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 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

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

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 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 or 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

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


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 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

Emergency Apps

To learn more from the National Weather Service on what types of flooding are typical in Alaska, visit

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

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.


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.


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.


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 or contact us at 907-646-5401.

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

Willow Creek Flood Response: One Month Later

By Connie Black/American Red Cross of Alaska

We want to thank our amazing team of Mat-Su Red Cross volunteers for springing into action one month ago today to provide assistance to local residents that were impacted by the Willow Creek ice jam and flooding disaster just before midnight on December 21, 2019. We were honored to help the community and to support the first responders on scene, including the Mat-Su Borough, Mat-Su Emergency Services, Willow and Caswell Fire Departments and the Mat-Su Water Rescue Team.

As Willow resident, Red Cross volunteer nurse and Willow CERT member Brenda McCain said, “I was very impressed that so many Red Cross volunteers could be called up to Willow to open a shelter at midnight in December!”


Within one hour of activation, our Red Cross volunteers had opened an evacuation and warming shelter at the Willow Community Center. Over the course of two weeks, over 20 Red Cross volunteers located throughout the Mat-Su Valley helped staff the community center – which was used as a hub to provide a safe place to warm up, relax and recover for affected residents and first responders alike.

“I feel that I can speak for the community in saying that the presence of the Red Cross and the safety net that was provided was truly necessary and appreciated,” McCain said.

From December 21-30, Red Cross volunteers also served more than 485 meals and snacks like sandwiches and hot soup both to those affected by this disaster, and to responders like the Mat-Su Water Rescue Team and local fire fighters as they rested and regrouped following many hours spent looking after those affected and delivering supplies to those that needed them, often under very difficult circumstances.

“The image of the dozen red-faced [water rescue] team members sitting on the floor of the [community center] hallway with their brightly-colored dry suits still wet up to their thighs, stays with me,” McCain said.

After working in temperatures that reached 15 degrees below zero and walking through knee-deep (or higher) water with ice chunks flowing with the current, all were exhausted and appreciative that the center was open, staffed, and providing hot food and drinks, for everyone.


“It was wonderful to get to know many of the team better,” McCain said. “I feel honored to be associated with the Red Cross and this great group of Mat-Su Valley volunteers.”

Thank you to our Red Cross of Alaska Mat-Su team for a job well done! We’re proud of you!

Emergency preparedness: Is your pet prepared for the next disaster?

By Renee Bossart/American Red Cross of Alaska

Do you have an emergency plan and kit for your pet when a disaster strikes? We love our pets and want them to be safe, so when updating or creating an emergency supply kit, remember to create one for your pets, too! It will be one less thing to do during a stressful time.

Alaskans know it is essential to have emergency supplies for their families. Many of us have faced disasters, and some of us have even had to leave our homes during one. Having emergency kits that we can load and go reduces the time it takes to leave our homes during a disaster, and we’re a little more comfortable knowing we are ready to go if we need to. If you have to leave your home, most likely, your pet needs to go, too. Have you thought of everything you need to take for your pet?

Extra food, water and bowls: Have a supply of food on hand – enough to get you through a couple of days until you can get more. If you end up using donated food that is a different brand, you can introduce the new brand of food by mixing it with the remaining pet food from your emergency kit. They will also need water, so be sure to include pet drinking water when you are storing water away for the family. Don’t forget to pack extra bowls for food and water, too.

animal shelter 1
Photo by Connie Black/American Red Cross of Alaska

Extra leash, tie-downs and collar with tags: Be sure to bring an extra leash, collar and tie-downs to secure your dog or other pets during an emergency.

shelter 15 redcross
Photo by Ralph Radford/American Red Cross of Alaska

Litter, litter box and plastic disposal bags: Consider your pet’s toileting needs. If your pet uses a litter box, be sure to include a box and extra litter, or if your pet toilets outside, bring their leash and bags to pick up their waste with.

Veterinarian records and prescriptions: Vaccination and veterinarian records should be kept with your other essential documents, but consider saving a copy of their current shots and rabies vaccine in their kit. Also, have the name of the veterinarian and their contact information in case you need to get emergency help and retrieve more information. If your pet was prescribed medication for the long term, ask your veterinarian for an extra prescription of it so you can add it to your pet’s emergency supply kit.

Texas Floods 2019

Pet identification: Register, license, and microchip your pets with the appropriate organizations. Keep their tags on their collars and the information updated. Make sure they wear their rabies tag, a tag with your contact information, and consider including their microchip tag. Stress can be high for everyone involved during a disaster, including our animals. If they choose to run away, these items will assist in reuniting you with your pets quickly.

Pet kennels, crates and toys: Kennels and crates are the safest way to transport your pets, even inside of a vehicle. These can also provide your animal with a measure of comfort when everything around them is changing. Kennels can be a safe and private space for your pet during a difficult time. Putting a blanket and durable toy inside can help them feel at home. Another comfort item you can add is something that smells like you. If you wear perfume or cologne every day, you can spray that scent on a stuffed toy or their blanket, or give them a piece of your clothing. These are especially helpful if you have to be away from them for a length of time.

Hurricane Harvey 2017

Hurricane Harvey 2017

Pet-friendly hotels and pet sitters: Keep a list of hotels that allow pets to stay, as well as a list of family or friends that are willing to care for your pet if you are unable to for any reason.

Animal shelter: During a disaster check with your local shelter to see what services they are offering. They may have food donations and pet accessories available or may be able to fulfill other needs that your pet may have. If you are separated from your pet during a disaster, be sure to contact the animal shelter. Animal Control and other animal welfare groups work hard to get pets out of danger and will take them to the animal shelter to wait for their owners.

If you need to go to a Red Cross shelter, service animals are welcome. Please bring your own crate, pet supplies, pet medications and food, when possible. While Red Cross shelters only allow service animals to stay inside with their handlers, the Red Cross works with local animal welfare groups to ensure that shelter residents and others in the community have a safe place nearby to take pets during a disaster.

Hurricane Florence 2018

American Red Cross Pet First Aid App: To help you remember all of these details, the American Red Cross has a free mobile phone app called Pet First Aid. It offers critical first aid information for your pet. You can also build a profile for each of your pets with their photo, program your veterinarian’s contact information, find pet-friendly hotels, and get more tips for making your pet’s emergency supply kit.


We love our pets like family, so let’s prepare them for an emergency as we do with our own family. Think about what your pet would want and need if they had to stay outside of your home for a few days. That way, if disaster does hit, everyone in your family is ready for it.

Service to the Armed Forces program in Fairbanks welcomes fourth Dental Assistant Training Program cohort

By Brian Trinh/American Red Cross of Alaska

The American Red Cross of Alaska Service to the Armed Forces program in Fairbanks will kick off classes for its fourth Dental Assistant Training Program (DATP) cohort on January 8, 2020. This program has been instrumental in developing qualified individuals to fill key positions at various military treatment facilities across the state.

The Dental Assistant Training Program is a tuition-free, 6 month program covering 720-740 hours of training, including four weeks of didactic training, followed by five months of supervised practice. The program provides a great mixture of classroom education, hands-on training and real-world experience. Training classes are held Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and at the culmination of the program, each trainee is evaluated, graduates, and is provided with a letter of reference to jump-start their new-found career!

2019 Dental Assistant Program Graduation
Students attend the 2019 Dental Assistant Training Program graduation in Fairbanks, AK.

According to the American Dental Association, dental assistants perform many tasks requiring both interpersonal and technical skills, which are invaluable to the support of the the entire dental care team in the workplace. While practice varies by state, dental assistants’ responsibilities may include tasks like using and sterilizing dental instruments, charting patient information, taking X-rays and dental impressions, communicating with patients and suppliers, teaching patients appropriate oral hygiene strategies, providing comfort and care to patients before, during and after dental treatment, and more.

The training program is selective and only a handful of applicants are able to participate each year. Candidates are narrowed down through an interview process. To be eligible for DATP, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Be at least 18 years or older
  • Be a military spouse or dependent
  • Complete at least 20 hours of volunteer work with the Red Cross or any organization that utilizes the Volunteer Information Management System (VMIS)
  • Be able to pass an extensive background check

For more information on this year’s Dental Assistant Training Program and future programs, follow the Red Cross of Alaska on Facebook and Twitter; check out information about our Service to the Armed Forces program on our website, or contact Stephanie Pflugrad, Service to the Armed Forces Program Specialist in the Far North and Interior, at or (907) 444-9529.

Development SAF Stock Photography Project 2018

Red Cross of Alaska Service to the Armed Forces locations:

Ft. Wainwright
3601 Santiago Ave, Suite 215
Fort Wainwright, AK 99703

Ft. Wainwright – Bassett Army Community Hospital
2nd Floor-Inside HR 4076 Neely Rd
Fort Wainwright, AK 99703

Eielson Air Force Base
BLDG 3112 – Basement Level-Amber Hall Broadway Ave
Eielson AFB, AK 99702

Fort Greely
661 Arctic Ave, Suite 106B
Fort Greely, AK 99731

JBER Hospital
5955 Zeamer Ave Mailing: 673d MDG, 2B-107
JBER, AK 99506

Region Headquarters
235 E. 8th Ave, Suite 200
Anchorage, AK 99501

Southeast Territory Office
5636 Glacier Hwy
Juneau, AK 99801

Red Cross Offers Tips to Stay Safe This Season

Cold weather and the holiday season often bring an increase in home fires across Alaska. Heating equipment is a leading cause of home fires overall, unattended cooking is the most common cause of kitchen fires, and decorations like trees, lights and candles increase the risk of home fires during the holidays. The Red Cross of Alaska reminds everyone to be cautious this season and offers the following tips on home heating, cooking and holiday decorating safety.



  • All heating equipment needs at least three feet of space. Keep away children, pets and things that can burn, such as paper, matches, bedding, furniture, clothing, carpets and rugs.
  • If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface. Don’t place it on rugs and carpets, or near bedding and curtains. Turn it off every time you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • Plug power cords directly into outlets and never into an extension cord.
  • Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.


pie baking jana
Photo by Ralph Radford/American Red Cross of Alaska

  • Clear the area around the stove before turning on the heat. Move items that can burn away from the stove, including towels, bags, boxes, paper and curtains.
  • Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the stove and turn pot handles to the back of the stove, so no one bumps them or pulls them over. Download the American Red Cross First Aid App and review how to treat burns ahead of time.
  • Keep an eye on what you fry. Stay in the kitchen, use a timer to remind yourself that the stove or oven is on, and never leave cooking food unattended. If you must leave the kitchen, even for a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • Check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving home to ensure all stoves, ovens and small appliances are turned off.


ak fireworks 14 - Photo credit Ralph Radford
Photo by Ralph Radford/American Red Cross of Alaska

  • When decorating outside, make sure decorations are for outdoor use and fasten lights securely. If using hooks or nails outside, make sure they are insulated to avoid an electrocution or fire hazard.
  • Use battery-operated candles when possible. If you must use candles, never leave them unattended, keep them away from anything that could burn, and place them out of reach of children and pets.
  • Check all holiday light cords to make sure they aren’t frayed or broken. Don’t string too many strands of lights together — no more than three per extension cord.
  • Turn off all holiday lights when going to bed or leaving the house.

Home fires take more lives each year than all other natural disasters in the U.S. combined, and fire experts agree that you may have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home. In addition to heating, cooking and decorating precautions, you can help your family stay safe by practicing your home fire escape plan at least twice a year until everyone can escape in two minutes or less, and by testing your smoke alarms monthly.

For more free home fire safety resources, visit or download the free Red Cross Emergency App by searching for “American Red Cross” in mobile phone app stores.

One Year Later: Red Cross Reflects on Nov. 30 Earthquake Response

The 7.1 magnitude earthquake that occurred on Nov. 30, 2018 reminds us of the seriousness of where we live, the resiliency of our communities, and just how quickly we come together in times of crisis.

The Red Cross of Alaska was on the ground immediately following the earthquake, providing support to those in need, and because of the dedication of our government and nonprofit partners, the power of our volunteers and the generosity of donors, our response efforts were and continue to be truly community-based efforts – neighbors helping neighbors.


“It’s hard to believe the big earthquake was a year ago,” said Red Cross of Alaska Regional Disaster Officer, Kelley McGuirk. “I’m proud of our swift response, and our team’s ability to get much needed assistance to residents with major damages to their homes so quickly. The earthquake was unprecedented and our team did a great job of following the training they have, but also being flexible to meet the needs of those affected.”

Red Cross Response: By the Numbers

In the days, weeks and months following the Nov. 30 earthquake and ensuing aftershocks, the Red Cross:

  • Mobilized 144 Red Cross disaster workers from Alaska and the lower 48 to assist those affected
  • Provided 230 overnight stays in Red Cross shelters in Anchorage, Eagle River and Wasilla
  • Served more than 2,237 meals and snacks alongside nonprofit partners
  • Made nearly 350 individual care contacts to support residents’ first aid and mental health needs
  • Assessed damage in 680 homes affected by the earthquake using the Red Cross Collect app
  • Opened 161 cases and provided immediate financial assistance to more than 494 residents who suffered major earthquake damage through the Red Cross recovery casework process


Preparing for the Next Earthquake

The anniversary of the 7.1 earthquake also serves as a reminder of the importance of being ready when disaster strikes. Although this major earthquake is now nearly a year behind us, it is crucial that we be prepared for the next big one. According to the Alaska Earthquake Center and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), Alaska is the most seismically active state in the country, and three of the seven largest earthquakes in the 20th century have taken place here. The Red Cross offers some tips to ensure you and your family are prepared when the ground shakes beneath us again:

  • Talk about earthquakes with your family so that everyone knows what to do long before an earthquake strikes. Discussing ahead of time helps reduce fear, particularly for younger children.
  • Check your workplace and your children’s schools and day care centers to learn about their earthquake emergency plans.
  • Pick safe places in each room of your home, workplace and/or school. A safe place could be under a piece of furniture like a large table, or against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases or tall furniture that could fall on you.
  • Practice DROP, COVER and HOLD ON in each safe place.
  • Make sure you have access to local weather radio broadcasts and download the free Red Cross Emergency App from your mobile phone app store.
  • Prepare your family’s emergency kit and store it in an easy-to-carry container. Include items like a gallon of water per person, per day; non-perishable food; a flashlight and hand-crank or battery-powered radio; extra batteries; sanitation and personal hygiene items; copies of important documents; extra cash and any medical or baby supplies family members may need.

What You Can Do

VOLUNTEER: Within hours of the Nov. 30 earthquake, Red Cross volunteer disaster workers had fanned out across the affected areas, offering comfort, shelter, relief supplies and warm meals to those affected by the initial earthquake and the aftershocks that followed. Volunteers like these touch lives in the community every day and comprise more than 90 percent of the Red Cross workforce. They are the heart and soul of the Red Cross and represent every age, gender, religion, race and ethnicity. Those that would like to join us and become a part of our tradition of helping Alaskan families since 1917 can visit and click on “Apply Now” to fill out a volunteer application and get started.


DOWNLOAD: The American Red Cross Emergency App can help keep you and your loved ones safe by putting vital information in your hands for more than 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts. Download the free app by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ in your mobile phone app store, texting GETEMERGENCY to 90999, or by visiting


DONATE: The Red Cross responds to more than 62,000 disasters every year, including home fires and major disasters like earthquakes and wildfires. You can help people affected by countless crises by donating to Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. You can visit, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.