Monday, December 28, 2009

Locating a Loved One in an Emergency

Imagine this: You live in the State of Washington and see vivid news coverage of a huge wildfire in California’s Orange County. Your son and his family live there! You’ve tried to phone them, but calls aren’t getting through. What can you do?

Contact the American Red Cross, or better yet, go to the Safe and Well website, Click on “Getting Assistance,” then on “Contacting Family Members.” You will be prompted to give specific information such as the victim’s name and address or phone number. If the victims have registered, you will be given their specific messages.

What if you’re the victim and must leave your home? How can you let everyone know you’re okay? Go to and list yourself as safe and well.

This is how it works. The Red Cross assists displaced families to communicate from the disaster area with loved ones outside the area. Victims register themselves as “Safe and Well” by selecting and posting standard messages for family and friends that indicate they are safe and well in a shelter, hotel, or another home, and will make contact when possible.

The 14 standard messages include:
– I am safe and well
– Family and I are safe and well
– Currently at a shelter
– Currently at home
– Currently at a friend/family member/neighbor’s house
– Will make phone calls when able
– Will e-mail when able
– I am evacuating to a shelter

The victim checks as many boxes as are appropriate.

Because of privacy laws, no location information is publicly displayed on this website. The results of a successful search only displays a loved one’s first and last name, the “as of” date, and the Safe and Well standard messages they posted.

When disaster victims register at a Red Cross shelter or go to Red Cross feeding and distribution sites, they are encouraged to contact family members to let them know they are safe and well. If Internet is not available, the Red Cross has a Registration Form that can be completed by hand and which in turn will be entered into the Safe and Well computer system by Red Cross volunteers.

The American Red Cross works closely with many organizations to provide communication during times of emergencies. Contact Loved Ones voice message service,, 1-866-782-6682, can be accessed by either victims or by concerned family members outside a disaster zone.

If urgent or emergency personal contact between a person in the Armed Services and their family is required, the Red Cross is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to send emergency communication to a deployed service member, a member in training or stationed far from home. In an emergency, call your local American Red Cross chapter for assistance with their Service to Armed Forces program.

The American Red Cross knows how important family contact is during an emergency, for both victims and for their loved ones. The Red Cross has long served in this capacity, but has recently streamed-lined its process through the Safe and Well website.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Secret to a Merry Christmas: Skip the Stress

As your life spins into the busy holiday season, how can you avoid the stress of "holiday blues?" One way is to avoid the tyranny of the "shoulds" and take time to do what you enjoy. Keep the season's purpose in mind and stay within the guidelines of common sense.

Remember to take care of yourself. Holidays often bring attitudes of over-indulgence and then later, feelings of guilt. Eat and drink sensibly─you'll feel better at the time and not have to deal with the consequences afterwards. When things get hectic, take time out for a brisk walk. It's amazing how this clears the head and gives you a fresh outlook. Indulge yourself a little─get a massage, take a hot bath, turn off the television and all those Christmas commercials and curl up with a good book. Give yourself a gift.

Simplify your celebrations by setting up realistic time and money budgets and sticking to them. Limit scheduled special events so that something isn't going on every night of the week. Stay home and enjoy your decorations with family and close friends.

Decide ahead of time how much you should spend for Christmas and then stick with it. To avoid the stress of overspending, make a list of those you buy for and keep track of the presents you've bought. It's easy to forget what you've already purchased when you're in the thick of Christmas shopping. Don't worry about what others are giving, stay within your own financial means.

Some people enjoy the scramble of last-minute shopping. But if waiting until the last minute makes you frantic, do something about it by buying gifts gradually, throughout the year.

If you're giving a party, consider making it pot-luck or at least asking for help. You don't have to do everything yourself and a party doesn't have to be flawless. Remember parties you've attended? Probably some of the best ones were spontaneous.

Not everyone is thrilled with the holiday season. For some, it is a sad, unpleasant time of year. Try to understand their depression and be especially understanding of their needs.

For many, giving of yourself is key to a happy and satisfying holiday season. There is no greater joy than knowing you've contributed to someone's happiness during this time of year. Every community holds charitable Christmas programs. Get involved in whatever way you can within your own time and money constraints by giving food, a new toy or clothing to a needy family. How about driving an elderly person to a mall? If you bake, nothing lights up people's eyes like a plate of homemade Christmas cookies. And be open to receiving another's gesture of love to you.

Above all, avoid the trap of striving for "perfection." Nothing is perfect and trying to make it so only brings on stress and frustration. Settle for a little imperfection and you'll have a more relaxed, carefree holiday.