Fires force families to flee their homes

Disaster workers respond to nearly a dozen home fires in Northeast Ohio over the weekend

Nearly three-dozen people, including nine children were left homeless – at least temporarily – following weekend fires in Cleveland, Lorain, Eastlake, Mansfield and Cadiz, Ohio.  Disaster action team members responded, tending to their immediate needs by providing financial assistance, comfort kits that include personal hygiene items, and hope for finding a way forward.

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One of the fires near downtown Cleveland forced eight adults to flee in the middle of the night on Saturday.  Ben Bellucci, disaster program manager for the Red Cross of Greater Cleveland, said the tenants and property owners expressed heartfelt appreciation for the help being offered.

fire6“They had no idea we do this,” Ben said. “When I told them we respond to fires like these 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, they were shocked.  They could not have been more appreciative.”

Financial assistance totaling more than $6,300 was distributed to the 34 people who found themselves out in the cold.  Additional assistance was also offered, including help replacing prescription medications and eyeglasses, and making connections with other community resources.

Only by the power of our volunteer workforce and the generosity of our donors are we able to provide such assistance.  There is no government funding for the help residents receive – on average, three times every 24 hours in Northeast Ohio.  To make a financial contribution, visit www.redcross.org/donate.  And to volunteer to help your neighbors by responding to home fires and other disasters, apply here.

Photo credit: Ben Bellucci, American Red Cross

Home fires keep NEO disaster responders busy

Weekend disaster report, November 1-3, 2019

More than three-dozen people in Northeast Ohio were chased from their homes by fire over the weekend.  They received comfort and care from trained Red Cross disaster responders, volunteers who, in some cases, traveled far from their homes to help those in need.2019 Euclid fire response

“Our volunteers worked long and hard this weekend to make sure people in need received immediate assistance,” said Renee Palagyi, senior regional disaster program manager. “Some drove an hour-and-a-half to get help to the people who needed it.  Some stayed after their shift was scheduled to end; some started before they were scheduled to start.  I can’t say enough about the dedication of our volunteers.”

Disaster Action Team (DAT) members are on-call during scheduled shifts, and when a call comes to the Red Cross from a fire department, a neighbor, or another source, the volunteers on-call respond.  They provide immediate financial assistance, comfort kits filled with toiletries and other necessary supplies, and other help for those affected by fire.

This weekend, Red Cross disaster responders distributed nearly $8,200 to folks affected by home fires in 11 separate cases, impacting residents in Cleveland, Canton, Youngstown, Sandusky, Ashtabula Chesterland, Lisbon and East Liverpool.

There is always a need for trained disaster responders to help people during their darkest hours.  Visit redcross.org/volunteer to learn more, and to apply to become part of the regional Red Cross workforce in Northeast Ohio.

Northeast Ohio American Red Cross volunteer deploys to assist with California wildfires

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

November 1, 2019- As critical wildfire weather conditions continue to plague residents of California, the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio is deploying a local volunteer to assist with the Red Cross’ relief efforts.

Tom Quinn of Wadsworth is one of more than 500 Red Cross volunteers supporting evacuation centers to provide safe refuge for individuals impacted by the devastating fires. Quinn recently deployed in September to assist with the Hurricane Dorian relief efforts in Florida.

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Meritt Dahlgren (right) overjoyed when he found his home still standing despite perimeter being destroyed

In northern California, the Kincade Fire has scorched more than 77,700 acres and is about 65 percent contained.

In southern California, the Hillside Fire near San Bernadino and Easy Fire in the Simi Valley, along with the Getty Fire continue to burn near Los Angeles.

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The Maria Fire, which broke out Thursday, has grown to as many as 8,000 acres in Ventura County, prompting new evacuation orders.

While some evacuations have been lifted, there were still more than 180 people in 8 Red Cross and community shelters overnight. With partners, the Red Cross has served more than 40,500 meals and snacks, provided more than 2,500 relief items and made more than 2,400 individual care contacts.

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“The Red Cross was very prepared for this catastrophe. My friends and neighbors are grateful for all the support the Red Cross has shown our community,” said Meritt Dahlgren, Heldsburg resident who was overjoyed to find his home still standing, despite the perimeter being destroyed.

All are welcome at all Red Cross shelters. The Red Cross delivers help to anyone regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or citizenship status. People who have disaster-caused needs do not need to be American citizens to access Red Cross services.

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You can help people affected by disasters like wildfires and countless other crises by making a gift to Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small.

Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.