Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Our Red Cross Family Down the Street

The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement is alive and well in New York City. The Big Apple is one of only a handful of cities in the world where all three arms of our global network have a permanent presence.

The Greater New York Red Cross, headquartered on West 49th Street in Manhattan, represents the American Red Cross locally; but a little over a mile to our east, our two sister institutions—the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)—also call Manhattan home.

The ICRC primarily protects and assists victims of war. One of the ways it does this is through the promotion and adoption of universal humanitarian laws and principles throughout the world. The IFRC, on the other hand, focuses on coordinating international assistance efforts in response to natural and human-caused disasters unrelated to war. It also strives to teach disaster preparedness, fight the spread of disease, discourage discrimination and violence, and promote humanitarian values.

Enabled by their United Nations Observer Status, each organization maintains a delegation to the UN, just across town from our Hell’s Kitchen HQ. This special mandate allows them to participate in UN activities, such as meetings, committees and debates, but does not authorize them to vote on or propose resolutions; only Member States may take part in in those activities.

The ICRC was granted UN Observer Status in October 1990—the first institution which is not a government organization to be granted this status. The exception was made because of the special role conferred upon the ICRC by the international community and the mandates to protect the victims of international and internal armed conflicts given to it by the Geneva Conventions. The UN has since allowed the ICRC to voice its opinion on subjects within its expertise, such as International Humanitarian Law, and to have these ideas heard on the largest of international stages.

Four years later, in 1994, the IFRC was granted this same status. Juan Manuel Suárez del Toro, IFRC president at the time, described Observer Status as the organization’s “most important diplomatic tool.” It has allowed the Federation to strengthen its partnership with UN agencies like the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and to speak out on a range of humanitarian issues including disaster mitigation and human rights.

So when you read or see news of the UN convening, remember that our colleagues from the ICRC and the IFRC are there as well, serving as the eyes and ears of our global humanitarian network while advocating for the Fundamental Principles that unite us.

Photo credit: Christophe Lobry-Boulanger, IFRC

Monday, September 22, 2014

Conrad Sauvé of the Canadian Red Cross Visits Greater NY

Conrad Sauvé (left) and Josh Lockwood

Greater New York Red Cross Regional CEO Josh Lockwood met with Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Red Cross, Conrad Sauvé, on Monday, Sept. 22. Mr. Sauvé visited Greater New York headquarters to learn more about how the chapter plans for and responds to local disasters as well as large-scale disasters. Among the topics discussed was the response to flooding in Alberta last year, on-going recovery operations in Haiti and how the Red Cross is helping with the Ebola outbreak in Africa. Both also discussed an “exchange program” where teams from Greater New York and the Canadian Red Cross would visit one another periodically to share information and best practices.

In Case You Missed It — September 22, 2014


Ready Red Hook Day in Brooklyn

In the last week the Red Cross provided emergency relief in the form of shelter, food, clothing, health services and/or emotional support to 143 New Yorkers impacted by 41 disasters across our region. Here are some highlights.

  • “A good deed for desperately needy families is a great mitzvah [act of kindness],” said community leader Isaac Sofer, in thanking the Red Cross after it helped four families displaced by a 2-alarm fire in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on Sept. 16.
  • The Hauppauge Industrial Association-LI (HIA-LI) honored the American Red Cross on Long Island at the HIA-LI 20th Annual Business Achievement Awards Gala, held at the Crest Hollow Country Club on Sept.16.
  • Also on Sept. 16, Brooklyn Disaster Program Manager Edmund A. Torraca and Disaster Action Team Captain Garfield Richards supported an Emergency Preparedness Forum at Brooklyn Borough Hall.
  • On Sept. 13, Red Crossers Nancy Soto Les Levinowitz supported “Ready Red Hook Day" organized by the Red Hook Coalition by distributing disaster preparedness materials.    
  • In partnership with South Florida Red Cross, we created a video with children’s suggestions for how to prepare for a disaster. Check out their hilarious responses (see below) and subscribe to our Youtube Channel. 
  • Last week, the National Youth Council announced that November is National Youth Involvement Month (#NYIM). Young leaders and volunteers are encouraged to visit the Red Cross National Youth Website and complete a checklist of activities for the month, as well as create their own.
  • On week three of National Preparedness Month, we published tips on how to prepare for, respond to and recover from floods.
  • Because it's National Preparedness Month, we encourage everyone to download our free Red Cross Mobile Apps for natural disasters, including Hurricanes, Earthquakes, Wildfires, Floods and Tornadoes, as well as our apps for First Aid, Pet First Aid, Swimming and Volunteering.
  • A Boston Marathon hero encourages everyone to download the Red Cross Blood App. Read his story.
  • Enterovirus D68 has affected 150 people in 18 states according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). On Sept.19, we provided some useful tips on how to prevent the spread of this virus, which can cause respiratory illness.
  • For #FunnyFriday, we explained how NOT to create a disaster kit on The Good, The Bad, and The Ridiculous.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Brooklyn, Are You Prepared?

On Tuesday, Sept. 16, Brooklyn Disaster Program Manager (DPM) Edmund A. Torraca and Disaster Action Team (DAT) Captain Garfield Richards supported an Emergency Preparedness Forum at Brooklyn Borough Hall. The forum, “Brooklyn, Are You Prepared?”, was an event associated with the New York City Office of Emergency Management’s (OEM) campaign to encourage New Yorkers to be ready for all types of emergencies.

"The Red Cross is actively engaging community- and faith-based organizations across Brooklyn to facilitate the development of disaster plans, to bridge gaps in disaster response activities, and to organize efforts to prepare communities to face the challenges of the next disaster,” Torraca said. 

The forum was hosted by Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams and featured special guest speaker OEM Commissioner Joseph Esposito. Invited guests from FEMA, NYPD, FDNY and National Grid joined the Red Cross to encourage members of the community to develop a disaster plan, gather emergency supplies, and finally, to learn how to keep informed about the hazards faced in New York City.

“Brooklyn, Are You Prepared?” afforded the Greater NY Red Cross an opportunity to engage local community leaders, collaborate with preparedness partners, and present disaster response initiatives and long-term objectives.     

Red Cross Helps Williamsburg Families

A little more than a week before the observance of the Jewish High Holy Days, a 2-alarm fire displaced four families (10 adults 35 children) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. On Sept. 16, the Red Cross provided emergency funds for basic necessities to two affected families and worked with a partner agency to arrange temporary housing at a Kosher hotel for them.

“A good deed for desperately needy families is a great mitzvah [act of kindness],” said Jewish community leader Isaac Sofer, in thanking the Red Cross.

The Red Cross stands ready to work with these families as needed to help with their longer-term needs.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ready Red Hook Day

Brooklyn Disaster Action Team (DAT) Captain, Nancy Soto; Brooklyn DAT member Les Levinowitz; members of the Red Hook Coalition
 On Saturday, September 13, Brooklyn Disaster Action Team (DAT) Captain Nancy Soto and DAT member Les Levinowitz supported “Ready Red Hook Day” by meeting with residents of the Red Hook community to discuss emergency preparedness and distribute home and family disaster preparedness materials.    

In the first hours and days after Hurricane Sandy, the community of Red Hook organically came together and managed the initial response. Out of that response came the Community Disaster Readiness Plan, which was developed by the community of Red Hook for the community of Red Hook. The plan provides residents with a single guide for the critical 72 hours prior to and after a disaster, before formal government assistance is in place. “Ready Red Hook Day” was an opportunity for community members to practice their own emergency plan. 

Organized by the Red Hook Coalition, “Ready Red Hook Day” afforded the Red Cross Brooklyn DAT an opportunity engage the local community, collaborate with partners and integrate disaster response plans.     

Monday, September 15, 2014

In Case You Missed It – Sept 15

Red Cross responding to a 3-alarm fire on Decatur Ave in the Bronx.
In the last week the Red Cross provided emergency relief in the form of shelter, food, clothing, health services and/or emotional support to 97 New Yorkers impacted by 35 disasters across our region. Here are some highlights.

Last Week in Review