Friday, March 25, 2016

The Perils of a Blizzard...The Joy of Preparedness

By Dana Goldsmith | Prepare Colorado Program Development Specialist
American Red Cross

For Winter Safety Awareness week, we thought this would be a good reminder ...

 I left my house at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, March 23rd with a list of errands to run. I had intended to be home by noon, hearing that a sizeable storm was headed our way and driving would become difficult after 10 a.m. I traveled down to the south end of Colorado Springs to pick up a friend's daughter, who was coming over to play that day. Moments after I passed Marksheffel Road heading east on Woodman, I got the notification that Woodman was shut down. It was closed for good reason: the traffic was barely crawling above 2 mph and I couldn’t see the taillights of the car in front of me, which was only 2 ft ahead of my front bumper.

I decided to pull out my GPS to get an idea of how close were to the nearest gas station, or grocery store so we could pull in. Turns out we were right in the middle. Gas station was 1 mile behind us, Grocery store, 1 mile ahead. With no good answers, I  decided to follow the car in front of us and hope we could crawl home.

Eventually, traffic stopped completely. The cars around me had turned off their engines after 45 minutes of no movement, and I decided to do the same. I called my husband to tell him we were stuck. He asked my whereabouts and I told him what I knew from GPS, but I had no way of visually telling how far, or close we were to anything. I drove this stretch of road hundreds, if not thousands of times, and I had no idea where I was. It was unnerving.

Looking out the car window.
Photo by Dana Goldsmith
I work for the American Red Cross, as the Preparedness Lead for my chapter. I wanted to practice what I preached, so I had loaded my car up with supplies. Most of it was my winter hiking gear, which never left my car because I never knew when I might want to take off and go snowshoeing! The 11 year old girl I was with was very underprepared. She was wearing flat tennis shoes, leggings and a long sleeve shirt under a very thin vest. Looked adorable, but not exactly blizzard appropriate!

Some of the gear that came in most useful:
Gloves- thick, winter gloves that were heavier than the “Driving gloves” I was wearing.
Base Layers-in hiking terms, these are thinner, water wicking zip up jackets that fit nicely under heavier winter coats.
Beanies- I had 2 in the car, which was a lucky draw. One for her, one for me!
Extra jackets my kids happened to leave in the car- which fit the 11 year old quite well and gave her some warmth
My neck gaiter- this is a wide, stretchy cloth that you can use to cover your mouth/nose, all the way down your neck.
A bandana- this works in place of a neck gaiter to cover your exposed skin, and fit nicely for the 11 year old
Goggles- the wind was blowing SO hard. I couldn’t even look at my tailpipe without getting ice in my eyes. These were essential
Hand warmers and a space blanket- I always keep these in my hiking pack “just in case” and didn’t need them this day, but if we had been stuck overnight, this would have been life-saving.
First Aid Kit- also didn’t need this, but I was comforted in having it.
Water- my camel back is always full- 2L of water for those spontaneous hiking trips. It was enough water for the both of us, though if we had to stay overnight I’m not sure we would have had enough. More water is a good idea!
Bright colored, reflective and attention-grabbed gear- this helped me flag down the Search and Rescue vehicles that eventually came to get us
Car Charger, travel charger and a full battery on my phone- this helped me keep up with weather updates, tell my family I was okay, and battle the boredom that sets in when you are stuck in traffic for hours at a time!
Snacks- we had mixed nuts, granola bars, dried blueberries and a peanut butter “waffle” that is more like a cookie. I also learned that anything held together with honey or chocolate is not a good idea- it froze solid and those items were inedible!

One thing we didn't have was a place to use the restroom. The little girl in the back couldn’t hold it any longer, and getting out of the car to go to the bathroom wasn’t an option. It was far too dangerous to exposed skin or risk the wind/snow. We found an empty Gatorade bottle in my trash bag in the car, and she used that.

I went over a mental list of steps. My Red Cross Emergency app was REALLY helpful. It told me a series of things to do when trapped in your car, like run the engine to warm up every hour, for 10 minutes. But before doing that, check your tailpipe to be sure there is no blockage, and also crack a window to encourage good ventilation while the car is running. I was glad to have some steps to take, and the demonstration of knowing what to do seemed to be calming for the little girl in the back seat who was unsure and scared.

I also didn’t have much to DO. I downloaded some games on my phone and we took turns playing them, but a deck of cards would have been great. It’s calming to be distracted by these kinds of things instead of anxious about rescue, weather, conditions and other stress factors.

"That's my Car!" Photo by
Dana Goldsmith
At one point, something large slammed into my car. I’m not sure what it was. It was good I had my windows rolled up at that time, and that I had used my emergency break. Be aware that things may be blowing around in windy conditions like that, and you won’t see them because of the blowing snow.

The small car in front of me was really struggling. The wind was blowing so hard he was being carried. Even my Hummer was rocking and shaking with the high winds.

The kindness of strangers was something that I saw coming from all angles. On Facebook, strangers were offering their homes to stranded passengers, and people with 4X4 vehicles, towing capabilities and etc were offering to drive to get people out. It was tempting to ask for help, but somewhat dangerous. It was such a bad idea to get out of the car. Even going to my tailpipe to clear it of snow, I was pushed around by the wind and turned around, and could not see my bright orange car! It was so easy to get disoriented and confused about where I was. I couldn’t tell if I was on the road, on the shoulder, in a ditch, facing west or east… it was amazing how hard it was to figure out! And of course, with no visibility, it was scary to think that a semi, or sliding vehicle could come out of the white-out and hit me with no warning or ability to move.
"Scared but safe because we were
 prepared!" Photo by
Dana Goldsmith

I count my blessings. My friends daughter was safe and warm, we were inconvenienced and battling boredom, but not hurt or lost. We were warm, safe and protected by a good vehicle that could withstand the weather. But not all are so lucky.

In the end, we spent 7 hours in our vehicle, on the side of the road, and somehow wound up on Woodman facing WEST. We saw emergency lights across the road, and I snapped a photo when the wind cleared a bit to see.

I had to stand out of my sunroof and wave a bright orange Bronco Beanie to get their attention. As It turns out, my car was much more covered than I realized, and I was grateful I had opened and closed my sunroof, to unfreeze it, so we could eventually evacuate.

The fire truck got stuck and we were transferred to a snowcat, which put us in a wildland fire brush rig, before we were taken out of the dangerous area to a shelter, where we could arrange a ride. All in all, we made out fairly well, and I’m happy to say that both Hailey and I have recovered and are ready to face the next adventure!

To learn more about the Red Cross Emergency! app or about how to pack an emergency kit for your car go to our website,

2016 Colorado Springs Hometown Heroes Dinner Brings the Community Together

By Linda Julich, American Red Cross Feature Writer

The Red Cross of Southeastern Colorado honored Hometown Heroes on March 17, 2013 at the Antlers Plaza Hotel in the beautiful Heritage Ballroom.  Phil Long Dealerships served as the Title Sponsor for the event that had an impressive list of nominators, sponsors, and community and Red Cross leaders gathered to recognize our local heroes who demonstrated courage, kindness and unselfish character.  The heroes were accompanied by their proud and supportive families, friends and colleagues.

Humanitarion Award winner David Jenkins with sponsors
from Weidner Apartment Homes.
Photo by Richard Firth/American Red Cross
There is something special about the atmosphere of the party when you have this many heroes in one place.  The room exudes an awareness of the character and integrity of those around you, and the humbleness of those being honored, making you instinctively understand that these everyday heroes make a big difference in our corner of the world.

Starting off with a lovely dinner, Joe Cole, News Director for Fox21, serving as emcee again this year, called the program to begin.  After the presentation of colors and pledge, awards began.  Each recipient was highlighted in a Fox 21 News video showing the incident or program that earned them the hero award.  Each video was as special and unique as the heroes.  Those that viewed them were touched by the stories, the courage, and selfless acts.  One attendee said, “I kept tearing up watching the videos”…and yes, all of us did.

In addition to the thanks and appreciation of the community, each hero received a medal, a certificate, a copy of The Gazette’s front page story, and some Girl Scout Cookies from local Troop 4624.

Awards and recipients for the 2016 Colorado Springs Hometown Heroes are:
Humanitarian Hero:  David Jenkins for his service to the Colorado Springs community by thoughtful and long term stewardship and philanthropic efforts. Sponsored by Weidner Apartment Homes
Animal hero:  The Pikes Peak Therapeutic Riding Center for their service to those with diverse needs through the unique and therapeutic attributes of the horse. Sponsored by BKD, LLP
Adult Hero:  Ken Rojas, employee of Home Depot, for assisting David Thornhill with life saving emergency actions as David suffered a heart attack in the store. Sponsored by The Gazette
First Responder Hero:  Shawn McFarland for his resourcefulness, quick thinking and executive skills in the life saving rescue of Jim Heidelberg in a mountain bike accident.
First Responder Organization recipient the
 Colorado Springs Pilice Department
Photo by Richard Firth/American Red Cross
First Responder Organization:  Colorado Springs Police Department in recognition of their outstanding service and support for the Colorado Springs Community. Sponsored by 1st Bank
Military Heroes:  U.S.A.F. Academy Cadets for their service to southeastern Colorado communities and specifically the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign. Sponsored by  ENT
Girl Scout Troop 4624 with Military Hero
U.S.A.F Academy Cadets. Photo by
Richard Firth/American Red Cross
Military Hero:  Corporal Jeffery Miller for his quick action and invaluable contribution to the health and safety of the civilian and military personnel involved in a motor vehicle accident not far from his aid station. Sponsored by USAA
Community Service Hero:  Randy Sirota for his continuous support for the homeless and less fortunate people of Colorado Springs. Sponsored by Fox 21 News
Community Partner Hero: Crawford House for their efforts to improve the lives of veterans in Colorado and adjoining states. Sponsored by Phil Long Dealerships.

Many thanks were also extended to emcee Joe Cole, Vicki Cederholm, and the volunteers of the Red Cross.  Also to our media partners The Gazette and Fox/21 News.

About the room I heard “We are dedicated to serving the community”.  “It’s just a part of my job.”  “His mission is to help others.”  “It’s not about me.”   This is what heroes say.

Leaving the event I heard “What a wonderful program.”  “I am so glad I could attend and thank these heroes.”  “This was such a meaningful program.”  This is what a grateful Colorado Springs community says.

Congratulations to our Hometown Heroes and a big thanks to our sponsors!

If you are interested in contributing to our community through the efforts of the Red Cross, please visit our website for volunteer opportunities that may appeal to you. Go online to and click on volunteer.  Whether in a disaster or special interest project, your time and talents will be very much appreciated.  Check it out!

More photos from the 2016 Colorado Springs Hometown Heroes Dinner are available for viewing on Flickr at

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Red Cross Responds to Help with 2016 Colorado Blizzard

Nearly 350 people sheltered Wednesday evening

Denver, Thursday, March 24, 2016, Noon – The American Red Cross of Colorado responded to the call for help on Wednesday as travelers were stranded across much of northeast Colorado. 

At the height of the response the Red Cross and partners had opened 13 emergency warming centers and was supporting nearly 350 people with food, coffee and other comforts. By midnight most of the shelters were closed as the roads opened and travelers were able to continue.

All shelters in Colorado have closed. The Burlington shelter closed around 9 a.m. and the shelter at SD49 Patriot Learning Center in Falcon closed at noon.

The Red Cross would like to thank all of our community partners who opened warming centers on short notice and the many merchants who stepped up to provide food for the people. In addition, we want to give a big thank you to all the emergency responders who rescued stranded motorists and in some cases transported Red Cross volunteers so they could open shelters. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

In the Midst of Chaos, the Voice of Calm

By Linda Julich
At 1:30 a.m. on January 14, 2016, Laurie and Jerry Salazar were awakened to someone banging on their door, shouting “Fire! Get out!  Fire! Get out!”

That someone was their neighbor, Richard, and that fire was their apartment building.

“I grabbed my husband, my dog and my phone,” Laurie said. They evacuated to gather with other apartment dwellers at a designated, safe distance.  They watched, and heard the “whoosh” of the flames climbing up the side and around the back of the building.  They were praying, holding on to each other, hoping the building wouldn’t blow up.

Jerry and Laurie Salazar
“I started noticing things around me, I saw the fire truck, and other ‘red’ items.  That’s when we realized the Red Cross was on the scene.  They were there with the fire truck, right away,” Laurie recalled.

Then, in the midst of chaos, they heard the voice of calm. Robert, a volunteer from the Red Cross Disaster Action Team, checked in with Laurie and Jerry and assured them that they were alright, they would be helped.

Robert talked with everyone, explaining what the Red Cross would do to help them.  He called for hotels, finding one that could accommodate several families so they could be together.  He gave them a Red Cross debit card to use for immediate needs, and a bag with a few toiletries and emergency supply items.

“The firemen got what they could when they could finally enter the building.  They brought medications and a few other items,” Jerry said.  “But basically, you have nothing,” Laurie said.

Shortly after Laurie and Jerry settled in their hotel, they got a call from Kathy, their Red Cross case worker.

 “Kathy is a dream come true!” Laurie said.  Kathy made calls and helped with numerous issues from retrieving things, to replacing missing IDs, connecting them with resources, and keeping Laurie and Jerry supported in very tangible ways.

“We had no idea the Red Cross did all of this for fire victims” said Laurie, amid some tears.  “If it weren’t for the Red Cross, we would have nothing.”
Jerry and Laurie remain forever grateful.

The Red Cross responds to an average of more than one disaster a day in Colorado and Wyoming; most of these are home fires and apartment fires like the one that affected Laurie and Jerry. If you would like to help the Red Cross help families affected by these daily disasters, visit to donate or to sign up to volunteer.

Monday, March 14, 2016

March Lunch and Learn: Global Disasters call for Global Preparedness

By Cassie Schoon

Jenni Gasbarro,  Senior Director of Donor Relations
for the American Red Cross COW Region
The Red Cross responds to disasters of all sizes and scales, from home fires to hurricanes. And while the organization is tasked with providing preparedness resources and training for all disaster and conflict situations, preparing for events of a global scale requires a particular level of expertise, planning, cooperation and resources. For this reason, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies developed the Global Disaster Preparedness Center (the GDPC) to promote disaster preparedness and management. On Wednesday, March 16, Jenni Gasbarro, Senior Director of Donor Relations for the American Red Cross Colorado & Wyoming Region, will speak at the International Services Brown Bag Lunch and Learn about her own work in Global Preparedness, as well as the importance of preparedness in the face of variables like climate change, urbanization and environmental issues.

According to Gasbarro, the strength of an initiative like GDPC is in its use of shared disaster planning knowledge and development of accessible, useful solutions.

"The GDPC (Global Disaster Preparedness Center) is fascinating because it provides a free resource for Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies all over the world," s
he said. "It takes best practices from the US and from other countries and turns them into scalable solutions provided at no cost to the Red Cross network."

One of these solutions, she said, is the GDPC Universal App program. The program provides a mobile app platform that developers can easily adapt to broadcast local information on disaster-response resources, as well as relevant updates before, during and after emergency situations.
At the core of global disaster management efforts, Gasbarro said, are partnerships across non-profit organizations, educational institutions and the private sector.

"Partnerships are the lifeblood of the Red Cross!" she said. "Partnerships with the private sector, governments and other non-profits... We can’t forget the power of our own network. The GDPC is interesting in that it has a balance of partnership from museums such as the National Building Museum to academia and universities to tech companies, the power of working together will lift the tide and lift all of us toward resiliency."

When asked how the attendees of the Lunch and Learn could best aid in global disaster preparedness, Gasbarro said that disaster response still begins on the local level, no matter the scale of the disaster.

"Get to know your neighbors," she said. "Truly global disaster preparedness starts with us. Do we know our community, do we know our neighbors so that when something happens we know that Mrs. Smith down the street is on oxygen and needs access to a generator if she has no power? I hope people learn that we are part of the bigger whole, we are in this together with an amazing network of people around the world. Given that, the work happens one conversation at a time, starting with here in Colorado."

The Lunch and Learn event will be held at noon Wednesday, March 16. To RSVP for the event, click here. For more information, contact Tim Bothe.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Nuclear Fears in the Post-9/11 World: IHL Film Series to Feature "Countdown to Zero"

By Cassie Schoon

Nuclear fears may seem like the campy artifacts of postwar paranoia, as dated as atomic-print curtains and foil-wrapped TV dinners. But this conception is soundly repudiated in Countdown to Zero, a documentary detailing the vulnerabilities and current dangers of the world’s nuclear arsenal. The 2010 film, directed by British filmmaker Lucy Walker, screens at 5:30 Thursday, March 10, at the Red Cross as this month’s installment in the International Humanitarian Law film series.

Walker’s film, which features interviews with global players like Jimmy Carter, Mikhail Gorbachev,  Pervez Musharraf, Valerie Plame and Robert McNamara, was once called a “horror” film by The Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw for its revelations on the current state of global nuclear relations.

The film’s anti-proliferation message is in alliance with the current International Humanitarian Law conventions pertaining to nuclear weaponry. In 2011, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, in light of a half-century of work with the Japanese Red Cross following the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings, appealed to the world’s nuclear-enabled states to eliminate the use of nuclear weapons.

Despite these global calls to end the global experiment in nuclear arms, the arsenals (about 23,000 operational weapons worldwide) remain. Countdown to Zero makes the case that it’s time to bring those postwar fears of a nuclear detonation from the backburner to the front, and to take seriously the fact that we still live in a nuclear-enabled world. A roundtable discussion of the IHL implications of these issues will be held after the presentation of the film. To RSVP to the event, click here. For more information, contact Tim Bothe.

Friday, March 4, 2016

2016 Heroes Soiree Rallied Hundreds to the Call to Help

More than 800 people gathered at the Red Cross Heroes Soiree on Friday, Feb. 26, to celebrate and honor heroes and to support the lifesaving work of the Red Cross in Colorado.

The 2016 Red Cross Heroes Soiree featured Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper as a guest speaker and American National Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern as keynote speaker.
Co-Chairs Alice Jackson & Jerome Davis with
American National Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern
and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.
The event explored edgy new twists for a Denver fundraiser while remaining true to its decade-long roots honoring local heroes and highlighting the Red Cross mission. Held at the Exdo Event center in Denver's hot RiNo (River North) neighborhood, the Soiree began with a cocktail and networking hour complete with beverages sponsored by MillerCoors, a Red Carpet experience presented by MillerCoors and Bank of America, live music by the MoTones, and a "champagne aerialist" pouring glasses of champagne for guests while suspended from the ceiling. Decor in the grand ballroom featured modern patterns, glitz, glitter and social media stands presented by EON Office.
The event featured modern decor.

The evening's formal presentation was emceed by Reggie Rivers and CBS4 morning anchor Britt Moreno and hosted by Event Chairs Alice Jackson and Jerome Davis, representing presenting sponsor Xcel Energy. The ceremony carried on the long-standing tradition of the Red Cross Mile High Area honoring everyday heroes and awarding outstanding acts of compassion and heroism by local residents. Great-West Financial and Empower Retirement paused to recognize the everyday heroes in the crowd: military, veterans, police, fire, EMS and Red Cross volunteers who touch lives every day in our communities.
In addition to presenting awards to outstanding community
members, the Heroes Soiree honored everyday heroes.

The Red Cross presented five awards to outstanding heroes. If you missed the event or want to relive their touching stories, watch their videos below.

These heroes exemplified the Red Cross spirit of compassion, humanitarianism and taking action to help others. Their stories served as a moving inspiration to all present to get involved in the Red Cross mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of disasters and emergencies. And the attendees at the Soiree answered the call to help with a resounding yes! Attendees pledged more than $100,000 following the award ceremony. DCP Midstream, Xcel Energy, Bank of America, MillerCoors and an anonymous board member contributed an additional $155,000 in matching funds to increase the impact of the day-of donations, bringing the grand total raised by the 2016 Red Cross Heroes Soiree to more than $500,000!

We’d like to give a special thanks to our event sponsors and annual supporters: Ball Corporation, Kaiser Permanente, PCL Construction Enterprises, Xcel Energy, CoBank, Western Union Foundation, DCP Midstream, Great-West Financial, Empower Retirement, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, MillerCoors, Anadarko Petroleum, PDC Energy, Noble Energy, Liberty Oilfield Services, Anschutz Foundation, CH2M, EON Office, Colorado Oil and Gas Association, and all our table sponsors!

View all of the event photos here.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Lunch and Learn Speaker Explores Law and Order in Armed Conflict

By Kevin Quinn, Ohio, US - Flickr, CC BY 2.0,
The original Geneva Conventions laws governing
conflict were signed in 1864
By Cassie Schoon

There are rules to war, even when it may seem that armed conflict is the height of human chaos. And these rules have an arbiter and adviser in Lt. Col. Jedd Miloud, Staff Judge Advocate of the 302nd Airlift Wing and guest speaker at February’s International Services Lunch and Learn event.

As an Air Force JAG (Judge Advocate General), Miloud has provided legal advice to commanders of the armed forces in discussions of The Law of Armed Conflict, or LOAC. LOAC, as outlined by the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Additional Protocols of 1977 and 2005, governs the conduct of military personnel during wartime, especially where civilians, property and human suffering are involved. The four principles of LOAC are distinction, military necessity, proportionality and unnecessary suffering, which pertain to the use of military violence and the protection of combatants and non-combatants alike.

Lunch and Learn event was well-attended, and according to the speaker, brought in an energetic and engaged crowd. About 25 attendees came to hear in person, with more attending the phone conference. According to Miloud, interest in the topic is due to current curiosities surrounding ongoing military operations.

“I think since the US has been engaged in armed conflict in one way or another, for a long time now, at least since September 11, the American public is very interested in what’s going on with the US armed forces and coalition partners and how these battles are being waged,” Miloud said. “I think the law of war or the law of armed conflict is an important issue in that discussion, and folks want to see what US forces are doing with respect to the humanitarian side of things.”

Additionally, Miloud said, the Lunch and Learn crowd was familiar with the role the Red Cross plays in international humanitarian situations, and was interested in the intersections between the work of the Red Cross and the role of the military.

“The Red Cross has a lot to do with International Humanitarian Law, which is the same thing as LOAC,” he said. “Being involved in the Red Cross shows that these people have an interest in these world affairs [...]. I think it’s important for this audience in particular because of the nature of what they’re involved with, the worldly issues they seem to be interested in and have the potential to influence.”

For more information on LOAC and International Humanitarian Law during armed conflict, click here. For additional information on the International Services Lunch and Learn series, contact Tim Bothe.