October 1, 2013

Volunteer spreads new lifesaving techniques


PLATTSBURGH — Charlotte Hackett sees the benefit in “passing it on.”

Hackett, a graduate of Saranac High School who is finishing her senior year in political science at SUNY Plattsburgh, has decided to augment an already-busy schedule by volunteering for the American Red Cross.

Hackett visits area schools, community centers, adult homes and other community groups to share lifesaving techniques and procedures to young and old audiences alike.

“We talk about how to be more prepared in emergency situations, what kinds of disasters happen in our area, how to make a kit (for when disaster strikes), and how to make and plan and be informed (to deal with a disaster),” Hackett said recently after returning from a visit to Saranac Lake Central School.

“I’ve learned (through her college studies) how government helps the citizens and how non-governmental groups can help as well,” she added. “Volunteering for an organization like Red Cross is one way that we all can help.”

Hackett’s first experience with the Red Cross was years ago when a childhood friend received a collection of teddy bears that had been gathered by the organization after the friend’s family had suffered a tragic fire.

“As it turned out, they gave her parents what they needed to get through the first and most challenging days as well,” Hackett said.

That early contact laid the foundation for a value that would remain with Hackett to this day.

“Throughout the years of natural disasters that have faced our region and country, I’ve had a positive association with the Red Cross symbol and presence,” she said.

The region’s assault by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 augmented her faith in the power of support that the aid organization offers communities in stress.

“The disaster following (Irene) made me fully aware of how unprepared our community truly is, yet how fully the American Red Cross anticipated our needs,” she said. “I knew that if I took my own steps to stay safe, Red Cross volunteers could focus on aiding the truly helpless.”

Now, Hackett has shifted that focus on herself to helping others protect themselves during a disaster.

“I have learned how to perform Hands-Only CPR (a non-certified version that teaches anyone steps to save lives when trained personnel are not available) and the three steps to prepare for a disaster.”

Those three steps — create a kit of emergency supplies, make a plan for how to respond to disaster, and stay informed when the potential for disaster approaches — can help individuals and families survive disasters when Red Cross and other emergency personnel are serving those in need.

Hackett shares her knowledge of disaster preparedness with school-aged children through the Master of Disaster educational program. The program includes lessons, activities and demonstrations on disaster-related topics that organizations and families can incorporate into their daily lives.

The program can also help reduce a child’s anxiety toward the potential threat of disaster and will help them better deal with the twists and turns that are a part of everyday life.

In the Be Red Cross Ready program, Hackett describes the three-step preparedness plan. Emergency kits should include enough water for three days, non-perishable foods, medications, a portable radio, a first-aid kit and other valuable items.

Making a plan requires communication between family members, including a route for evacuation if needed.

Staying informed includes knowledge on how to access information, familiarity with the region and steps to protect family members by knowing lifesaving skills like hands-only CPR.

“I’ve always wanted to find a way to help people,” Hackett said of her decision to take political science and set her sights on a career in law. “It seems like the best way to change things for the better was to become a lawyer, and political science seems to be the most inclusive study of policy.”

Her schooling has helped her acknowledge the non-political support of an organization like Red Cross, and that helped influence her to become a volunteer.

Both the youngsters at schools and the seniors she visits have expressed appreciation for the advice and techniques she offers, and she said she has learned a lot about saving lives herself through the experience.

“It’s convinced me that volunteering is a lifelong ambition,” she said. “I believe I will always want to find a way to reach out and help others.”

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Anyone interested in volunteering for the American Red Cross can go to and click on the "Volunteer" link.