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.

It’s Not Over – Florence Flooding Continues in the Carolinas

The threat from Hurricane Florence is far from over as rivers continue to rise in the Carolinas and extremely dangerous flooding is still occurring. Getting help into affected areas is challenging, and will be for some time.  One of the four crews deployed in an Emergency Response Vehicle from Northeast Ohio had to spend the night in a fire house in Marion, South Carolina on Monday, after rising waters cut off their return route.

Some Red Cross workers are finding creative ways to deliver relief to residents stranded by floodwaters, as you can see in this video.

  • Some 18 counties in North Carolina are still under evacuation orders and water rescues are continuing.
  • Nearly 1,000 roads are closed and as many as 220,000 people are without power. Many gas stations are still closed due to power outages and a lack of fuel.

This is a heartbreaking and dangerous situation, and the American Red Cross is working around the clock to provide safe shelter and comfort for the hundreds of thousands of people impacted.

  • The Red Cross is mobilizing more than 140 emergency response vehicles, including 4 from Northeast Ohio, and more than 110 trailers of equipment and supplies, including meals and enough cots and blankets for more than 100,000 people.
  • The Red Cross is working with the National Guard, U.S. Army and other partners to transport disaster workers and supplies to areas in need. On Tuesday, about 40 Red Cross volunteers were flown on military helicopters into areas cut off by flood waters.
  • The Red Cross is working with dozens of partners to support feeding, sheltering, transportation and other disaster services.

Due to Hurricane Florence, nearly 200 blood drives have been forced to cancel, resulting in over 5,200 uncollected blood and platelet donations.

  • We expect additional blood drive cancellations over the coming days, with fewer blood and platelet donors available to give at drives in and around affected areas due to flooding and poor weather conditions.

About 2,800 Red Cross disaster workers, including about four dozen from Northeast Ohio, have been mobilized to help feed, shelter, and support people affected by Florence and the subsequent flooding.

To help support the disaster relief operation, Fox 8 in Cleveland will be broadcasting live reports on Thursday, September 20, from 6:00 am to 7:30 pm.  The station will be promoting a Hurricane Florence disaster relief hotline number, giving viewers the chance to make a donation over the phone.  Donations can also be made online at 1-800 RED CROSS, or by texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 for a $10 donation.

Pillowcase Project Aimed at Preparing Kids for Emergencies

Inspired by Hurricane Katrina experience 13 years ago

By Sue Wilson, American Red Cross Board Member and Volunteer Partner

In late August, 2005, Hurricane Katrina swept through the Gulf Coast causing catastrophic damage from Central Florida to Eastern Texas. Especially devastated was the city of New Orleans, when the storm made landfall on August 29, and the protection levees failed, flooding almost 80 percent of the city and the surrounding parishes. Out of the many stories of sadness and loss came stories of heroism and survival. It is from the latter that The Pillowcase Project was born.

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John Gareis, Regional Preparedness Manager, teaching the children of employees of the VA Northeast Ohio Healthcare System during a Pillowcase Project presentation.    Photo credit:  Mary Williams/American Red Cross

The Pillowcase Project was created by the American Red Cross in Southeast Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina when Kay Wilkins, Southeast Louisiana regional executive, had learned that Loyola University students carried their valuables in pillowcases when they were evacuated for Katrina. This inspired Kay and her team to work with an art therapist to create a program in which children living in makeshift communities across New Orleans decorated pillowcases as emergency supplies kits.

Students decorate their pillowcases.

Soon, The Pillowcase Project became a preparedness education program for elementary school students. In just a few years, it was adapted and implemented by several other Red Cross chapters with substantial success. Here in Northeast Ohio, the Red Cross taught nearly 4,500 students preparedness last year through the program.

The goal of the project is to help create a generation of children who understand the science of hazards, are empowered to take action preparing for emergencies, and are excited to help create a prepared community by sharing what they have learned with family and friends.

Students who participate in The Pillowcase Project will be able to:

• Identify the best ways to stay safe during emergencies that can occur in their communities.

• Identify the best ways to prevent and stay safe during a home fire.

• Use coping skills to help manage stress during emergencies and in everyday situations.

• Gain confidence in their abilities to be prepared for emergencies through hands-on activities.

• Use their knowledge to act as advocates for emergency preparedness in their homes and communities.

• Discuss the role science plays in emergency preparedness.

• Understand and communicate the work of the Red Cross in their communities.

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In addition to The Pillowcase Project, the Red Cross has teamed up with Disney to develop the Mickey and Friends Disaster Preparedness Activity Book, which has been distributed to more than 300,000 youth nationwide. The book teaches kids and families how to prepare for and respond to a wide range of disasters and emergencies through interactive games and activities. The book is available to download in English and Spanish.

Disney also sponsored the creation of Monster Guard – the first mobile app created by the Red Cross designed specifically for kids. The app complements The Pillowcase Project, and is a game where children role-play as various monster characters and engage in interactive training episodes for hazards such as home fires, floods and hurricanes.

To learn more about The Pillowcase Project and register your school to participate, visit our Resources for Schools page and scroll down for information.

Ready to Help as Hurricane Season Begins

By Debra Kellar, Senior Specialist, Volunteer Services

Preparations are underway along the coasts, as the 2018 hurricane season is upon us. June 1 marks the start of what forecasters anticipate being a ‘near or above-normal’ year for storms in both the Atlantic and Pacific basins.

Forecasters also predict, with a 70 percent likelihood, that we will see 10 to 16 named storms in the Atlantic, of which half could be powerful enough to be classified as hurricanes. One to four storms are expected to become major hurricanes. Based on this prediction, the 2018 season is expected to be similar to last year–one that saw catastrophic impacts from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

 

hurricane graphic

Animation provided by Yiqi Shao

Anatomy of a Hurricane

The formation of a hurricane begins as warm, moist air travels around the equator, rising as it heats, creating an area of low pressure beneath. As cooler air rushes in to take its place, it, too, begins to warm and rise before subsequently cooling, causing the formation of clouds. The system grows, further perpetuating the cycle.  As the winds get faster and faster, an eye will form in the center of the storm.

Once sustained wind speeds reach 39 m.p.h., the system is considered to be a tropical storm. Upon reaching 74 m.p.h., it is reclassified as a hurricane. The Saffir Simpson wind scale is used to further categorize a hurricane, with the weakest referred to as a Category 1 hurricane and winds in excess of 157 m.p.h. considered a Category 5.

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Graphics provided by the NOAA NWS National Hurricane Center, and the NOAA Central Pacific Hurricane Center.

Red Cross Recovery Efforts

Last year’s Category 5 hurricanes came in quick succession, causing response and recovery efforts to pivot and reorganize to meet the needs of those impacted as additional states became affected. The American Red Cross’ ability to adeptly transition comes from its readiness planning and from the unparalleled dedication of its volunteers. Current disaster volunteers had been poised to assist the impacted coastal states, with many volunteers from Northeast Ohio deployed to staging areas pre-landfall. As the 2017 season continued, more than 100 new volunteers from Northeast Ohio became trained to provide disaster relief as part of one of the premier humanitarian organizations in the world.

Helping People in Need

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The Red Cross Disaster Cycle Services Department is already preparing its volunteer workforce in anticipation of another active hurricane season. If you or someone you know is interested in joining the disaster team, visit our website here to begin an online application or contact our Volunteer Services Department at 216-431-3328.

This year, Facebook has teamed up with the Red Cross to make sure people are prepared for hurricane season,  which runs through November 30. In addition to volunteering, you can help by donating to support disaster relief.

Debra Kellar studied climatology and cartography, and earned a Master’s Degree in Geography at Kent State University.

Clara Barton Answers the Call to America’s Largest Flood

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

Just before 3 p.m. on May 31, 1889, 14 miles west of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a dam broke, releasing 20-million tons of water into the Conemaugh Valley. In this narrow valley, the water reached 60 feet high as it barreled toward the city at speeds of 40 m.p.h.

By the time it struck Johnstown, the 4 billion gallons of water brought with it everything in its path. Four square miles of downtown were completely obliterated by the crushing flood waters. By the time it was over, 30 acres of human bodies, homes and debris were piled 70 feet high against the stone-arched railroad bridge at the far edge of town. The pressure and amount of the water was later compared to all the water flowing over Niagara Falls in 36 minutes.

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Photo credit: Johnstown Flood Museum

Between the force of the water and the ensuing explosions and fires that broke out, more than 2,200 people died, 1,600 homes were destroyed, and $17 million worth of damage was done (close to $500 million in today’s valuation.)

From War Relief to Disaster ReliefClara B

In Washington, D.C., Clara Barton got word of the event.  Prior to this time, she had provided relief to the Civil War soldiers, but was lobbying for the American Red Cross to provided relief for peacetime disasters as well.  Five days after the flood, Clara and five Red Cross workers arrived in Johnstown. Within days, she had assembled a team of 50 doctors, nurses and relief workers.Johnstown Flood

Setting up headquarters in the city, she immediately began organizing donations that began arriving from all around the world.  Food, clean water and supplies were passed out immediately to survivors as they tried to create shelters however they could.

 

“Red Cross Hotels” were opened to provide shelter for those left homeless before the winter weather set in.  The first “hotel” was so successful, five more were quickly erected.

Johnstown Flood 2

Photo credit: U. S. National Park Service

They also began building 3,000 “Oklahoma houses,” a type of prefabricated home, to aid the city in rebuilding. Furniture donations and domestic items were then organized and distributed to outfit these homes.

Clara didn’t leave the city for five straight months, only returning to Washington on October 24, 1889.  The city presented her with a number of gifts to show their lasting gratitude.  One editorialist wrote, “Too much cannot be said in praise of this lady…To her timely and heroic work, more than that of any other human being, are the people of the Conemaugh Valley indebted.”

Today if you visit the Johnstown Flood Museum, you’ll see a section devoted exclusively to Clara Barton and the Red Cross’ success in helping restore the town, along with some of her original papers and one of the first Red Cross blankets to be distributed.

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Photo credit: Doug Bardwell/American Red Cross

Based largely on the success of her mission to aid the Johnstown residents, the American Red Cross received its Congressional Charter 10 years later, in 1900.

Today you can continue the legacy of Barton and volunteer to help with the next big disaster to strike this country.  Volunteer today at https://neoredcross.org/volunteer/.

Access the ProVia Employee Red Cross Volunteer Application here.  

It Takes a (Bay) Village to Help Hurricane Victims

Garage Sale Raises More than Ten Grand for Hurricane Relief

As the weather grows colder in Northeast Ohio, garage sale season is winding down, but that didn’t stop the residents of Bay Village from holding a community-wide garage sale during the first weekend in October.

Proceeds from the sale of the hand-me-down duds, forlorn furniture and unwanted weed-wackers went to the American Red Cross, to help fund disaster relief efforts following one of the most active hurricane seasons on record.

Sales totaled more than $10,000.

“So many people wanted to help, but didn’t know how,” said Bay Village Mayor Paul Koomar.  “Then Annie came up with the idea of holding the community garage sale.”

Annie Nock, a former attorney and current stay-at-home mom, said she wanted to raise money to help people who have been affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

“Annie’s effort, and the generosity of the people of Bay Village is truly humbling,” said Mike Parks, CEO of the Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross.  “The proceeds from this community-wide effort will help people who have suffered greatly this hurricane season.”

Annie helped present a check for $10,154.73 at Bay Village City Hall.

 

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“It’s very difficult to travel south to help the people affected by the hurricanes,” Mayor Koomar said.  “This was a way to give back.  The support was overwhelming.”

With the emergency phase of the Red Cross response completed, efforts are now focusing on long-term recovery programs to get people back on their feet.  If you’d like to help people recover from disasters, big and small, donate at redcross.org/neo, or call 1-800-RED CROSS.

Finding Family Following Hurricane Maria

Many Northeast Ohio residents are concerned about loved ones in Puerto Rico.

Hurricane Harvey 2017

The American Red Cross Safe and Well website is a free public reunification tool
that allows individuals and organizations to register and post messages to
indicate that they are safe, or to search for loved ones. The site is always
available and open to the public and available in Spanish. Registrations and
searches can be done directly on the website. Registrations can also be
completed by texting SAFE to 78876. Messages exist in both Spanish and
English.

To speak with someone at the American Red Cross concerning a
missing friend or relative who has a serious, pre-existing health or mental health
condition, please call 1-800 RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Recent disasters, like Hurricane Maria and the earthquake in Mexico, have left
many across the world looking for their loved ones, and the Red Cross is here to
help.

If you are looking for a U.S. citizen affected by recent international disasters,
please contact the U.S. Department of State Office of Overseas Citizens
Services at 1-888-407-4747 or go online at
https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/emergencies.html

If you live in the United States and are looking for non-U.S. citizen family
members affected by Hurricane Maria in the French and Dutch territories, and
British Virgin Islands, please visit www.familylinks.icrc.org to find more
information.

If you are seeking information about non-U.S. citizen family members in Mexico
who have been missing since the recent earthquake, please visit
www.redcross.org/FamilyLinks, or call the American Red Cross Restoring Family
Links Helpline at 844-782-9441.

During and after large, devastating disasters such as Hurricane Maria,
connectivity can be a challenge. If you’ve put a request in with American Red
Cross or the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies,
please continue to virtually reach out to your friends and family.

Keep trying to reach out by calling during off-peak hours, and continue to send
text messages and emails. Continually check social media for updates.

Contact other family members or neighbors who live nearby who may be able to
provide you with information