Hurricane Florence Hits Coast – Red Cross Volunteers Respond

More than two dozen volunteers  from NEO deployed to disaster relief operation

The American Red Cross is helping people in multiple states as Hurricane Florence pummels the Carolinas with strong winds, heavy rain and dangerous tidal surges. Twice the size of Louisiana, Florence is inundating communities and leaving hundreds of thousands without power.

 

Residents of Wilson, North Carolina take refuge in a Red Cross shelter.   
                                    Photo credit: Danial Cima/American Red Cross

As Hurricane Florence comes ashore, the Red Cross is providing safe shelter and comfort for evacuees across six states. More than 20,000 people sought refuge in more than 200 Red Cross and community shelters Thursday night to escape the storm’s wrath. View some of their stories here.

As of midnight, 14,000 people were in 124 shelters in North Carolina, and 5,600 people in 59 shelters in South Carolina. An additional 430 people stayed in 23 shelters in Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee and Maryland.

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Red Cross volunteers Linda Taylor, Bob Schneider, Teresa Greenlief and Cameron Fraser prepare to depart Akron in Emergency Response Vehicles.  Photo credit: Mary Williams/American Red Cross

About 2,000 Red Cross disaster workers from all over the country have been mobilized to help shelter, feed and support people affected by Florence, including 29 from Northeast OhioFour Emergency Response Vehicles based in Northeast Ohio departed from Cleveland, Akron and Canton today, staffed by two-person crews.  They have been assigned to meet in Macon, Georgia.

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Volunteers Susie Muetzel and Sue Wisdom prepare to depart Cleveland in an ERV.  Photo credit: Jim McIntyre/American Red Cross

Working with partners, the Red Cross has served 47,000 meals and snacks in North Carolina and South Carolina. To bolster relief efforts, the Red Cross is mobilizing nearly 100 emergency response vehicles and more than 120 trailers of equipment and supplies, including 100,000 ready-to-eat meals and enough cots and blankets for more than 42,000 people.

See photos of local media coverage here.

HOW YOU CAN HELP The Red Cross depends on financial donations to be able to provide disaster relief immediately. Help people affected by Hurricane Florence by visiting redcross.org, calling 1- 800-RED CROSS or texting the word FLORENCE to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from this disaster.

The Red Cross honors donor intent. Donors can designate their donation to Hurricane Florence relief efforts by choosing that option when donating on redcross.org or on 1-800-RED CROSS.

PLEASE GIVE BLOOD More than 140 blood drives have been canceled through early next week due to Hurricane Florence, resulting in over 4,200 uncollected blood and platelet donations. Eligible donors in unaffected areas are urged to make an appointment now to give blood or platelets to help maintain the nation’s blood supply. There is a critical need to platelet and type O blood donations. Appointments can be made by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

 

 

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

ERV (002)

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.”

ERV drive

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.

 

 

NEO Volunteers Deploy to Louisiana Flooding

Red Cross disaster workers — including 8 from here in Northeast Ohio — are helping thousands of Louisiana residents with a safe place to stay and food to eat despite closed roads and continued flooding making it challenging to get relief supplies to where they are needed.

Volunteers, Sue and Linda left from the Cleveland office in an emergency response vehicle this morning. A second team left from Youngstown.

The truck (lovingly referred to as an ERV by Red Cross staff) will be used transport cleaning items like mops, buckets and bleach or hot meals prepared by our partners at one of the eight Southern Baptist kitchens out in to the communities affected by the flood.

The current flooding in Louisiana is the worst natural disaster to strike the United States since Superstorm Sandy.

Monday night more than 8,400 people sought refuge in 36 Red Cross and community shelters in Louisiana. More than 1,000 Red Cross disaster volunteers have been mobilized from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to help with the Louisiana relief efforts. The Red Cross is also mobilizing over 60 ERVS — like the two that left Northeast Ohio this morning — with nearly 40,000 ready-to-eat meals, and dozens of trailers filled with shelter and kitchen supplies.

“People in Louisiana urgently need our help now,” said Mike Parks, Regional CEO. “Please consider making a financial donation to the Red Cross today.”

HOW TO HELP People in Louisiana are facing a dire situation. Floodwaters still cover neighborhoods. An estimated 25,000 homes are damaged, affecting at least 75,000 people. Thousands of people have no power when it feels like 99 degrees outside and more than 100 roads are closed. People can donate by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word LAFLOODS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recovery from these disasters.

FINDING LOVED ONES Residents of the affected areas can connect with their loved ones by using the “I’m Safe” button on the Red Cross Emergency App which is free and can be found in the app store for someone’s mobile device by searching for “American Red Cross” or by going to redcross.org/apps.

People can also visit http://www.redcross.org/safeandwell to register on the Red Cross Safe and Well website, a secure and private way that friends and family connect. The site also allows people to update their status on Facebook and Twitter.

JOINT RELIEF EFFORT The Red Cross is working closely with the entire response community to coordinate relief efforts and deliver help quickly and efficiently, keeping in mind the diverse needs of the community. Some of the organizations sending help to the area include Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, the NAACP, Islamic Relief USA, Church of the Brethren Children’s Disaster Services, Save the Children, AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, AFL-CIO, Verizon, Duracell, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Baton Route YMCA and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints volunteers.

BECOME A VOLUNTEER To become a Red Cross volunteer, visit redcross.org/neo and click on VOLUNTEER today to learn more about volunteer opportunities and how to submit a volunteer application.

Wreaths Across America

On Saturday, the Red Cross assisted a national program, Wreaths Across America, at the Western Reserve National Cemetery in Rittman.

The annual program remembers and honors the fallen at national cemeteries across the country by placing wreaths on veteran headstones on a certain day in December – this year it was December 12. It’s an amazing program – the wreaths are sponsored by citizens across the nation, then trucked in to each of the cemeteries by volunteers. The wreaths are then placed by local volunteers.

The Red Cross was on site to pass out coffee, hot chocolate and water. The hot beverages are usually a welcome treat for the volunteers, but with Saturday’s balmy temperatures water was the most requested drink.

Following the placement on individual grave sites, the cemetery holds a ceremony which places a wreath in memorial of every veteran in each branch of service.

For more photos from the 2015 ceremony, please visit our Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties Chapter Facebook page.

Meeting the challenges of Northeast Ohio Weather – May edition

Even before the storm clouds rolled over the radar screen, the hub at the Red Cross in Cleveland was readying its response to the coming storm.

On Monday, while the wind and rain howled throughout the region, members of our disaster response team began to initiate the first stages of the plan. Red Cross workers began the work of setting up a shelter for the residents of North Ridgeville, who had to be evacuated by boats due to the rising flood waters.

Summit and Portage County Board Member, Leonard Foster, loads a clean-up kit at the chapter.

Summit and Portage County Board Member, Leonard Foster, loads a clean-up kit at the chapter.

As the sun rose on Tuesday volunteers and staff were loading up the Red Cross vehicles to begin the process of observing, collecting, assessing, processing and recording information on each affected areas. The information obtained in this assessment helps the Red Cross determine how to respond to a disaster and what supplies will be required.

Our process starts with an area assessment and then moves to looking at individual homes to see what specific damage has been wrought by the storm – checking water levels in the basement or living space of a home and seeing if it is still inhabitable.

In the case of one Stow area family, where a basement wall had collapsed allowing mud and debris to slide into the home, we were able to help start the process of repairing the wall so that they will be able to stay in their home.

The Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) loaded with bleach and buckets donated by Home Depot, May 2014

The Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) loaded with bleach and buckets donated by Home Depot, May 2014

In other areas of Summit, Medina and Lorain Counties, we provided residents with clean-up kits containing disinfectant, a mop, a bucket and information about how to begin cleaning up the mess the storm and water had left in their homes. In some areas, we also passed out bleach, a donation from Home Depot.

If you are still looking for information on how to clean your basement, check out this link to our Repairing your Flooded Home booklet.

Back in North Ridgeville, we loaded up our Emergency Response Vehicle and set out through the streets, providing food to the residents who were there making their own assessments of the damage to their properties.

We cannot say enough to praise the many volunteers who left their own flooded basements to help other members in their community and in neighboring counties. If you are interested in joining their ranks, you can get started as a volunteer by signing up through our website.

If you would like to financially contribute to the clean-up effort, please visit www.redcross.org/donate or contact your local chapter.