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American Red Cross Provides Tips on What to Do Now as States Struggle with the Ice Storm


American Red Cross chapters throughout the Midwest are keeping pace with community needs caused by widespread power outages and a frozen landscape, despite several chapter offices being closed due to the recent ice storm. Red Cross volunteers and employees are working from home or using partnerships with local government or community services to provide much needed assistance to the thousands of people left without power. The beautiful, but deadly, ice storm covering much of the middle of the country has shown that even those most prepared need help at times like these.

The widespread power outage and disruption to transportation has emergency responders working tirelessly. The Red Cross has opened dozens of shelters to help those in dire need of warmth and food, while government agencies, utility companies and emergency responders are working to manage power and transportation services. Every county in Oklahoma has been affected by power outages and media reports from there include several fatalities; Missouri has also been heavily affected, as have parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Texas, Kansas and Iowa. The numbers of overnight stays in Red Cross and community shelters will likely climb from hundreds to thousands.

Even those accustomed to dealing with severe weather are struggling. Residents expect to be home-bound at times during the winter, and many have disaster-supply kits at home, in their cars and in the office that include food, water, medicine, battery–powered radios and flashlights. The scale of this ice storm is what makes it so difficult – the storm that began over the weekend continues to hover. People and organizations will need to stretch their resources.

Red Cross counts on its volunteers, partnerships with community-based organizations and national organizations like the Southern Baptist Convention and The Salvation Army, to meet constant food and shelter and warming center needs in a situation like this. Funding for cots, blankets, hot meals and transportation comes from the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which is then replenished by gifts from local and national donors who demonstrate their compassion through the Red Cross.

Make a Winter Storm Plan:

* Get a disaster supplies kit for your home and vehicle. Detailed information on what to include in your kit can be found at
* Be prepared to shelter at home in case of severe weather. Have additional food and water stored to last seven to14 days
* Have extra blankets on hand
* Ensure that each member of your household has a warm coat, gloves or mittens, a hat and water-resistant boots
* Have your vehicle winterized before the weather gets severe
* Decide how you would communicate with your family members should you be separated and unable to travel when a winter storm hits.

Be Informed:

* Learn how to receive information from local officials should hazardous winter weather affect your neighborhood
* Know the difference between a winter storm WATCH (a winter storm is possible in your area) and a winter storm WARNING (a winter storm is headed for your area)
* Consider getting first aid and CPR training in case you need to respond in an emergency before professionals arrive on the scene.

If the Power Goes Out:

* Do not use candles for lighting if the power goes out. Use flashlights only
* Use items in the refrigerator first, then freezer, then non-perishable foods
* Use generators correctly – If you have a portable generator and the power goes out, always plan to keep the generator outdoors. Never operate it inside, including the basement, garage, carport or near any open windows. Connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.
Do not hook up a generator directly to your home’s wiring.

Hazardous Winter Travel: The American Red Cross strongly urges everyone to monitor weather reports and follow the directions of local authorities. If travel is absolutely necessary during potentially dangerous winter weather, inform someone of your travel route, destination and expected arrival time. Store a disaster supplies kit in your vehicle and remember to keep the gas tank near full to avoid ice building up in the gas tank and fuel lines.

In Case of Snow or Black Ice:

* Stay with your vehicle. Do not try to walk to safety as you risk developing hypothermia and/or frostbite
* Tie a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) to the antenna for rescuers to see
* Start the vehicle and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes won’t back up in the vehicle
* As you sit, move your arms and legs to keep blood circulating and to help you stay warm
* Keep one window away from the blowing wind slightly open to let in air
* Leave the overhead light on inside the vehicle when the engine is running so you can be seen
* After the snow has stopped falling, raise the hood to indicate you need help.

All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help the victims of thousands of disasters across the country each year, disasters like the Midwest ice storms, by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to victims of disaster. The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster please do so at the time of your donation. Call 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting


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