When Waters Rise, NEO Red Cross Responds – an Update

By Doug Bardwell – American Red Cross volunteer

Combine rapidly melting snow with heavy rainfall, and there’s always the possibility for river flooding. Last February, those conditions occurred throughout the upper Midwest states.

From our Northeast Ohio chapters alone, 28 disaster staff were deployed throughout Ohio, Indiana and Michigan.  First and foremost, shelters were opened for those whose homes were in danger of flooding. A safe and warm place to stay was extremely welcomed by those affected. Health service related needs were also attended to by our other volunteers.

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Red Cross volunteers prepare to assist flood victims in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Photo provided by Monica Bunner/American Red Cross volunteer

Monica Bunner, a Disaster Action Team member from the Summit, Portage & Medina chapter, was one of the first from this area to be deployed. Originally dispatched to a moderate-sized shelter in a high school in southern Ohio, she and her team provided a warm place to stay overnight as well as a place to come during the day to warm up, shower and recharge both the body and the cellphone.

Monica recalls one of the first residents to come to the shelter (and probably the last to leave) was an elderly gentleman who needed to be woken up at 3:30 am each day.  He would then walk into town and work 16-hour shifts at a fast food restaurant. Arriving back at the shelter in the evening, he would have dinner and immediately retire, only to repeat the cycle the next day.  His resilience to the situation touched everyone who met him.

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Volunteers in New Richmond, Ohio

Another resident had been living in a trailer near the water, and as the level of the river rose, he recounted that a number of kittens living below his trailer started poking their heads up through the vents in his floor. He quickly reached down to grab as many as he could and brought them with him to the local animal shelter.  Each day he would leave the shelter and walk back to his neighborhood looking for other kittens to save. In all, he rescued eight kittens during the week Monica worked at the shelter.

After a week, Monica was reassigned to DES (Distribution of Emergency Supplies) across Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, sometimes driving as much as three and one-half hours to reach affected areas.

Red Cross volunteers like Monica respond to emergencies thousands of times each year. It is only through the generous donations of Americans that we can always be ready to respond whenever an emergency threatens.  Please consider donating today at redcross.org/neo.

We Can Respond – Only With Your Help

By Doug Bardwell – American Red Cross Volunteer

When fires break out and rivers breach their banks, the Red Cross responds.  Such was the case this past weekend.

On Cleveland’s east side, a fire broke out in a six-story CMHA apartment building, Saturday 2/24.  By the time the fire was extinguished, 23 units were affected with light to heavy smoke damage, making the units unlivable.

Our Cleveland Disaster Action Team responded, issuing the 25 residents with debit cards totaling almost $9,000 to cover their immediate lodging needs and miscellaneous other expenses.

Going forward, each of those families will be contacted by caseworkers from the Cleveland office, offering additional assistance in recovering from the fire.

At the same time, in southern Ohio, the request for assistance came as the Ohio River crested at more than 60 feet Sunday night, flooding parts of the Tri-State area in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia.

In New Richmond, Ohio, if the water reached 59 feet, it would be at many homes door steps. More than that, and the water would flood inside.

The Red Cross anticipated the flooding and responded to the community’s needs by setting up shelters for the affected families. But, they needed additional assistance to properly staff the shelters.

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Red Cross shelter established at the Alexandria Community Center in Indiana 

Fortunately, the Northeast Ohio Region has many trained staff and volunteers that were able to drop everything and head for southern Ohio to assist. Two dozen people were assigned to the job, including five volunteers who had taken specialized training for just such an occurrence.

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This photo, taken near East Liverpool, Ohio, shows the Ohio River Monday afternoon.  Photo Credit:  Karen Conklin/American Red Cross

Since the major hurricanes hit last year, a number of people have responded and taken training to assist in mass care sheltering opportunities. But, we could always use more, as spring flooding is not limited to the Ohio River.

Please consider volunteering and receiving free Red Cross training for disaster response. Help is always needed in a variety of specialties from sheltering to feeding, and from communications and IT to logistics.  We can only respond, however, if we have sufficient volunteers that are properly trained in disaster services.

To learn about all the opportunities to be of assistance, please visit the Red Cross volunteer page. Opportunities exist for young adults, seniors and everyone in-between.

 

Even When A River Doesn’t Run Through It

Whether you live ten feet or ten miles from one of the many rivers and streams that run through Northeast Ohio, you never know when heavy rains and melting snow will combine to produce a terrible flood. Here are some ways to keep your friends and family safe as we look to the skies over the next few weeks.

Hurricane Harvey 2017

Right Before a Flood

  • Listen to local area radio, NOAA radio or TV stations for the latest information and updates.
  • Be prepared to evacuate quickly and know your routes and destinations. Find a local emergency shelter.
  • Check your emergency kit and replenish any items missing or in short supply, especially medications or other medical supplies. Keep it nearby.
Then, If You Can, Do This
  • Fill plastic bottles with clean water for drinking.
  • Fill bathtubs and sinks with water for flushing the toilet or washing the floor or clothing.
  • Fill your car’s gas tank, in case you need to evacuate.
  • Bring outdoor belongings, such as patio furniture, indoors.
  • Turn off propane tanks to reduce the potential for fire.
If You Have Pets or Livestock
  • Consider a precautionary evacuation of your animals, especially any large or numerous animals. Waiting until the last minute could be fatal for them and dangerous for you.
  • Where possible, move livestock to higher ground. If using a horse or other trailer to evacuate your animals, move sooner rather than later.
  • Bring your companion animals indoors and maintain direct control of them. Be sure that your pet emergency kit is ready to go in case of evacuation.

Staying Safe Indoors

  • Turn off the power and water mains if instructed to do so by local authorities.
  • Boil tap water until water sources have been declared safe.
  • Avoid contact with floodwater. It may be contaminated with sewage or contain dangerous insects or animals.
  • Continue listening to local area radio, NOAA radio or TV stations for the latest information and updates.
  • Don’t use gas or electrical appliances that have been flooded.
  • Dispose of any food that comes into contact with flood water .

Staying Safe Outdoors

  • Don’t walk, swim or drive through floodwater. Just six inches of fast-flowing water can knock you over and two feet will float a car.
  • If caught on a flooded road with rapidly rising waters, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground.
  • Don’t walk on beaches or riverbanks.
  • Don’t allow children to play in or near flood water.
  • Avoid contact with floodwater. It may be contaminated with sewage or contain dangerous insects or animals.
  • Stay out of areas subject to flooding. Underpasses, dips, low spots, washes, etc. can become filled with water.

For more information on what to do if your home becomes flooded, visit http://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/flood#After.

Hurricane Harvey: Week One Recap

Northeast Ohio Numbers

  • Northeast Ohioans deployed to the affected areas: 23
  • Emergency Response Vehicles deployed to the affected areas 4 of 4 in NEO
  • Average Individual Deployment: 2 weeks

National Information

  • The Red Cross is working hard to get help to where it is needed. Access into

    August 30, 2017. Delco Center Shelter, Austin, Texas. Red Cross volunteer Caroline Pinkston colors with children staying at a shelter in Austin, Texas. Photo by Chuck Haupt for the American Red Cross

    many areas is still quite difficult, and we are partnering with the U. S. Coast Guard and the Texas National Guard to move supplies and volunteers to where they are needed most. Our first priority is keeping people safe while providing shelter, food and a shoulder to lean on.

  • Estimates indicate more than 33,800 people sought refuge in more than 240 Red Cross and partner shelters across Texas Tuesday night.
  • Six shelters are also open in Louisiana with more than 450 people.

How we respond

  • Massive disasters like Hurricane Harvey create more needs than any one organization can meet on their own. The Red Cross is working very closely with the entire response community – government agencies, other non-profit groups, faith-based organizations, area businesses and others – to coordinate emergency relief efforts and get help to people as quickly as possible.
  • The Red Cross is working dozens of disaster partners to support feeding, child care, disaster assessment and other disaster services. Some of the partners we are coordinating with include Americorps NCCC, Church of the Brethren Children’s Disaster Services, Save the Children, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and Islamic Relief USA.
  • We have trailers of kitchen supplies on the ground to support 6 kitchens, each

    August 29, 2017. George R. Brown Convention Center, Red Cross Mega Shelter, Houston, Texas. Texas Gulf Coast Region board member, Amy Gasea and event based volunteer, Emanuel Castillo, hand out hot meals to shelter residents at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Amy has been a board member since 2014 and is an assigned volunteer to the Disaster Relief Operation. Amy was originally assigned to supporting the operation in the planning function, but jumped in to assist as the Feeding Manager of the GRB Convention Center when a leader was needed. Photo by Daniel Cima for the American Red Cross

    able to produce 10,000 meals a day and 6 more trailers are on the way. We also have about 116,000 ready-to-eat meals currently on the ground with an additional 39,000 en route. More than half of our emergency response fleet – 200 Emergency Response Vehicles – have been activated for the operation. Shelters are standing by in other states, including Tennessee, Oklahoma and Arkansas, in case they are needed.

  • With blood products prepositioned in Houston and Dallas ahead of the storm, the Red Cross continues to work closely with local, state and federal authorities to deliver blood and platelets to our hospital partners in flood affected areas.
  • After the effects of the storm passes, we are offering emotional support and health services, and distributing emergency relief supplies such as comfort kits and cleaning supplies. But our work doesn’t end there; the Red Cross also plays a critical role in helping families and communities get back on their feet.

Donations

  • The Red Cross has launched a massive response to this devastating storm and needs financial donations to be able to provide immediate disaster relief. Help people affected by Hurricane Harvey by visiting redcross.org, calling 1- 800-RED CROSS or texting the word HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
  • Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from this disaster.
  • We thank everyone for their overwhelming support for people impacted by this catastrophic storm. If you are having issues with text donations, please visit redcross.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS to donate.
  • We know Americans are generous and want to do everything they can to help after a disaster. Unfortunately, collecting and sending food, clothing and other household items often does more harm than good. Instead, the best way to support disaster victims is with a financial donation.
  • It takes time and money to store, sort, clean and distribute donated items, which diverts limited time and resources away from helping those most affected. In contrast, financial donations can be accessed quickly to support those affected, and be put to use right away. With a financial donation, individuals can buy what they need and want.
  • Storing donated items can also result in thousands of dollars in warehousing, cleaning, transportation and handling fees – whereas financial donations allow us to be flexible to give those directly affected by Harvey what they need most.

Volunteers

  • Hundreds of experienced American Red Cross volunteers and employees are

    August 29, 2017. George R. Brown Convention Center, Red Cross Mega Shelter, Houston, Texas. Red Cross volunteer, Rabia Vaid comforts six week old, Anaya Rizwan. Photo by Daniel Cima for the American Red Cross

    working around the clock to provide shelter and supplies to Gulf Coast residents affected by Harvey.

  • The Red Cross appreciates the overwhelming interest of the public to volunteer. Please be patient–with the tremendous outpouring of support we are seeing, it will take some time to reach out to all those who have signed up to volunteer.
  • Please also remember that, when connecting with the Red Cross or other volunteer groups, check first to learn about current opportunities and when volunteers are needed—before traveling to the affected areas independently. Access to relief operation areas is extremely difficult and search and rescue efforts are still ongoing.
  • The effects of Harvey will be felt for a long time. Today or in the future, if you would like to volunteer with the Red Cross, you should visit the volunteer section of redcross.org to learn more about volunteer opportunities and how to apply to be a volunteer. This will allow those interested to help on large disasters like Hurricane Harvey, but also when smaller disasters like home fires happen in local communities.

Be Prepared for Spring Weather

Thunderstorms, Tornadoes, Flooding All Threats

Spring can be a time for devastating weather. It is the peak time of year for tornadoes, flooding, thunderstorms and other severe weather.

The American Red Cross wants everyone to know what steps they can take to stay safe if dangerous weather is predicted for their community.

Prepare

  • Get a Kit. Make a Plan. Be informed.  See the Be Red Cross Ready Checklist
  • If you or a member of your household is an individual with access or functional needs, including a disability, consider developing a comprehensive evacuation plan in advance with family, care providers and care attendants, as appropriate. Complete a personal assessment of functional abilities and possible needs during and after an emergency or disaster situation, and create a personal support network to assist.

Tornado Safety

Southern Tornadoes and Storms 2017

Tornado devastation in Albany, Georgia, January 2017. Photo credit: Daniel Cima for the American Red Cross

Spring can be the peak season for tornado activity. Tornadoes occur mostly on warm spring days between 3:00 and 9:00 p.m. However, tornadoes can occur anywhere, at any time of the year, at any time of the day. The Red Cross has safety steps people should take now to be ready if a tornado warning is issued for someone’s neighborhood:

What should I do to prepare for a tornado?

  • Know the Difference
    • Tornado Watch – Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans, and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives!
    • Tornado Warning – A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Tornado warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. Go immediately underground to a basement, storm cellar or an interior room (closet, hallway or bathroom).
  • During any storm, listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay informed about tornado watches and warnings.
  • Know your community’s warning system. Communities have different ways of warning residents about tornadoes, with many having sirens intended for outdoor warning purposes.
  • Pick a safe room in your home where household members and pets may gather during a tornado. This should be a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.
  • Practice periodic tornado drills so that everyone knows what to do if a tornado is approaching.
  • Consider having your safe room reinforced. Plans for reinforcing an interior room to provide better protection can be found on the FEMA web site
  • Prepare for high winds by removing diseased and damaged limbs from trees.
  • Move or secure lawn furniture, trash cans, hanging plants or anything else that can be picked up by the wind and become a projectile.
  • Watch for tornado danger signs:
    • Dark, often greenish clouds – a phenomenon caused by hail
    • Wall cloud – an isolated lowering of the base of a thunderstorm
    • Cloud of debris
    • Large hail
    • Funnel cloud – a visible rotating extension of the cloud base
    • Roaring noise

What to Do During a Tornado

  • The safest place to be is an underground shelter, basement or safe room.
  • If no underground shelter or safe room is available, a small, windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the safest alternative.
    • Mobile homes are not safe during tornadoes or other severe winds.
    • Do not seek shelter in a hallway or bathroom of a mobile home.
    • If you have access to a sturdy shelter or a vehicle, abandon your mobile home immediately.
    • Go to the nearest sturdy building or shelter immediately, using your seat belt if driving.
    • Do not wait until you see the tornado.
  • If you are caught outdoors, seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building. If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter:
    • Immediately get into a vehicle and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. Remember to buckle your seat belt and drive at right angles to the storm movement to get out of its path.
    • Stay away from bridge/highway overpasses.
    • If strong winds and flying debris occurs while driving, pull over and park, keeping your seat belt on and engine running. Put your head down below the windows, covering your head with your hands and a blanket (if available).

Thunderstorm Safety

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Thunderstorms are most likely to happen in the spring and summer, during the afternoon and evening. However, like tornadoes, they can happen anywhere, at any hour of the day. A thunderstorm is considered severe if it produces hail at least 1 inch in diameter or has wind gusts of at least 58 miles per hour. Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which kills more people each year than tornadoes or hurricanes. Heavy rain from thunderstorms can cause flash flooding and high winds can damage homes and blow down trees and utility poles, causing widespread power outages. The Red Cross has steps you can take if a severe thunderstorm is predicted for your area:

  • Listen to local news or NOAA Weather Radio for emergency updates. Watch for signs of a storm, like darkening skies, lightning flashes or increasing wind.
  • Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are likely to occur. Many people struck by lightning are not in the area where rain is occurring.
  • If a severe thunderstorm warning is issued, take shelter in a substantial building or in a vehicle with the windows closed. Get out of mobile homes that can blow over in high winds.
  • If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning. If thunder roars, go indoors! The National Weather Service recommends staying inside for at least 30 minutes after the last thunder clap.
  • Avoid electrical equipment and telephones. Use battery-powered TVs and radios instead.
  • Shutter windows and close outside doors securely. Keep away from windows.
  • Do not take a bath or shower or use plumbing.
  • If you are driving, try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle.
  • If you are outside and cannot reach a safe building, avoid high ground, water, tall, isolated trees, and metal objects, such as fences or bleachers. Picnic shelters, dugouts, and sheds are NOT safe.

Flood Safety

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Spring can be a time of year for flooding. Floods are among the most frequent and costly natural disasters. Conditions that cause floods include heavy or steady rain for several hours or days that saturates the ground. Flash floods occur suddenly due to rapidly rising water along a stream or low-lying area. People should be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice and head for higher ground when a flood or flash flood warning is issued. Other safety steps include:

  • Listen to area radio and television stations and a NOAA Weather Radio for possible flood warnings and reports of flooding in progress or other critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS).
  • Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice.
  • When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground and stay there.
  • Turn Around, Don’t Drown! Stay away from floodwaters. Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and less than 2 feet of water can sweep your vehicle away.
    • If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way. Six inches of swiftly moving water can sweep you off of your feet.
    • If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
  • Keep children out of the water. They are curious and often lack judgment about running water or contaminated water.
  • Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood danger.

Volunteers from Across the U.S. Help in N.C.

Red Cross volunteers have come from all over the U. S. to help residents affected by flooding following Hurricane Matthew. About three dozen workers are from Northeast Ohio

Flooding in North Carolina is expected to persist through the weekend, as rivers continue to crest six days post-hurricane.

At the Western Prong Baptist Church in Whiteville, North Carolina on Thursday, October 13, volunteers from several states arrived in Emergency Response Vehicles to deliver meals prepared at the mobile kitchen set up by the Southern Baptist Convention.

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A dozen states were represented by Red Cross volunteers, who traveled to North Carolina, some of them driving for days, to help residents by distributing food, water, and clean-up kits.

Volunteers came o the kitchen in ERVs from Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.  They have been trained by the Red Cross to help deliver mass care during disasters.

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New volunteers can be trained to drive ERVs, run shelters, and many more essential services provided by the Red Cross during times of crisis.  If you’re interested, log onto  redcross.org/neo and click the volunteer tab to begin the application process.

Louisiana Rising: A Benefit Concert for Flood Relief to air Monday, September 5

We are thrilled to share some exciting news: this coming Monday, September 5, Raycom Media will host a telethon, Louisiana Rising: A Benefit Concert for Flood Relief live from Baton Rouge’s River Center Theater between 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. (CT). The Red Cross is the sole beneficiary for the telethon, and all proceeds will support our disaster response in Louisiana.

Randy Jackson and Harry Connick, Jr. will co-host the live broadcast, which will air across Raycom Media’s 45 television stations nationwide including WOIO Channel 19 and WTOL Channel 11 here in northern Ohio.

The telethon will feature a dozen artists, including Aaron Neville, five-time Grammy nominee Hunter Hayes, as well as New Orleans-based musicians Better Than Ezra, Sonny Landreth, Chris Thomas King, MacKenzie Bourg, Luther Kent and Rockin’ Dopsie. Raycom Media’s Tupelo-Honey Raycom will produce the show, and Johnny Palazzotto, a Baton Rouge musician, will serve as music director.

The telethon is also available through livestream at redcross.org/SupportLA, where visitors can also make a donation to support our Louisiana flood relief efforts.

We are extremely grateful for the singular generosity shown by Raycom, which will help us greatly in raising funds needed in response to this devastating disaster.

To learn more about the event and the artists associated with the telethon, please visit Louisianarisingfloodrelief.com.

Thank you for supporting the efforts of the Red Cross and those Northeast Ohio volunteers who have deployed to Louisiana.