American Red Cross Brings the Battlefield to Vegas

by Emma Larson – American Red Cross

It’s a warm Saturday morning on June 24th when more than 20 Civil Air Patrol cadets, ages 12-18, gather in a gymnasium in Las Vegas to participate in RAID Cross– an all-day training event exploring humanitarianism in war.

A team of enthusiastic American Red Cross volunteers and staff members, led by International Services Coordinator Caren Bedsworth and Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) Director Michael Viers, greets them.

“We don’t really know what to expect,” one cadet says.

“I came because I wanted to learn about the rules of war. I want to join the military after high school,” another adds.

The “rules of war,” otherwise known as International Humanitarian Law (IHL), are the focus of the day. Soon after their arrival, cadets are taken into a classroom where Bedsworth conducts an IHL brief, covering everything from the inception of the Red Cross and subsequent drafting of the Geneva Conventions to an overview of the tough decisions military leaders must make on a daily basis, both on and off the battlefield.

She asks the students, “What is human dignity? Why is it so important to maintain during war?”

There is silence for a moment before a cadet raises his hand. “Dignity is established within yourself…and is expressed outwardly in the way you treat others.”

Another cadet adds that it is important to treat people with basic respect for their lives, even if they’re from an opposing force. “You have to at least provide water, food, clothing, and shelter,” he says regarding prisoners of war.

The ensuing hours, Bedsworth explains, will test the cadets’ leadership skills, knowledge of IHL, compassion, and logic, as they work together in randomly assigned teams to address and overcome difficult battlefield scenarios.

After a break for Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MREs), the cadets gather at their first post.

An angry guard greets them at the entrance to a prison camp and yells at them to hurry up. She expresses her annoyance for the prisoners, stating that she doesn’t believe they deserve to be treated with respect. Three Prisoners of War (POWs) speak to the group individually, explaining the harsh conditions of the camp: they are deprived of sleep, food, and exercise. They are not allowed to practice their own religions and have been captured without knowing why.

Then a Red Cross Delegate conducts a private interview with a prisoner, noting the conditions of the prison and offering to help her contact family members.

“This is an important moment because it shows students a critical role the Red Cross plays in detention camps,” Bedsworth explains.

The cadets are then ushered into a “cell” of their own.


The cadets laugh but follow her instructions before pausing to reflect on the simulated degradation they’ve just experienced.

“We were treated like animals,” one cadet laments.

“I think it’s better to treat prisoners with dignity so that they don’t try to get revenge later,” another says.

From here, the cadets split into their four teams and rotate through stations where they deliver humanitarian aid, treat and care for casualties, conduct artillery strikes, and strategize as a team of military generals.

“My favorite activity was the minefield,” one cadet says. The teams must deliver a box of humanitarian aid, but not before crossing a treacherous area full of “landmines,” and undergo an interrogation by an overzealous border patrol guard. Team members are asked to surrender their passports, read directions written in a foreign language, and hand over their personal belongings, to include their shoes. The demonstration, Bedsworth explains, shows how difficult it can be to deliver help to people in war-torn nations– a major role of the Red Cross.

At the casualty assistance post, cadets’ first instincts are tested. “We learned how to assess casualties and triage [based on the severity of] their wounds rather than what side they fight for,” says one cadet. The exercise is designed to help participants practice neutrality on the battlefield, encouraging them to care for those who need it most regardless of their affiliations.

The artillery pose further tests knowledge of the Geneva Conventions. Teams must choose targets to attack in a “city” full of tightly packed buildings. In doing so, they must also try to mitigate the number of civilian casualties and avoid destruction of protected buildings such as schools and historical monuments. “It’s really hard to do both sometimes,” one cadet notes after hitting multiple “buildings” with a “bomb” (symbolized by a basketball).

Other cadets say they enjoyed being in charge most of all: “Generals have to make tough decisions and can get in trouble if they choose the wrong thing,” explains a cadet. Teams test their critical thinking skills and ethics by answering a series of questions associated with challenging battlefield scenarios. The overarching question is perhaps the most important: How do leaders ensure they are following all the rules while also trying to make decisions quickly and under pressure? “Just do what’s right,” one cadet says.

The event concluded with an International Criminal Court trial, in which half of the day’s participants were thrown in “jail” for committing IHL violations– everything from teams accidentally bombing non-military targets to guards abusing their power.

“I hope the cadets walk away with a better knowledge of IHL, but also of each other,” cadet leader Theresa Schaapveld states. Schaapveld explains that she loves watching the cadets (two of whom are her sons) utilize their teamwork skills and develop their own leadership styles. “A good portion of our cadets go on to join the military,” she says, adding that the majority chooses the Air Force.

Civil Air Patrol is, in fact, an auxiliary of the Air Force that focuses its mission on aerospace education, cadet leadership development, and emergency services such as search and rescue and humanitarian support to agencies like the American Red Cross.

There is a natural partnership between the two organizations that SAF Director Michael Viers looks to capitalize on. As a retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel and ROTC instructor, Viers knows the importance of youth engagement, leadership development, and community service.

“These kids are already looking outside themselves to do big things for their communities. Red Cross offers so many opportunities for them to make a real impact,” he says. He states that he looks to grow this program exponentially over the next year, and is hoping to facilitate RAID Cross and similar events with other community partners in the near future.

Viers goes on to express the importance of trainings like these for future military leaders: “Understanding the role of humanitarianism on the battlefield is of top priority in protecting human dignity while accomplishing the mission. The role Red Cross plays in the doing that is truly invaluable.”


For more information about RAID Cross, Service to the Armed Forces, and the American Red Cross, including how to book an event or get involved as a volunteer, visit or contact the Southern Nevada Red Cross chapter at (702) 791-3311.

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Safety Tips – Earthquakes

Earthquakes are the disaster you cannot wait to prepare for.  Often times, they strike out of nowhere.  They can strike during day or at night, in the summertime or dead of winter, and just about anywhere in Nevada.  There is no ‘Doppler Radar’ that will show us exactly when, where or how an earthquake will hit.  This is why, we all need to prepare for ‘The Big One.’

Plan Ahead

Build an emergency kit.  Have a 3 day supply of food and water for every person and pet in the household, as well as a 7 day supply of any medication.  Other supplies to have in your emergency kit are blankets, first-aid kits, batteries, flashlights, whistle, and a hand-crank radio.

Make a plan.  Know where you are going to meet and practice 2 safe routes to get there.  You never know what kind of damage an earthquake may cause, and which roads are impassable.

What to do during an Earthquake

Practice Drop, Cover, and Hold On.  Drop to the ground, get under something that can cover you, and hold on to it so it doesn’t shake away.  If you cannot drop under anything, cover your head and torso and move away from walls, mounter mirrors, and top-heavy furniture.

If you are Outside

Move as little as possible.  Find an area that is away from buildings, power lines, and streetlights.  Drop to the ground and do not move until the shaking stops.

If you are in a vehicle, pull over to an area that is clear.  Stay inside with your seatbelt fastened until the shaking stops.  Once the shaking has stopped, avoid bridges, overpasses and powerlines.  They may have been compromised during the earthquake.

Everything in this post can also be found on the Red Cross Emergency App.  Download this app for free and get live updates on weather, disasters, and shelters in your area.  Also, this app comes equipped with a toolkit that includes a flashlight, siren, and strobe-light feature.   Download now in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

Also, visit the State of Nevada’s Division of Emergency Management page for other tips on preparing for disaster and YOUR local Emergency Manager.

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Aquatics Centennial: $5 Swim Lessons are Back!

For the second straight year, the Red Cross and the City of Las Vegas are partnering up to offer Red Cross Aquatics courses for children for only $5 and celebrate over 100 Years of Red Cross Water Safety Instruction.

Get your kiddos signed up by calling (702) 229-PLAY or visit

  • Baker Pool (1100 E. St. Louis Ave | 702-229-1532)
  • Doolittle Pool (1940 N. J St. | 702-229-6398)
  • Carlos L. Martinez & Darrio J. Hall Family Pool at Gary Reece Freedom Park (889 N. Pecos | 702-229-1755)

Last year, we taught nearly 600 kids water safety kids.  We want to teach even more kids this year the importance of being safe in and around pools, lakes, and any other body of water.

The Red Cross aquatics program was first formed in 1914, and was part of the Red Cross Life Saving Corp. This program inspired one of the first life-saving stations to be made on Pablo Beach, Florida. Now, the Red Cross aquatics program teaches millions of people across the country basic water competency skills. Some of the criteria are:

  • Step or jump into the water over your head and then return to the surface and float or tread water for one minute
  • Turn around in a full circle and find an exit
  • Swim at least 25 yards to an exit
  • Exit from the water. If in a pool, be able to exit without using a ladder

Learn more about water safety skills and techniques here or call 1-800-RED-CROSS


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Make an Impact and Become a Red Cross Volunteer

The American Red Cross of Southern Nevada is searching for people that want to make an impact in the community.  People with all different talents, skills, and availability are invited to fill out an application at and find out how you can make a difference!

Disaster Services:  Help with home fire preparedness campaign by installing smoke alarms or respond to local disasters as part of the Disaster Action Team.

Volunteer Services:  Help train, onboard, and recruit potential volunteers into each line of service.

Service to the Armed Forces:  Provide services, such as family follow-ups, to military members and their families.

International Services:  Help families reconnect when they become separated by war, conflict, or a natural disaster.

Biomedical Services: Volunteer at a local blood drive or host a blood drive at your school or place of work.

Preparedness, Health, & Safety Services:  Learn how to save a life and then teach those skills (CPR, First Aid, AED) in our community!

Public Affairs: Tell the Red Cross story through blog posts, social media campaigns, photos, or working directly with the media.

It may seem like a lot, but these are only a few of the opportunities available at the Red Cross.  We have even more opportunities available that are not listed!  Let us know what your interests are, or areas in which you want to help out, and we will do everything we can to make it work.

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During Military Appreciation Month, take a look at our Service to the Armed Forces (SAF)

The Red Cross has been supporting the brave men and women through the Service to the Armed Forces Program (SAF) since the 1800s.  Read the rest of this blog and get a brief over view of our services or visit to become a volunteer!

Deployment Services

Upon deployment, whether it is the first or one of many, the Red Cross offers information and workshops to help prepare for the practical and emotional challenges ahead. From putting together a communication plan, to emergency preparedness -these workshops can help bring peace of mind for those being deployed and their families.

Emergency Communications Services

The Red Cross connects families to their service member serving abroad by providing communication support.  When a disaster strikes at home, the Red Cross will help keep the service member informed.

Information and Referral Services

The Red Cross can connect service members and their families with community partners to assist with urgent needs.  The Red Cross is committed to helping service members abroad, but also when they return home.

Financial Assistance

The Red Cross works with military aid associations to get emergency financial support to service members and their families, when that support is needed most.

Reconnection Workshops

Positively reconnecting back into civilian life is important after deployment. Service members can gain support reintegrating through courses, workshops and small groups.


How Can You Help?

Volunteer in one of the many services we provide our military members.  Visit and fill out an application.  Let us know that you are interested in SAF!

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#NationalVolunteerWeek – People Making a Difference in Our Community

Thank you to all of the Southern Nevadans that donate their time to the many great causes around the valley and the 550+ volunteers who dedicate their time to the American Red Cross of Southern Nevada.  

These are the men and women who respond to disasters in the middle of the night, or the caseworker who helps reconnect families torn apart by war or conflict.  Red Cross volunteers impact many lives each and every day.

There are many different opportunities to volunteer with the American Red Cross.  Volunteer positions include Disaster Responders, Smoke Alarm Installers, Veteran Hiring Assistants, Caseworkers, Pillowcase Project Preparedness Instructors, Public Affairs, Front Desk Receptionists, General Volunteers, and much more! 

People interested in volunteering can visit and follow the steps to register.  Questions on the volunteer process can be answered by calling our Volunteer Placement team at (702) 531-0241.  

If the Red Cross isn’t your passion, there are many great organizations in Southern Nevada to get involved with.  United Way, Salvation Army, Goodwill, Three Square Food Bank, Opportunity Village, to name a few.  Visit their websites and find out how you can make Southern Nevada a better community for all!

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Smoke Alarm Installers Needed

Join the American Red Cross initiative of reducing injuries and fatalities from home fires by joining our Home Fire Preparedness team as a Smoke Alarm Installer. 

To apply, go to, click on the ‘Volunteer’ tab, and fill out the application!  Our Smoke Alarm Installers go to canvassing events as well as fulfill appointments made through the Smoke Alarm Installation Hotline. 

Smoke Alarm Installers will receive training from Red Cross officials upon the completion of the volunteer process.  Equipment and smoke alarms will also be provided by the Red Cross.  Smoke Alarm Installers should dress comfortably by wearing closed toed, comfortable walking shoes and loose clothes that allow free movement. 

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The American Red Cross Wants You to be Safe from Wildfires and Home Fires

The onset of spring brings welcome warmer temperatures. As we now begin to enjoy the warmer weather it is important to remember that warmer temperatures also mean the arrival of wildfire season.

The US Bureau of Land Management Nevada  lists the following recommendations on reducing wildfires this season:

  • Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire (using wood, charcoal or any other material), campfire, or stove fire except a portable stove using gas or pressurized liquid fuel, outside of a developed fee campground or picnic area (except by permit).
  • Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or at a developed campground or picnic area.
  • Welding, or operating an acetylene torch with open flames, except by permit.
  • Using or causing to be used, any explosive, except by permit.
  • Possession or use of fireworks (always prohibited), or any other incendiary device.
  • Use of tracer rounds, steel-core ammunition or exploding targets including Binary Explosive Targets while recreational shooting.
  • Open burning (e.g. weeds, brush and yard debris).

When in the path of a wildfire fire it’s crucial that you do what’s needed to keep you and your family safe. The American Red Cross offers a free “Red Cross Emergency App” that allows you to have access to real time information on shelter locations, weather alerts, preparedness information and critical safety tips.

The Emergency App contains expert advice detailing what you should do during a wildfire, flood, tornado, or other disaster. You will also find emergency first aid and life saving information for a variety of situations including heart attacks and heat-related emergencies, as well as important water safety tips.

The Red Cross Emergency App is free and can be downloaded for smartphones and tablets, and has the added benefit of pre-loaded content – that means that you can access this information at any time – with or without mobile connectivity. You can download the Emergency App from your app store, or find it by searching for American Red Cross or by going to

The Red Cross also offers “Be Red Cross Ready – Wildfire Safety Checklist” -another great resource on how to get prepared prior to fire season, what to do when fires are reported in your area, and how to stay safe when returning to your home after a wildfire. Check out the link to access this important information.

Version 2

Wildfires are not the only fire risk during warmer seasons. Home fires can occur year round and the Red Cross wants to ensure your home and family are safe. It is important to check your home for potential fire hazards and to remove items that pose a risk. The Red Cross offers the following safety tips to help you be prepared and prevent home fires:

  • Keep items that can catch on fire at least three feet away from anything that gets hot, such as space heaters.
  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Talk to your children regularly about the dangers of fire, matches and lighters and keep them out of reach.
  • Turn portable heaters off when you leave the room or go to sleep.

When a home fire does occur you can save the life of your loved ones by ensuring that you have working smoke alarms and a well defined, well practiced escape plan in place.

“60% of house fire deaths occur in homes with no working smoke alarms” ~ The American Red Cross

Smoke detectors should be installed on every floor and outside every bedroom and sleeping area in the family home. To test if your detector is functioning effectively, press the test button for a few seconds. If you hear the beep you know it’s working. Make sure to re-test your detector once per month and replace the batteries every six months.  You can get a smoke alarm for FREE when you call your local Red Cross Smoke Alarm Hotline at 702-697-1707.

For more information please visit call (702) 791-3311 for more great tips. 

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Red Cross Month – Turn & Test (Turn Your Clocks and Test Your Smoke Alarms)

We want everyone to TURN & TEST on Sunday, March 13.  That is where you turn your clocks ahead one hour and test all of the smoke alarms in your home.  Simply follow the instructions, which are usually on or next to the device itself, to test your smoke alarms.

Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of your home and inside and outside of every bedroom.  We don’t smell smoke while asleep, so it is imperative that they devices are working at all times!  If your smoke alarms are malfunctioning, not positioned correctly, or if you simply don’t have enough (or any), give us a call at (702) 697-1707 to get smoke alarms installed for absolutely FREE!

Home fires are one of the most unexpected incidents that could take place in your home. It is a scary and dangerous situation to be in when you are not sure of what to do. At the American Red Cross, we encourage you to be prepared for situations like this. The American Red Cross encourages for you to take two simple steps in ensuring the safety of yourself and your family to prevent a home fire.

  1. Practice your 2-minute drill – Make sure your family can safely escape a home fire in under 2 minutes.
  2. Have working smoke alarms – Make sure you and your family are alerted when a fire is detected. If the smoke alarm isn’t working, change the batteries or get a new one!

You can keep your family safe with these two simple steps. To learn more, visit

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Red Cross Month: Preparedness, Health & Safety Services

What happens when you witness a car crash, or see someone have a heart attack?  The Red Cross offers classes like CPR, First Aid, AED so you can have the skills needed to save a life.  Our outstanding first responders here in Southern Nevada may take only 4 minutes to get to the scene, but sometimes, a Good Samaritan may be the difference between life and death.

During Red Cross Month, we hope that you register for a class and learn what to do in case of emergency.  We want to empower everyone to be able to step in and help someone else in need.  Visit to register today!

In addition to taking a class, we encourage you to visit the Google Play Store and Apple Store and download the Red Cross Emergency App.  This app gives you preparedness tips, CPR & First Aid Instructions, and a plethora of other tools in the palm of your hand.  The Emergency App also sends extreme weather updates directly to your phone so you can be prepared in real-time.  

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