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Congreso Familiar Helps Prepare the Latino Community for Emergencies Large and Small
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By Alejandro Mendoza-Castillo, American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter
August 23, 2010

The Congreso Familiar is an annual event. One event is held here in the Bay Area while another is held in Washington D.C.

The Bay Area event was recently held and proved to be a success. The event was a great opportunity for the Latino community to gain more knowledge about community preparedness. Approximately 4,000 people attended the event, and more than 78 local and national agencies participated overall.

The American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter plans to develop a project that will target parents with family members who suffer from autism. 99% of these parents in the Bay Area have no plan in the event of a major disaster. They lack the skills to identify a symptom of emergency in their children who suffer from autism. In collaboration with the Congreso Familiar Committee, the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter will be able to offer trainings throughout the community that will include first aid and CPR courses.

The inspiration for these trainings comes after a mother ran to the Red Cross information table at the Congreso Familiar, claiming that her six year old son was suffering from chest pain. Red Cross volunteers at the table immediately called 911. With the help of an experienced Red Cross volunteer, Gabriela Meneses, who has 12 years of experience as a CPR and first aid instructor, we were able to identify that the problem was not a heart attack. The boy with chest pain had been diagnosed with autism and the large crowds during the day caused a stress induced panic attack. This mother did not have first aid skills to identify the problem with her son.

The American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter Latino volunteers were able to help in this situation due to their experience in emergency preparedness and first aid training.

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