AvalonBay’s Community Preparedness Week: Get Disaster Ready with Help from the Red Cross

Guest post by the American Red Cross

The past year has reminded all of us that no one is beyond the reach of disasters. In the U.S., millions of people across the country were impacted by an unrelenting wave of devastating disasters — from back-to-back hurricanes to record-breaking wildfires, historic storms and, of course, home fires — compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through it all, the American Red Cross has worked in countless ways to help disaster survivors, providing them with emergency lodging, hot meals, relief supplies, emotional support and resources to aid in recovery.  In addition to large disasters like wildfires and hurricanes, our volunteers also responded to  “everyday” disasters, like home fires, in communities across the country.

Since 2015, AvalonBay Communities, Inc. has been a member of our Disaster Responder Program. Program members like AvalonBay pledge financial donations year-round in advance of disasters to ensure our organization is prepared to quickly and compassionately provide hope and help to people facing emergencies. We simply couldn’t fulfill our mission without this support.

As we see disasters striking with greater frequency and intensity, it’s more important than ever that the Red Cross is ready to respond wherever and whenever we are needed — and that people and communities are also prepared to face the unexpected.

That’s why we are so honored to be the featured charitable partner of AvalonBay’s annual Community Preparedness Week. Everyone knows the Red Cross helps people during emergencies. But you may not know that it’s also part of our mission to help you get prepared!  We call this being “Red Cross Ready.”

Being “Red Cross Ready” for an emergency means taking steps in advance to ensure you can weather a crisis safely. Disasters of all kinds can strike suddenly, at any time and anywhere, and you may have only seconds to react. While being prepared may not prevent a disaster, it will give you the confidence you need to meet the challenge.

And getting prepared is easier than it sounds! Here are three simple actions anyone can take: 

  1. Get a Kit. First, build your emergency kit with a gallon of water per person, per day, non-perishable food, a flashlight and a battery-powered radio. Also include a first aid kit, medications, supplies for infants or pets, a multi-purpose tool and personal hygiene items. And don’t forget to add copies of important papers, cell phone chargers, blankets, maps of the area and emergency contact information.
  2. Make a Plan. Next, plan what to do in case you are separated from your family during an emergency and what to do if you have to evacuate. Discuss how to prepare and respond to emergencies that are most likely to happen in your area, and make sure to coordinate your plan with your child’s school, your work and your community’s emergency plans.
  3. Be Informed. Finally, plan to stay informed by finding out how local officials will contact you during a disaster and how you will get important information, such as evacuation orders. Download the free Red Cross Emergency app to put weather alerts and safetly information in your hands. Search“American Red Cross” in your mobile device’s app store or visit org/apps.

You can also download and print this handy flyer with more information about the recommended steps above and a short “Red Cross Ready” Checklist. Because of COVID-19, stay current on advice and restrictions from your state and local public health authorities as it may affect your actions and available resources and facilities. And if you need to evacuate, don’t forget to wear a mask and maintain social distancing to help stay as safe as possible.

People living in apartment buildings or multi-family dwellings need to be prepared for disasters of all kinds, just like homeowners do, but there are unique circumstances for you to consider when planning ahead. Consider the following:

  • Meet with your building management to learn about the safety features in your complex (like fire alarms, sprinklers, voice communication procedures, evacuation plans for what residents are supposed to do in the event of an emergency and how to respond to an alarm).
  • Practice your evacuation plan, and align your plans with protocols already in place.
  • In case of fire or other emergency, always use the stairs to get out, never the elevator. Make sure to practice using the stairs as part of your escape plan. If someone in your family has difficulty climbing down steps, make sure to incorporate a contingency for this into your plan.
  • Know locations of all available exit stairwells, as one or more of the exits might be blocked by fire or other emergency.
  • Know where to find the manual fire alarm boxes (alarm boxes on the wall with a pull bar). Most are found within five feet of an exit door.
  • Smoke from a fire can be toxic and deadly. When you practice your escape plan, everyone in the family should practice getting low and going under the smoke to the exit. In the event of a fire and you cannot safely evacuate, Call 9-1-1, provide your apartment number and a description of your location. Open a window and wave a brightly colored cloth or flashlight to signal for help.
  • Get to know your neighbors, so that you know who may need or can lend a helping hand in an emergency. Residents will likely gather in communal areas a safe distance away from the emergency. Working together helps everyone get through the emergency.

Now is also a good time to take steps to help your community get prepared for emergencies of all sizes, too. As an AvalonBay associate or resident, you, too, are a member of our Red Cross family, one of the largest and oldest humanitarian forces in the world. From making an appointment to give blood, volunteering to help in your community, or learning lifesaving skills, you can feel ready to help your loved ones and neighbors when needed and make a significant impact on people’s lives.

In addition to financial support that helps us respond to and help prepare people for emergencies, AvalonBay – alongside your associates and residents – has also answered the call to help us keep the communities we serve strong. You’ve hosted over 350 blood drives at your offices and communities, resulting in over 7,000 pints of blood donated. Additionally, over 900 AvalonBay associates have volunteered with the Red Cross; 1,600+ associates have received CPR training; and AvalonBay has shared Red Cross preparedness tips and resources with more than 146,000 residents and 3,000 associates.

Although we can’t control all the challenges faced by our communities, together, we can be better prepared to face them — and any crises yet to come.  Thank you for your commitment to disaster preparedness, and your support of the Red Cross mission.