Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Resolutions - Lifesaving Habits

by Mary Urban

When most people mention they are making resolutions for the New Year, images of strenuous exercise or improving eating habits come to mind. Change is difficult; by mid-February resolve to transcend into a state of fresh routines is forgotten, and we cast aside our determination to choose steamed broccoli over French fries.

But developing lasting, beneficial habits can also include home safety. Preparing for hazardous weather conditions, power outages, or taking precautions against home fires can bring peace of mind, empowerment, and save lives. Winter months mean greater usage of space heaters, fireplaces, furnaces, and even candles. Every eight minutes, the Red Cross responds to a disaster – and the vast majority of these are home fires.

Here are some quick safety tips:

Cooking Fires 

We can be easily distracted by visitors and loved-ones while cooking holiday dinners—fires from cooking are the No. 1 cause of home fires and home fire injuries.

  • Consider purchasing a fire extinguisher to keep in your kitchen. 
  • Never leave the room when food is cooking on stove-top. 


  • Place candles where they cannot be reached or knocked over by pets or children. 
  • Extinguishing all candles before leaving a room. 

Home Heating

Nearly half of American families use alternative heating sources such as space heaters, fireplaces, or wood/coal stoves to stay warm.

  • Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended. 
  • Keep bedding, curtains, etc. at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces. 
  • Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, and furnaces professionally inspected and cleaned once a year. 

Smoke Alarms/Escape Plan 

  • Make sure all family members know at least two ways to escape from every room of your home. Always include pets in your escape plan. 
  • Smoke alarms should be tested monthly and batteries replaced yearly. A low battery warning usually sounds like a “chirping” noise. 
  • Smoke alarms wear out. Replace your alarms every 10 years. Keep smoke alarms clean by vacuuming over and around it regularly. Dust and debris can interfere with its operation. 
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms as well. If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. 

Power Outages 

In heavy snow, neighborhoods with tall trees and above-ground power lines can increase chances of power outages. For prolonged power outages, there are steps you can take to minimize food loss and keep members of your household as comfortable as possible.

  • An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold for about four hours. 
  • A full freezer will keep its temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed. 
  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove, or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home. 
  • Keep bottled water on hand—one gallon per person, per day. 

For a comprehensive home and disaster safety list, visit the Red Cross website.

Scheduling time each month with your family to focus on just one aspect of preparedness can be a liberating and lifesaving habit, providing tools to empower all household members. Happy and safe New Year, and may all your resolutions last!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Tidings of Comfort and Joy for Our Military Veterans

By Bill Fortune

The sacrifice that has been made by those who have served in our Armed Forces is immeasurable but deeply appreciated. During the holiday season the American Red Cross expresses that appreciation across the nation through our Holiday Mail for Heroes program. Across the country people get together to sign cards, some of which are handmade, wrap gifts and then deliver to active duty service members around the globe.

Our military veterans are also part of that effort. The cards are personalized and delivered to many of our nation's veterans homes, hospitals, service center and medical centers in an effort to show our appreciation for what they did to protect our freedom.

In Colorado cards were delivered to our veterans across the state by Red Cross Service to Armed Forces staff and volunteers and by our Red Cross youth clubs with the hope of spreading some holiday cheer.

Spanning the Generations
Students from Monte Vista Red Cross Club bring
joy to veterans at the Colorado State Veterans
Center-Homelake. Photo by Bill Werner
Students from Monte Vista 7th grade Red Cross Youth Club put on their holiday smiles and delivered cards and gifts to veterans at the Colorado State Veterans Center-Homelake, near Monte Vista. The students were given the names of their resident ahead of time so that they could get appropriate gifts and make personal cards. One student dressed as Santa and handed out gifts while other students spent time talking with each of the veterans. Bill Werner, Disaster Program Manager for southwest Colorado said it all with, “Hugs, smiles and tears were everywhere.”

SAF volunters and students from Red Cross Youth Clubs
brought comfort and joy to the Grand Junction
 VA medical center. Photo by Eric Myers
Students from the Red Cross Clubs in Fruita and Palisades put together a welcome event at the Grand Junction VA Medical Center. There, too, the personally made cards and happy conversations brought smiles from the residents of the VA Center.

Like good Christmas Elves, SAF staff and volunteers delivered cards to military installations across southeastern Colorado. Cards and warm wishes were delivered to service members at Fort Carson and Evans Army Community Hospital. The teams brought sign cards to the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Carson along with boxes of blank cards that service members could use to write home to loved ones.

A Christmas Miracle?
At the VA Community Living Center (CLC) in Pueblo, Barbara Shufelt, a manager for the SAF program in Colorado, brought her Christmas Elf powers to provide an extra level of joy to the residents. The CLC has had a tradition of a holiday party for the residents over the years and Barbara has attended several. She noticed recently that the piano, which had been a source of merriment for the veterans, was not being used. When she checked on it, the staff at CLC told her that the old Steinway grand piano had “fallen on hard times” and it was no longer useable.

Barbara Shufelt (R) and  Bob Marshall stand behind the
new electronic piano provided to the Pueblo CLC.
Photo by Red Cross
That’s when Barbara went to work. Campaigning within the ranks of the Red Cross, Barbara managed to get funds approved to purchase a new electronic piano to give to the CLC residents. December 23, Barbara brought the gift to the CLC just in time for their holiday party.

“It was like a Christmas miracle,” said Keith Anderson, Volunteer Coordinator for the VA Community Living Center. “This was a very generous donation and we thank the Red Cross for all of the support they give to our veterans here at the CLC. The timing was perfect”

The new piano was placed in the lobby right next to the old Steinway. According to Rob Marshall, Recreation Therapist at the CLC, the electronic piano can play prerecorded music and it will be turned on each morning. “This will really brighten up their day, every day,” he said. “It is a great gift for these veterans who have served our country.” They also plan to arrange for students and other volunteers to come to the CLC to play music and sing along with the veterans.

I just couldn’t stand by and let them have their holiday party without the piano,“ Barbara said. “It was always such a source of joy for the veterans.”

When the music came on the mood in the room brightened. One veteran gave Barbara a hug and told her that about how they all appreciated the Red Cross and all that has been done for them at the Pueblo CLC. “You do great work and we love having you visit.”

The American Red Cross has a long history of support for our nation’s military and veterans in peace time and in war. That support continues and if you would like to be part of that effort you can become a Red Cross volunteer by visiting our web site at and then click on Volunteer.

Happy Holidays to all of our military service members, their families and to all veterans. We appreciate what you do, and what you have done, for us.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Spreading the Holiday Spirit to Military Families

Story by Bill Fortune

(L to R) Brig.Gen. Don Laucirica, Zoey Stealey, James Griffith,
 Suzanne Buemi and Isabella share a moment with Santa
 at the CoNG 8th annual Santa’s workshop. 
Photo by Arnett Luce/American Red Cross.
The Red Cross Service to Armed Forces (SAF) program has a century long history of supporting our nation’s military in peace time and in war. Our emergency communications service handles hundreds of contacts every day across the country and around the world in an effort to keep military members and their families connected.

During the holiday season our service continues and it takes on an additional opportunity to support the military families directly. SAF teams of staff and volunteers helped out at local holiday events on military installations around the state in an effort to spread some holiday spirit and to make sure that the children of our service members had something under the Christmas tree this year.

Volunteer Job Ojo hands a beanbag to Matthew Glidden at the
Schriever AFB Children's Fest. Photo by Joe Coleman/
American Red Cross
December 4 found our teams at Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs for the annual tree lighting ceremony and at Schriever AFB the next day helping at the Children’s Holiday Fun Fest. These events get our military families together to celebrate the holidays and take a break from the hustle and bustle of the season. Our volunteers were on hand to play games with the children and provide a little extra fun time while parents went "shopping".

December 12 found our teams in Grand Junction, Centennial and Colorado Springs supporting Santa Workshops for the Colorado National Guard members and their families. These well attended events offer an opportunity for service members and families to do some Christmas shopping. Free gifts were made available through community partners to make it easier for families to have presents under the tree. “This was the eighth year for the Santa’s Workshop for the Colorado National Guard,” said Suzanne Buemi who helped coordinate the event in Colorado Springs. “Service members are able to come to this event to get gifts so that their kids can have toys under the tree.” Santa was also at the event along with books and activities for the kids to do while the parents checked out the gifts.
Volunteers Rick Crabtree(L) and Julie Justus with Exec Dir
Eric Myers at the Santa Workshop in Grand Junction.
Photo by American Red Cross

At all of the events across Colorado, The Red Cross SAF teams wrapped presents and provided Red Cross first aid kits and emergency kits to give as gifts. James Griffith is an SAF volunteer and helps with these events every year. “This is one of my favorites SAF activities,” He said. “We do a lot of things for our service members and their families but this one really gets me into the giving spirit.”

Our service to Armed Forces program has helped service members, veterans and families for over 100 years. You can be part of that tradition by going to our website and clicking on Volunteer.

Happy Holidays to all of those who are serving our country, our veterans and their families.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Volunteer Profile: Disaster Action Team Captain Jason Heddings

In 2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck, Jason Heddings wanted to assist those in need. “When there is a big event you want jump in and help, but the people that have been trained are already there,” said Heddings. He decided that next time something happened, he would be ready.

Jason Heddings,
Adams County
Disaster Action Team Captain
For the last eight years Jason has been ready, volunteering as a Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) captain for Adams County. “Whenever there is an emergency where people are displaced, the DAT volunteers are the first boots on the ground, so to speak, for the Red Cross,” said Jason. He and his team assess client needs at local emergencies ranging from single family fires that affect one family at a time, to apartment fires and floods that displace dozens of people. They meet families’ immediate needs by providing a warm, safe place to stay and help for things like food, clothing, baby formula, coats and shoes. They also connect clients with Red Cross resources such as health services to help replace lost medications and disaster mental health services to help process loss.

Jason still remembers his first disaster call -- a single family home fire, late at night and freezing cold, at a house belonging to a husband and wife pregnant with their first baby. Jason and the Disasters Action Team were able to arrange for a Red Cross feeding vehicle to come support the family and the first responders. “You don’t know what their situation is or why there was a fire, but you can see their gratitude and have the feeling that you are really helping,” said Jason.

Volunteers offer assistance at a home fire.
Another experience that sticks out for Jason was an unusual call, a home fire where the family had thousands of snakes in the basement. Jason and two other DAT volunteers transported crates of critters out of the basement and to the family’s barn, helping save the family’s snake-breeding business.

Working with clients is the most rewarding part for Jason. “It is 2 a.m. and the phone rings while you are asleep or you are in the middle of dinner, but as soon as you get to meet the clients face to face, it makes it worthwhile,” Jason said, adding, “I don't know that I truly realized what it meant to be part of a fully humanitarian organization until I joined the Red Cross. … At every turn we are there for someone else.”

If you would like to learn more about becoming an Adams County Disaster Action Team volunteer, join us on Dec. 12 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Thornton Community Center to speak with current volunteers like Jason.

Event Information
Adams County Red Cross Social: Meet some current volunteers and learn more about our open positions while enjoying some hot chocolate.

December 12, Noon - 2 p.m.
Thornton Community Center
2141 E.95th Ave Thornton, CO 80229

For more info email-

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Providing Help and Hope for People of Texas

By Leila Roche and Jennifer Marsh

Late October brought torrential rain and winds to Texas and many southern states. Houston received more than nine inches of rain in fewer than 24 hours as the remnants of Hurricane Patricia – the second Pacific hurricane on record to make landfall at its intensity – passed through and added to the impact of existing storms passing through the region.

Volunteers Peggy Johnson (L) and Larry Cornet after
from deployment to help with floods in Texas. Photo
by Walter Palmer, American Red Cross
Rain swelled rivers and flooded roads in parts of the Houston area. Other areas were hit harder: The tiny town of Powell in Navarro County got 20 inches of rain over 30 hours. Many areas also sustained tornado damage, as well.

Two Colorado Red Cross volunteers deployed to Houston, Texas to assist with response efforts.

These are their stories in their words:

Larry Cornett, Volunteer ERV Driver
Originally, we were called into service to assist Austin when Houston was still being impacted by the storms. By the time we got there, the need in Houston had escalated, and we were sent there once we reached Austin.

Larry Cornett (in ERV) and Peggy Johnson (L) load the
ERV with the help of another Red Crossw volunteer
before heading to flood stricken areas. Ohoto by
Mark Bishop, American Red Cross
Our Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) was loaded with everything: cleaning kits, bleach, trash bags, shovels, tarps, gloves, respirators. Our job when we got to Harris County was to capture the initial damage assessments and provide districts with supplies.

There was tornado damage when we got there – mostly roof damage and fences down. But there were a few houses that were completely destroyed.

There was one couple I talked to. Their home was destroyed by one of the tornados. The mom said she was able to grab their daughter and make it into the bathtub. But their 15-year-old son was sleeping, so the dad, Raj, grabbed him, and they took cover under the bed. They said the air pressure was so strong windows were blowing out throughout the house. Then, the roof lifted up – entirely off the house – and fell back down. It was all over in about 30 seconds, and no one was injured – thankfully. But the aftermath was devastating for them. Insulation from the attic was strewn over a three-house area – it looked like it’d snowed. And the roof caved into the house in front and was completely gone in the rear.

“We were spared by the grace of God,” Raj said. “It’s a miracle we were unharmed. The house had disintegrated around us.”

Before we left, he thanked us for our help and support – mental and emotional, too. He said it was comforting having the Red Cross there to assist him and his family on their road to recovery. I mean, that’s the entire purpose of the Red Cross – we are there when disaster strikes and when people need support and direction in dire times. It’s truly a privilege to provide comfort to others.

Peggy Johnson, Volunteer ERV Driver
Hurricane Patricia came through the southern Houston area about a week before we deployed. We loaded the Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) and drove down from Colorado with cleaning kits, bleach, tarps, trash bags, water, gloves and other cleaning supplies from the disaster response operation warehouse.

Volunteer Peggy Johnson gets a welcome hug
from Dee after providing her with cleanup supplies.
Photo by  Mark Bishop, American Red Cross
We were in a flooded area where people had water levels of 4-6 inches inside their homes. When we arrived on the scene, people were happy to see us. The response was very positive. They were so happy to have some time to talk to us about what they had been experiencing over the last week.

One client in particular I remember well. She was so appreciative. Her name was “Dee.” She showed us the water level on her house. There was a bayou nearby that washed out the area. She was really frustrated with the red tape of trying to get disaster relief from the local authorities. She’d been going to City Hall every day for a week without results. She couldn’t believe it when we gave her supplies to clean and disinfect her home, a case of bottled water and even a shovel to clean out the debris – all free.

Before leaving, we gave her the contact number for the Red Cross so she could have a caseworker come out to provide her with further assistance. She hugged and thanked us for quite a while before we headed out to assist others in the neighborhood.

“You are all angels from heaven. I so appreciate y’all so much,” she said. “You have brought hope to my home. You are a blessing.”

Volunteer Peggy Johnson Hands out supplies to a waiting
crown near Houston. Photo by Mark Bishop, American Red Cross
We pulled into one neighborhood, announced we were there with cleanup items and suddenly we were inundated. People clamoring for supplies like water, bleach and shovels. They helped us hand out the supplies and helped each other get what they needed. They were very happy to see us and grateful for the support we provided.

It was such a gratifying experience – being there to help when the need was the greatest.

A large crowd gathers behind the ERV to get cleanup
supplies to help recover from devastating floods in Texas
Photo by Mark Bishop,American Red Cross

The American Red Cross responds to nearly 70,000 disasters in America every year ranging from hurricanes to house fires. Dozens of Colorado Red Cross disaster volunteers deployed to disaster from South Carolina floods to Washington wildfires. They give their time and compassion to bring help and hope to people affected by disaster. We salute all of our volunteers and thank them for their service.

If you would like to help the Red Cross keep the promise of hope go to to find out how to volunteer or donate. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

IHL Film Series: Unaccompanied Minors, Human Rights and Dignity in "The Good Lie"

For the Lost Boys of Sudan, the thousands of minors displaced during Sudan's Second civil war, escaping their home country meant surviving dangers like wild animals, starvation, and active war zones. But the challenges don't end for unaccompanied minors once they reach their host nation, as the 2014 film, "The Good Lie," shows. The film, which depicts the travails of several Sudanese Lost Boys as they travel from Sudan to resettle in the U.S., is December's installment of the International Humanitarian Law Film Series, screening Thursday, Dec. 10 at 4:30 p.m.

"The Good Lie" explores the lives of Sudanese refugees Mamere, Paul, Jeremiah, Theo and Abital as they resettle in the United States. Carrie Davis (Reese Witherspoon) is a career counselor whose experience providing vocational assistance only partially prepares her for the challenges of helping the young men from a village in Sudan adjust to American life. With Carrie's help, the Lost Boys navigate the American job market, youth culture and refugee-resettlement bureaucracy with varying degrees of success and failure.

While the film garnered some criticism for its "Hollywood" treatment of the Sudanese minor refugee crisis, it reveals important insights into the difficulties faced by young refugees in their host nations. As the U.S. faces a continuing need for refugee resettlement services, "The Good Lie" offers enduring lessons for Americans whose communities may soon be home to adult and minor refugees alike.

 Unaccompanied minor refugees are among the most vulnerable refugee populations, and require comprehensive and nuanced support once they arrive in a host country. The International Committee for the Red Cross works extensively with unaccompanied minor refugees to relocate displaced family members, provide shelter and medical care, and offer legal and social services.

The film presentation will be followed by snacks and a round-table discussion on International Humanitarian Law and the preservation of human dignity among those fleeing armed conflict, particularly minor children. To RSVP to the event, click here. For more information, contact Tim Bothe.

Join our Film Club and Receive Free Gifts and Benefits!

Between November 2015 and April 2016, attend at least three IHL film series screenings and receive a free Red Cross first-aid kit. Attend at least five and be entered in a drawing for a chance to win a Red Cross disaster supplies kit!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Lunch And Learn: Where Do Refugee Children Without Parents or Family Go?

By Tim Bothe
Many children are separated from their parents and other family members due to armed conflict or other disasters. As a result, their status is seldom immediately clear, and so they are referred to as "separated" or "unaccompanied children" rather than orphans.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) defines unaccompanied refugee minors as children under the age of 18 who are separated from both parents, or do not have an adult who is responsible for them. Since the mid-1970s, the United States Refugee Program has resettled and served unaccompanied refugee minors. In recognizing the vulnerability of unaccompanied children, the U.S. Refugee Program requires that any child resettled with a non-relative be directed to Lutheran Immigrant and Refugee Services or the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the two national agencies with refugee foster care capabilities.

Although they have resettled in a new land, that does not mean that all hope has been lost to re-establish their connections with their birth families. This is where the Red Cross plays an important role. Through its Restoring Family Links program, the Red Cross seeks to reconnect unaccompanied refugee minors with their families. In addition to its traditional services, the Red Cross also provides free phone calls to try to make contact with loved ones to find out what happened to the rest of their family.

In Rwanda, 1,200 unaccompanied minors have recently been registered with the Red Cross. Forty-one have since been reunited with their families and nearly 400 are back in contact with their families.

Join us on December 2, 2015, as we learn more about the resettlement process for unaccompanied refugee minors from Betsy Laird of Lutheran Family Services.

Lunch And Learn: "In Their Best Interest: Unaccompanied Refugee Minors"
When:  noon- 1 p.m., Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Location: American Red Cross, 444 Sherman Street, Denver, CO 

A Cyber Monday With Meaning

by Mary Urban
What do you give someone who has all the latest tech gadgets and a cache of comfortable, stylish sweaters? Sometimes the best gifts are less tangible but give us peace of mind by knowing those caught in disasters or conflicts can benefit from our donations.

Cyber Monday is here, and perhaps after the craziness of Black Friday you might be reflecting on the lives of others who have experienced devastating loss. Making a gift donation to the Red Cross can be the perfect option for someone who is surrounded by everything they need or even for someone who feels most comforted by helping others who need assistance. You can choose to designate your gift to help your local Red Cross chapter, to support disaster relief, or to be put toward the area of greatest need.

If you want to give something more specific, such as comfort kits for service members or hot meals for victims of disasters, you can tailor your gift to the recipient. A full day of emergency shelter for one person is just $50 and includes three meals, two blankets, one cot, snacks, and personal hygiene supplies. A $15 gift donation provides the installation of a smoke alarm in the home of an at-risk family or individual, as well as fire safety training. Fireplaces and space heaters are used for holiday ambiance and heat, but they can be sources of potential hazards.

Any donation you make in honor of someone will be announced in either a Red Cross eCard or a Red Cross holiday greetings card. You can take it a step further: with a donation of $200 or more you receive a cozy Red Cross fleece blanket for your gift recipient as a more tangible token of the donation you have made in her honor. It will remind her year after year of how that gift helped others. A first aid kit is an invaluable item and something not many people purchase for themselves. For the person who truly does have just about everything, a donation of $500 to the Red Cross will bring the added bonus of a first aid kit for your lucky gift recipient in addition to the donation in his honor.

Avoid the crowded streets and malls this holiday season by shopping the Red Cross Holiday Catalog. In the process of giving a gift to your friend or loved one, you will also make a difference in the lives of others.

Browse for the perfect gift:  Red Cross Holiday Catalog 

Or, if you are inundated by gift certificates each year, start a new holiday tradition by letting your family and friends know these wonderful gift-giving opportunities are important to you. Stay safe and have a great holiday season!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Connecting With Family: Our Favorite Stories

For many people, the holidays are about spending time with loved ones. The Red Cross recognizes the importance of family, and our programs and services aim to ease the stress, fear and uncertainty people experience when they can't connect with their loved ones during -- or because of -- emergencies.

In honor of family time and the holidays, we'd like to share some of our favorite local stories of families our volunteers have helped to bring together - some are sad circumstances such as the illness or death of a parent, others are joyful reconnections after years apart. 

We hope these stories will inspire #gratitude during this time of thanks-giving, and that you will be moved to share them with others and support our mission.

1. Yowali was reconnected with her family after FOURTEEN years apart with no contact!

2. Marine PFC Garcia stopped by to say thanks after we helped get him home for his grandfather's funeral:

3. This Denver resident received the first communication from her husband in six years after being separated by conflict - it came in the form of a hand-written letter: 

4. Desire was having a tough time. Her husband had just deployed to Korea, they were struggling, and his father died. She turned to the Red Cross to bring her husband home:

5. George Kantor fled his homeland of Hungary as a youth during the anti-Communist revolution. He went home in hopes of reconnecting with his long-lost family, but was unable to reconnect until the Red Cross was contacted.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Colorado Thanksgiving Travel Tips

Story by Leila Roche, American Red Cross

Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel days of the year. And this year,  Colorado is expecting a wintry mix of weather. So, whether you’re traveling by car, plane or train, we have a few tips to keep you and your loved ones safe on your way.

TRAVELING BY CAR | 91 percent of holiday travel is by personal vehicle

  • Winterize your vehicle. Climate change affects your car, too. Make sure it’s ready by ensuring your battery is in good condition, you have the right oil for cold temperatures and more. Read more: DMV
  • Keep your gas tank above half full. When temperatures are extremely cold, condensation can build up in a near-empty gas tank, potentially freezing fuel lines and leaving you stranded. 
  • Know the conditions. Check the weather and roads before leaving has  travel alerts; route information; interactive maps with road conditions, speeds and road work; and cameras of roads. NOAA has nationwide weather information Read more: COTrip and 
  • Take your time. Allow yourself additional time if traveling on Thanksgiving Day due to traffic and weather. 
  • Map your route. Map your route in advance and be prepared for busy roads, road work and existing accidents. Read more: COTrip 
  • Have an emergency kit handy. Carry an emergency kit that includes an ice scraper/snow brush; cat litter or traction sand; blankets, food and water; flares; first aid kit; extra warm clothing; snow shovel; and alternate traction devices or chains. Red Cross Emergency Preparedness kits are available in the Red Cross Store.
  • Obey the law: Code 15. When Code 15 of the chain law is in effect, all vehicles must have one of the following in order to proceed: 
    • Snow tires with a minimum of 1/8” of tread
    • All weather tires with mud and snow (M/S) mark with 1/8” of tread
    • Four-wheel drive with 1/8” of tread
    • Traction devices (chains, auto-sock, etc.) for two drive tires
    • If Code 15 of the chain law is put into effect, you could face fines as high as $650 if you don’t have the proper equipment. Read more: CDOT
  • Check your tread. Insert a quarter upside down into your tire tread (with George Washington’s head first). If the top of the head is covered by tread, you’re good to go. If the top of his head is visible at any point around the tire (test multiple points), you can’t drive when Code 15 of the chain law is in effect. You also likely need new tires. 
  • Stay informed. Call 511 for traveler information. Or text CDOT to 25827 or search CDOT mobile in your app store to download the app.
  • Move it. Colorado’s “Move It” law requires motorists involved in minor accidents to move your vehicle immediately out of traffic to a safe location: when the vehicle is driveable, when no drugs or alcohol are involved, and when there are no injuries.
  • Bow to the plow. Don’t tailgate snow plows. Avoid driving alongside them – the driver’s view is limited due to the vehicle’s height and length. And never pass them on the right unless you want a window shield full of ice, snow and rock.
  • Stay safe. If you get stuck in the snow or on the side of the road: 
    • Stay with the car. Do not try to walk to safety.
    • Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna for rescuers to see.
    •  Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour.
    •  Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes won't back up in the car.
    •   Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running to help rescuers see the vehicle.
    •   Keep one window away from the blowing wind slightly open to let in air.
  • Keep your technology charged. A portable charger for your phone will let you phone for help.
  • Download the Emergency App. If roads are closed it will help you find the nearest Red Cross shelter. Visit 
PLANE, TRAIN, BUS | 9 percent of holiday travel is by commercial vehicle
  •  Keep it on the down low. Don’t post news that you’re out of town, particularly not on social networks that are open to the public. And lower the volume on your telephone ringer; no need to imply you’re away with the chiming of repeated rings.
  •  Protect your identity. Think about how much information a thief would get his hands on if your wallet or purse was stolen. Avoid carrying Social Security cards, birth certificates or passports unless absolutely necessary. 
  • Stay healthy. Flu season started in October. Carry hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes and use them to wash hands or wipe down surfaces and wash hands with soap and water often.
NOAA/NWS forecast for Thanksgiving Day Visit for updates

Couple Recovers From Home Fire with Help From Red Cross

Story and Photo By Thea Skinner, American Red Cross

Tragedy struck again September 11, forever imprinted in the minds of Sabrina Fiorella and Dan Zuckerman. The couple awoke abruptly at 4:30 a.m. to a fire inside the residence on 4th street in Colorado Springs. The fire at the neighbor’s mobile home next door, at the end of the lot, had spread to their mobile home.

In the process of fleeing, their dog Mocha, a Boston terrier, ran back into the mobile home to a kennel. Zuckerman went back into mobile home and brought the dog outside to safety. “When the fire first happened, the smell was bad. I got used to it,” Zuckerman said. “The Red Cross really helped.”

Dan Zuckerman and Sabrina Fiorella discuss the night of
September 11, 2015 when their residence (left) was burned
by a fire that started by the neighboring mobile home (right).
The couple returned to the site to gather salvageable
 items during the recovery process.
The couple in crisis fled to a neighbor’s home with few items in hand. A friend directed Fiorella to the American Red Cross. A disaster action team, on call volunteers, met the couple at a local park and provided funds for a hotel and food, along with clothing vouchers through the Discover Goodwill Emergency Partnership.

By 1 p.m. the couple checked into a hotel and stayed in the hotel for three days. Their  journey toward recovery commenced taking approximately three weeks to gather resources and find a new apartment. The couple temporarily lived at a family member’s mobile home where they arranged with the neighbor for use of nearby electricity. A suitable permanent shelter with running water and electricity became a priority. Fiorella’s fellowship through a local church gathered donations. Red Cross connected her with The George W. Trimble Charity Fund to aid in replacing dentures lost in the fire.

“Be wise with your compassion,” said Fiorella. “Red Cross handled things so well. Dan I both have lost in our life and we learned to start over.”

The combined mutual aid from the Red Cross and community partners of several hundred dollars resulted in paying the deposit and first month’s rent for an apartment. In addition, the Salvation Army of El Paso County delivered household items to the apartment.

The couple had lived at the residence for 13 months with plans to purchase. Unfortunately the mobile home was declared uninhabitable. Fiorella later returned to the mobile home to pluck buds from hibernating flowers in the yard. She will plant the buds at the couple’s present home - A symbol of growth and active recovery.

GET INVOLVED People can visit to find out more about how to protect themselves and their loved ones from fire or to find out about smoke alarm installation events in their community. They can also help by volunteering their time or making a donation today to Red Cross Disaster Relief by visiting, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations to Disaster Relief will be used to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. We respond to nearly 70,000 other disasters every year, from home fires to hurricanes and more. Learn more about how Disaster Relief donations have helped people affected by previous disasters including home fires.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Saving Lives in Leadville and Salida

By Bill Fortune

If we all had the choice most of us would prefer to never have to go through a tragedy like losing a loved one. Every day someone in America experiences a home fire and in many cases the fire results in a fatality that could have been avoided if the home had working smoke alarms.
Firefighters install a smoke alarm in a home. Photo courtesy
Catholic Charities of Central Colorado

The American Red Cross is working hard to reduce the number of fatalities that are caused by home fires. On November 7, our teams of Red Cross volunteers and partners under the direction of Dana Goldsmith, the Prepare Colorado Program Development Specialist with the Red Cross of Southeastern Colorado, went to Leadville and Salida to install smoke alarms as part of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign. In a four hour period, the teams installed 91 smoke alarms. “We hit the ground running along with our partners,” Goldsmith said. “It truly was a team effort to help save lives.”

At the home of Sarah Woodcock in Leadville the installation of smoke alarms was a welcome sight.
Sara Woodcock and her sons talk home fire safety
with fireman  Leo Schmitt. Photo courtesy Catholic
Charities of Central Colorado.
She and her family were in the midst of renovations when she saw a news release from the Red Cross about free smoke alarms. After reading the article in the newspaper she quickly called for an appointment. "It was just something we didn't think of during our renovations," she said. "I am so grateful that the Red Cross provided the smoke alarms and that the fire department came and installed them. I feel better knowing my sons and I will be a little safer."

Woodcock is like so many others that have benefited from the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign that has installed over 100,000 alarms since the program started in 2014.

The Red Cross teamed up with several partner organizations to make that happen:
Red Cross volunteers and partners get last minute
instructions from Dana Goldsmith. Photo courtesy
Catholic Charities of Central Colorado

Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, Leadville Fire Department, Lake County Emergency Management, Leadville First Response,the Holy Family Parish, the Salida Fire Department. City of Salida, and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. Red Cross would also like to thank Domino’s Pizza Buena Vista and Moonlight Pizza in Salida for their generous donation and support.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

During the Holidays, Gratitude for the Ability to Connect with Family

by Kelly Wheeler
This Thanksgiving as you wrap your arms around loved ones and share a delicious holiday dinner, think for a moment about those who have no family in this country – refugees who fled from war-torn countries to find a new life, or migrant workers who cannot easily visit family in their countries of origin. For many of us, connecting with our family is as simple as driving a few miles, hopping on a plane or picking up the phone – but for them, family is far away and difficult to reach. Even if they have an active phone number for loved ones, they may not be able to afford to make the international phone call.

An American Red Cross program helps overcome those barriers and ease the pain of separation. The Restoring Family Links Phone Project allows people who are separated from loved ones by conflict, disaster or migration to reconnect with family members through a free, 10-minute phone call. The program launched in April in select states as an expansion of the Restoring Family Links program, which helps locate and reconnect families.
A woman makes a call to a relative. The Philippine Red Cross,
like the American Red Cross, offers free mobile phone calls
as part of the Restoring Family Link program.

In Colorado, Red Cross workers are delivering the Phone Project by partnering with community groups, agencies, schools and organizations to offer the program on-site at locations with high populations of refugees and migrants. Red Cross volunteers bring cell phones to the site and allow participants to make 10-minute calls to their loved ones using the phones.

In one situation, a Denver refugee reconnected with seven family members in Africa, to whom she had not spoken in 15 years. The family was separated during the Burundian Civil War and had lost contact since being torn apart.  The 30-year-old refugee excitedly shared the news with her family that she had a baby now, and was enjoying life in Colorado. There were tears of joy during the call and promises for sustained communication in the future via mail or email.

So as we gather around the table this Thanksgiving, let’s try to remember how lucky we are to have family around us, to hear about their lives and give them hugs and kisses – because there are many who are not that fortunate.
Feeling inspired, grateful or generous this season? We hope you'll consider giving a meaningful gift this holiday season - shop the Holiday Catalog here

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Positive Veterans Day Story: Partnering With a Workplace That Cares About Veterans

by Cari Roberts
Everyone has a story. Sometimes we just need to be given a safe place to tell it. In partnership with the Library of Congress, the Red Cross is working to collect as many stories as possible for the Veterans History Project and connect with veterans across Colorado and Wyoming to record their personal histories for the project.

David Eves, President of PSCo (L) and Red Cross volunteer Ken Yaphe
That outreach to local veterans is paving the way for additional partnerships as well, like a recent visit with Xcel Energy in Denver for a Veterans Day event. Ming-Wa Hu, a veteran of the U.S. Army himself, organized the event, bringing veterans and coworkers together to thank them for their service to the country and Xcel as well as to share information about the Veterans History Project.
During the event David Eves, the President of Public Service Company Colorado (PSCo, an Xcel Energy company), presented a Challenge Coin to Red Cross volunteer Ken Yaphe for his work with the Veterans History Project and to encourage current and future employees that have served to participate in the interviews and to share their stories. Mr. Eves has also made sure that Xcel provides space and time for their employees to be interviewed for the project on site, at work, on company time.

26 Veterans attended the presentation on Veterans Day.
Xcel’s President & CEO Ben Fowke also relayed a message of thanks to veterans and shared an exciting new goal for Xcel’s future. Mr. Fowke has set a company-wide goal that at least 10% of all Xcel employees be veterans -- that is one in every ten. Lacey Golonka is Xcel’s veterans recruiter and an active Army Reservist with a number of deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. She spends much of her time on the road seeking the best and the brightest to fill openings at the energy company. “We need everyone from administrative assistants to engineers,” said Golonka. “Veterans come to us with a wide variety of skills, training, and experience that are valuable to a company like ours.”

Companies like Xcel, who are dedicating resources to hiring as many veterans as possible as they return from their service, understand that everyone has a story. They also understand the value of helping our veterans continue their stories with meaningful, challenging careers. The Red Cross appreciates the partnership with Xcel and their dedication to helping veterans in Colorado and Wyoming continue to write their stories.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Marine Stops By Just to Say Thanks

By Bill Fortune/American Red Cross

Being away from home is never easy regardless of the time of year or the reason for separation. It’s hard to stay in touch and even harder to respond to a crisis. That’s why the American Red Cross provides emergency communications support to our nation’s military. That’s why Marine PFC Ethan Garcia stopped by the Red Cross office in Pueblo, Colorado.

It was in June while stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for specialty training when PFC Garcia had his first encounter with the Service to Armed Forces Emergency Communication Service.

“I remember I was in training that day when the chaplain came in,” Garcia said. “That is always a
Marine PFC Ethan Garcia at the Red Cross office in
Pueblo, Colorado Photo by Bill Fortune/American Red Cross
little scary and when he called me out I started to worry.”  The Chaplain told him that command had received a Red Cross emergency message that his grandfather had passed away. He was told not to worry because the message came from the Red Cross and the wheels were already in motion to get him home to be with his family and attend the funeral in Pueblo.

It was in September, while on recruitment duty in Pueblo, that PFC Garcia happened to see the Red Cross office and took the opportunity to say thank you. “I hadn’t realized just how important the Red Cross service was,” Garcia said. “I just wanted to say thank you for the support I received because without it this would have been much more difficult for me and my family.”

The Red Cross in Colorado processes over 300 emergency messages every year as part of the Service to Armed Forces Emergency Communication Service. Hearing from PFC Evans reminds us how important it is to support our Armed Forces. 

Learn more about the Red Cross Service to Armed Forces program at

Monday, November 9, 2015

Volunteer Helps Give Voice to Veterans

by Patricia Billinger
Ken Yaphe is a 20-year veteran of the Air Force. He is soft-spoken and calm. And like the dozens of other veterans he has connected with to help collect and share their stories, Ken is humble about his service.

“Most veterans themselves are very modest about their service,” Ken said. “Most of the veterans who come to us to share their stories come to us because of other people pushing the veterans to be interviewed.”

Ken is the Colorado and Wyoming volunteer lead for the Red Cross Veterans History Project, in which Red Cross volunteers interview U.S. veterans of all ages to be included in the Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.

Ken Yaphe sets up a camera to interview veteran and Red Cross
employee Wayne Lacey.
“It’s important on different levels. For our country, it’s important because it’s the voices of those who served, not just the pundits and politicians. It’s the ones who had to do the fighting, and their first-hand accounts,” Ken said.

Collecting the stories also provides a lasting memento for the veterans’ families – many who haven’t heard the details of their loved ones’ wartime experiences. “I get a lot of satisfaction from the fact that the families really appreciate getting their loved ones’ stories recorded so that they will have them forever. That’s where the most reward comes from,” Ken reflected.

Ken has participated in more than 30 interviews with local veterans. He has also trained other volunteers in Grand Junction, Walsenburg and northern Colorado to deliver the program in their local communities.

His work is the natural continuation of a lifetime of service. After serving in the Air Force from 1995-2005, Ken retired from the military and worked in private contracting for several years. He said he found himself looking for a better fit for his time and searching for opportunities to serve again – this time as a volunteer. Ken found that opportunity at the Red Cross, where he signed up to respond to everyday disasters after talking to a friend who was helped by the Red Cross after a home fire.

Ken has been volunteering on a Red Cross Disaster Action Team for about a year and a half. They’re the volunteers who get called out an all hours of day and night to respond to home fires and other disasters, and show up to provide immediate comfort and relief to victims of disaster. Wanting to take on more regular duties in addition to the emergency response, he answered the call for a Veterans History Project lead about a year ago.

His own military service has helped Ken both appreciate the experiences of those he interviews, and be more effective at drawing out the stories of the veterans. “For many of the veterans, it’s cathartic. Some share things with us that they’ve never even told their own families after 30, 50, 70 years,” he said.

Some veterans are more reticent, but Ken believes in the power and importance of giving voice to their stories. The project aims to collect stories of all veterans, from WWII to the most recent conflicts in the Middle East. “It’s still too soon for many veterans. They came out of their war with an experience completely different than WWII veterans. I explain that their story needs to be heard, too – the good and the bad. That’s what we value in America: the truth. And they have a story that needs to be told, too.”

Ken’s wartime assignment as an electronic warfare officer meant he didn’t experience combat in the traditional sense; nevertheless, his volunteer work with generations of veterans from all branches of the military has strengthened the bond he shares with fellow men and women who served. “There’s a personal connection. It makes me feel a little bit more connected as a thread of veterans who have served this country.”

The Red Cross continues to seek veterans who are willing to share their stories and experiences for future generations. The program is also accepting volunteers to complete interviews. For more information or to set up an interview, please e-mail

Veterans Helping Veterans to “Stand Down”

By Kyle Fiehler/American Red Cross

In the military, a “Stand Down” is a term used to describe the cessation of normal duties for the purpose of addressing an incident or emergency. They’re usually used to focus efforts on safety, training and equipping personnel to better deal with similar circumstances in the future. But for  homeless veterans, standing down means something a little different.
James Griffith (R) works with team member to prepare for the
Homeless Veterans Stand down. Photo American Red Cross

Instead of breaking from the routine of military life, homeless veterans break from the uncertainty of living life on the streets. This often means coming in from the cold for winter clothing and personal hygiene items and connecting with a host of other services that can help improve their situation. And though some may eventually return to homelessness, the hope is that they return better prepared for the coming winter than they would have been before standing down.

James Griffith is a current Red Cross volunteer, former staffer and a veteran of the United States Army, where he served for more than 30 years. He served in the Army Chaplain Corps from 1985 to 2011 and spent the last six years of that time working in a hospital that received a large number of wounded from both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Griffith cites those final six years of his military service as an example of the camaraderie and the clear-cut mission focus that so many veterans have trouble replicating when they return to civil society. The relative lack of cohesion, the transience of military life (Griffith’s sixth year in Colorado will mark the longest he’s remained in one place in his life), the general lack of job opportunities, and the isolating nature of some of the psychological effects of deployment are all contributing factors to the problem of homelessness among military veterans.

It’s also why assistance and transition programs are so important for reintegrating service members back into society. The Red Cross, says Griffith, is instrumental to the lives of military communities in Colorado and around the country.

James Griffith (R) and SAF team members hold a banner
from a corporate sponsor at the Homeless Veterans
Stand Down. Photo courtesy of Durango Herald
“When a kid first comes into a military in-processing station, before they’re taken to basic training even, they’re given a briefing on Red Cross emergency services, so that if something comes up their family can get ahold of them,” he said. “And the Red Cross is often a veteran’s introduction into the greater social service network when they return.”

Despite huge challenges remaining, Griffith says we’re getting better at addressing the needs of our veterans as a society.

“Since the First Gulf War, the American people have been pretty vocal about their support. And that emotional support helps our veterans,” he said.

James is one of the hundreds of Red Cross volunteers who work to support our nation’s military, their families and veterans all day, every day. The Red Cross is proud to provide homeless veterans with Stand Down assistance across Colorado and Wyoming.

This Veteran’s Day, the American Red Cross would like to salute all the members of our armed forces, and to remind them that we’re proud to support them and their families.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

New Red Cross Training Prepares Refugees for Survival in Colorado

By Patricia Billinger
What is snow? As Coloradans, we know….but what about African refugees who have never seen snow before? Do they have any inkling of the variety of challenges snow and cold weather can pose, from transportation snarls to power outages? And would they know how to keep themselves and their loved ones safe?

Refugees and migrants are often the most vulnerable populations during disasters. In addition to facing cultural and language barriers, refugees have a greater risk in the face of disasters because they may lack resources and many live in housing that is more likely to suffer catastrophic damage during a disaster. That’s why the Red Cross of Colorado has launched a new effort to train refugees and immigrants in emergency preparedness. The training helps participants understand what threats and disasters they might face here in Colorado and helps them prepare for and prevent those emergencies.

Red Cross intern Ashley Kowal helps a student make her
home fire escape plan. Photo by Styliani (Stellina) Giannitsi
“The Red Cross mission is to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies. The best way to prevent suffering is to help people be better prepared so that they can avoid emergencies in the first place and know how to stay safe when a disaster or emergency strikes,” said Tim Bothe, Manager of International Services for the Red Cross of Colorado.

The Red Cross successfully launched the first set of classes on Nov. 3 and 4 in partnership with the Emily Griffith Technical College and the Colorado Refugee Services Program. Tim and a team of volunteers taught the course in Spanish, Arabic and English to nearly 40 students from Emily Griffith’s English Language Acquisition (ELA) program. The students represented a wide range of countries of origin, from Colombia, Mexico and Peru to Ethiopia, Ukraine and Iraq.

"Understanding how things work in the U.S., how our culture is different and what to do in an emergency is hugely important,” said Kevin Mohatt, Community Outreach Coordinator for the school’s Adult Education Language Center.

We take for granted that people know what number to call in an emergency, what a smoke alarm sounds like, or what actions to take during common emergencies – but people who haven’t lived in the U.S. for long may come from a different culture or experience. For example, after being instructed to “get out, stay out and call 911” in the event of a home fire, one woman in a class on Wednesday timidly raised her hand. “How much cost 911?” she asked, not knowing that fire departments here don’t charge you to respond to your home fire.

Lucy Barron shows off her home fire escape plan.
Photo by Styliani (Stellina) Giannitsi
Similarly, some refugees may have immigrated from villages where homes are constructed differently and may or may not have appliances like in the United States. They may have different cooking customs that would be safe in that setting but not safe in a modern apartment building. They may not experience tornadoes or blizzards where they’re from, and consequently don’t know to seek shelter in a basement during a tornado or that it’s not safe to use your oven to heat your home during a cold snap.

“In Iraq, we don’t have any tornadoes. We don’t have winter storms. So it’s very useful to know all of these things,” said Zahraa Alkhattat.

In addition to covering key safety tips for a variety of natural disasters, the Red Cross training takes a deeper look at the most common disaster – one that frequently affects immigrant communities: home fires. Class participants learn about common sources of home fires and safety tips to prevent fires; what a smoke alarm is and how to check it; and the importance of making an escape plan with two routes out of every room.

When Instructor Christine Manson de Rabe asked her classroom how many smoke alarms each person had in their homes, some students reported that they had a safe number and placement of alarms, but others had few or no alarms at all.

“I have one alarm: My aunt,” quipped one student in Spanish. Everyone laughed, but they knew it was serious business because they had just learned that you typically have fewer than 2 minutes to escape a home fire – making early warning from a smoke alarm essential for survival. They also learned the importance of seeking shelter when tornado warnings sound.

“You hear the alarm and you think you have lots of time – you think that you have time to turn on the news, but I learned that you have to look for safe place to go immediately,” said Lucy Barron.

Students show off the Red Cross emergency kits they received at the end
of the training. Photo by Styliani (Stellina) Giannitsi
To help participants take steps to be better prepared, the course included a sign-up sheet for students to sign up for free home visits from Red Cross volunteers who will install smoke alarms and help residents make their family escape plan. At the end of the course, students also each received a Red Cross emergency preparedness kit.

Barron and other classmates said they found the training very helpful, and that it made them think of things they had not considered – in particular, the importance of having an emergency plan. “It’s a good idea to have a plan B, so if something happens you know how you are going to communicate and where you can find each other, and you have an emergency kit for whatever situation might occur,” said Maria Diaz. “The more information you have, the better able you are to take action.”

Want to get your family prepared? Start here: 

Do you need smoke alarms? Or do you want to help the Red Cross install smoke alarms for families who need them? Sign up at