Psychologist Deploys to California to Assist Wildfire Victims

His expertise with PTSD counselling helped residents cope with losses

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Disaster Mental Health volunteer Edgardo Padin

Edgardo Padin is a clinical psychologist who helps treat veterans in the Northeast Ohio VA Healthcare System. This experience made him a valuable member of the volunteer team that responded to the wildfires in California this summer.

This was Ed’s first deployment as an American Red Cross disaster mental health worker. He wasn’t quite sure what his role would be, as he explained in an interview recorded shortly before he left for California.

Shortly after arriving, Ed found himself in a Red Cross shelter, counseling people who had just lost their homes and all of their belongings.

“I did a lot of talking to people,” he said. “I calmed them down and gave them some idea of what was happening by showing them how the fire was going on my iPad. Information was really important to them.”

Ed said that while he did provide a lot of mental health services, it wasn’t the only thing he did during his 10-day deployment.

“We had a Norovirus outbreak that we just had to work at and maintain so that it wouldn’t spread throughout the entire shelter,” he explained. “We collaborated with the University of Santa Cruz, which sent EMTs to help us. They worked 24-hour shifts just like we did.”

Emily Probst, the Regional Workforce Engagement Manager of the Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region, said Ed’s skills made him a very valuable volunteer.

“We are so thankful that Ed offered his immense expertise to help people affected by this crisis,” she said. “I have no doubt his work in California made a difference in the lives of the people he touched.”

Volunteers are needed every day to respond to local disasters like home fires and to deploy to wildfires, hurricanes and other national disasters. Visit redcross.org/neo and click on Volunteers at the top of the page to volunteer to help people in need.

In an interview upon his return, Ed said his first deployment as a Red Cross volunteer was a gratifying experience. “In the end, I felt like I did something that was wonderful. I did something that was helpful. It was a great adventure, and I certainly would do it again.”

 

Resolve to be Prepared

by: Melissa Papini, Disaster Program Manager

As we spend time reflecting on the closing of 2017, celebrating the season with our loved ones, being thankful for all the little things that bring us joy like safety and security, let’s also take time to think about (and say prayers for, if you’re so moved) our friends and family all over the world whose safety and security was threatened this year by natural disasters.

12292-409.jpgI recently heard an interview on the radio about a couple who moved from Brooklyn, NY to Ventura, CA this year. The interview was about the mandatory evacuations in their neighborhood related to the Thomas fire. They talked about how different it is to live in a community that has to be prepared at all times to flee their homes. Everyone they know has an emergency kit ready for not if, but when the wildfires get too close. That observation struck me. We live in a part of the country where very few people have natural disasters on their minds regularly. How many people do you know in Northeast Ohio that have an emergency kit ready at home?

Through my recent career move to “all things disaster,” my 10-year-old daughter has picked up on the idea of disaster preparedness. She has heard me talking about the Pillowcase Project and has created her own emergency kit that she’s packed in a pillowcase. She has a change of clothes, a flashlight, and a first aid kit ready to go if we ever need it. After reviewing the checklist in the Pillowcase Project booklet, I may suggest she add things like toiletries, markers and paper, a blanket, and a favorite toy.

For a detailed list of items that you can put together to create an entire household emergency kit please refer to our previous posts. There are also many Red Cross apps that can help you be prepared for and alerted about local disasters.

One other thing I’ve realized about preparedness through follow-up casework with our clients who’ve had home fires is how important it is to create an inventory of the contents of your home. If you are ever in a situation where you have a fire, your insurance company cannot begin to help you start replacing things until you’ve created a detailed inventory list for them. This is a daunting task for people who have millions of other things on their minds after a home fire. The easiest way to do this is take videos in each room of your home. Be sure to open drawers where you may have valuables too. Keep a copy of this video somewhere safe like an external hard drive in a fire proof lock box, the cloud, or you can even email it to yourself.

If you are like me and can’t wait to crack open your new planner for 2018 and start making lists of goals, be sure to add preparedness to your list of resolutions!

Veteran Police Officer Returns from CA Wildfire Response

Gets Emotional Describing the Devastation Following His First Red Cross Assignment

When Angel Morales signed-up to volunteer for the American Red Cross, he figured it would take six months before he’d be ready to help people suffering from major disasters.

It was more like six days.

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Red Cross volunteer Angel Morales speaks to the Greater Cleveland Board of Directors on December 12, 2017

“Can you go out to California?  We’ve got wildfires there.”  That’s what Angel says he heard when Emily Probst, Regional Disaster Workforce Engagement Manager called, less than a week after his initial training as a disaster responder.

“I took a two-day course.  It was very good. They gave me the basics for sheltering, feeding, and what they call mass care,” Angel recently told members of the Greater Cleveland Board of Directors. “They said in the classes ‘be ready to do whatever they need you to do to fill in.’  I wound up working at a warehouse, very left of center from what I’ve been doing administration-wise. It was a hands-on kind of job.”

Angel currently serves as the Deputy Chief of Police for the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority.  Before that, he led security for the Cleveland Browns, after spending more than 25 years with the Cleveland Police Department, “retiring” as Deputy Chief in 1999.

“I think everybody understands that retirement is just a transition to something else. So, I try to give back.  And I wanted to do hands-on rather than be a boss all the time, so I figured ‘let me start fresh with the Red Cross.’”

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Red Cross volunteer Angel Morales

Despite all his years in law enforcement, Angel says the devastation he experienced in California touched his heart. “In a wildfire, it’s different from a hurricane or a storm. Everything is devastated. There’s nothing. It’s burnt to the ground.”  He teared-up as he continued, “You can see me get emotional about it. People lose everything, it just touches your heart. You feel it. It doesn’t matter where you come from, you feel the devastation in your heart.”

Still, he calls the two-weeks he spent helping people impacted by the wildfires a great experience.  And he commends all the volunteers he met and worked with, people from all across the country and from different walks of life.

“They really make a great contribution.”

The Red Cross is always looking for volunteers to train, so that they can help people affected by disasters big and small, near and far, from wildfires in California to home fires in your community.  Visit redcross.org/neo and click the “volunteer” tab to start the application process.

Youngstown-area Volunteers Head into Smoke and Fire of California

Three American Red Cross volunteers from the Northeast Ohio Region are being deployed to California, where a wildfire has forced the evacuation of thousands of residents.

Randy Liang of Cuyahoga Falls will help support the technology needs of the Red Cross disaster relief operation in Mariposa County, California.

Mark Strausser and Jason Mitman (in video, above) of Youngstown will work with residents who are staying in shelters as a result of the wildfire.

Red Cross workers and partners helping to provide a safe place to stay and three meals a day for hundreds of displaced residents.

“We help people here, at home, every day,” said Mitman, referring to the help Red Cross workers offer to Northeast Ohio residents who experience home fires and other disasters.  “Now I get to help people in California.  This is why I volunteer for the Red Cross.”

Other volunteers from Northeast Ohio may also be deployed to help in the days to come.

For information on volunteer opportunities, visit redcross.org/neo, and click on the Volunteer tab.