NEO Volunteers join hundreds of others from across the country to help Hurricane Michael victims

Helping provide shelter, food and hope to those impacted by the storm

Five days after Hurricane Michael slammed into the southeast, thousands of people are living in dire conditions. The American Red Cross is with them, helping people in Florida, Georgia and Alabama as they struggle to get back on their feet.

  • Home after home is destroyed, many people have lost everything. Many areas are still inaccessible.
  • The storm also damaged medical facilities, schools and businesses. Search and rescue efforts continue.
  • Hundreds of thousands have no power as temperatures hover in the high 80s.
  • In many areas, people have no water or sewer service and many that do have service are under boil advisories.

 

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The Red Cross is doing all we can to get help to where it’s most needed, and we’re reaching more neighborhoods each day. We’re working around the clock with partners like the National Guard to move volunteers and supplies, and to support dozens of shelters where people can find comfort and refuge.

  • With the magnitude of destruction and many roads impassable, we know that getting help into some areas will be challenging for some time.
  • The Red Cross is providing shelter, food, health services and emotional support during this challenging situation.
  • Some shelters are being relocated to more comfortable and appropriate locations.
  • In some areas, emergency response vehicles are able to get through with meals and relief supplies.

More than 1,300 Red Cross disaster workers have been assigned to the Hurricane Michael disaster relief operation, including 19 volunteers from Northeast Ohio. Visit our YouTube channel to see and hear comments from the volunteers pictured below.

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Volunteers Harry Pierdomenico, Tom Quinn, Teresa Greenlief and Cameron Fraser  Photo credit: Eric Alves/American Red Cross

  • This is a huge disaster, and the Red Cross is working closely with government and nonprofit partners to provide aid.
  • It will take time and require the resources from a large variety of organizations to help families and communities recover.
  • We are actively recruiting additional volunteers to help respond to disasters like Hurricane Michael, and to the home fires that occur, on average, three times every 24 hours in Northeast Ohio.  You can visit our volunteer page to begin the application process.

After two major hurricanes in less than a month, thousands of people are looking for help. The Red Cross depends on financial donations to fund our relief services. Help people affected by Hurricane Michael by visiting redcross.org, calling 1- 800-RED CROSS or texting the word MICHAEL to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

  • Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from this disaster.

The Red Cross has a critical need for blood and platelet donations to help meet patient needs. This fall, Hurricane Michael and Hurricane Florence have forced the cancellation of about 200 blood drives, causing approximately 7,000 units of blood to go uncollected in the Southeast.

  • Low donor turnout is expected to continue in affected areas as communities recover.
  • The Red Cross asks eligible individuals to make an appointment today by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

 

 

Volunteers provide disaster relief for hidden concerns

By: Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

The American Red Cross continues to assist residents affected by hurricanes in the Southeast.  Among the disaster relief workers who are playing a role are mental health volunteers.

Red Cross mental health volunteers are a treasured group of individuals. They are all licensed independent health practitioners: psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, social workers and psychiatric registered nurses.

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In addition to being licensed professionally, mental health volunteers must take specialized Red Cross training in disaster mental health which, for the most part, is far different than what they do in their daily full-time jobs. The specialized training is based on many years of experience in disaster relief, from those who have lost precious mementos in a home fire to the victims of 9/11 and everyone in between.

Red Cross mental health volunteers provide immediate crisis management. They instruct clients in becoming more resilient and help them cope with the various emotions they may experience following their loss. While mental health volunteers do not do long-term counseling, if they determine a client would benefit from long-term intervention, they will make a referral to a proper mental health specialist. They will not refer the client to themselves or to any other member of the team.

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“Many victims and survivors do not recognize the need for intervention or do not want to be judged or labeled if they are struggling with recovery,” said Renee Palagyi, senior program manager of disaster cycle services for the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. “Our disaster mental health volunteers can help them to recognize the normal and destigmatize the need for counseling.”

Northeast Ohio is particularly fortunate to have some of the finest and most experienced mental health volunteers. They never fail to step up as needed even though the majority have full-time positions or time-consuming private practices.

Edgardo Padin, a mental health volunteer from Northeast Ohio, deployed to assist in the 2018 California wildfires. Recently, he discussed his experience assisting individuals who lost their homes with their mental health needs.

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While it is easy to see the physical damage that a home fire or a hurricane can cause, it is not often as easy to see the internal effects a disaster can have on an individual. On World Mental Health Day, it is important to recognize the disaster mental health volunteers who assist with disaster relief efforts to ensure everyone’s needs are met.

For more information on the Red Cross’ disaster mental health services or to become a volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer.

Don’t be a statistic: It’s National Fire Prevention Week

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross Volunteer

A home can be rebuilt. Human lives, pets and mementos can’t.

For those with insurance, a home fire a major disruption. For those without insurance, it’s devastating. The good news is that most home fires are preventable.

As a member of the American Red Cross Disaster Action Team, I’ve seen numerous fires that didn’t have to happen:

  • A kitchen fire was caused by unattended grease left in a pan on the burner; another was caused by loose papers left too close to the gas burner; and a third by a plastic highchair overhanging an electrical element.
  • Overloaded electrical outlets and faulty wiring contributed to the loss of a beautiful century home.
  • An unattended burning candle and a young child playing alone in the home displaced two families.

I could go on, but the good news is that no lives were lost. However, with a modicum of prevention, they could have all been avoided.

Here are 10 simple tips to share with members of your family during National Fire Prevention Week:

  1. Make sure to have working smoke alarms and replace the entire unit if it’s more than 10 years old. Even with a good battery, the sensor in an old alarm wears out in 10 years.
  2. Create an escape plan and make sure every child and adult knows that they must be outside within two minutes of hearing the alarm. Practice the plan with your children so they know the official meeting place outside.
  3. Never smoke in bed or when extremely tired or intoxicated.
  4. Keep matches and lighters away from children.
  5. Keep lit candles away from flammables, children and pets.
  6. Take care that nothing can blow over or into your kitchen gas burners.
  7. Keep frying pan handles turned away from the front edge of the stove so they aren’t tipped by children or pets.
  8. Electric space heaters can easily start fires if clothes or newspapers are tossed on top of them.
  9. Keep a working fire extinguisher handy and know how to use it.
  10. Keep gas cans outside if possible; but, never in a basement or near a furnace or water heater.

Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of the United States, recognized the huge loss caused by fires, both to property and human life. To address the problem, he proclaimed the first Fire Prevention Week in 1926, with the hope it would become an annual event.

He wrote:

“While efforts should be made constantly to reduce fire destruction to a minimum, in pursuance of a well-established precedent, one week is set aside each year during which the urgent need of preventing fires is forcibly stressed.

“If every individual will adopt and practice the simple precautionary measures advocated as fire prevention safeguards, fire hazards and their consequences will be materially reduced.”

Make Calvin proud, and use caution to avoid unnecessary fires.

For more resources, visit the American Red Cross Home Fire Safety page for videos, tips and mobile apps to help you safeguard your family.

On October 6, volunteers from the Red Cross, Parma CERT, Hope World Wide Ministries and the Parma Fire Department held a Sound the Alarm home fire safety and smoke alarm installation event. The volunteers installed 171 smoke alarms making 61 home safer.

To view photos from the Parma Sound the Alarm event, visit our Flickr page. Furthermore, to learn more about home fire safety and to request a smoke alarm, visit the American Red Cross Northeast Ohio Home Fire Campaign page.

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Lake Erie/Heartland heroes celebrated in Mansfield

By: Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

Ten heroes were honored for their bravery in the American Red Cross Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter. On October 4, the Chevy Network and Graham Chevrolet presented the Hero Awards to benefit the American Red Cross and to recognize the extraordinary acts, passion, courage and dedication of the volunteers. The event was held at The Renaissance Theatre in Mansfield.

The event commenced with Matti Lynn Chrisman, Miss Ohio 2008, singing the national anthem and Air National Guard 179th Airlift Wing Commander Colonel Allison Miller providing a video message honoring the efforts and actions by the award recipients.

Ten individuals were awarded, and these are the stories of those honored:

Tracy M. Dodson, Call to Action Hero- While at the Wayne County Fair, Tracy witnessed a person in line in front of her go into cardiac arrest. Tracy, a nurse, administered CPR and continued CPR after the Red Cross First Aid Team arrived. Due to her rapid identification and quick action in stressful conditions, the individual regained a heartbeat and was conscious by the time the rescue squad arrived.

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Dr. Edward Adkins, Health Professional Hero- Dr. Atkins has been a primary care physician for more than 30 years. Along with providing quality, compassionate care to his patients in Ohio, Dr. Adkins does mission trips to third world countries to help heal individuals in dire need of health care. Dr. Adkins has provided care to individuals in Africa and he also traveled to Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.

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Pauline Anderson, Spirit of the Red Cross Hero- Since 2006, Pauline’s quarterly blood drives have collected 1,956 blood donations, and will easily clear the 2,000 mark this year. These drives may have helped save nearly 6,000 lives. Pauline’s extraordinary work as a Blood Drive Coordinator began in 2001, when her step daughter put on a blood drive honoring the life of her mother, who passed away from leukemia a year earlier.

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Hunter Woodruff, Call to Action Hero- Hunter, while driving home from his job, had noticed a car trapped in flood water in Mansfield. Without thinking twice, Hunter pulled over and jumped into the flood water. Due to Hunter’s quick action, the driver of the sinking car was saved.

Officer Ryan Garner, A Presence to Remember- Officer Ryan Garner, a Mansfield K-9 officer, was a fixture of the community. Officer Garner had a passion for being a police officer and was dedicated to not only helping his fellow officers, but also helping individuals in need. Officer Garner passed away from lung cancer in May 2018.

 Officer John Fuller, Police Hero- Officer John Fuller was the first community policing officer in Mansfield, as well as the community’s first bike patrol officer. Officer Fuller was committed to bridging the gap between the police and the community. His love for the community was evident by his interactions with children and their families. Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Officer Fuller took personal time and traveled to New York City to help locate individuals trapped in the rubble.

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Merris Welge, Community Educator Hero- Merris has volunteered his time educating the community through the North Central Ohio SCORE organization for 22 years. SCORE is a mentoring program that provides free counseling, advice and resources to people who are in business or who wish to start a business.

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Jan Wendling, Military Inspiration Hero- Jan, a Mansfield resident, served as a tank commander for the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. Following his return from the war, Jan served as a Mansfield police officer and helped develop the Mansfield Vietnam War Memorial.

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Missy Houghton, Animal Advocate Hero- Missy is the passionate director of the Humane Society of Richland County. She is making a difference locally through education and action. One animal Missy helped save was a cat named Vandy. Vandy arrived as a kitten with severe burns, missing an ear and an exposed skull. Missy was able to contact the Horizon Animal Hospital, which performed a skin graft surgery in April 2017. Vandy survived and has made appearances at Humane Society fundraisers.

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The event was managed by Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter volunteer board member Luke Beekman, who also produced a video honoring the award winners, which was shown during the event.

To view photos from the Chevy Network and Graham Chevrolet Hero Awards, visit our Flickr page.

Emergency Preparedness for your Pets

By Sue Wilson, American Red Cross Board Member & Communications Volunteer Partner

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans years ago, it was reported that more than 10,000 people refused evacuation because they didn’t want to leave their pets behind. Some of those people, and their pets, became casualties. When reporters asked survivors who didn’t evacuate why they would risk their lives for their pets, they said things like, “They are part of my family.” Or, “My pet is my kid; would you leave your kid behind?”

It’s a situation many animal lovers understand. And a situation many community leaders have considered to save lives of both pets and people.

The truth is, if it’s not safe for you to stay home, it’s not safe for your pet either. As we recognize World Animal Day (October 4), we recommend that as you make your emergency plans for your family in the event of a home fire, weather emergency or any disaster that might require you to leave your home, it is important that you include arrangements for your pet in those plans.

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Red Cross volunteer Pat Kern with Lila in a shelter in North Carolina. Photo by Jim McIntyre/American Red Cross

While the American Red Cross has historically not allowed pets in shelters, mainly for health and sanitation reasons, they work with local and regional animal agencies that operate shelters that would keep pets and their people if not together then nearby. In our area, the Red Cross works with an organization called CARE.

“If we had a shelter opened, we would rely upon them to set up a pet shelter adjacent to the evacuation shelter,” said Debbie Chitester, disaster program manager for the Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter “They have the equipment, supplies and volunteers to do that.”

Debbie also encourages people to have a plan for their pets.

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Jordan, age 8, was able to be with his pets at a shelter in California last summer.
Photo by Virginia Becker/American Red Cross

“Think ahead to family or friends who may be able to take care of your pet,” she explained. “Talk with a vet or a boarding facility ahead of time to see if they have a plan and would be able to accept your pet,” she suggests. If a pet owner does not have any other place to take their pets, she said the Red Cross would activate the CARE team to set up a shelter for them. You can call your local Red Cross office to ask what shelters  are available for your pet if needed.

As you put your emergency plan and supply kit together for your family,make sure you have a separate one for your pet. Your pet emergency kit should include:

  • Sturdy leashes, harnesses and/or carriers to transport pets safely and ensure that they can’t escape.
  • Food, drinking water, bowls, cat litter/pan and a manual can opener if your pet eats canned food. Use plastic/waterproof bins to keep dry food dry and free of mold or bugs.
  • Medications and copies of medical records stored in a waterproof container.
  • A first aid kit.
  • Current photos of you with your pet(s) in case they get lost. Since many pets look alike, this will help eliminate mistaken identity and confusion.
  • Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavioral problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to foster or board your pets.
  • Pet beds and toys, if easily transportable.

Knowing you have a plan for your family, including your beloved pet(s), will give you peace of mind should a situation ever arise where you need  to evacuate your home. Click HERE for more information about preparing pets (and people) for emergencies.

Reflecting on Las Vegas one year later

NEO staffer looks back on emotional assignment

By Renee Palagyi, Senior Regional Disaster Program Manager

One year ago, headlines told of the “worst mass shooting in modern American history.” More than 500 people were wounded and 59 were killed when a lone gunman rained a barrage of bullets on the 22,000 people attending the Route 91 Country Music Festival. Many hundreds were also injured  as they ran for cover, suffering broken bones, crushing injuries as others fell on top of them, scrapes and bruises as they jammed into small spaces, torn muscles and tendons as they lifted others over fences, raw hands and feet as they crawled through broken glass and debris on the field.

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Renee Palagyi

Two days later, I flew to Las Vegas where I was assigned to lead health services for the American Red Cross in the Family Assistance Center at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Over the next 19 days, the teams assisted more than 4,400 people at the center with everything from replacing a lost driver’s license to wrapping an ankle with an elastic bandage, taking information to find a lost pair of glasses to facilitating a referral to an orthopedic surgeon.

  • Most people have no idea that the Red Cross is present and assisting in these tragedies but we are there, from Sandy Hook to Pulse nightclub, from the Boston Marathon to Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
  • Red Cross engages volunteers, including licensed medical and mental health professionals who are specially trained in mass casualty. Our organization is highly regarded as “the authority” on managing the aftermath.
  • Assisting the survivors of mass casualty and the families of the deceased is not only the hardest work we do—mentally and physically exhausting—it is the most rewarding.

I worked with a young man who was in severe pain from a bullet lodged against a nerve in his elbow. He did not want to return to California for surgery until the coroner released his father’s body so that they could “go home together just the way we came here together.”

I met a young couple who were badly bruised and scraped from crawling along the ground to escape bullets coming from what seemed like every direction. They were wearing Cleveland Indians ball caps and we talked about our mutual love of the team. They told me they had run to apartments near the field and began pounding on every door hoping someone would offer shelter. Ultimately, a door opened and there stood a man wearing Yankees apparel. The young woman laughed and said, “We figured it was better than nothing!”

A young father of two toddlers had been to the center the previous day and received assistance for his wife who was hospitalized. He returned, as many did, and sat at a table in the open area drinking a cup of coffee. I walked over to see if there was anything he needed and he looked up with tears in his eyes as he reached for my hand. As I sat down, he told me the doctors had run tests that morning and determined his wife had no brain wave activity. In his words, “I hoped someone here could tell me what to tell the girls.” One of our incredible mental health volunteers was with him for most of the day and made arrangements to go with a casework volunteer back to the home to be with him during that painful discussion.

I have dozens of stories of the people we met and helped in that short time. I think of many of those people now and marvel at their strength and their willingness to allow us to comfort them. I think, too, of how our team grew stronger each day and found the moments that were the hardest brought us closer together. How, at the end of 12 or more hours of hearing the most painful stories and looking into those still-frightened faces, we found friendship within our team and were able to continue our work.

The Red Cross Family Assistance Center closed the doors on a Friday night and the community-supported Vegas Strong Resiliency Center opened the next morning. Like other centers that have opened post-tragedy, it will probably be open as place of comfort and support for the next three to five years.

I was among the last five staff members to leave the center that Friday night. I flew back to Cleveland on Saturday where my husband met me at the airport and we went immediately to our daughter’s home as she hosted a neighborhood chili cook-off. After being immersed in grief for so many days, seeing a group of happy people, getting hugs from my grandchildren and other family members seemed surreal. I realized that I was beginning to heal as I had helped others begin to heal.

If you are interested in volunteering with the Red Cross to help victims after an emergency, you can apply here.  See and hear Renee tell her story in this video.

Partnering with KeyBank to teach hands-only CPR

By: Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

 Earlier this week, the American Red Cross teamed up with KeyBank to train interested employees on how to administer hands-only CPR.

The training was held in Key Tower in downtown Cleveland. Patricia Buckhold, a former Red Cross regional volunteer services officer and current volunteer, conducted the training.

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More than 30 KeyBank employees took part in the training. During two 30-minute sessions, participants watched a video and listened to Pat discuss the proper technique for hands-only CPR. Participants were also given the opportunity to put their training into action by using compression tools, in the shape of a Red Cross emergency response vehicle, to help reinforce their training in a hands-on approach.

“I think there’s a lot of interest in people knowing what to do in an emergency, and this is a good way to start their education,” said Katie Rothstein, KeyBank’s onsite health promotion specialist.

If you are interested in having the Red Cross conduct a hands-only CPR training for members of your organization, you may submit a request. The Red Cross also provides a wide array of training for individuals, such as CPR training, babysitting and child care training, and swimming lessons. To learn more about upcoming training courses,  . To schedule a training, call 1-800-Red Cross (1-800-733-2767) or visit redcross.org/take-a-class.

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To view more photos from the training, visit our Flickr page.