THINK INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW DOESN’T MATTER TO YOU? THINK AGAIN!

photo: American Red Cross

photo: American Red Cross

 

by Emily Esposito

According to a recent American Red Cross Survey, only about half of adults and less than a quarter of young Americans are familiar with the Geneva Conventions and International Humanitarian Law (IHL). Maybe even more surprising, more than half of adults and our nation’s youth think that torturing enemy soldiers is acceptable at least some of the time. And more than a third of Americans (young people included) believe that torturing a captured American soldier is acceptable at least sometimes.

You might ask why IHL should matter to you or if it should matter that most Americans don’t know what IHL is. Americans serving in the military or living abroad could be protected under IHL. The American Red Cross has information and resources to help you understand what IHL is and how it affects you.

What is IHL? IHL is a set of rules that regulates the conduct of armed conflict to protect civilians, aid workers, prisoners of war, and wounded soldiers. Most of these rules are listed in the Geneva Conventions, drafted after WWII and ratified by most countries, including the United States.

Does IHL Matter?  IHL protects people affected by conflict across the globe. While fighting and war on American soil hasn’t taken place in years, that doesn’t mean Americans aren’t immune to conflict and war crimes. Most of us know at least one American soldier who is or could be deployed to fight in a conflict abroad or an American living abroad (think study abroad students, aid workers, diplomats, etc.) that could all be protected under IHL should a conflict erupt.

If armed conflict broke out in your country, civilians not taking part in the conflict (likely your own family) would be protected against violence, would not be taken hostage and could receive aid from a Red Cross society. Do you have family members or friends in the military? Under the Geneva Conventions, wounded soldiers would be given treatment and never tortured.

The U.S., along with many nations around the world, has ratified the Geneva Conventions and many of the subsequent protocols that update the Conventions. Whatever your views on torture or IHL, the U.S. has agreed to abide by certain principles under the Conventions. These principles help to preserve human life and protect civilians around the world. Humanitarian principles are at the core of the Red Cross mission; the Red Cross works to raise awareness of and respect for International Humanitarian Law through education programs and activities. To learn more about IHL, visit the American Red Cross IHL web page.

To volunteer for the Red Cross visit http://www.redcross.org/ri/volunteer

Emily Esposito is an International and Military Services volunteer with the American Red Cross Connecticut and Rhode Island Region. 

Tropical Storm Arthur Reminds Us to Prepare

By Paula Montgomery, Executive Director, American Red Cross Rhode Island Chapter

While we all look forward to the holiday weekend, Tropical Storm Arthur has formed in the Atlantic off the coast of Florida, becoming the first named storm of Hurricane season. Although the storm is not forecast to bring hurricane conditions our area, Arthur is a reminder that we are vulnerable to hurricanes and severe weather here in New England. So, while we may have a slightly wet Fourth of July, consider this an opportunity to check your readiness without the pressure of an impending storm.

You don’t have to think too far back to remember some major storms in our area. From the February 2013 blizzard, to Hurricane Sandy, the October snowstorm of 2011 and Hurricane Irene, we have seen weather disrupt our daily lives and cause serious property damage.

Some of these storms brought storm surges to coastal areas or downed trees. In several cases, prolonged power outages affected many communities. So take a few minutes to think about the impacts you faced at home or at work and consider how you can make yourself more resilient in the face of future storms.

Planning now will help you better cope with emergencies. The American Red Cross has information and tools to help you prepare. Most tasks are simple and can be broken down into smaller steps that won’t be a burden. Start with the three most basic building blocks – a kit, a plan and knowledge about the risks in your community:

  • Create an emergency preparedness kit with food and water, and other basic supplies for each family member to last at least three days. Remember to include essential medications, copies of important documents and special items for children and pets. 
  • Plan what to do in case you are separated from your family during an emergency and what to do if you have to evacuate. Coordinate with your child’s school, your work and community’s emergency plans.
  • Be informed about what disasters or emergencies may occur where you live, work, play and pray, and how to respond as safely as possible. Find out how local officials will contact you during a disaster and how you will get important information. 

To help you through those three steps, here are some resources: 

  • Download any of the Red Cross free disaster-specific mobile apps—particularly the Hurricane and First Aid apps—to get lifesaving preparedness information in the palm of your hand before and during emergencies. Red Cross apps can be found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross or by going to redcross.org/mobileapps
  • Visit the Preparedness section of redcross.org for life-saving information, tools and tips to help you prepare for emergencies.  
  • Get free checklists and downloadable tips at redcross.org/preparednessfastfacts.
  • Use the Red Cross Ready Rating™ Program (readyrating.org). It’s a free, web-based program designed to help businesses, organizations and schools to become better prepared. Members complete a self assessment of their current readiness level and receive immediate, customized feedback with resources to improve preparedness. First Aid Emergency Drills help businesses train their staff for emergencies and disasters.  

Preparation is the best protection against the dangers of a hurricane or other disaster. A few simple steps now will pay big dividends when the next storm hits.

 

Are You Ready for Hurricane Season?

Disaster Mitigation TV PSAs shoot

Volunteer Jason Harris writes today’s blog post. Jason, a new volunteer with the Red Cross, is putting some of his personal experience with hurricanes and his interest to good use in suggesting some basic ideas for personal preparedness.

Hurricane season began June 1. Are you ready? Have you made a Hurricane Preparedness List? Everyone should have a plan, no matter if you live on the coast or inland, because power outages can happen anywhere. I know it can seem a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. I’ve done it and will give you some tips to prepare based on my personal experiences. For details, I will provide links to online resources, because if I write about everything this blog post will start looking like a college term paper.

Check and organize your supplies in a space where they're easy to reach.

Check and organize supplies in an easy to reach space.

To get started, I thought about how I had prepared for storms in the past. I had gotten my water, batteries and non-perishable items together, but really not anything else. I know I didn’t get enough water to sustain me, my wife and our two cats. You don’t want to forget about your animals. They will need food and water as well. Before doing research for this post, I didn’t know you should have a three-day supply of water on-hand. This means a gallon of water per day per family member. During Hurricane Irene, my wife and I were without power for nine days. I used water from our bathtub, which we filled before losing power, to flush the toilet. I also retrieved water from the creek down the street to sustain our water supply. I didn’t drink the water from the creek, but it did come in handy for toilet water, stretching our drinking water supply. Remember also that you don’t have to purchase bottled water. You can easily fill empty containers or soda bottles before a storm.

Disaster Mitigation

Take time to know your risks and make a plan.

When you put together your non-perishable food items such as ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables, make sure you have a manual can opener to open those cans since electric ones won’t work without power.

Another good device to have on hand is a multi-tool. The tool’s name says it all. These multi-tools can include a can opener, knife, pliers and a screwdriver to name just a few of the items you can find in this one awesome tool. If MacGyver was still airing on television, he would have replaced his Swiss Army knife with a modern multi-tool.

You will also need flashlights, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio and an extra supply of batteries for the flashlights and radio. If you have rechargeable batteries, make sure they are charged up before the storm hits. Make sure cell phones are charged as well. You may want to invest in a portable power station, the kind advertised for jumping car batteries. Many of these units come with an LED work light and USB power port, and can be useful for charging cell phones and tablet computers. I have used mine more to charge my cellphone and my wife’s phone more than to jump my car battery.

And here’s another tip that can easily be overlooked. Make sure to have cash on hand because if the power goes out, credit cards and ATMs will be useless.

My wife and I weathered our nine days after Hurricane Irene with a lot of books, flashlights and trips to our families’ houses, as they owned generators. We learned a lot, and will be better prepared next time.

If you want to make a plan, check out redcross.org for more information. The Red Cross web page on Hurricanes will provide information to help you prepare for and cope with a hurricane. And there are lots of links to other resources like the Red Cross Hurricane App for your phone.

Young People Find Great Volunteer Opportunities at the Red Cross; Adult Mentors Help Them Grow!

by Keysha Dorch, American Red Cross Rhode Island Chapter Volunteer

Rhode Island Youth Corps photo

Members of the Rhode Island Chapter recently prepared bags of personal care and comfort items for the Totes of Hope program that helps provide support to military veterans.

Young people wanting to be involved in their communities, build character and learn leadership skills are finding great opportunities to serve with the Red Cross Youth Corps. And the Red Cross is looking for adult leaders to help support the increased activity of the Red Cross Youth Corps in Rhode Island.

American Red Cross Youth Services are essential to the fulfillment of the Red Cross mission. Youth Corps volunteers are engaged in all aspects of the Red Cross: Preparedness, Health & Safety Services; Blood Services; Emergency Services; Service to Armed Forces; and International Services.

The Rhode Island Chapter is looking for adult volunteers to educate, encourage and empower youth to be role models in their communities so that as current and future leaders, they can further the mission and fundamental principles of the Red Cross and touch more lives nationwide and around the world. “Our mission at the Red Cross is to build stronger, safer, more resilient communities,” said Red Cross Director of Volunteer Resources and Youth Services Jason Campagnone. “With the Youth Corps, we strengthen communities by developing stronger, more engaged youth.”

American Red Cross Rhode Island Chapter Youth Council Chairman David Vargas credits his involvement in the Red Cross Youth Corps for his increase in integrity and willingness to help people. For Vargas, Red Cross Youth Services provides challenging yet attainable goals that motivate and provide a sense of accomplishment and community. Volunteering with the Red Cross has “helped me learn the real definition of commitment and dedication,” Vargas says. “The Red Cross also has also let me see the importance of volunteering and how one person can make a difference.”

As Youth Advisors, volunteers will be expected to ensure that youth volunteers are fully engaged in their assigned Red Cross activities, educate the community on the youth services aspect of the Red Cross mission and expand the youth initiative within schools and colleges. These adult mentors/advisors need to be reliable, supportive and dedicated to helping build the future of the American Red Cross. This is a great opportunity for young professionals who want to build leadership and networks and for others with experience to share in shaping future leaders.

For information on how to become a Youth Advisor, please visit www.redcrossyouth.org or contact Jason Campagnone by phone at (401) 831-7701 extension 101 or by email at Jason.Campagnone@redcross.org.

HELP NOW: BECOME A RED CROSS DISASTER MENTAL HEALTH VOLUNTEER

If you are a licensed mental health professional with a desire to help people, the American Red Cross has a fulfilling volunteer opportunity for you. Join us to support people who have been impacted by residential fires, disasters and other emergencies.

American Red Cross disaster response includes an important emotional support and mental health component aimed at helping people to cope with the emotionally difficult nature of disasters and to begin their own recovery.

There are a variety of ways to help and time commitments to choose from. The first step? Register and learn more here.

American Red Cross Helping Two People After Coventry Fire

The American Red Cross is helping two adults with emergency housing and food needs after a fire Monday on Albro Lane in Coventry.

The Red Cross is also providing comfort kits, containing age and gender appropriate personal care items such as toothbrushes, deodorant, shaving supplies and other items a family might not have been able to gather in the rush to escape the fire.  Children’s kits include a stuffed toy.

American Red Cross disaster assistance is free of charge, a gift made possible by generous donations and the work of volunteers.  For more information about the Red Cross and how you can help, visit www.redcross.org.

American Red Cross Helping Three People After Providence Fire

The American Red Cross is helping two adults and one child with emergency housing and food needs after they were displaced by a fire today on Swift Street in Providence.

The Red Cross is also providing comfort kits, containing age and gender appropriate personal care items such as toothbrushes, deodorant, shaving supplies and other items a family might not have been able to gather in the rush to escape the fire.  Children’s kits include a stuffed toy.

American Red Cross disaster assistance is free of charge, a gift made possible by generous donations and the work of volunteers.  For more information about the Red Cross and how you can help, visit www.redcross.org.

 

Red Cross Helping Two People After North Smithfield Fire

The American Red Cross is helping two adults with emergency housing, food and clothing needs after a fire today on Pond House Road in North Smithfield.

The Red Cross is also providing comfort kits, containing age and gender appropriate personal care items such as toothbrushes, deodorant, shaving supplies and other items a family might not have been able to gather in the rush to escape the fire.  Children’s kits include a stuffed toy.

American Red Cross disaster assistance is free of charge, a gift made possible by generous donations and the work of volunteers.  For more information about the Red Cross and how you can help, visit www.redcross.org.

 

Red Cross Babysitter Training Offered on Presidents’ Day

The American Red Cross is offering its Babysitter’s Training class on Monday, February 18. The course will be offered at the Red Cross office in Providence.

“The Presidents’ Day school holiday is a great opportunity to give your children this important training,” said American Red Cross spokesperson Paul Shipman. “The skills your child learns in this class will help them if they want to earn money babysitting, but will also provide skills to help them watch younger siblings and to be safer at home.”

Designed for young people ages 11 to 15, “this course prepares you to become a great babysitter – and shows parents that you take this responsibility seriously,” Shipman said.

Participants gain practical skills and confidence through video presentations, hands-on activities and classroom discussion. Students will also leave with resources to help them get started as Babysitters, including résumé and business card templates; “How to Ace an Interview” guide; safety inspection checklist; and more.

Participants will learn how to:

•           Supervise children and infants

•           Perform basic child-care such as diapering, feeding and dressing

•           Choose safe, age-appropriate games and toys

•           Handle bedtime and discipline issues

•           Identify safety hazards and prevent injuries

•           Care for common injuries such as burns, cuts and bee stings

•           Communicate effectively with parents

•           Find and interview for babysitting jobs

Classes start at 9:00 a.m. and end at 4:00 p.m. The class will be held at the Red Cross office in Providence. Cost for the course is $85. The course fee includes a Babysitter’s Training Handbook, Emergency Reference Guide and CD-ROM. After successful completion, students will receive Babysitter’s Certificate. To register call 1-800-REDCROSS (733-2767) or register online at www.redcross.org.

American Red Cross Helping Five People After Providence Fire

The American Red Cross is helping a family of five – two adults and three children – with emergency food needs after a fire this morning on Camp Street in Providence. The family was able to make alternative housing arrangements.

The Red Cross is also providing comfort kits, containing age and gender appropriate personal care items such as toothbrushes, deodorant, shaving supplies and other items a family might not have been able to gather in the rush to escape the fire. Children’s kits include a stuffed toy.

American Red Cross disaster assistance is free of charge, a gift made possible by generous donations and the work of volunteers. For more information about the Red Cross and how you can help, visit www.redcross.org.