“I Never Thought I’d Be the One”

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

Maybe it wasn’t a tornado, but the damage done in Twinsburg by random microbursts looked almost as devastating.  The most troublesome of all was the strike which knocked down a 30,000-volt power line on Liberty Road, along with six transmission poles.  4,000 Homes were plunged into darkness during the storm.

Upon hearing that First Energy estimated power wouldn’t be fully restored for three or four days, a Red Cross shelter was quickly established at the Twinsburg Community Center.  Cots were set up, snacks and warm drinks were available and best of all, it offered a place to warm up, as temperatures began to dip into the 20’s and 30’s.twinsburg shelter

“This is rather remarkable,” related one woman.  “I’ve been contributing to the Red Cross for years, assuming that the money would go to assist people; but now, seeing what you all are doing here, now I know for sure that my donations have been well spent.”

“Are you employees or volunteers?” That was a recurring question from many of those staying at the shelter.  When they found out that 90% of us were volunteers, the usual response was something akin to “Well, God bless you for all that you are doing.”

Carrying in two trays of sub sandwiches donated by the local Subway shop in Twinsburg, many people were pleasantly surprised to find that there was no charge for the meals served three times a day. And on hearing that Subway had graciously donated that meal, I’m certain that Subway is going to have a number of appreciative new customers in return.Shelter app

“I never thought I’d be the one receiving help from Red Cross,” said another. “I watched the big disasters in Texas and Puerto Rico unfold on TV; but never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d be spending a night in a Red Cross shelter. Thank you so much be being available and ready wherever you are needed.”

If you ever find yourself in a weather-related power outage, it’s easy to find the closest shelter to you by checking the Red Cross Emergency app available for iOS and Android phones.

 

So Much Has Happened…

reneeBy: Renee Palagyi, Senior Program Manager for Disaster Cycle Services in NEO (pictured on the left)

So much has happened since yesterday afternoon.

Yesterday, we were notified of the need for leadership staff to deploy to the tragedy in Las Vegas.

Since I have background in mass casualty, and am a registered nurse, I said that I would go to Las Vegas, if needed.

I called my husband to say, “what do you think?” As usual, he was more than supportive of what my feelings were regarding where I could be most useful.

Then the waiting began.

My first experience in mass casualty was without much training and it was difficult, in more ways than I thought possible. Red Cross has come a long way in how we provide care, not only for the clients but for our own workforce, in these large-scale tragedies. I kept looking over my training, making sure that I was ready for what could, potentially, lay ahead.

It was hard to get to sleep last night with so many thoughts moving through my mind. First, and foremost, was the horrific loss of life in Las Vegas. I know, from past work, that even two deaths can be a challenge to work through. I thought of the many people who knew and loved the more than 50 people who had died. I am always concerned if I am “up to the task,” but in these circumstances, being adept is critical. I wondered if I could be supportive and compassionate while not getting personally involved. I wondered if I had the right volunteers in place, here at home, to cover the work I already do each day and the special things on my schedule. I wondered if people would be upset that I was leaving while they were staying behind. I wondered if I would sleep at night (since I don’t sleep well when I’m away)…lots and lots of thoughts!

I think I looked at the clock every hour…………and I still hadn’t been assigned to the job!

This morning I got the email I had hoped for around 7 a.m. As part of the checks and balances process of deploying with the Red Cross, you are not confirmed to the assignment until you have been cleared by a disaster mental health specialist (DMH). Each operation is given hardship codes – special codes that help us determine what potential physical or mental hazards exist on the ground and what volunteers could experience. For this operation, one code is “extreme emotional experience”. So I had to face questions such as:  have you experienced a recent death of a close friend or family member? Have you ever worked in a situation of this type? What type of support system do you have?

Once I spoke with the DMH screener, I made my airline reservation. I called my husband to tell him the time of my flight tomorrow and we planned to have a great dinner tonight. I sent a note to my four adult children so they can start asking questions for which I have no answers.

I doubt that I will sleep again tonight.

My flight is at 9:45a.m., and I will be in Las Vegas at 11:15 a.m.

Prayers and thoughts are appreciated for those on the ground, and for all who will do this work.

 

Help for Hurricane Victims is Music to Our Ears

Bravo!

On Friday, September 8th, members of the Cleveland Orchestra and Credo Music, along with students from the Cleveland Institute of Music and Oberlin Conservatory of Music performed together at the famed Severance Hall in Cleveland.

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Conductor James Feddeck, a graduate of Oberlin Conservatory,  led the musicians through six compositions, including Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, and the American Red Cross March.

Henry Peyrebrune, Executive Director of Credo Music, said, “When the Credo Music staff first considered the idea of this concert, we decided to go for it – first, because it’s the right thing to do, and second, because it would be a turbo-charged fulfillment of our mission to develop young musicians for a lifetime of using their musical gifts to serve those around them.”

100% of the income from ticket sales will go to disaster relief, in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  That’s in addition to the generous donations made at the venue and online.  Funds raised total about $20,000.

Mike Parks, CEO of the Northeast Ohio Region, thanked the audience and the musicians for their support of the Red Cross.  IMG_4494

“We have dozens of volunteers on the ground in Texas,” Parks said from the stage.  “Your donations will help give them the resources they need to fulfill our mission, which is to prevent and alleviate suffering.”

The concert was made possible thanks to the generous support of The Musical Arts Association, The Kulas Foundation and the John P. Murphy Foundation.

And thanks to the time and talent of the musicians who filled the stage at Severance with the sound of a full symphony orchestra.

Theirs was a unique and welcome donation indeed.

From Hurricanes to Home Fires – Get Prepared in September

Hurricane Harvey 2017By now you know may think that you know all about hurricanes — massive storm systems that form over the water and move toward land. Threats from hurricanes include high winds, heavy rainfall, storm surge, coastal and inland flooding, rip currents, and tornadoes. These large storms are called typhoons in the North Pacific Ocean and cyclones in other parts of the world. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, with the peak occurring now, between mid-August and late October. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15 and ends November 30.

It may seem like you’re well versed on basic preparedness tips, such as:

  • Know where to go if ordered to evacuate.
  • Put together a go-bag: disaster supply kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash, first aid supplies, medications, and copies of your critical information if you need to evacuate
  • If not in an area that is advised to evacuate and you decide to stay in your home, plan for adequate supplies in case you lose power and water for several days and you are not able to leave due to flooding or blocked roads.
  • Make a family emergency communication plan.

And with Ohio not being a coastal state, you may feel that you don’t have to worry about any of these things!

But you should.

Hurricane Harvey 2017Coming right smack in the middle of the peak of Hurricane season, is Preparedness Month. Celebrated every September, it is the perfect time for you, your family, and your community learn how to BE PREPARED.

Prepare for the things you may experience as an Ohioan: tornadoes, flooding, extreme winter weather, power outages, or a home fire.

Step one:
Build a Kit or Do an Annual Supply Check

Make sure your emergency kit is stocked with the items on the checklist below. Most of the items are inexpensive and easy to find, and any one of them could save your life. Headed to the store? Download a printable version to take with you. Once you take a look at the basic items, consider what unique needs your family might have, such as supplies for pets, or seniors.

After an emergency, you may need to survive on your own for several days. Being prepared means having your own food, water and other supplies to last for at least 72 hours. A disaster supplies kit is a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency.

Basic Disaster Supplies Kit

To assemble your kit, store items in airtight plastic bags and put your entire disaster supplies kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers such as plastic bins or a duffel bag.

A basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items:

  • Waterone gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food – at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery

Download the Recommended Supplies List (PDF)

Additional Emergency Supplies

Consider adding the following items to your emergency supply kit based on your individual needs:

  • Prescription medications
  • Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives
  • Glasses and contact lense solution
  • Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Cash or traveler’s checks
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
  • Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate and sturdy shoes
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper to disinfect water
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

Maintaining Your Kit

After assembling your kit remember to maintain it so it’s ready when needed:

  • Keep canned food in a cool, dry place
  • Store boxed food in tightly closed plastic or metal containers
  • Replace expired items as needed
  • Re-think your needs every year and update your kit as your family’s needs change.

Kit Storage Locations

Since you do not know where you will be when an emergency occurs, prepare supplies for home, work and vehicles.

  • Home: Keep this kit in a designated place and have it ready in case you have to leave your home quickly. Make sure all family members know where the kit is kept.
  • Work: Be prepared to shelter at work for at least 24 hours. Your work kit should include food, water and other necessities like medicines, as well as comfortable walking shoes, stored in a “grab and go” case.
  • Vehicle: In case you are stranded, keep a kit of emergency supplies in your car.

Help NEEDED…More Volunteers

Red Cross volunteer Kim Sterling of Ashtabula met Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern after being deployed to Austin, Texas

There are currently 30 volunteers from Northeast Ohio in or en route to Texas to provide relief to those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Some of them have been featured in the local media:

http://www.wkyc.com/news/local/five-ways-you-can-help-make-a-difference-for-harvey-victims-in-need/469042466

http://www.medina-gazette.com/Medina-County/2017/08/31/Medina-County-natives-involved-in-Harvey-efforts.html

http://www.news5cleveland.com/news/local-news/oh-summit/two-local-red-cross-volunteers-head-south-to-help-thousands-forced-from-their-flooded-homes

Volunteers continue to leave for the hurricane zone to provide sheltering, meals, and other services to residents who were forced from their homes.  And more volunteers will be needed in the coming weeks, to continue providing assistance to the tens of thousands of residents affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Red Cross volunteers are trained to provide the services needed before, during and after disaster strikes.  New training sessions are being scheduled.  If you are interested in becoming a Red Cross volunteer, and helping people like the volunteers featured in the media stories above, visit our volunteer page to begin the application process.

Local Volunteers Helping in Texas

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Red Cross volunteers Cameron Fraser and Rick King are improvising.

“We’re both trained in logistics, but when we got here, we saw a greater need and offered to help deliver meals,” Rick said as he assembled packages of snacks. “Flexibility is key. Our snack packs could end up being lunch, dinner and breakfast.”

Rick and Cameron are among more than two dozen volunteers from Northeast Ohio who have been deployed in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.  They have been assigned to help residents in and around Texas City, Texas.

“We went from Baton Rouge to Hempstead in the Great Texas ERV Drive,” Rick said, referring to a convoy of more than 40 emergency response vehicles (ERVs) that made their way to the Houston area. “It took us hours and hours to get there.”

ERV drive

In total, eight groups headed to the area last Thursday.  They were able to communicate with one another through a smart phone app.

Cameron and Rick are working with partners from the Southern Baptist Convention, who set up a mobile kitchen for preparing the meals Red Cross workers will deliver.

“There’s a feeling of nervous energy,” said Rick. “We’ve spent time training on what to expect and we’re ready to go.”

To become a Red Cross volunteer, visit our volunteer page, or call 216-431-3328.

By the numbers:

· Saturday night, at least 32,399 people sought refuge in 226 Red Cross and partner shelters across Texas overnight. The Red Cross is also assisting the Louisiana state government with an emergency shelter which hosted nearly 1,700 people last night.

· More than 2,700 Red Cross disaster workers are on the ground, and more than 660 are on the way.

· Shelter supplies to support more than 85,000 people are on the ground.

· Along with our partners, we have served more than a half million (515,000) meals and snacks since the storm began.

· We have trailers of kitchen supplies on the ground to support 14 kitchens, each able to produce 10,000 meals a day, and 2 more trailers are on the way.

· We also have about 150,000 ready-to-eat meals currently on the ground with an additional 5,000 on the way.

· More than 215 emergency response vehicles have been activated to help deliver meals and relief supplies.

· Mental health and health services professionals have provided some 15,000 contacts to provide support and care to evacuees.

· We’ve distributed more than 27,000 relief items like diapers and comfort kits that contain deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other hygiene items for people forced from their homes. Cleaning and relief supplies to support more than 15,000 homes are on the ground, with an additional 5,000 on the way.

 

 

Still Writing Checks and Saving Lives

Charitable Trust Continues to Fund Smoke Alarm Installations

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In 1992, following a spate of fire fatalities, the American Red Cross of Greater Cleveland partnered with the Cleveland Division of Fire to install smoke alarms, free of charge to residents who lived in neighborhoods deemed to be at high risk for home fires.

The project was made possible then, and continues now, in part because of funding from the Fred A. Lennon Charitable Trust.  “25 years later, we’re still writing checks and saving lives,” said Chris Hitchcock, Executive Director of the Trust, adding, “And now it’s becoming a national program.  That’s very exciting.”

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 Chief Angelo Calvillo, Tim O’Toole, and Chris Hitchcock 

Chris joined Red Cross volunteers, members of  the Westshore Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), and the Cleveland Division of Fire on a Sound the Alarm home fire safety and smoke alarm installation event in the neighborhood in Cleveland where a woman and her 8-year old great-granddaughter died in July.

28 homes were made safer, as the volunteers and firefighters installed 85 smoke alarms and helped residents formulate escape plans.

The Cleveland Fire Department, which has an active presence on Twitter, broadcast a live interview on the Periscope app with Chris, Chief Angelo Calvillo,  and Tim O’Toole, the Red Cross Regional Disaster Officer.

See more photos here, on our Flickr album.