Meet ERV – the Newest Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle

By Doug Bardwell – American Red Cross volunteer

Responding to disasters, both locally and nationally, a team of two or more American Red Cross volunteers typically responds in an officially marked vehicle. For larger events, the vehicle of choice will probably be ERV – the Emergency Response Vehicle.

Originally, Clara Barton used a wagon for battlefield rescue missions.  As World War I and II occurred, military-style trucks were marked with the large Red Cross symbol and put into service.

Not until 1984 did the Red Cross begin standardization of the fleet, settling on the boxy, ambulance-style vehicle most often associated with disaster relief. Able to drive into affected neighborhoods to feed hundreds after a hurricane or tornado, the box truck design was also able to be loaded with hundreds of mops, pails and disinfectants for flood survivors.Red Cross Ready (002)

The design served the Red Cross admirably for years, but much of the fleet was more than 10 years old and in 2013, the decision was made to upgrade the fleet with a more modern vehicle type.

Meet ERV – Gen 2

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The newest style ERV is sleeker, more maneuverable and will cost less to operate than the last generation of vehicles.  And although they are more affordable, the vehicles are still very costly, at about $150,000 each.  We are grateful to The Sam J. Frankino Foundation, and Greater Cleveland Board Member Lorraine Dodero, for the generous donation that made the purchase of the new ERV possible.

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Greater Cleveland Board Member Lorraine Dodero cuts the ribbon for the new ERV, with Regional CEO Mike Parks

With modern materials and manufacturing processes, the vehicles are expected to last longer as well. While still providing ample room for supplies, the new ERV can easily be transformed from day-to-day local emergency responses, to hauling supplies for a larger disaster.

Modern two-way radio communications and GPS dispatching systems are just the beginning of the technology installed in the newest generation of response vehicles.  Ergonomics are also a large consideration, making it easier for both Red Cross volunteers and those being served alike.

Want to meet ERV in person?  Consider joining the team of volunteers known as the Disaster Action Team – who respond to local fires and other disasters.  Become a volunteer and help us provide support and hope when all seems lost.  Begin your volunteer process here.

Messy, Stressful, Heartwarming; Volunteers Describe Work in Texas

Disaster Workers Return After Two-Week Deployment 

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Northeast Ohio Red Cross volunteers Furman Alden and Sue Wisdom

Furman Alden and Sue Wisdom are back home, after spending two weeks on deployment following Hurricane Harvey.  The Northeast Ohio volunteers spent long hours driving an Emergency Response Vehicle through streets in and around Houston, making sure residents had access to warm meals, water and snacks.

“No one sees skin color, religion or politics,” said Sue, a Lake County resident and a veteran of disaster relief operations.  “From the youngest to the oldest, the way people came together to help each other, it’s heartwarming.”

Sue said several little boys volunteered to help distribute meals, going door-to-door after receiving their own meals and learning about the work of the Red Cross.  “They were amazing,” she said.  “I gave them cookies, and one of them said ‘You are so nice.’  That made may day!”

Furman Alden, also a veteran of disaster work, said he has never seen so much debris piled so high in front of so many houses. The Youngstown resident said, “The whole way down the street, they emptied their houses completely.   Furniture, dry wall, everything. It was messy.”

He says they were the first relief workers to reach a neighborhood that had been cut off by flooded roadways.  “We were the first ones to get in there.  They were so happy to see us.”

It was a struggle getting anywhere.  Furman says driving was stressful, due to bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go traffic.  But the ERV he and Sue drove was a lifeline for so many Texans who lost so much in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

More than 7,000 Red Cross disaster workers responded in Texas, Florida, and other areas hit hard by Harvey and Hurricane Irma, providing the same life-sustaining services that Sue and Furman delivered.  More volunteers are needed to continue the mission.  Visit our website at redcross.org/neo, and click the VOLUNTEER tab to begin an application.

A message from the Volunteer Services Department:

All volunteers must complete a free online volunteer application, which includes acknowledgement of policy statements and a criminal background check

Volunteers will need to successfully complete disaster training before being eligible for potential deployment, this can include a combination of in-person and/or online training

Depending on adjustment of the real-time needs of the disaster locations and your specific abilities- you may not deploy immediately or at all. 

Call 216-431-3328 for more information.

This video was created on the day Sue Wisdom and Furman Alden left Northeast Ohio in response to the residents of Texas following Hurricane Harvey.

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.”

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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.