Monday, September 29, 2014

America's PrepareAthon! 2014

America's PrepareAthon! is an opportunity for individuals, organizations, and communities to prepare for emergencies through drills, group discussions, and exercises.

National PrepareAthon! Day is September 30 and it is designed to prompt us all to take the actions to prepare for these six specific hazards:

So what can you do as part of America’s PrepareAthon? The goal of this campaign is to increase the number of people and organizations who understand what disasters could happen in their community. Knowing what might happen helps understand how to prepare. We want people to know what they can do to be safe and how they can reduce the impact of emergencies.

Most importantly we want people to take action. Just do one thing to make you, your family, your school, your business or your organization better prepared. Just pick one of the steps toward making yourself “Red Cross Ready”. We are sure that completing one of the steps will lead to completing the other two and that will lead you to be better prepared.

Some other things you might consider as part of America’s PrepareAthon would be to work within your community or organization to set up preparedness events. Talk to your neighbors or coworkers about what they have done. You might plan a “preparedness party or potluck”. You could attend a neighborhood watch meeting and suggest getting a speaker to talk about preparedness. You could request a speaker from the American Red Cross to give the Be Red Cross Ready class to a group of neighbors or coworkers. You could attend the Be Red Cross Ready class offered by your local Red Cross chapter.

There are many ways to participate in America’s PrepareAthon and even more way to improve your preparedness. Check out FEMA’s PrepareAthon Web Site for a fact sheet and other ideas.

Most importantly, do something! Be Smart. Take Part. Prepare.  Don't wait until it is too late!

What Hazards Could Shutter Your Business?

By Jana Mathieson

If you’re a business owner or leader, you may have already thought through what you would do in case of a fire or a flood. You may have a great plan in place to ensure continuity of your business operations. But have you taken into consideration what would happen if the business two doors down suddenly exploded, or the gas station down the street had a hazardous leak?

Many businesses plan for emergencies, but if you don’t know what to plan for, how can you create a good plan?

Philip Niemer, Director of Operational Contingency and Emergency Management at Children’s Hospital Colorado (Children’s Colorado), thinks about emergencies every day.  

“What will close or seriously impede operations at the facility?” is the question he asks -- and looks to answer -- in his position at Children’sColorado.

In order to help answer this question, Niemer has developed a free Hazard Vulnerability Assessment (HVA) tool that has more than 120 items to be considered. Niemer started working on the tool because health care has no specific requirements for an HVA; what to include or how to complete an HVA is not outlined. Niemer realized that HVA requirements for other industries are also not specific, so he made the tool 100% customizable.

Businesses can use the tool created by Niemer to develop their own, fully customized Hazard Vulnerability Assessment. Users have control over the data, and can enter data and parameters that work in each industry and location.

Niemer recommends that businesses complete the assessment on an annual basis and focus on concerns that rise to the top. Each year, the list should change as plans are put in place to mitigate potential harm. “How well a business recovers from an emergency or disaster depends on a proactive approach before the emergency happens,” Niemer said. The HVA tool helps in this process.

The best thing about the tool? It is free. Absolutely free. Niemer wants it to be used and shared and improved upon by the people using it.

Niemer, along with Jerrod Milton, VP of Operations at Children’s Colorado, will be providing an overview of the tool and why doing an HVA is important, at the Rocky Mountain Business Preparedness Academy on September 30, 2014. All attendees at the Academy will receive the tool along with additional information about how to complete a Hazard Vulnerability Assessment.

To learn more and register for the Business Preparedness Academy, click here: The cost for the full day is $25.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

You Never Know Who Will Step Up and Help

Natalie Johnson
Director Manitou Springs Art District
By Jana Mathieson

In 2013, the city of Manitou Springs knew they could be in for flood trouble. They were right. Businesses and residents had been told in advance that flooding was possible. But what did that really mean? What it meant was that people could not be in their homes, businesses shut down and services were interrupted. And yet, the city survived -- thanks in part to people being prepared.

Natalie Johnson, Director of Manitou Springs Arts District, accidentally attended a preparedness training, and that turned out to be stroke of good fortune. She hadn’t planned on going, but the training was being held in her building and she decided to pop in upon discovering a bit of free time in her day. The training opened her eyes to the likely threats facing her community and her business. After the training, Johnson got nervous and bought weather radios, set up a communication plan and trained her staff. However, she really didn’t know how bad it would be.

During the floods, over 4,000 people were fed, 2,000 volunteers coordinated and City Hall was temporarily set up at the Arts District. “It was amazing how people stepped up, and during an emergency you learn that it doesn’t matter what your business is, you help the community,” Johnson said.

Johnson will be sharing her story and advice at a presentation at the Rocky Mountain Business Preparedness Academy on September 30, 2014. As part of a panel of flood survivors, she and other community members will talk about what they learned and how to prepare better.

“There is always more to learn, more to do,” Johnson said. “You have to let people help and be a part of the process.”

To learn more about the Business Preparedness Academy or to register, visit The cost is $25.

A flood recovery solution MacGyver would be proud of

By Patricia Billinger
Let’s play a game I’ll call “Name that tool.”
Take a look at this picture:

Now, I’ll give you three guesses what the wood thing in the trailer is used for.
…Nope, it’s not part of a house or for constructing a house.
…No, it’s not a fence of some sort.
….Not scaffolding, either, although that’s not far off.

Give up? It’s a bridge. And not just any bridge: this bridge is mobile; it’s in a trailer so that the Glen Haven community can take it anywhere it might be needed to provide access over rivers and streams that are otherwise currently impassible.

The mobile bridge was the brainchild of a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief visiting volunteer, who was here to help with flood relief efforts but who also happened to be a civil engineer. One of the many challenges facing communities recovering from the 2013 floods is that countless small bridges were damaged or destroyed during the floods, eliminating crucial access points to homes and property on the other side of waterways.

The civil engineer got to work designing a bridge that could be easily assembled, disassembled, and moved – providing an alternative to the more costly and time-consuming solution of constructing more durable bridges. The Red Cross purchased the materials for the bridge, and a team of Southern Baptist Convention volunteers constructed it in a single day.

Most recently, Glen Haven leaders were putting the bridge to use on a section of the North Fork river to enable access forest service land along highway 43 so they can clean up flood debris that was washed downstream.

“The bridge that the Southern Baptists built, that’s been quite a Godsend because it has helped us help the forest service clean up non-organic debris downstream,” said Dave Johnson, president of the Glen Haven Association. He said the clean-up effort has allowed Glen Haven residents to retrieve a variety of items that washed downstream during the flood, such as “artifacts, merchandise, private property, a section of a table – we even found a complete roof of one of our buildings,” he said.

“A lot of that debris is from Glen Haven, so we’re able to get things back that belong to downtown Glen Haven,” said Linda Lambert of the Glen Haven Fire Department, which is managing the use of the bridge. “They’re pretty happy to have it back because I know, in [one business owner’s] case, it’s all she has left of her house and business.”

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Red Cross Volunteers Saving Lives with Home Fire Safety Campaign

A warm Saturday morning and Pueblo volunteers got an early start in their effort to canvas neighborhoods on the southeast side. The canvassing is part of an effort to provide free smoke alarms in areas that have had a history of fatalities caused by home fires. The Pueblo volunteers partnered with volunteers from Loaf’N Jug to go door-to-door to let people know the importance of smoke alarms and how people can get free alarms installed just by making a phone call.

Canvassing team L-R Peggy McCowen, Bob McCowen,
Bob Russel. Loaf'nJug volunteers Charles Ghan and
Jody Hale
Barbara Shufelt is the Disaster Program Specialist for the Red Cross in Pueblo and did the coordination for the canvassing effort. “Our goal is to save lives,” Shufelt said. “The Pueblo Fire Department has joined the Red Cross in this effort. They have the smoke alarms and we are helping with the safety education piece.”

Volunteer Bob Russell(r) talks with Bill Santistevan in Pueblo
about home fire safety and free smoke alarms
The smoke alarm project is part of a national multi-year campaign by the American Red Cross hoping to reduce lives caused by home fires. Research has shown that having multiple working smoke alarms in your home will improve your chances of surviving a home fire by fifty percent.

Bill Santistevan, who lives on 5th Street in Pueblo, met the volunteers on his front porch with a welcome smile. He has one smoke alarm in his home but knows he should have more. “I have trouble hearing so with only one smoke alarm I might not hear it,” Santistevan said. “This will help me a lot because I can’t afford to buy more.” Safety information and information about how to contact the Pueblo Fire Department were provided to him and he vowed to call the Pueblo Fire Department that same day.

Peggy McCowen(r) hands safety information to Janet Wilson
while canvassing for home fire safety in Pueblo
During the canvassing they also met with Janet Wilson, director of the OTR-Foundation that is working to improve the neighborhood. Janet was happy to see the Red Cross going door-to-door in the neighborhood and added, “I know that these people will appreciate what you are trying to do to make them a little safer.” Janet agreed to spread the word about the free smoke alarm campaign.

The Pueblo volunteers will be canvassing again on Saturday, October 4. They will team up again with additional Loaf’N Jug volunteers to cover a larger area. “This is a multi-year project and we have a lot of territory to cover,” Shufelt said. “We’ll do it house-by-house and street-by-street and hopefully save lives in the process.”

To learn more about home fire safety go online to To be part of the home fire safety campaign become a Red Cross volunteer.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Most Important Practice-Makes-Perfect Scenario in Your Life?

By Jana Mathieson
Everyone knows that if you don’t practice before a big game, chances are that you won’t do as well as if you had practiced. Superstars in sports, world-class musicians, orators, and more all practice their craft well before they perform.

The same holds true for business preparedness. Sure, all the pieces are in place -- from the MOU and MAA to the communications plan and IT backup -- but how do you know it will all work when an emergency or disaster strikes? Have you practiced your plan?

David Greenhouse, Business Continuity Manager at Mercury System and Red Cross Preparedness expert, wants to help you practice to your plan. Greenhouse will present a table top exercise at the Rocky Mountain Business Preparedness Academy on September 30, 2014. He has done this exercise for many communities and companies, including the Mile High Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Greenhouse has seen incidents where preparedness succeeds in keeping businesses and communities alive and incidents where lack of preparedness has caused the downfall of communities. Greenhouse pointed to Joplin, MO, as an example where planning and preparedness paid off. Only a few years after their community was devastated by a tornado, they are nearly completely recovered. On the other side is New Orleans, Greenhouse said, where leaders waited and didn’t enact their plan; years later, some residents still have not returned and the community has not recovered.

Greenhouse wants people to be able to think about the possible scenarios that could happen and plan appropriately. That might mean planning for loss of site, loss of technology, and unavailability of staff, to name a few. “If we can practice our plans, we can see where there are holes and then the fix them,” said Greenhouse.

If you haven’t practiced --or even mad -- your emergency plans, get hands-on training and advice from Greenhouse and other preparedness experts at the Business Preparedness Academy. The cost is only $25 and you can register here:

Does Your Business Have the Tools Needed for Disaster Recovery?

By Jana Mathieson

 “You can pay me now or you can pay me later.”
 -1980s FRAM Oil Filter Commercial

Sooner or later, there comes a day when we may have to pay. How much a business suffers during an emergency or disaster could depend on what plans are in place before the disaster strikes. What would you do if your employees could not get to work? What happens during a disaster, such as the 2013 floods?

What about a theft or fire? How would your business cope? There are many tools available to help businesses prepare for disasters and emergencies. Jim Krugman, Emergency Training and Exercise Coordinator for the Mayor’s office, City and County of Denver, will be discussing two of these tools at the Red Cross Business Preparedness Academy on Sept. 30, 2014.

The MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) and the MAA (Mutual Aid Agreement) can benefit businesses if they are put in place ahead of an emergency. “You can either accept risk, avoid risk, transfer risk or mitigate risk,” Krugman said. “It is important to have your business understand which is the best route to go and have plans in place.”

Some leaders only think of their company, Krugman noted, but supply chains and other parts of businesses can also be affected by disasters. Understanding and getting a little help from friends and neighbors is key for some businesses to survive.

Krugman has worked for years putting together plans and using tools to mitigate the cost of disasters. During his presentation at the Business Preparedness Academy, he will share his experiences, provide training and direction, and have attendees participate so they can have an edge in risk mitigation. To find out more and to register for the Business Preparedness Academy, visit

Monday, September 15, 2014

Wednesday Lunch & Learn: The Logistical Challenges of Refugee Resettlement

From the physical feat of crossing borders to the ongoing work of reconnecting with family members and learning the culture of their new countries, refugee resettlement is a process comprised of thousands of small tasks and many large ones. Thankfully, there are organizations who ensure that the families and individuals fleeing violence and natural disaster don’t face these challenges alone. The United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, or the UNHCR, has been a resource for tens of millions of refugees since its inception in 1950. At this Wednesday’s International Services Lunch and Learn event, two speakers, Pilar Robledo and Jeremy Harker, will discuss their work with the UNHCR to safeguard the rights of displaced persons and offer resources to refugees as they begin a new life in a new homeland.
The UNHCR, founded in 1950, offers resources
for refugees as a global agency of the United Nations.

Pilar Robledo came to the UNHCR following her Peace Corps engagement in Kyrgyzstan. After working as a consultant to other organizations under the umbrella of the UN, Robledo interviewed with the UNHCR and was asked to begin work on a survey to identify the educational needs of Afghan refugees staying in Pakistan. Her work was to focus on some of the most insecure areas of the country, and would be conducted in the midst of conflict and natural disasters in the region.

“After two years of planning, one month before our fieldwork and data collection began, Pakistan faced a devastating flood, and 1 million homes were destroyed and 20 million people were displaced or affected” She said. “We had to reroute many of the target districts, and still maintain the representativeness of the survey.”

Jeremy Harker, whose work with the UNHCR began with an internship in Ecuador and focused on refugee populations in Latin and South America, says that in some ways, managing programs for refugees is similar to program management in the for-profit world, but there are also significant differences in what considerations need to be made.

“In [a refugee resettlement] environment, you mostly run a program as you would otherwise, but working with refugees, especially in a country like Ecuador which borders Colombia, where most of the people have fled from, you do have to have some sensitivity to their culture and specific challenges,” he said. “Refugees are affected in all sorts of ways. If someone has PTSD, for example, you need to make sure their resettlement program doesn’t cause them harm, whether through thing’s they’re exposed to or the people within they’re working with.” Through his talk at the Lunch and Learn, Harkey hopes to help others better understand the plight of refugees abroad.

“I hope that those who attend will come away with a better grasp on what those fleeing their countries of origin have gone through,” he said. “Both in terms of the drivers of having to leave a home country but also the programs and different international organizations, like the UNHCR and the Red Cross who help them along the way. Robledo hopes that Lunch & Learn attendees will better understand that the United States is in a privileged position to help international refugees find safety and settlement after escaping from affected areas.

“When people want to come to the United States and live here because they can prosper, we should be proud that we are a country that can offer that to the most vulnerable populations on earth,” she said.

“When people want to come to the United States and live here because they can prosper, we should be proud that we are a country that can offer that to the most vulnerable populations on earth,” she said.

The Lunch & Learn lecture will be presented Wednesday, Sept. 17, from noon to 1 p.m. at the American Red Cross, 444 Sherman St. RSVPs are requested by 12 p.m. Monday, Sept. 15, to Tim Bothe at Webinar options are also available for remote audiences. For more information, contact Tim Bothe.

Friday, September 5, 2014

My Red Cross Story: Four Generations of Red Cross Volunteering

Brinley Broomfield (L) and her mom, Sally Broomfield
at the Pikes Peak Chapter. Photo by Bill Fortune
By Sally Broomfield

See that beautiful girl on the left? That’s my daughter. (Yes, I am biased). Her name is Brinley, she is 16 years old, and she just earned Volunteer of the Month at the Pikes Peak Chapter of the American Red Cross.

I’m over there on the right, Sally Broomfield, Disaster Program Manager for that same chapter.

The one you don’t see is my son, Nick. He is 19 years old, an FSI and Volunteer Services Volunteer with us, but he’s camera shy.
You know what else you can’t see in this picture? The four generations of my family who have volunteered with the Red Cross.

As World War II raged, American men and women rallied to the cause of freedom, left their homes and traveled overseas to fight or volunteer for their country. On the home front, nearly everyone played some sort of role to support the war effort. With so many of our young men and women deployed, gaps were left in factories, civic duties and hospitals. With two young children at home, Dorothy Mae Whitmarsh Bean, Brinley’s great-grandmother, could not go overseas, so she did what she could from American shores. She joined the American Red Cross and volunteered her time as a nurse’s aide in a local hospital. Her eight year old daughter, Elizabeth, contributed to the war effort by fixing the meals for the household, and taking care of the housework.
Fast forward to 1955. Brinley’s grandmother, Elizabeth, is now a Navy wife stationed in Hawaii with a young son. With time on her hands, a tradition of volunteerism behind her and a teacher by training, she naturally gravitates to helping and instructing others. She becomes a Red Cross Water Safety Instructor!

Brinley’s history of volunteerism comes from both sides of the family tree. In 1974, her other grandmother, Hilda Fountain, retired from a career as a social worker and began to volunteer with the American Red Cross at High Point Regional Hospital in North Carolina. At the time, she was 66 years old. Thirty-seven years later, when she retired from volunteering at the age of 102, the hospital created an award for volunteer service and named it after her.

Brinley’s mother, that would be me, came next. I started volunteering as a Government Liaison with the Pikes Peak Chapter of the American Red Cross in 2012, one week before the worst wildfire in Colorado history hit our town. The next year, we got hit again by another wildfire, which surpassed the previous year’s fire, and while we were still reeling from that fire, we were hit by flood after flood after flood. I became the Disaster Program Manager in 2013, and when Brinley and her brother Nick came home from college this past summer, they became the fourth generation of our family to volunteer for the Red Cross.

Am I proud? Darn right! Red Cross is like family to me, and to have my own family a part of such a great and noble tradition means the world to me.

Red Cross Joins in Commemorating One-Year Anniversary of 2013 Floods

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the historic floods that devastated several Colorado counties in 2013, we have an opportunity to commemorate the event and join with thousands of our fellow Coloradans in remembering those whose lives were forever altered, thanking the heroes who saved lives and tirelessly provided aid, and recognizing that for many, the long road to recovery is far from complete.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, along with the Colorado Recovery Office and Serve Colorado, selected Saturday, September 13, as Colorado United Day in commemoration of the 2013 Floods. This is designated as a day of service that recognizes the strength and resilience of all Coloradans and offers an opportunity to again join together in service.

The Red Cross will join in commemorating the one-year anniversary by participating in several events that are planned for Colorado United Day.

Cyclists for Lyons - Three fundraising races/rides will be taking place
-Red Cross will host a water station and preparedness information display and
 provide ponchos, in partnership with Lyons Strong, in case of rain

St. Vrain Moving Forward - Playground building in St. Vrain Valley Park
-Red Cross will host a water station and preparedness information display

Salina Community Event - A “meditative walk through the trees” and lunch
-Red Cross will be participate in this event along with the Salina community

Evans Picnic -Commemorative party to be held in Evans
-Red Cross will participate in these events along with the Evans community

Jamestown Community Celebration -Red Cross will fund and participate in an emotional resilience art project

In addition to commemorating the 2013 floods on September 13, the Red Cross will continue to provide support for flood recovery. During late September and early October the Red Cross will host a series of CPR/AED and First Aid classes for residents and emergency responders in Lyons, Estes Park, Nederland and Ward.  These towns were virtually cut off from emergency support during the floods and members of their community determined these classes would improve medical response should that ever happen again.

Also this fall, the Red Cross will provide funds for radio/communications equipment to shore up the emergency communications capabilities of towns like Gold Hill, Big Elk and Pinewood - allowing them to purchase and install radios, pagers, repeaters and other equipment vital for communicating during disasters, when traditional communications infrastructure may be down or hindered.

There are many activities planned to commemorate the 2013 floods. If you would like to volunteer or participate in an event please visit the Serve Colorado web site for a clickable map with links to organizations needing volunteers.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

2013 Colorado Floods: Looking Back One Year Later

by Bill Fortune
One year after the historic floods that affected a third of Colorado’s counties, the American Red Cross continues to help individuals and communities.

Our hearts go out to the people and communities who have suffered from the devastating floods. We know it has been hard and we are still with you all the way.

Our volunteers and employees have been working diligently since the night before the floods struck to provide safety, comfort, care and aid to those affected. To commemorate the anniversary of these devastating floods, we thought it would be interesting to look back through the stories and information that we have shared over the past 12 months.

The following are links to stories on our Colorado Red Cross blog. We hope that as you browse these articles, you will witness the commitment and compassion of our dedicated Red Cross volunteers as they’ve served people affected by the2013 Colorado Floods. You will also see the hardships that those people endured and the strength of their character as they continue the long road to recovery.

Affected by 2013 Floods? Red Cross Help Still Available

One year after historic floods affected a third of Colorado’s counties, the American Red Cross continues to help individuals and communities affected by the 2013 floods.

If you were displaced or your home was destroyed or heavily damaged during the floods, you may still qualify for help from the Red Cross for things such as:
  • Gas 
  • Cisterns/Cistern refill or associated costs
  • Heating units/propane 
  • Beds/Mattresses 
  • Rental/Security Assistance 
  • Storage 
  • Mold remediation 
  • Furniture Replacement 
  • Emotional Support 

How do I get Red Cross help?
The best way to access help from various agencies – including the Red Cross – is to work with a case manager from a Long-Term Flood Recovery Group. Your case manager will have access to a wide variety of resources that can assist you in your recovery, and can help you navigate the processes and requirements to access that assistance.

If you have not yet spoken with a case manager, you can start by calling one of the following numbers based on where you lived at the time of the floods:
  • Boulder County: 303-442-2178 
  • Larimer County: 970-461-2222 
  • Weld County: 970-590-8401 
  • All other counties: 844-531-2345 
Your case manager will help you access Red Cross assistance. If you are experiencing difficulties or have additional questions, you can also contact our Call Center at 888-635-6381, Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. If you are calling after hours, please leave a message. The Call Center will be active until Nov. 21, 2014.