This is a guest blog post by Jennifer LoConte of the Northeast Pennsylvania Region of the American Red Cross.

September is National Preparedness Month, and what better way to get prepared than through the American Red Cross?

We Red Crossers are always prepared for any disaster, big or small, down the street, or across the country. Here in the Northeast PA Region, we are excited to announce new initiatives to help everyone in the community become Red Cross Ready.

Thanks to a partnership with UGI Utilities Inc., the Red Cross is able to teach preparedness to seniors. During September and throughout the year, the Red Cross is visiting senior centers, assisted living communities, churches and other senior-minded organizations to teach folks the importance of having a preparedness kit, making a plan and being informed.

American Red CrossA few of the important topics we cover are:

  • Keeping medication lists current.
  • Having an up-to-date contacts list.
  • Knowing your evacuation plan.

The response from participants has been very favorable. The class is presented through Preparedness Bingo, making it a fun way for seniors to learn while having fun playing a game. Every participant receives a backpack with a Red Cross preparedness kit in addition to a helpful preparedness booklet written for seniors, by seniors.

Another new initiative for the region is The Pillowcase Project, which is part of a nationwide pilot program to teach kids in Grades 3-5 to be prepared for any disaster.

As part of the project, sponsored by Disney, trained Red Cross volunteers lead one-hour classroom sessions. The curriculum is structured by three core principles: Learn, Practice and Share. Students will learn about hazards and how to prepared for emergencies, enhance coping skills, and share their knowledge with family and friends.

The program emphasizes the importance of developing an emergency communications plan, fire evacuation plan and emergency contact cards. Students each receive a workbook and certificate of completion. They also can decorate and personalize their pillowcase, which are pre-printed with Disney characters and suggested items to include in the kit, such as toothpaste, flashlight, blanket and a radio. Be on the lookout for The Pillowcase Project to be held in elementary schools, after-school programs and clubs throughout the region.

Of course, our Red Cross dedicated volunteers will also be on-hand at many preparedness expos, fairs and community events taking place throughout our region this month. Stop at our table and make sure you know how to be Red Cross Ready!

Jennifer LoConte is the regional communications officer for the Northeast Pennsylvania Region of the American Red Cross. To learn more about the Red Cross and how it helps communities, visit redcross.org.