Red Cross prepared for eclipse, urges safety

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WICHITA, Kan. -- Millions of people from all over the country are making travel plans
to see the first solar eclipse visible in this country in 99 years, and the American Red Cross is prepared to help them if needed. It is estimated that more than seven million people are expected to travel to the 70-mile wide viewing area from Oregon to South Carolina.

Those planning travel for the event are urged to keep safety in mind. With large numbers of travelers expected to arrive over the weekend, Red Cross officials are coordinating with local emergency agencies across the state to ensure that any contingencies can be handled.

“As with any large public event, we have increased our level of preparedness so that we can move quickly if needed,” said Jennifer Sanders, Red Cross Executive Director for South Central and Southeast Kansas. “Planning is a standard part of our regular collaborations with local emergency management officials and we are always ready to shelter and feed people affected by disasters, if
requested.”

The Red Cross has hundreds of emergency shelters in the 12 states in the eclipse path in case of other emergencies, such as severe weather and extreme heat, that might occur while travelers are away from home. Red Cross volunteers and resources are on standby in case they are needed.

“Cellular service could be impacted by the large number of people visiting the region,” added Sanders. “If networks go down, the Red Cross will use ham radio or top-priority emergency cell channels to communicate.”

People coming to see the eclipse need to be prepared, and the Red Cross offers these safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Pack an emergency kit in case you get stuck in traffic or can’t find a place to stay. Include water, non-perishable food, a flashlight, battery-powered radio, first aid kit, medications, supplies for an infant if applicable, a multi-purpose tool, personal hygiene items including toilet paper, cell phone chargers, extra cash, blankets, maps of the area and emergency contact information.
  • Be informed. Learn how officials contact people in the area you are planning to visit in case of an emergency.
  • Let family or friends know where you are going and the route you plan to take to get there.
  • Arrive at where you plan to watch the eclipse at least a day ahead of time. Heavy traffic congestion is anticipated on major highways before and after the eclipse event.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full so you don’t run out of gas while stuck in traffic.
  • Check the weather forecast ahead of time and throughout the day, especially in areas prone to severe weather.
  • Dress appropriately so you can adjust for changes in weather conditions. It could be very hot.
  • Create an emergency plan. Determine a location to meet in case someone gets separated from your group, and where to go if severe weather occurs.
  • Because cell service may be overwhelmed, print out your directions. Cellular service can be spotty in some areas, so a road map may also be helpful.
  • Know where you’re staying at night. Hotel rooms along the eclipse route are mostly sold out, and rentals are extremely high in some cities. Plan to camp if necessary, but be aware that campgrounds requiring reservations are mostly full already.
  • When viewing the eclipse, remember, looking directly at the sun is unsafe. For steps to take to observe a solar eclipse safely, please refer to information from NASA at https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety.

Download free Red Cross apps

  • The Red Cross “Emergency” app can help keep you and your loved ones safe with instant access to large-scale event tips, weather alerts as well as the location of any open Red Cross shelters.
  • The Red Cross First Aid App puts instant access to information on handling the most common first aid scenarios at your fingertips including heat emergencies. Download these apps by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ in your app store or at redcross.org/apps.

The Red Cross depends on the generous support of the American public to fulfill its crucial mission. If someone would like to help, please consider donating today by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 gift.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.