Snapshots: Moments from disaster response

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

August 12, 2019- I have been a part of the American Red Cross’ Disaster Relief team for 18 months, which has been exceptionally challenging and rewarding. Here are a few of the many moments lingering in my memory:

Tim Poe

Tim Poe

I hand an information packet and financial assistance card to a woman in tears. I see astonishment followed by relief on her face as I explain what it is. She looks out the window, breathes deeply and begins planning her family’s recovery.

An enormous, isolated tree stands in a field. Near the top, a remnant of a house is embedded in twisted limbs. Other pieces of homes and people’s belongings lie scattered across the field as people work to clean up and recover.

Assisting a large number of clients after a major fire, people from the community come in throughout the day, bringing supplies, offering comfort, asking how they can donate, finding ways to help.

In an ER, a woman lifts her oxygen mask, says it’s her birthday, and asks for cake.

Interviewing a client as her grandson plays with a stuffed toy, I ask if she’s a veteran and the grandchild declares he is. “No you’re not, sweetheart,” she says. He answers, “I am too. I don’t even like meat.”

On Christmas Eve, standing on the porch of what remains of a house, helping a family plan their recovery, the mother makes a joke and laughter warms the winter air. I feel the mood lighten as they look to the future.

2019 Euclid fire responseAt a community event with the Emergency Response Vehicle, I let children use the public-address system. Some shyly say, “hi,” others say their names and a few words. One yells, “Pizza! Pizza! Pizza! … and ice cream!” Nearly all smile as their voices amplify.

Standing in the rain, clearing the scene of a very large fire, the family’s father grasps my hand, holds on, begins to say something, then simply nods.

Leaving a scene, a three-year-old child runs up and gives me a hug.

Volunteers like me  carry out 90 percent of the humanitarian work of the Red Cross. Whether helping displaced families or teaching others how to respond in emergencies, the time and talents of volunteers can make a real difference. Explore the Red Cross’ many volunteer opportunities here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Volunteer nurses contribute mightily to Red Cross disaster response

They help people affected by disaster in numerous ways

Laverne Nerlich got the call Saturday morning, July 27.

Recently retired, and an empty nester, Laverne decided to offer her skills and experience as a disaster nurse to the American Red Cross as a volunteer.  She received training and was assigned to be on-call.

Fire in an apartment building in Parma Heights had forced dozens of residents to flee their homes the night before.  Her services as a disaster health worker were needed to help the people who had been displaced.

It was her first day on the job.

 

Laverne Nerlich and Rosanne Radziewicz console residents of the Camelot Aparrtments

Laverne and her fellow disaster health worker, Rosanne Radziewicz, approached dozens of people who were filing into the nearby Greenbrier Middle School building,  where the Red Cross had set-up shop.  Disaster workers were offering financial assistance to folks who were suddenly homeless.  Laverne and Rosanne were offering to help refill prescription medications that were left behind when the fire alarms sounded.  They were also helping residents replace eyeglasses, oxygen concentrators, and other durable medical equipment.  But perhaps most importantly, they were offering a sympathetic ear and, in some cases, a shoulder to cry on.

 

Camelot Apartments resident Paula Krych was one of many people assisted by the Red Cross the day after fire chased her from her home

“Being forced to leave your home because the building is on fire is a very traumatic experience,” said Tim O’Toole, Regional Disaster Officer for the Red Cross.  “People need help with some very basic necessities that we often take for granted.  That’s why our disaster health workers are so vital to a response of this magnitude.”

It’s wonderful to be part of a hands-on organization that does so much for people when they need it,” said Rosanne.  “I wanted to be able to give help to people after I retired.”

The Red Cross can only provide help to people when they need it when volunteers like Rosanne and Laverne offer their time and talent.  To learn more about the many ways you can be a part of the world’s largest humanitarian organization, visit RedCross.org/volunteer, or call 216-431-3328.

As of Thursday, August 1, 90 residents of the Camelot Apartments on Huffman Road had received Red Cross assistance.

 

 

Lubrizol helps Sound the Alarm in Brooklyn

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

July 25, 2019- In Northeast Ohio, the American Red Cross  responds on average to three home fires every 24 hours. 

This week, the Red Cross of Greater Cleveland responded to a fire at the Cherry Tree Village apartment complex in Strongsville. The fire affected 24 apartments and more 60 individuals, including families and children, who received Red Cross assistance.

Prevention

Part of our mission is to help communities and residents prevent fires from occurring, and to reduce the number of serious injuries and deaths due to home fires.  On July 23, 2019, several employees from Wickliffe’s own Lubrizol Corporation volunteered to help install free smoke alarms and create escape plans, making homes safer and helping save lives.

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During the Brooklyn installation event, Lubrizol employees installed 185 smoke alarms and 75 homes safer.

Sound the Alarm home fire safety and smoke alarm installation events are part of the Home Fire Campaign, which the Red Cross launched in 2014 to reduce fire deaths and injuries. So far, it has reached more than 1.8 million people, saved more than 600 lives, and made more than 750,000 households nationwide safer.

Response

Just as disasters do not discriminate in terms of whose lives they destroy, the Red Cross does not discriminate in terms of whose lives we help rebuild. The Red Cross does not turn away people who need assistance after a disaster. We are committed to helping everyone in need.

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Lubrizol employees Josh Swift and Amber Smith help install a smoke alarm in a home in Brooklyn, Ohio

As the largest humanitarian organization in the world, the Red Cross has the ability to use your donation to reach more people in need, more quickly. Your donation to the Red Cross helps provide food, shelter, relief supplies, emotional support, recovery planning and other assistance during disasters.

To help the Red Cross provide hope and comfort to individuals in Northeast Ohio experiencing their darkest hours, please visit our Crowdrise page to provide a financial donation. Any amount donated truly helps with their recovery.

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Lubrizol employee Sarah Schlicher provides fire safety information to Ramona Ortiz of Brooklyn, Ohio

Volunteer

If you cannot assist financially but would like to help residents following a disaster, there is another way you may help. Without the tremendous dedication of our volunteers, the Red Cross would not be able to serve the 22 counties and 4.5 million residents of Northeast Ohio. Volunteers make up 90 percent of our workforce. Our volunteers are without a doubt the face of the Red Cross. Visit redcross.org/neo to learn more and to apply to become a Red Cross volunteer.

To see more photos from the Lubrizol Brooklyn installation event, please visit our Flickr page.

Northeast Ohio Region weekend disaster response report: July 19-21, 2019

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

July 22, 2019- While many Northeast Ohio residents were dodging the nearly 100 degree temperatures and the storms the heat brought through the region,  American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio Disaster Action Teams left the comfort of cool homes to assist residents in need.

During the weekend of July 19-21, the Red Cross responded to 10 incidents, assisted 84 individuals and provided more than $11,000 in immediate financial assistance.

One of the responses occurred in the Wooster area in Wayne County. Following flash flooding after heavy rain in Apple Creek and the surrounding areas, the Red Cross opened and helped operated a shelter at Grace Church, which received 8 overnight residents.

 

There was another significant response over the weekend in Trumbull County.  In Kinsman, a road was washed out, isolating residents in 25 homes and prompting a boat rescue. The Red Cross provided financial assistance to the affected residents, including 56 adults and 22 children.

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Without the tremendous dedication of our volunteers, the Red Cross would not be able to serve the 22 counties and 4.5 million residents of Northeast Ohio. Volunteers make up 90 percent of our workforce. Our volunteers are without a doubt the face of the Red Cross. Visit redcross.org/neo to learn more and to apply to become a Red Cross volunteer.

Northeast Ohio Region weekend disaster response report: July 4-7, 2019

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

July 8, 2019- As residents across Northeast Ohio were enjoying barbecues, fireworks, nice weather and the start of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game festivities, the American Red Cross was actively assisting individuals who were experiencing their most difficult moments.

During Independence Day weekend, July 4-7, the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio responded to 13 incidents, including a structural collapse in Lorain. The disaster team assisted 34 adults, 24 children and provided more than $13,000 in immediate financial assistance to help these individuals get back on their feet following the local disaster.

Another weekend incident the disaster team responded to over the holiday weekend, was a home fire resulting from arson on Dudley Avenue in Cleveland.

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Dudley Avenue home fire

“It has been a busy time with home fires recently in Northeast Ohio. We have responded to multiple fires in the last few weeks under suspicion of arson. This is one of the wonderful attributes of this organization. We are so inclusive that we provide assistance to anyone who is in need, despite how the disaster began,” said Ben Bellucci, the disaster program manager for the Greater Cleveland Chapter.

“This past weekend, the volunteers were beyond amazing,” Ben added. “With the average temperatures in the 90s and high humidity, the disaster action team was up at all hours providing light in many individuals’ darkest hours. We can’t do it without our volunteers, and the generosity of our community, who all make it possible.”

Just as disasters do not discriminate in terms of whose lives they destroy; the Red Cross does not discriminate in terms of whose lives we help rebuild. The Red Cross does not turn away people who need assistance after a disaster. We are committed to helping everyone in need.

As the largest humanitarian organization in the world, the Red Cross has the ability to use your donation to reach more people in need, more quickly. Your donation to the Red Cross helps provide food, shelter, relief supplies, emotional support, recovery planning and other assistance during disasters.

To help the Red Cross provide hope and comfort to individuals in Northeast Ohio experiencing their darkest hours, please visit our Crowdrise page to provide a financial donation. Any amount donated truly helps with their recovery.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

A look back at the 2018 hurricane season

New hurricane season begins as spring storms continue to wreak havoc

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

Hurricane season begins tomorrow, on June 1, and continues through November 30. Last year’s Atlantic hurricane season saw a total of 15 named storms with eight hurricanes. Two of note were Florence and Michael, collectively wreaking $50 billion worth of damage.

Hurricane Florence 2018

Ivanhoe, North Carolina, September 23, 2019. Photo by Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

Florence made landfall in the United States on September 14, as a Category 1 near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. At least five people died in the storm.

Michael was only the fourth time a Category 5 hurricane touched down in this country when it made landfall on October 10 in the Florida panhandle. Fifty-nine deaths were directly or indirectly attributed to Hurricane Michael.

Hurricane Michael video screenshots 2018

Panama City, Florida, October, 2019. Photo by Amy Anderson/American Red Cross

The American Red Cross was there helping residents affected, providing 3,200 disaster

Hurricane Michael 2018

Day 5 after Hurricane Michael made landfall in Florida.  Photo by Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

workers, comprised of nearly 90 percent volunteers. More than 150 of those workers were from Northeast Ohio. Working with partner agencies, the Red Cross served more than 1.93 million meals and snacks. As cleanup began, more than a quarter-million relief items like cleanup kits and shovels were distributed. More than 70 emergency response vehicles were mobilized to deliver food and relief supplies.

Tips during any high wind situation

While Northeast Ohio never takes the brunt of a hurricane, we can get our share of high winds, thunderstorms and tornadoes, as the Dayton area experienced earlier this week. So what are some things to share with family members when preparing for high winds and inevitable power outages?

  • Never go near downed power lines. Report downed lines to the power company and keep people away.
  • Don’t risk a fire using candles – use only flashlights.
  • Keep a charged battery pack (preferably 20,000 mAh or bigger) for recharging cellphones until power returns.
  • Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed to maintain contents for as long as possible. Review these food and water tips during an emergency.
  • Only use portable generators, grills or camp stoves outside the home. Maintain adequate ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide from entering the home. Never refuel a hot generator. Wait for it to cool first.
  • Be sure to check on relatives, neighbors and friends, especially those with disabilities, accessibility and functional needs.

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What to do right now

Before power goes out, download these Red Cross apps for your cellphone:

Emergency – This all-inclusive app lets you monitor more than 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts.

First Aid – Get instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies.

Monster Guard – For kids aged 7-11. This app teaches preparedness for real-life emergencies at home with the help of Maya, Chad, Olivia and all the monsters.

 

 

From Northeast to Southwest: American Red Cross is Ohio-strong

NEO volunteers assisting residents affected by downstate tornadoes

More help from Northeast Ohio is on the way to tornado stricken Dayton and the surrounding area.  An Emergency Response Vehicle, which is stationed in Cleveland, will be deployed with a two-person crew to help provide meals and emergency supplies to residents affected by Monday night’s storms.

More than 130 Ohioans spent the night in 6 shelters last night.  They were among nearly 500 people who took refuge in more than 30 Red Cross and Community shelters in several states that have been hit hard by bad weather this week.

Red Cross volunteers Pam Williams and Monica Bunner working in Dayton

In addition to the ERV and its crew, six other disaster workers from Northeast Ohio are assigned to the relief operation, and are already in Dayton, fulfilling various roles – from mass care to government operations to reunification.

“Basically we help families reunite,” said Monica Bunner, a disaster volunteer from Medina. “Say someone is missing as a result of the disaster and could be in a shelter. The Safe & Well site allows one to register and send messages to loved ones to let them know they are OK.”

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                                           Photo credit:  Todd James/American Red Cross

Prepare in Advance

More spring storms are in the forecast this week for a vast swath of the country.  You can prepare for violent weather in the following ways:

Educate your family on how to use the Safe and Well website.

Assemble an emergency preparedness kit, which includes a battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio). For a detailed list of supplies to include, see updated Be Red Cross Ready Checklist.

Create a household emergency plan that includes your pets.

Stay informed about your community’s risk and response plans.

Download the Emergency App for iPhone or for Android.

Remember, if you or a member of your household is an individual with access or functional needs, including a disability, consider developing a comprehensive evacuation plan in advance with family, care providers and care attendants, as appropriate.

Complete a personal assessment of functional abilities and possible needs during and after an emergency or disaster situation, and create a personal support network to assist.

Many kind-hearted people have offered to help, driven by the compassion that is typical of Northeast Ohioans.  While the Red Cross does not accept donations of items, we do encourage financial support. It is the quickest and best way to get help to the people who need it most, by allowing us to be flexible in the help we deliver.  Financial donations can be accessed quickly, and can ensure that we can provide the residents affected by the tornadoes what they need most.

You can donate to American Red Cross disaster relief by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS, or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.