are physically distancing yourselves from others. Go out and take a ten-minute walk. If you can’t go outside, do some quick exercises in your home. Exercise releases the endorphins needed to help combat some of the anxiety you may be feeling.

Connect with friends and family. You don’t have to be lonely. There are ways to connect with loved ones virtually and over the phone. Perhaps there are people you haven’t spoken to recently –  call them up and reconnect.

Take the American Red Cross of Alaska’s community training called Coping in Today’s World. This course is being offered on April 22 in a virtual format and is free of charge for you and your loved ones. In the course,  participants will learn how to build their own resilience and the ability to recover quickly after difficult times. To RSVP for the 6:30 – 8:40 p.m. session, please send an email to Paul Bossart, Mat-Su Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Lead at paul.bossart@redcross.org. Please include your name and the number of additional participants that plan on joining this virtual session with you.

With so much change going on around us, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to go through these changes and this challenging time alone. Practice your healthy coping skills, and learn some new ones with the Red Cross.

Red Cross Flood Safety Tips

Floods are among the most frequent and costly natural disasters, and they often occur in Alaska in the spring. According to the National Weather Service, the spring breakup flood potential is above average this year, due to the current snowpack, temperature forecasts and reports of ice thickness from around the state. Because the potential for floods along many of Alaska’s rivers this spring is high, it’s important to learn what you can do now to keep your loved ones safe.

Turn around, don’t drown! Stay off roadways. If you must drive and you encounter a flooded roadway, turn around and go another way.

  • If you are caught on a flooded roadway and waters are rising around you, exit the vehicle quickly and move to higher ground. Most vehicles can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
  • Head for higher ground and stay there.

Tune into your local radio, NOAA radio or news channels for the latest updates.

  • If your community is prone to flooding, prepare to evacuate quickly if necessary.
  • Follow evacuation orders and don’t return until local officials say it is safe.

Stay away from floodwaters. 

  • Keep children and pets away from hazardous sites and floodwaters.
  • If power lines are down, don’t step in standing water.

Hurricane Barry 2019
Photo by Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

Check the outside of your home before you enter. Look for loose power lines, broken or damaged gas lines, missing support beams and other damage.

  • If the door is jammed, don’t force it open — it may be providing support to the rest of your home. Find another way to get inside.
  • If you smell gas or hear a hissing noise, leave the property immediately and get far away from it. Call the fire department or local officials after you reach safety.
  • If power is out, use a flashlight. Don’t use candles or any open flame for lighting.

Texas Floods 2019
Photo by Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

Wear protective clothing, including rubber gloves and rubber boots, and be cautious when cleaning up.

  • Throw out items that absorb water and cannot be cleaned or disinfected. This includes mattresses, carpeting, stuffed animals and baby toys.
  • Discard all food, beverages and medicine exposed to floodwaters and mud. When in
    doubt, throw it out.

Download the free Red Cross Emergency App for real-time weather alerts, open shelters and expert advice on floods.

  • The Emergency App includes an “I’m Safe” feature that helps people check on loved ones.
  • Search “American Red Cross” in app stores, or go to redcross.org/apps.

Emergency Apps

To learn more from the National Weather Service on what types of flooding are typical in Alaska, visit weather.gov/safety/flood-states-ak.

To read more Red Cross flood safety tips to help keep you and your family safe this spring, please visit redcross.org/flood.

Red Cross of Alaska Disaster Action Team Summit 2020

By Angela R. Wilson/American Red Cross of Alaska

Many Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) members from across the state traveled to Anchorage to attend the first Alaska Region DAT Summit on February 8 and 9.

IMG_2738

The training was established to ensure a stronger foundation and communication base for DAT members across Alaska. The directives addressed new techniques and the revising of others; building DAT relationships throughout Alaska; putting a face to a voice; getting clarity on issues; in-depth stages for participating in active support; preparedness efforts; and supervising and delegating support to others when in need. The Summit also addressed being able to understand the spectrum of what ‘DAT’ means and what is expected during disasters.

IMG_0880

When the Red Cross answers a call of duty, many think they only assist in shelter and food. But, that is a misconception. The Red Cross offers, when necessary, shelter, meals and snacks, clothing, eyeglasses and replacement medications, connection with other family members or friends, Disaster Health and Mental Health Services, Spiritual Care and more.

IMG_2776During the Summit, participants were happy to learn that there are now more options than ever to offer those who’ve been through a disaster, such as Mental Health and Spiritual Care services, which are more “person” focused and require deep compassion towards others.

Mrs. Rosita Wilburn is the Spiritual Care Lead for the Alaska Region. Wilburn stated that she wanted to give back to her community, so when she found the need for a Spiritual Care volunteer at the Red Cross, she was hooked. “I knew it was for me,” she said.

IMG_0900

Wilburn met the high standards of guidelines before being accepted to the intense training of the Red Cross to become a Spiritual Care volunteer. When asked how to detach one’s self from their own beliefs to assist a mass population with spiritual care, Wilburn’s response was, “I have to be true to my own belief while being open to other beliefs. I make it a point to listen and connect those in disasters to their spiritual contact if they want to speak to someone of their faith.” Participants of the Summit found the option of Spiritual Care welcoming.

Spiritual Care and Mental Health were among a number of other topics that stood out during the Summit, like the word “communication.”  Communication was a clear core factor in the courses. The DAT members learned more about communicating with first responders from other organizations, their local fire and police departments, medical facilities, media and even among themselves.

Knowing who will respond to a disaster is paramount because the DAT members then know what resources to activate for that disaster. Such communication allows for better usage of resources and time. Building stronger communication skills helps in building a stronger foundation to successfully assist in any disaster.

If you want to learn more about the Red Cross, please visit redcross.org/Alaska or contact us at 907-646-5401.

Photos by Angela R. Wilson, Connie Black & Suzanne Eldridge/American Red Cross of Alaska