Northeast Ohio Region weekend disaster response report: October 18-20, 2019

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

October 21, 2019- While residents of Northeast Ohio were enjoying the warm fall weekend weather and getting ready for Halloween, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio Disaster Action Teams (DAT) were responding to individuals experiencing the worst day of their lives.

The Red Cross responded to 12 incidents, including several home fires, in nine counties, affecting all five regional chapters.

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As part of the weekend response, Northeast Ohio DAT volunteers assisted 26 adults and 14 children, and the Red Cross provided more than $7,000 in immediate financial assistance.

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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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 redcross.org/donate to provide a financial donation. Any amount donated truly helps with their recovery.

Texas Floods 2019

Also, 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/volunteer to learn more and to apply to become a Red Cross volunteer today.

Fire safety: lessons learned from the California wildfires

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

October 7, 2019- It is Fire Prevention Week. Every 24 hours the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio responds to on average three home fires.

During the weekend of October 4-6, 2019, the Red Cross responded to 8 home fires, assisted more than 34 individuals and provided more than $5,800 in immediate financial assistance, highlighting the importance of  fire prevention.

While it is not something that many Northeast Ohio residents think about, wildfires can occur here. Read the following article written by Doug Bardwell, a Red Cross volunteer, about his deployment to assist with last year’s California wildfires and the lessons he learned:

FIRE! One of the most chilling words you never want to hear — whether shouted by a family member, a neighbor or a coworker. Ready or not, it requires immediate action to save yourself or family members.

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In Northeast Ohio, we rarely experience a raging, neighborhood-consuming wildfire like they do in California. But we do experience hundreds of home fires in our community each year. So what lessons can we learn from the fires that happen each year in California?

Plan ahead for your home

One of the first things Californians discovered was that combustible materials should never be kept outside your house. That goes for trash, cardboard boxes and firewood.

Clean out old vegetation. If it isn’t green and growing, those dead trees, plants and grasses can be highly flammable.

Make sure outdoor barbeque grills are safely equipped with current valves and hoses.

Roasting marshmallows?  Build your campfires or bonfires in a pit a safe distance from your home. Afterward, wet down all remaining embers and make sure everything is cool to the touch before leaving the site.

Have fire extinguishers at the ready and hoses hooked up and ready to go.

Make sure your house number is clearly marked so the fire department isn’t wasting time trying to locate your property.

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Plan ahead for your family

If the need occurs for you to evacuate your home or your neighborhood, you’ll be happy if you’ve taken the time to pre-think and practice an evacuation plan. Everyone in the family should be aware of a pre-determined rendezvous point where the family will meet up.

You’ll also want to designate an out-of-town family member or family friend who everyone can reach to keep tabs on who has checked in and who hasn’t.

Make a kit. When you are trying to escape a fire, it’s not the time to be looking for your ID, your important papers, your medicines, your glasses or your wallet. Keeping duplicates of those items near your garage or front door, makes it easy to grab and go. It will make the days immediately following the event much less stressful.

For more tips on being prepared, watch this video.

And always . . .

Make sure your home is equipped with fully functioning smoke alarms. If you don’t have working smoke alarms, call your local Red Cross office and they’ll put you on the list for a free installation.

For even more lifesaving tips, follow the Northeast Ohio Red Cross blog. Just fill in your email address and tap the FOLLOW button in the left margin. (You’ll only get two or three articles a week and you can easily cancel at any time.)

[All photos by Doug Bardwell]

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Looking back at Las Vegas tragedy and lending a helping hand

By Renee Palagyi, Senior Regional Disaster Program Manager

October 1, 2019- In many ways, it is hard to believe that two years have passed since the horrific tragedy in Las Vegas. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, and sometimes it seems like it was yesterday.

Palagyi, Renee

Renee Palagyi

I arrived two days after the shooting and spent the next three weeks leading disaster health services in the Family Assistance Center. During that time, the American Red Cross and its partners assisted more than 4,400 individuals who had been injured to some degree at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival. I’m certain those numbers are a small reflection of the total number who were seriously impacted. I also believe that many of the 25,000 in attendance will carry scars from that night for the rest of their lives.

Each time my memories of that time move to the back of my mind, though, it seems they are awakened by another shooting. Just over a month ago, I went to Dayton to assist those friends and family members trying to make sense of the senseless.

I know most of us think when a tragedy occurs, “I wish there was something I could do. I feel so helpless.” If there is anything positive for me, it is that I AM able to go and help, in whatever small way.

The Red Cross is called upon to take a leading role and assist victims in the worst of times. Being a paid staff member or volunteer means that we can be there, listening to the stories and providing some small measure of comfort, a hug or a blanket around the shoulders.

I encourage those who feel helpless to think about volunteering. If not for these types of events, in some other way.

I’m sure many are familiar with the beautiful quote by Fred Rogers: When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ ”

You, too, can be a helper.

To volunteer with the Red Cross and find your role as a helper, visit www.redcross.org/local/ohio/northeast/volunteer.html.

Watch the following video to hear Renee reflect on the Las Vegas shooting:

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Red Cross continues Hurricane Dorian relief efforts, prepares for future storms

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

September 23, 2019- Three weeks since Hurricane Dorian made landfall devastating the  Bahamas, the Red Cross is continuing to provide relief for those affected by the storm.

There is a very long road ahead for people who have lost everything to Hurricane Dorian. Getting relief to people in the Bahamas and helping people plan their recovery are the American Red Cross’ priorities.

Hurricane Dorian 2019

Thousands of people have evacuated the damaged islands via helicopter, plane and boat. They are staying on different islands with family members or at government-run shelters in the capital city. Some evacuees have joined loved ones in the U.S.

If you have lost contact with a US citizen traveling in the Bahamas, contact the U.S. State Department at 1-888-407-4747.

Families still remain on the devastated islands and are in need of basic relief, such as emergency supplies and hygiene items—which Red Cross teams are distributing on both Abaco and Grand Bahama.

Hurricane Dorian Bahamas 2019

The Red Cross has had to be flexible in our response to this crisis. The changing nature of this disaster—including on which islands affected people are taking shelter—means that aid is being delivered to storm survivors in places not majorly affected by the storm, such as Nassau.

Tele-connectivity challenges mean that many people still haven’t been able to get in touch with loved ones. In shelters, volunteers are helping evacuees make phone calls to their families. When necessary, volunteers are initiating missing persons cases with the hope of tracing loved ones.

Trained psychologists and nurses are providing comfort and mental health support to evacuees coping with emotional distress.

People remaining in communities damaged by Hurricane Dorian need emergency materials and help recovering from the storm. The global Red Cross network has started rolling out a major emergency relief effort.

Hurricane Dorian 2019

Red Cross shelter, water and sanitation, health, logistics, cash-as-aid and other sector specialists are on the ground supporting the Bahamas Red Cross.

There has been an outpouring of support from both the international and local community.

Hurricane Dorian Bahamas 2019

Thus far, the American Red Cross has committed $4.5 million to support those affected in the Bahamas by Dorian.

The American Red Cross has deployed 21 disaster response specialists to provide support to the relief operation in the Bahamas.

The American Red Cross is also working in close coordination with the U.S. government and community partners to support evacuees arriving in the U.S. from the Bahamas immediately following the hurricane.

Hurricane Dorian 2019

The Red Cross also stands ready to help again if the need arises.

Jim Celestino, a health service worker, was one of 20 disaster response workers deployed from Northeast Ohio to the southeast U.S. to assist with Hurricane Dorian. Watch the following video to hear Jim discuss his experience on his first deployment with the Red Cross and his call for others to become Red Cross volunteers:

Currently, we are in the middle of hurricane season, with tropical storms Karen and Jerry fast approaching Puerto Rico, Bermuda and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Tropical Storm Imelda has also also made landfall, forcing the governor of Texas to declare a state of disaster.

The Red Cross continues to remain prepared to respond to provide relief at a moment’s notice whenever a disaster devastates a community.

Visit redcross.org/donate to help support the Red Cross’ efforts to respond to and assist in the aftermath when the next storm such as Dorian strikes.

Your donation to the Red Cross helps provide food, shelter, relief supplies, emotional support, recovery planning and other assistance during disasters.

 

Red Cross continues to support those affected by Harvey, Irma and Maria

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross Volunteer

September 20, 2019- Two years ago, three hurricanes hit the U.S. in less than a month, affecting thousands of people who lived in the paths of these storms. The American Red Cross quickly responded to these disasters, providing much-needed aid and support. Two years later, the Red Cross continues to support the areas hardest hit by these storms.

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Hurricane Harvey

Two years ago, three hurricanes hit the U.S. in less than a month, affecting thousands of people who lived in the paths of these storms. The American Red Cross quickly responded to these disasters, providing much-needed aid and support. Two years later, the Red Cross continues to support the areas hardest hit by these storms.

Hurricane Maria 2017

Since then, the American Red Cross has provided aid to those affected by the storm. Locally, the Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross assisted by deploying 49 trained disaster workers from Northeast Ohio, the vast majority volunteers, who responded to the relief operation. Overall:

  • More than 46,000 damaged or destroyed households have been provided with recovery financial assistance.
  • More than 414,800 overnight shelter stays were provided in collaboration with partners.
  • More than 4.5 million meals and snacks were served together with partners.
  • More than 127,000 health and mental health contacts have been made.
  • The Red Cross awarded more than $59 million to support community-based recovery services by local nonprofits to provide services to the communities who were hardest hit.

Hurricane Irma

Just two weeks after Harvey, Hurricane Irma’s powerful winds and floodwaters hit the Caribbean, including the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, and then took a destructive path across Florida. Irma was the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. since 2005.

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Again, the Red Cross was there to provide aid to those who were impacted by the storm.  There were 29 deployments of staff and volunteers from among the Northeast Ohio disaster workforce who assisted with the relief effort.

  • More than 555,300 overnight shelter stays were provided in collaboration with partners.
  • More than 1.6 million meals and snacks were served together with partners.
  • More than 1.8 million relief items were distributed.
  • More than 62,500 health and mental health contacts have been made.
  • More than 9,200 damaged or destroyed households were provided with financial assistance totaling over $37 million.
  • The Red Cross continues to work with local organizations to provide continued support for long-term recovery efforts, awarding more than $15 million in grants.

Hurricane Maria

Maria was the third hurricane to hit the U.S. within a month and was the most intense hurricane to make landfall in Puerto Rico in more than 80 years. Another 17 workers from Northeast Ohio were deployed.

 

The Red Cross has been working with numerous partners on recovery efforts focusing on consistent power, clean water, community health and community resiliency.

  • More than 12.8 million meals and snacks were served together with partners.
  • More than 77,000 water purification filters were distributed.
  • More than 5.2 million relief items were distributed.
  • More than 40,800 health and mental health contacts have been made.
  • More than 2,700 generators were provided for people with medical equipment needs.

Interested in volunteering to help in the recovery efforts for disasters?

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There are many volunteer opportunities available in Disaster Response. Read our recent article on the requirements for becoming a disaster response volunteer.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

Reflections from Sept. 11: Experiencing New Yorkers’ outpouring of volunteerism

By Debbie Chitester, Disaster Program Manager, Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties Chapter

September 11, 2019- This year marks 18 years since the tragedies of Sept. 11 occurred. Each year I reflect upon that time and remember those who were lost, but also the good work of people that rushed to the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, to help. I remember the support that was given to everyone affected, either directly or those coming to help the ones in need. The following is what I wrote after I returned from three weeks working in New York City. I still reflect upon it often.

2001 Terrorism NYC

I have witnessed probably the largest outpouring of volunteerism in my lifetime. In New York City, the American Red Cross processed 21,000 volunteers by Oct. 11, 2001, one month after the tragedy.

2001 Terrorism NYC

The local volunteers came out in spontaneous droves — literally 24 hours a day — giving truth to the phrase “New York: The City that Never Sleeps.” People of all races, creeds and religions came out to help. From caterers to computer operators, from men in suits to women in hard hats, flight attendants, retired phone operators, out-of-work actors, working actors, college students, musicians, nurses, doctors, psychologists, rabbis and even a medium — socioeconomic status did not matter. This city joined together to heal itself.

2001 Terrorism NYC

And that is how we viewed this . . . a healing process for the residents of the New York metro area. Most did not care what they did, just so they could help. They were drivers, data entry specialists, family services and respite center workers, cooks and greeters. No job was too small.

2001 Terrorism NYC

On the corners were groups of people with large signs saying, “THANK YOU” and cheering. At first I thought, “Well they must think we are firefighters or police.” Then we stopped at the corner and they saw the Red Cross and they said, “Thank you, Red Cross!” Driving through checkpoints late at night after a VERY LONG and stressful day, the police officer that checked IDs said, “Hey Red Cross, thanks, you are doing a great job!” That made us all feel good. This was not only at the beginning of my journey; I saw those signs when I left three weeks later.

2001 Terrorism NYC

It was difficult to leave this operation. Usually when I leave, the job is coming to an end, and I transition to the local chapter to carry on the job of recognition and follow-up. Not this time. We knew that the work was not done, and we needed to go home to our other “families.” But there was a feeling of accomplishment knowing that so many New Yorkers helped their community.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

What will you share on Grandparents Day?

By Doug Bardwell,  American Red Cross volunteer

Grandparents Day is not a national holiday, but rather a day of observance. Most people get the day off; but only because it occurs on a Sunday. That said, there is so much grandchildren can learn if their grandparents take the time to share.

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Red Cross volunteer Doug Bardwell and grandsons William Saki and Drew Saki .  Photo provided by Doug Bardwell

For example, I’d like to share with my older grandchildren the joy of volunteering. I’ve been with the American Red Cross for exactly three years today, and I can recall so many wonderful memories of times I was able to help someone.

When a family has experienced a terrible fire and have lost everything they own, helping them realize there is hope for the future and helping them start that rebuilding process is a joy I get every time I respond to a fire in our community with our Northeast Ohio Region’s Disaster Action Team.

When I give blood, I’ve learned that every pint I donate could help as many as three different people. For the 42 pints I’ve donated, that’s up to 126 people. On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve talked with someone who required more than 330 units of plasma in just under two weeks to keep her alive. Having enough blood on the shelves is always important for whatever emergency might come next. I suggest that all my college-age grandchildren try to donate blood.

I’ve also shared the story of a homeless man in California that I met after the giant Camp Fire last year. He was born in Ohio but moved to California because there was “too much traffic” in Warrensville Heights, where he was born. At the time of the fire he was homeless but happy, living in the woods outside of Paradise, CA. He enjoyed being able to tell his story to someone who knew about his original hometown, and we talked for hours. Sometimes a person in distress starts to heal by just having someone to talk with.

I also share that while the Red Cross responds to disasters and helps people recover after a disaster, we also help people prevent and prepare for disasters. With all the Red Cross apps for mobile phones, two are especially good to share with grandchildren: the Monster App and the Swim app. They can easily download either one by texting “MONSTER” or “SWIM” to 90999.

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Eddie Bardwell, left, Grandmother Maureen Bardwell, and Ella Bardwell.  Photo provided by Doug Bardwell

So on this Grandparents Day, take your children to talk with their grandparents and see what wisdom they have to share. Or if you are a grandparent and don’t already have an abundance of stories to share, consider volunteering with the Red Cross. You’re guaranteed to have some soon enough for next Grandparents Day.

For more on the history of Grandparents Day

National Grandparents Day falls each year on the first Sunday after Labor Day. It was initiated at the grassroots level by West Virginian Marian Lucille Herndon McQuade. She and her husband had 15 children, 43 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild. And she still found time to lobby state and federal leaders to create this day of observance.

It was in 1979 that President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the first Sunday after Labor Day each year as National Grandparents Day. September was chosen to signify the “autumn” years of life.

While Mother’s Day and Father’s Day have apostrophes, officially Grandparents Day does not. It seems this may have simply been an oversight when the holiday was proclaimed. But it’s an oversight that serves the holiday well. Marian did not envision the holiday as “belonging” to grandparents. Instead, she saw it as a day of celebration involving the whole family, a day to connect the generations. It’s just as much a day to honor grandparents as it is a day for grandparents themselves to confirm their loving legacy to the generations that follow them.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer