Homeless in less than 60 seconds

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer 

March 27, 2020- Editors Note:  Doug Bardwell is a Northeast Ohio volunteer, who was one of the first Red Cross volunteers to respond to Tennessee following the tornadoes in early March– before COVID-19 measures such as social distancing and shelter at home took effect. As disasters do not stop, despite the COVID-19 outbreak, American Red Cross disaster services team members continue to stand at the ready to assist residents in need. For more information, click here

One day after the devastating tornadoes ripped through areas in and around Nashville, TN, I deployed with the Advanced Public Affairs Team (APAT) of the American Red Cross.

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Photo by Doug Bardwell

 

Different than typical deployments where volunteers have one job and stay in one location for most of their deployment, our two-man teams job was to visit all the areas affected as quickly as possible. In the case of the Tennessee tornadoes, they touched down multiple times in a line some 89 miles long.

Our task was to document the extent of the damage and provide photos and captions to Red Cross Headquarters, where they would be used to start fundraising efforts for the event. Our immediate challenges were road closures, downed power lines and traffic jams.

The worst of the damage seemed to be in Cookeville, east of Nashville. Almost entire residential developments were wiped off the landscape by what appeared to have been a 500-plus-foot-wide twister. Home foundations and basements were about all left behind. Deaths in this area alone approached 20, as there was less than a one-minute warning for most of these residents. Then, in less than 60 seconds, the tornado passed, leaving lives changed forever.

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Photo by Doug Bardwell

Many told stories of being thrown down their basement steps as the twister hit. In one case of a two-story home, a couple sleeping upstairs watched as their roof was torn off, their outside walls collapsed and they rode their mattress all the way into the basement.

Another fortunate man and his mother survived when his second-floor bedroom came crashing down on his mother who slept below him on the first floor. Luckily, with help from neighbors, he was able to dig her out and get her to the hospital with just a few broken ribs and a broken ankle.

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Photo by Doug Bardwell

At the other end of the spectrum, I spoke with a man who emerged from the rubble of his home to discover the four neighbors to the side of him had perished, as did four people in the home right behind his. It’s hard to make sense of how tragedy happens so randomly.

Being the first Red Crossers on the scene in most of these locations, we passed out bottled water as we met people and learned of their needs. Everyone was happy to hear about remotely served meals that would be coming as they combed through their wreckage trying to salvage family mementos.

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Photo by Doug Bardwell

Many were also surprised that they could go to Red Cross shelters for meals even if they weren’t living there. It felt good being able to spread a little “good news” to these people who hadn’t had much to smile about lately.

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Doug Bardwell (left) is holding a child as he listens and comforts a resident following the tornadoes. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

In one case, all that was needed was spending 10 to 15 minutes holding someones baby so they could chase and round up their six little dogs that had run away during the storm.

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Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

As the days passed, we transitioned to covering those in shelters, often in the most vulnerable areas. There were plenty of people with harrowing stories to tell.

A few days after the event, Multi-Agency Resource Centers (MARCs) were set up where people could come and get mental health, public health, HUD, SBA and FEMA  assistance. It was great to see how our Red Cross mental health workers were such a blessing to those affected by the storm.

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Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

By the end of the week,  it was also heartwarming to see the volunteerism evident around Nashville. Reports indicated that more than 20,000 volunteers offered to help with cleanup efforts through an organization called “Hands On Nashville.” Even in the small community of Cookeville, in just one church alone, there were 3,500 members out helping people sort through debris looking for salvageable items.

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Photo by Doug Bardwell

It was plain to see why Tennessee is called the Volunteer State.

If youd like to volunteer, the Red Cross in Northeast Ohio is in need of blood volunteers and disaster response volunteers. You can sign up here and receive all the training youll need.

In fact, right now, while the nation and world is battling the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, there is a severe blood shortage. There is an urgent need for eligible and healthy donors to give blood now. To make an appointment to donate blood, visit https://www.redcrossblood.org. Your blood donation can help save injured disaster victims and patients in need during these challenging times.

To see more photos from Doug’s deployment in Tennessee, visit our Flickr page.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Northeast Ohio Region weekend disaster report: March 26-29, 2020

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

March 30, 2020- Everyone in Northeast Ohio is trying to adjust to the new normal following the COVID-19 outbreak, including the American Red Cross.

The Red Cross is known not only for the assistance we provide individuals who suffered from a disaster, but also for the comfort we provide residents, such as a hug, to let them know that everything will be okay. However, in the aftermath of COVID-19, the Red Cross has had to change how they provide assistance to those in need.

Tennessee Tornadoes 2020

Emergencies do not stop, and over the weekend, the Red Cross, with the safety of our disaster team members and the residents we assisted in mind, responded to disasters throughout the region. Comfort was provided, despite the inability to provide a Red Cross hug to those suffering the worst day of their lives.

“Many thanks to our responders who use extra COVID-related precautions to make certain clients receive the help they desperately need. One of those adjustments is not giving the hugs they have given over the years,” said Renee Palagyi , senior program manager. “Social distancing now challenges them to show the compassion and care they feel through their words. And our clients continue to feel the love!”

During the weekend of March 26-29, 2020, the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio responded to local disasters, such as flooding in Cleveland, assisted 23 adults, 13 children and provided more than $7,600 in immediate financial assistance.

COVID-19 Volunteer

 

The Red Cross is looking for individuals to join the Red Cross to continue to respond to disasters in local communities. We also have a wide variety of important volunteer-from-home opportunities available. Find your opportunity to make a positive impact today by visiting redcross.org/volunteer.

 

Red Cross continues to provide comfort and support despite COVID-19

By Ben Bellucci, Disaster Program Manager, Greater Cleveland Chapter

March 27, 2020- A handshake, a comforting approach, and most of all, a relieving hug is what Red Cross disaster volunteers have ingrained in them from the moment they desire to give back to their communities. In an instant, that has all changed: COVID-19 has changed the way we interact with our community during their darkest hours – in a physical sense.

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Ben Bellucci

Disasters are taking place around our nation, as we are challenged with stopping the spread of COVID-19. Home fires are still taking place every day and are our number one disaster in Northeast Ohio. We as a team, with the direction of our leadership, have had to come up with new and inventive ways to deliver the much-needed assistance to those who have lost everything.

  • We have screening questions that we ask our clients before we respond, to protect our volunteers and our clients.
  • We can conduct interviews over the phone, to ensure that we have a timely response in order to meet their needs and get them assistance in the form of shelter, food, clothing, disaster health services or disaster mental health services.
  • We have the capability to conduct video interviews, so the client sees the smile, and the helping demeanor of our volunteers.
  • We have developed ways to deliver cards loaded with financial assistance to a location of the client’s choosing, always with the safety and health of our volunteer and clients at the forefront.
  • We also have volunteer caseworkers who will work with our clients on the phone to connect them with community partners.

We always talk about how we are honored to be in the position to facilitate a hug from members of our community, and volunteers play an integral part in our service delivery. We know that these are challenging times, and we know our community needs us to be there, now more than ever.

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Ben with his family at the Cleveland script sign at Edgewater Park

Because of social distancing, we can no longer give the physical hugs; however, we know you will feel the virtual hug from our community partners, our donors and, of course our volunteers.

We can’t wait for the days in which our physical hugs will return. Together, we will get through this!

If you are interested in volunteering and helping our community feel these virtual hugs, please click here.

If you are healthy and can donate blood, please visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-Red Cross (1-800-733-2767).

To learn more about the steps the Northeast Ohio Region is taking to protect disaster service team members and residents, listen to the latest episode of the Be A Hero podcast. Be A Hero can be heard on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and iHeartRadio Podcasts.

 

First time donor gives blood to aid with shortage

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

March 25, 2020- The COVID-19 outbreak is all anyone can talk about in Northeast Ohio. Beyond the immediate health emergency, the virus is threatening to create additional future public health emergencies due to the current blood shortage.

As of March 23, about 7,000 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled across the country due to coronavirus concerns, resulting in more than 200,000 fewer blood donations. This is why the Red Cross is asking all healthy and eligible individuals to donate lifesaving blood.

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Jenna Ostrowski with Regional CEO Mike Parks

On March 20, the Cleveland Clinic lent a helping hand to put an end to the blood shortage by opening their doors to host a much needed blood drive.

One of the donors present at the blood drive was Jenna Ostrowski, a medical technologist in the Automated Hematology Department. This moment was a milestone for Jenna, as she was a first time blood donor, who was motivated to take the leap to officially become a blood donor due to the need following the outbreak.

“I figured now is the time, since so many people need blood. It’s a good opportunity for caregivers since the drive is right here at the Clinic,” stated Jenna.

Red Cross of Northeast Ohio Regional CEO Mike Parks was present at the blood drive, thanking Cleveland Clinic President Tomislav Mihaljevic for opening the Cleveland Clinic’s doors to host the blood drive and to thank donors like Jenna for giving the gift of life.

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Tomislav Mihaljevic speaking with Mike Parks

Everyone at the Red Cross understands why people may be hesitant to come out for a blood drive, but we want to assure the public that we are taking additional precautions to ensure the safety of our donors, volunteers and staff.

Volunteers and staff are checking the temperature of  everyone before they enter a drive to make sure they are healthy. Hand sanitizer is available for use before entering the drive, as well as throughout the donation process. We are also spacing beds, where possible, to follow social distancing practices between blood donors.

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Red Cross employees follow strict safety procedures, including wearing gloves and changing them often, wiping down all donor-touched surfaces and equipment and preparing the arm for donation with an aseptic scrub.

If you are a first-time donor, like Jenna, click here to learn some helpful best practices.

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If you are healthy, feeling well and eligible to give blood or platelets, please make an appointment to donate as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

To view more photos from the Cleveland Clinic blood drive, visit the Northeast Ohio Region Flickr page.

Red Cross urges Northeast Ohio residents to practice and prepare for future disasters

COVID-19 social distancing measures provide opportunity to be prepared

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

March 23, 2020 — As individuals and families remain at home at a higher rate due to the COVID-19 outbreak and social distancing measures, the American Red Cross is urging all Northeast Ohio residents to take the time to prepare for future disasters.

Sound the Alarm Event in Capitol Heights, Maryland 2019

Here are some safety tips to practice and follow while everyone is home together:

Home Fire Safety

Home Fire Save Story Birmingham, Alabama 2019

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
  • Test smoke alarms every month. If they’re not working, change the batteries.
  • Talk with all family members about a home fire escape plan, make sure everyone has two exits out of every room.
  • Practice your fire escape plan and have everyone meet at the designated safe location. Make sure everyone escapes in two minutes or less.

Flood Safety

2002 Tropical Storm Isidore

Tornado Safety

Tennessee Tornadoes 2020

  • Talk about tornadoes with your family so that everyone knows where to go if a tornado warning is issued.
  • Ensure you have access to NOAA Radio broadcasts.
  • Prepare a pet emergency kit for your furry friends.

Thunderstorm Safety

  • Discuss thunderstorm safety and lightning safety with all members of your household.
  • Pick a safe place in your home for household members to gather during a thunderstorm. This should be away from windows, skylights and glass doors.
  • Make a list of items to bring inside in the event of a severe thunderstorm.

Sound the Alarm Event in Capitol Heights, Maryland 2019

Visit redcross.org to learn more emergency preparedness tips to ensure you and your family are Red Cross ready. Be sure to download the free Red Cross mobile apps, available in the Apple App Store or Google Play, for tools and preparedness information you need every day.

Volunteers continue to provide Red Cross disaster health services during coronavirus outbreak

By Renee Palagyi, Senior Disaster Program Manager

It seems that all we hear of late is “COVID-19,” and many wonder if it has taken the place of our normal American Red Cross activities. It has NOT! Residents experiencing fires continue to be assisted both on scene and in follow-up casework.

I am taking a moment today to emphasize the work being done by our incredible Disaster Health Services team. This group of volunteer nurses—most of whom are still employed full-time in roles ranging from pediatrics to geriatric nurse practitioner—continue to help our disaster clients who have lost medications, durable medical equipment, glasses, etc. We have new graduates, retirees and everyone in between, each bringing his or her personal gift of nursing knowledge and caring to bear through remote client contact.

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Renee Palagyi

Beginning March 14, several members of the team took on an additional task of “Disaster Action Team (DAT) Responder Screening.” Each responder in the Northeast Ohio region was called and asked a series of questions, provided guidelines on increased virus risk based on certain medical conditions and asked if they were still willing to continue to respond to clients in need. The professional approach of our nurses helped allay fears while providing solid information based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Not surprising, but certainly incredibly gratifying, was the response we received from those volunteers screened. Overwhelmingly, in fact, approximately 90% stated their willingness to continue as DAT responders in the face of this pandemic. The majority of those not able to respond during this crisis were screened out by our nurses for medical reasons, not by their fears of becoming ill. They noted they felt reassured by the client screening process we have in place and the knowledge that Red Cross has at heart the well-being of our strongest asset, our volunteers.

We are all in this for the long haul, and I am pleased to lead this team of dedicated nurses who continue to give their time despite their own increased work and personal demands.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

My first attempt to donate blood

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

Editors note: The American Red Cross now faces a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during this coronavirus outbreak.  Through March 17, nearly 4,000 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled across the country due to coronavirus concerns, resulting in more than 100,000 fewer blood donations. Healthy individuals are needed to donate now to help patients counting on lifesaving blood.

March 18, 2020- You’ve seen the advertisements and signs before—the ones that list upcoming American Red Cross blood drives in your area. You may drive past the sign on your way home or see something about a local drive on your social media feed. Like many people, I am not fond of needles. This is why for many years I went without donating blood.

This year, I was determined to put my nerves aside to take part in my first blood drive. I found a local site and signed up for a time slot, hoping that scheduling an appointment would help avoid any lines. When I arrived, there were several people donating and several more getting their screenings completed.

Blood bank Campaign ceremony 2017

Laurie Brungeau giving blood during the launch of the Haitian Red Cross blood collection center in Port-au-Prince. The Haitian Red Cross suffered serious damage during the earthquake, but thanks to their hard work–and capacity-building investments from partners like the American Red Cross — they have stregthened and become more sustainable over the years. Photo: Garry Calixte/American Red Cross

After registering and completing my pre-screening, it was time to donate. The nurse asked me which arm I prefer, to which I answered, “Whichever arm that you can find a vein.” The nurse asked me if I have had trouble with nurses finding my veins in the past. They have but I didn’t think that would be an issue for donating. These volunteers do this regularly and are pros, right?

While the nurses at the donation site were, in fact, seasoned experts, the two nurses who checked still had trouble finding a viable vein to use in my arm. Out of caution for my well-being, they told me I wasn’t able to donate. I was incredibly disappointed that of all reasons to be turned away as a donor, it was my lack of a viable vein!

Blood Drive New York 2018

This experience showed me just how important it is for those who can donate blood to do so. After sharing my experience with a few friends, I learned that many of them had similar experiences. From my friends and the nurses at the blood drive, I learned a few best practices I wanted to share for those looking to donate:

  • Drink lots of water before you donate – the day before and the day of your donation.
  • Avoid caffeine to avoid detracting from #1.
  • The magic number for your iron level is 12.5. They test this before you actually start your donation to make sure you have the minimum level.
  • Complete the RapidPass online before you donate to save time at the blood donation location. This contains the pre-donation packet reading and health history questions donors need to complete.
  • Bring some music or reading when you donate. It only takes 8-10 minutes to do the actual blood donation but having something to do can help pass the time, especially if you are nervous.

Knowing these things, I plan to go back again soon to see if I can donate. I hope my story encourages you to donate as well.

Blood Drive, Fairfax, Virginia 2018

Currently, there is an urgent need for blood due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Right now, eligible and healthy donors are strongly urged to make an appointment to give soon. To schedule an appointment and for information on enhanced blood donation safety related to Coronavirus, visit: https://www.redcrossblood.org.

For those who can’t donate, the Red Cross offers volunteer opportunities to support  blood drives. You can learn more about these at: https://www.redcross.org/local/ohio/northeast/volunteer.html.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer