Thursday, May 24, 2012

My Red Cross Experience

by Marne Braddock, AmeriCorps State and Community Outreach Coordinator

L to R: Arielle Ortiz, Mary Benton and Marnie Braddock
 In late December, I joined the American Red Cross Greater New York Region’s Community Outreach department as an AmeriCorps State member and Community Outreach Coordinator.

After joining the Red Cross, I learned more about the organization’s amazing work, not just in disaster response but in providing free emergency preparedness programs to at-risk communities across the Greater New York region, which encompasses Long Island, the Lower Hudson Valley, Westchester, N.Y., and Greenwich, Conn.

I have learned that 97% of the people who work for the Red Cross are volunteers, and that the Red Cross is open 24/7. Though the Red Cross, like many other organizations, has been affected by the recession, the organization continues to respond to roughly eight emergencies a day across Greater New York, as well as to teach approximately 50,000 people a year emergency preparedness skills and another 260,000 people a year First Aid/CPR and other lifesaving skills.

Working in the Community Outreach department, I present emergency preparedness programs to children and adults in all five boroughs. Almost every day I travel to a different location in New York City, meet interesting people, hear their stories and teach people how they can prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. I am personally responsible for presenting to all nonprofit organizations, associations, schools, senior, community and recreation centers and community and faith-based groups in Brooklyn.

Since my first presentation in January, I have learned that children and adults are eager to share their personal experiences.

For example, during a Ready New York presentation (a free 45-minute emergency preparedness presentation teaching NYC residents how to create a plan, build a supply kit, and keep loved ones safe and informed during times of disaster) for a PTA group in Manhattan, one parent mentioned that her apartment caught on fire and she did not know what to do, what to bring or what relief resources are available for victims of disasters through the Red Cross (i.e., shelter, food, financial support).

Another time, during a “Water Habits are Learned Early,” or WHALES Tales, presentation for children on water safety, one child mentioned that when his younger sister fell into a pool, he decided to throw her a floatation device rather than jump in after her because he was not a strong swimmer. I was so pleased to hear that he reacted calmly and rationally, saving his sister’s life in the process without endangering his own.

Hearing these stories has strengthened my passion for teaching emergency preparedness to various communities and has shown me the importance of learning such information.

In an emergency, quick decisions have to be made: If I smell gas, should I call the Fire Department before or after I leave my apartment? If a loved one is struggling in a pool, should I respond or call for help? If I have to evacuate my apartment, what should I have packed in my Go Bag? Knowing the answers to such questions in advance can determine one’s well-being, or even survival.

The Red Cross is made up of hard working, passionate people with a common mission to help communities in need. It has been a rewarding experience that I will continue to cherish.



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