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.

Emergency Preparedness for your Pets

By Sue Wilson, American Red Cross Board Member & Communications Volunteer Partner

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans years ago, it was reported that more than 10,000 people refused evacuation because they didn’t want to leave their pets behind. Some of those people, and their pets, became casualties. When reporters asked survivors who didn’t evacuate why they would risk their lives for their pets, they said things like, “They are part of my family.” Or, “My pet is my kid; would you leave your kid behind?”

It’s a situation many animal lovers understand. And a situation many community leaders have considered to save lives of both pets and people.

The truth is, if it’s not safe for you to stay home, it’s not safe for your pet either. As we recognize World Animal Day (October 4), we recommend that as you make your emergency plans for your family in the event of a home fire, weather emergency or any disaster that might require you to leave your home, it is important that you include arrangements for your pet in those plans.

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Red Cross volunteer Pat Kern with Lila in a shelter in North Carolina. Photo by Jim McIntyre/American Red Cross

While the American Red Cross has historically not allowed pets in shelters, mainly for health and sanitation reasons, they work with local and regional animal agencies that operate shelters that would keep pets and their people if not together then nearby. In our area, the Red Cross works with an organization called CARE.

“If we had a shelter opened, we would rely upon them to set up a pet shelter adjacent to the evacuation shelter,” said Debbie Chitester, disaster program manager for the Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter “They have the equipment, supplies and volunteers to do that.”

Debbie also encourages people to have a plan for their pets.

California Wildfires 2018

Jordan, age 8, was able to be with his pets at a shelter in California last summer.
Photo by Virginia Becker/American Red Cross

“Think ahead to family or friends who may be able to take care of your pet,” she explained. “Talk with a vet or a boarding facility ahead of time to see if they have a plan and would be able to accept your pet,” she suggests. If a pet owner does not have any other place to take their pets, she said the Red Cross would activate the CARE team to set up a shelter for them. You can call your local Red Cross office to ask what shelters  are available for your pet if needed.

As you put your emergency plan and supply kit together for your family,make sure you have a separate one for your pet. Your pet emergency kit should include:

  • Sturdy leashes, harnesses and/or carriers to transport pets safely and ensure that they can’t escape.
  • Food, drinking water, bowls, cat litter/pan and a manual can opener if your pet eats canned food. Use plastic/waterproof bins to keep dry food dry and free of mold or bugs.
  • Medications and copies of medical records stored in a waterproof container.
  • A first aid kit.
  • Current photos of you with your pet(s) in case they get lost. Since many pets look alike, this will help eliminate mistaken identity and confusion.
  • Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavioral problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to foster or board your pets.
  • Pet beds and toys, if easily transportable.

Knowing you have a plan for your family, including your beloved pet(s), will give you peace of mind should a situation ever arise where you need  to evacuate your home. Click HERE for more information about preparing pets (and people) for emergencies.