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Be Red Cross Ready University: Students Earn High Marks in Disaster Preparedness

ALBANY, N.Y. (Sept. 26, 2012) - Students at the University at Albany are learning more than academics and athletics this semester. The American Red Cross Northeastern New York Region (ARCNENY) has partnered with CDPHP® on a new initiative to expand its disaster preparedness education programming to college campuses; aptly named Be Red Cross Ready University (BRCRU).

UAlbany alumna Colleen Dundas training Resident Assistants.

UAlbany alumna Colleen Dundas trains RAs to prepare students to handle emergencies. September is National Preparedness Month. (Photo by Mark Schmidt)

To coincide with National Preparedness Month this September, more than 200 UAlbany Residence Life staff have been trained and will be presenting BRCRU to students throughout the 2012 fall semester. The program teaches anyone how to be prepared for anything from a fire to a larger scale natural disaster through three simple and effective steps: Get a Kit, Make a Plan, and Be Informed.

Students will also be encouraged to download the Red Cross first aid mobile app, learn hands-only CPR and preparedness tips, and play games such as “Preparedness Family Feud,” “Be Red Cross Ready Jeopardy,” or the “Make-a-Kit Game” to reinforce the concepts learned from the training and compete for prizes.

The program is offered exclusively by the Northeastern New York Region's Preparedness Team and is an offshoot of the informative Be Red Cross Ready program, which is sponsored by CDPHP. This is the first Red Cross preparedness program, geared specifically at college campuses, to be conducted anywhere in the United States.

“As a community-based health plan, we believe in empowering people with the tools and information they need to make the right decisions. That is why we’re proud to once again partner with the American Red Cross on this valuable initiative which provides critical life-saving techniques to colleges and universities,” said John D. Bennett, president and CEO, CDPHP.

BRCRU is the brainchild of Colleen Dundas, ARCNENY Regional Preparedness Associate and UAlbany alumnus. The BRCRU program offers a simple solution to help colleges and universities be prepared for natural disasters and empower students to take responsibility for their own safety in times of emergency.

It is based on Dundas’s experience as a Resident Advisor (RA) during her undergraduate years at the University at Albany. She started the University’s first Red Cross Club, serving as president for two years.  After graduating in 2011, Dundas was hired by ARCNENY and became immersed in delivering preparedness programs to the community.

“BRCRU came about because I wanted to provide students with more volunteer opportunities,  create a stronger connection between universities/colleges and the local Red Cross and provide more services to the community,” said Dundas. “We were looking for a way to expand the Be Red Cross Ready program to reach out to as many people as possible.”

The groups that were benefitting from preparedness training via Be Red Cross Ready thus far were families, K-12 students/youth groups and seniors. “It occurred to me that college students are a great untapped resource,” said Dundas.

“This is a really exciting program, not only in the way it engages young people with the American Red Cross mission, but also because it directly and positively impacts a vulnerable population, assisting them to become more prepared for disasters small and large,” said Skip Zimmerman, ARCNENY Volunteer & Community Services Director.

“I’m especially mindful of the fact that we’ve had a number of fires in Capital District student housing in the past few years,” adds Zimmerman. “I’m confident that families and loved ones will rest easier knowing that students are engaged in this sort of conversation just as they are starting to learn about independent living.”

It is because of the residence life staff’s leadership and strong presence in most campus communities that the Red Cross believes reaching out to residential life is an effective way to disseminate this life-saving information to students.

“We feel that college residential life staff members and Red Cross College Clubs are in ideal positions to spread the word about disaster preparedness. Because of their role as leaders on college campuses, these students are able to gather a group of students in one place through meetings and programs, and have the potential to be extremely influential among their peers,” said Dundas.

ARCNENY’s goal is to train as many people as possible in disaster preparedness so to minimize the amount of devastating when natural disasters occur. The Red Cross can’t prevent the devastation that occurs from a disaster, but they are always able to help the community prepare. Through BRCRU, students will have the knowledge and tools to be prepared and informed, which will make them better able to serve themselves and their community in the event of a disaster.

“We’re very fortunate to have so many dedicated and talented people in the Red Cross. Be Red Cross Ready University is an innovative and unique program which I hope will someday serve as a national model,” said Gary Striar, CEO American Red Cross Northeastern New York Region. “It’s a great way to engage the next generation of leaders by teaching them the importance of being prepared and sharing all of the programs and services the Red Cross offers to the community.” For more information visit or call (518) 458-8111 ext. 5121.

Be Red Cross Ready Background:

In August 2007, CDPHP and the American Red Cross Northeastern New York Region launched the Get Ready - Be Safe disaster readiness program. This program, now dubbed the “Be Red Cross Ready” program, provides critical information to those who are interested in learning basic, yet effective, survival techniques in the event of an emergency, illness outbreak, or natural disaster. Through this program, the American Red Cross offers training workshops throughout the Northeastern New York Region, as a community service.

The 45-minute workshop is intended to increase awareness and spur attendees to action by providing important information and commonsense tips for facing the challenges of a disaster or emergency. The program covers fundamental survival tactics, such as creating a personal disaster response plan, assembling a preparedness kit, and devising an action checklist, and provides the knowledge and tools required to help keep families safe, calm, and assured in the event of an urgent situation.

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies more than 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 join our blog at

About CDPHP®

Established in 1984, CDPHP is a physician-founded, member-focused and community-based not-for-profit health plan that offers high-quality affordable health insurance plans to members in 24 counties throughout New York. CDPHP is also on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

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About the University at Albany
A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.