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White House Honors Red Cross Preparedness Work

American Red Cross
These chapters demonstrate that bringing community groups together is the best way to moving the needle in how people prepare for disasters.

The White House is recognizing several American Red Cross chapter staff and programs today for their work engaging entire communities to be prepared for disasters and emergencies of all kinds. The events at the White House are a part of the White House Champions of Change and the FEMA Preparedness Awards.

“Being ready for a disaster isn’t hard, and it isn’t just about a ‘someday’ event,” said Russ Paulsen, executive director for Red Cross Community Preparedness and Resilience Services. “These chapters demonstrate that bringing community groups together is the best way to moving the needle in how people prepare for disasters.”

Gail Toscano of the Northeast PA Region and Emily White of the Gateway to the Golden State Region are being recognized as “Champions of Change for Community Preparedness and Resilience.” This award recognizes individuals whose preparedness work engages all sectors of a community—such as private businesses, local governments, community and faith-based organizations and individual citizens—to be ready for a disaster.

Osas Otasowie, of the Los Angeles Region, along with other partner organizations will receive the 2013 John D. Solomon Award in the category of “Preparing the Whole Community” for their work aimed at encouraging youth to be ready for emergencies.

Gail Toscano

Toscano, a preparedness and resiliency manager, is being honored for her work developing community preparedness programs, such as the Kids Home Alone Emergency Preparedness Workshop. The workshop teaches elementary school students about different disasters and how to be ready for them. The program includes interactive workshop stations with hands-on activities, videos, experiments, games, displays and interaction with Red Cross and local 911 Center volunteers.

Emily White

White, a regional director of preparedness, oversees a team that delivers disaster preparedness training to diverse communities in the Bay Area. Her team completed the Prepare Bay Area initiative, which encourages residents to make an emergency communication plan, build a disaster supply kit, and safely respond to emergencies. Collaborating with other partners, she also helped launch Ready Neighborhoods, an innovative four-year initiative designed to transform 50 targeted neighborhoods into models of disaster readiness.

Osas Otasowie

Osas Otasowie, the faith-based coordinator for the LA Region, is being recognized for her work collaborating with local agencies to help implement the first-ever Teen CERT program in the high-risk neighborhood of Watts in Los Angeles. The LA Region along with the LA City Fire Department, LA Police Department, Department of Public Health, Chaplain of the Watts Gang Task Force and other organizations hosted an event from February to May that focused on giving youth in Watts a vision for life outside of their “two blocks” through skill development, career training opportunities and preparedness training in CPR and First Aid.

Find Out More

To watch this event live, visit at 1:30 pm ET on September 24.

For more information on disaster preparedness, see

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 or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.