2018 Disaster Response: American Red Cross helps millions in the wake of record wildfires, hurricanes and devastating weather

Disaster workers from Northeast Ohio among the responders

 

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

After another year of record-breaking disasters, the American Red Cross helped millions across the country by providing shelter, food and comfort to those affected.

California Wildfires 2018In 2018, disasters were felt across the country. In California, massive wildfires scorched more than 8.5 million acres, resulting in some of the most destructive wildfires in state history for a second year in a row. Six major hurricanes impacted the United States, devastating communities across nine states and U.S. territories in just three months’ time. Red Cross volunteers also responded with support and crisis counseling to communities affected by six tragic shootings, including those in Parkland, Florida; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Thousand Oaks, California.

“For a second year in a row, American Red Cross disaster workers from Northeast Ohio tirelessly delivered care and hope for people whose lives were torn apart by record disasters,” said Mike Parks, CEO, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. “Every eight minutes, the Red Cross responded to these and other crises, big and small – including responding to three home fires every 24-hours, on average, in Northeast Ohio, which devastate families each and every day.”

The Red Cross mobilized more than 14,000 disaster workers in 2018—90 percent of which were volunteers. The Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross deployed 122 disaster workers to assist in the relief efforts for the California wildfires and Hurricanes Michael and Florence.  All four emergency response vehicles based in Northeast Ohio were also deployed to the disaster response operations.

In 2018, the Red Cross:

  • Served more than 8.2 million meals and snacks with partners
  • Distributed more than 2.2 million relief items
  • Provided more than 290,000 overnight shelter stays with partners
  • Made more than 188,000 health and mental health contacts to provide support and care

Additionally, the Red Cross helped to reconnect more than 3,000 people separated by this year’s disasters, including Diane Papedo and her brother, who was displaced by wildfires in California. Diane had worried about her brother’s fate until she learned he was at a Red Cross shelter. Reuniting with him there, she immediately felt a sense of relief. “I saw him right away, it’s a miracle,” Diane said. Hurricane Harvey 2017

As 2018 comes to a close, the Red Cross continues to help those affected by major disasters, including the earthquake and ongoing aftershocks that have struck Alaska in recent days. We’re also continuing to help people affected by the California wildfires, Hurricanes Michael and Florence, and Typhoon Yutu on the Mariana Islands.

HOME FIRES MOST FREQUENT DISASTER

In the United States, home fires are the most frequent disaster. This year, the Red Cross has provided recovery support for more than 73,000 households affected by home fires. We continue to work to keep people safe through our Home Fire Campaign, where Red Cross volunteers go door-to-door to install free smoke alarms and help households create home fire escape plans. In 2018, Red Cross volunteers:

  • Installed nearly 400,000 smoke alarms, including 17,546 in Northeast Ohio
  • Reached more than 219,000 youth through preparedness programs. In Northeast Ohio alone, there were over 6,000 educational visits.
  • Made more than 165,000 homes safer through home fire safety visits, including more than 6,000 homes in Northeast Ohio.

Here are some tips to help keep your home safe this holiday season.

HELPING AROUND THE WORLD

As part of the world’s largest humanitarian network, the American Red Cross responded to more than 20 disasters around the world in 2018, aiding in humanitarian crises such as the tsunami in Indonesia and the volcano in Guatemala. The American Red Cross helped to reconnect nearly 9,200 family members separated by international conflict, disaster or migration. We deployed emergency responders to disaster zones in seven countries and sent humanitarian aid to more than 18 countries, including monetary donations, lifesaving supplies and trained disaster responders.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

This holiday season, you can help people affected by disasters like wildfires, storms and other crises by making a donation 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 across the United States. Please consider making a donation today. Visit redcross.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). You can also make a $10 donation by texting REDCROSS to 90999.

There are also other ways to help the Red Cross.

Without the tremendous support of our volunteers, the Red Cross would not be able to support the thousands of people we were able to in 2018. If you are interested in making an impact in local communities, the Red Cross is always looking for volunteers. To volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer or contact our Volunteer Services Department directly at 216-431-3328 or NEOvolunteer@redcross.org.

The Red Cross provides roughly 40 percent of the United States’ critical blood supply. There is always a need for blood donors to help provided this lifesaving resources to those in need. If you would like to donate blood, you can make an appointment to donate at RedCrossBlood.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

As always, the Red Cross would like to thank everyone for there support. Your support has made and impact in Northeast Ohio and across the country. Here is a video to show how much your support matters to us and the impact you helped provide in our communities:

 

Sept. 11 experience moves resident to become avid Red Cross volunteer

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

Sept. 11, 2001 made significant impressions on most every adult living at the time. It certainly did for Susie Muetzel, an American Red Cross volunteer with the Lake to River Chapter.

Susie Muetel

Susie Muetzel

“At the time, my husband was a Cleveland firefighter and I was working for the clerk of Cleveland City Council,” said Susie. “After being told we needed to evacuate the building, as I drove home, I recall seeing the plane that was Flight 93 flying overhead when all planes were supposed to be grounded. I recall feeling sorry and helpless and terrified. Within a couple hours, I determined that I was never again going to feel like there was nothing I could do. There was no way I wanted that feeling of helplessness.”

Shortly thereafter, Susie saw on TV that the Red Cross was looking for volunteers. She still remembers making the call and talking with Disaster Specialist Debbie Chitester, who now serves as the Disaster Program Manager for the Summit Portage and Medina Counties Chapter.  Debbie helped Susie her get her initial training. On October 1, she began her volunteer service. She wasn’t able to deploy to New York or Pennsylvania back in 2001, but since then, she has deployed to countless hurricanes and floods, working in an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) and offering meals to those affected. She most recently responded to Hurricane Florence.

Susie&Sue

Susie Muetzel, left, and Red Cross volunteer Sue Wisdom

Locally, between national disasters, she keeps very busy with her chapter, covering four of the five counties along the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. “Here at home, I’m a DAT (Disaster Action Team) leader, the DAT Coordinator and weekend AOC (Administrator-On-Call),” said Susie.

That could be the most rewarding part of her volunteer work, explained Susie. “I recall one weekend when we had back-to-back fires, each with fatalities. When we go to a fire and are able to provide some degree of comfort to someone who has lost everything and is desperate for help, that’s extremely rewarding.”

If someone is looking for volunteer opportunities, take it from Susie, “You get so much more out of it than you could ever possibly give. It sounds cliché, but it’s true. When you come home from helping someone, even in the middle of the night, you know that you did something good and really helped them. If you have that empathetic heart, it fills you up in ways that you never dreamed of.”

To explore the various volunteer possibilities open to you, visit https://neoredcross.org/volunteer/ and begin your online application.  There is a critical need for volunteers to join the Disaster Action Team in the Lake to River Chapter, which includes Ashtabula, Trumbull, Mahoning, Columbiana and Jefferson Counties.  Residents there can get more information by calling the chapter at 866-319-7160.

Beyond national hurricane relief efforts, the Red Cross continues to respond to local disasters in Northeast Ohio

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

IMG_2066Currently, the most visible work of the American Red Cross is its response to assist in the relief efforts in the Southeast United States following Hurricanes Florence and Michael. However, even with 23 disaster relief workers deployed from this region to assist with the hurricanes, the Red Cross continues to respond to disasters here in Northeast Ohio.

The Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross, which serves 22 counties and 4.5 million dunham ave 2 residents, has continued to be very active responding to calls across local communities. This past weekend, disaster relief workers responded to eight calls from home fires to storm damage in Canton, Cleveland, Fairlawn, Lorain, Sandusky, Sheffield Lake, South Euclid and Willard. They assisted 23 adults and 10 children and provided nearly $8,700 in aid.

IMG_4123The Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross is prepared 24 hours per day and seven days a week to prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. If you are interested in making an impact in local communities, the Red Cross is always looking for volunteers. We can provide support to our communities thanks to the work of our tremendous volunteers, which make up 90 percent of our workforce. To volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer or contact our Volunteer Services Department directly at 216-431-3328 or NEOvolunteer@redcross.orgIMG_1758

We also rely on the generosity of Northeast Ohio residents to continue to offer disaster relief. If you would like to provide a monetary donation, visit redcross.org/donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Red Cross continues to respond to Hurricane Michael disaster relief

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The American Red Cross has continued to respond to the Hurricane Michael disaster relief effort, with Northeast Ohio playing a significant role in the support.

On October 11, Hurricane Michael came ashore and made its way across Alabama, Florida and Georgia, leaving a wake of destruction in its path. Hurricane Michael was a Category 4 upon landfall, making it the third-strongest hurricane in U.S. history. It was also the strongest hurricane to hit the U.S. in 50 years. A week since the storm, tens of thousands of people are still dealing with the destruction.

As always, when there is a need for compassion and humanitarian support, the Red Cross has been helping those affected and will remain there as people begin to recover and rebuild. Some people are still living without power, running water and other basic necessities. Many schools and medical facilities are closed, roads are still blocked and several bridges have been damaged.

The Red Cross is working around the clock to get help where it’s most needed. The situation throughout the region remains challenging and staff and volunteers are doing all they can to provide shelter, food, water and relief supplies to people in need.

As of October 18, more than 1,840 people stayed in as many as 16 Red Cross and community evacuation centers across Florida and Georgia. In the week since the storm, the Red Cross and other organizations have provided more than 27,400 overnight stays in emergency shelters in total, with the Red Cross providing about 83 percent of the stays.

Across the three states, more than 1,600 Red Cross disaster workers, including 21 from Northeast Ohio, are on the ground to support relief efforts, such as serving more than 477,800 meals and snacks and distributing more than 36,600 relief items like cleanup kits, rakes, shovels, bleach, garbage bags and much more to help with the massive cleanup effort. In addition, volunteer mental health and health services professionals have provided 6,700 contacts to provide support and care to evacuees.

After two major hurricanes in less than a month, thousands of people are looking for help. If you are interested in assisting those in need, visit redcross.org/volunteer or contact our Volunteer Services Department directly at 216-431-3328 or NEOvolunteer@redcross.org.

If you are unable to provide support during a disaster relief effort, there are other ways you can assist right here in Northeast Ohio. The Red Cross depends on financial donations to fund our relief services. To donate, visit redcross.org/donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

The Red Cross also has a critical need for blood and platelet donations to help meet patient needs. The Red Cross provides roughly 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply and Hurricanes Michael and Florence have forced the cancellation of about 250 blood drives, causing approximately 7,600 units of blood to go uncollected. The Red Cross is asking for eligible individuals to make an appointment to donate blood by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

Volunteers provide disaster relief for hidden concerns

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

The American Red Cross continues to assist residents affected by hurricanes in the Southeast.  Among the disaster relief workers who are playing a role are mental health volunteers.

Red Cross mental health volunteers are a treasured group of individuals. They are all licensed independent health practitioners: psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, social workers and psychiatric registered nurses.

California Wildfires 2018

In addition to being licensed professionally, mental health volunteers must take specialized Red Cross training in disaster mental health which, for the most part, is far different than what they do in their daily full-time jobs. The specialized training is based on many years of experience in disaster relief, from those who have lost precious mementos in a home fire to the victims of 9/11 and everyone in between.

Red Cross mental health volunteers provide immediate crisis management. They instruct clients in becoming more resilient and help them cope with the various emotions they may experience following their loss. While mental health volunteers do not do long-term counseling, if they determine a client would benefit from long-term intervention, they will make a referral to a proper mental health specialist. They will not refer the client to themselves or to any other member of the team.

California Wildfires 2017

“Many victims and survivors do not recognize the need for intervention or do not want to be judged or labeled if they are struggling with recovery,” said Renee Palagyi, senior program manager of disaster cycle services for the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. “Our disaster mental health volunteers can help them to recognize the normal and destigmatize the need for counseling.”

Northeast Ohio is particularly fortunate to have some of the finest and most experienced mental health volunteers. They never fail to step up as needed even though the majority have full-time positions or time-consuming private practices.

Edgardo Padin, a mental health volunteer from Northeast Ohio, deployed to assist in the 2018 California wildfires. Recently, he discussed his experience assisting individuals who lost their homes with their mental health needs.

Tennessee Wildfires 2016

While it is easy to see the physical damage that a home fire or a hurricane can cause, it is not often as easy to see the internal effects a disaster can have on an individual. On World Mental Health Day, it is important to recognize the disaster mental health volunteers who assist with disaster relief efforts to ensure everyone’s needs are met.

For more information on the Red Cross’ disaster mental health services or to become a volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer.

First Anniversary of Hurricane Harvey

By: Mary Williams, American Red Cross

Hurricane Harvey 2017It was hot and ridiculously muggy.

And that was inside, with the A/C blasting.

The location? Houston, TX just a few weeks after Hurricane Harvey dumped over 33 trillion gallons of water on the city.

I was sitting under a cot inside the George R. Brown Convention Center, playing Batman with a small boy just a few months younger than my own son back home in Ohio. His parents were talking to a reporter from Belgium, who had traveled from where he was stationed in Canada. His father, an Air Force veteran, was talking about the repairs he had just completed on their rental home.

He paused.

“That was just my last day off before the storm.”

At that time, life had come to be measured in before and after.

For some, life continues to be measured that way.

Hurricane Harvey 2017

Buildings, communities and lives that were built over decades were destroyed in just a few terrible days by Harvey, and rebuilding will be neither quick nor easy. It will take time for people to heal, rebuild and recover, and the Red Cross continues to work to bring that day closer. We are one of many partners supporting the federal and state-managed recovery program.

Houston2

Watch this video, featuring three residents who are trying to recover from the losses caused by the storm.

The Red Cross has spent, or has made commitments to spend more than $400 million on emergency relief and recovery assistance for families affected by Hurricane Harvey, and anticipates committing about $120 million more in donated dollars to to support individuals and families needing additional help, as well as to provide longer-term recovery services in affected communities. And, 91 cents of every dollar received for Hurricane Harvey will be spent on our services to people affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Through the generosity of our donors, the Red Cross will be providing this assistance to those in greatest need, and there is no obligation or requirement to pay it back at any time.

Additionally, the Red Cross will help support a network of non-profit partners that have expertise in recovery services. Through a grant system, we aim to help households across all the damaged counties address the range of recovery needs. The Red Cross will support the provision of housing repair and rebuilding services to help thousands of households still living in temporary housing. Also, we will likely support behavioral health services across the affected counties, with a focus on the needs of children and youth suffering from multiple housing and school transitions, as well as the uncertainty about returning home. In addition, the Red Cross may help to fund other recovery services such as Long-Term Recovery Committees, financial counseling and programs aimed at helping people with disabilities, the elderly and underserved, low-income communities.

Hurricane Harvey 2017

To help people affected by disaster big and small visit redcross.org/donate.

Winner Declared for DCS Holiday Door Decorating Contest

By John Bernard,  Crossroads Division Disaster State Relationship Director

(Editor’s note: The winner of the annual Northeast Ohio Region Disaster Cycle Services (DCS) Holiday Door Decorating Contest has been announced by a panel of judges…make that judge.  We found the insightful comments of John Bernard, the Crossroads Division Disaster State Relationship Director so entertaining that we are including them, along with photos of all 10 doors entered in this year’s competition.)

#1. SOOOO close to the automatic win.  Most innovative use of Solo cups. Three dimensional effort.  Trunk looks like real wood.  BUT, the theme was diluted by the Star Wars wrapping paper, then Santa head and stocking.  Shoulda stuck to the Star Wars theme with the movie coming out, maybe Santa with a light saber, ”May the force….of giving….be with you.”

 

door #1

Door #1

 

#2.  Gingerbread house.  VERY nice.  Stuck to the theme. Obvious work went into the lights, the window with “frosting” behind it. You know, you were this close to the auto-win. Ginger bread Disaster Responder holding a comfort kit woulda done it!

 

door #2

Door #2

 

 

door #3

Door #3

 

 

#3. It’s a lovely door and recognizes the season appropriately but is rather minimalist.  Was this done by some Disaster Program Specialist that was 12 cases behind in review and had to plan a Disaster Action Team meeting that evening?  I can see it now; ”FINE – I’ll decorate my door, Renee (Palagyi, Senior Disaster Program Manager).”

 

door #4

Door #4

#4. North pole.  Mail box for letters, elf, Santa, sleigh, presents. However, there is a lot of door left brown. At least tape up some printer paper and call it snow. 

#5. What kindergarten class was forced into making those paper rings?  Child labor laws and the Geneva Convention prohibit this kind of tyranny!  Seriously, though, a very cute door but why not, “Oh, Tannenbaum?”

 

door #5

Door #5

 

 

door #6

Door #6

 

 

 

#6.  Obviously, a lot of scissor time went into this one.  Simple but the message is immense.  Question, why isn’t the dove carrying a smoke alarm?  You know we gotta install about a jillion of these things, right?

 door #7

 

 

 

 

#7.  What….in…the…name of Clara?  Set aside the fact that there is a funky wreath with Mickey up in there, set aside someone thinks Zack (McAvoy, Disaster Program Manager, Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter) would end up on the “nice” list, and even set aside THE SIZE OF SANTA’S HEAD, there is … a…. fire… in this decoration.  ……A…..FIRE!  You know we are anti-fire in this organization, right?  I mean, Anti-Fire is like our Unofficial Eighth Fundamental Principle.  Does Santa set fires? No.  Did Smokey the Bear sneak in and set it? No, not his gig.  So, the home owner in this scene left an UNATTENDED FIRE burning in a residential structure…obviously with people at home. Might as well deep fry a turkey in the living room while you’re at it.

8. Absolutely gorgeous wreath, except for cutting off an elf’s leg and sticking it on there.  You barbarian.  “Oh, I got an idea, I’ll decorate my door with the body parts of those I slay in battle.”  What, you get your decorating tips from Game of Thrones?  Well, at least you aren’t trying to BURN DOWN A HOUSE LIKE SOMEBODY WE KNOW!  [Coughing…number7].

door #8

#9.  The Charlie Brownest Cubicle in All the Land Award goes to #9.  That being said…..wrapping paper? That’s it?  Owner of #9 has a vast canvas at his/her disposal and could have highlighted every holiday with room to spare! Heck, the owner could have drawn out the entire DR structure, the IAPs, STREPs and 5266s needed to respond to the fire that #7 is trying to start.

 

door #9

Door #9

 

 

door #10#10. Frosty the Snowman!  Simple design that’s fun and happy!  Obviously, not the resident of one home that shall remain nameless. You know the one; it’s the SEVENTH house on Burned to the Ground Lane.

And the winner is…wait a second, I’m not done with you #7.  I looked closer; Mickey Mouse toys and a Mickey Disaster Preparedness Activity Book.  Did….did a Preparedness person do this door? Are you telling me that someone that specializes in preventing Home Fire Disasters, someone leading the Home Fire Campaign, actually put a FIRE in their decoration?  We have an nation effort, have installed more than 1 million alarms, raised hundreds of thousands of dollar to keep this…campaign…going….wait a second. #7, it’s all about job security for you, isn’t it?  In that case, well played.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the winner is #2, the Gingerbread Door! (Decorated by Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Disaster Program Manager Debbie Chitester.)  It stayed on theme, didn’t try to do too much, struck the right balance between too much and too little, and obviously, wasn’t ON FIRE (looking at you, #7).

It has been my pleasure judging your doors and my comments are all in fun. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!  May your holiday be filled with joy, rest, good food, and as few disaster calls as possible.