Northeast Ohio Region weekend disaster response report: October 18-20, 2019

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

October 21, 2019- While residents of Northeast Ohio were enjoying the warm fall weekend weather and getting ready for Halloween, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio Disaster Action Teams (DAT) were responding to individuals experiencing the worst day of their lives.

The Red Cross responded to 12 incidents, including several home fires, in nine counties, affecting all five regional chapters.

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As part of the weekend response, Northeast Ohio DAT volunteers assisted 26 adults and 14 children, and the Red Cross provided more than $7,000 in immediate financial assistance.

Just as disasters do not discriminate in terms of whose lives they destroy; the Red Cross does not discriminate in terms of whose lives we help rebuild. The Red Cross does not turn away people who need assistance after a disaster. We are committed to helping everyone in need.

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As the largest humanitarian organization in the world, the Red Cross has the ability to use your donation to reach more people in need, more quickly. Your donation to the Red Cross helps provide food, shelter, relief supplies, emotional support, recovery planning and other assistance during disasters.

To help the Red Cross provide hope and comfort to individuals in Northeast Ohio experiencing their darkest hours, please visit redcross.org/donate to provide a financial donation. Any amount donated truly helps with their recovery.

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Also, without the tremendous dedication of our volunteers, the Red Cross would not be able to serve the 22 counties and 4.5 million residents of Northeast Ohio. Volunteers make up 90 percent of our workforce. Our volunteers are without a doubt the face of the Red Cross. Visit redcross.org/volunteer to learn more and to apply to become a Red Cross volunteer today.

Red Cross helps prevent home fires as part of Ashland Day of Caring

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

October 18, 2019- Support for neighbors and the community was in full swing on October 17, 2019, as part of the 25th annual Kay Conrad Ashland Day of Caring.

Organizations from all across Ashland County dedicated the day to volunteer their time to assist residents who are elderly, disabled and disadvantaged with tasks, such as light yard work, to help improve local communities.

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The American Red Cross was one of the organizations that took part in the day of caring.

Volunteers from the Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter and partners visited homes across the county to help prevent home fires and make communities safer.

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As part of the Home Fire Campaign, the Red Cross installed free smoke alarms in homes that had no or nonworking smoke alarms.

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Along with installing smoke alarms, volunteers provided residents with important fire safety tips and information on how to develop an escape plan, to ensure their family is prepared and safe in the event of a home fire.

For more information on the Home Fire Campaign in Northeast Ohio, including how to request a free smoke alarm, donate or how to become involved, visit SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO. The site also includes fire safety and prevention tips, checklists and more fire prevention and preparedness tools.

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To view more photos from the Kay Conrad Ashland Day of Caring, visit our Flickr page.

Red Cross and partners Sound the Alarm in Richmond Heights

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

October 14, 2019- During the weekend of October 11-13, 2019, the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio responded to 7 home fires, assisted 34 individuals, including 14 children and provided more than $7,300 in immediate financial assistance.

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The Red Cross is committed to helping to put an end to home fires in Northeast Ohio through the Home Fire Campaign.

As part of the campaign, the Red Cross holds Sound the Alarm events throughout the region to install free smoke alarms, such as the event held in Richmond Heights on October 12.

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Forty volunteers from partners Selman & Company, HOPE worldwide and the Richmond Heights CERT community response team installed 222 smoke alarms and made 83 homes safer.

“Thank you to the volunteers from Selman & Company, HOPE worldwide and the Richmond Heights CERT for helping make another Sound the Alarm installation event a success. With their assistance, we were able to ensure more homes in Northeast Ohio will be prepared in case of a home fire,” said Tim O’Toole, Red Cross regional disaster officer. “A special thank you to our partners with the Richmond Heights Fire Department, who will continue to install free smoke alarms in homes throughout their community.”

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“Saturday’s Sound the Alarm was a wonderful event. Everyone at Selman & Company who participated has said that it was the best volunteer event the company have ever done,” stated Brinton Lincoln, Greater Cleveland Chapter board member. “Thank you so very much for everyone’s efforts to make Saturday a success.”

Holly Tackett, Human Resources Generalist for Selman and Company, said, “The SelmanCo volunteer team has not stopped talking about their experience this past Saturday and they are even educating their peers and family on home safety. This was truly an impactful event that has changed lives – both the residents of the homes we installed in and SelmanCo team members.”

For more information on the Home Fire Campaign in Northeast Ohio, including how to request a free smoke alarm, donate, or help make homes safer, please click here.  Additional information regarding the national Home Fire Campaign is available here. Both sites include fire safety and prevention tips, checklists, and tools.

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To see more photos from the Richmond Heights installation event, please visit our Flickr page.

Photo credit: Cal Pusateri, American Red Cross volunteer

 

Disaster mental health volunteer helps people cope and heal after devastating losses

By Jason Copsey, American Red Cross volunteer

October 10, 2019- After Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the U.S. Virgin Islands in September 2017, the American Red Cross deployed volunteers to help provide food, clothing and shelter for impacted residents. Alongside these basic needs, the Red Cross deployed specialized volunteers trained to help individuals navigate the difficult emotional and psychological aftermath of a traumatic experience.

Adrienne Ford was one of the disaster mental health volunteers deployed to the Virgin Islands. Ford, a retired teacher and school counselor, joined the Red Cross as a volunteer in 2014 after learning about disaster mental health at a conference for school counselors. As an independently licensed counselor, Ford saw in the Red Cross an opportunity to continue practicing while serving those in need.

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“The first time the Red Cross called on me to provide services was in response to the California wildfires in 2014,” said Ford. “There was a massive shelter set up at the Napa Valley fairgrounds. So many people had run for their lives with nothing but the clothes on their backs.”

Disaster mental health volunteers tend to the emotional trauma people experience after a disaster. They play a critical role in the delivery of the Red Cross mission by providing support, comfort and hope to people impacted by incidents of all sizes, from home fires to natural disasters.

California Wildfires 2017

“Ultimately, people want to tell their stories to begin the healing process,” said Ford. “As mental health workers, we know how to ask the right questions for people to begin telling the story of what they have been through. The anxiety that comes from living through a near- death experience is considerable and depression can often follow.”

During her Virgin Islands deployment, Ford encountered families that were continuing to live in severely damaged homes instead of shelters. Working as part of medical teams consisting of a nurse, mental health advocate and a case worker, Ford would visit families and monitor for risk factors.

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“There was one family we had seen a few times and were continuing to check on,” said Ford. “I had talked with the mother several times about her experience. Half of her house had collapsed during the storm. Her son, a teenager, had been trapped in part of the house, and for a period of time she feared the worst.”

While Ford was able to connect with the mother, the son was less forthcoming. Over time, Ford was able to build trust with the child.

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“We talked about sports and things he was interested in,” says Ford. “Little by little, he let me ask him questions about his experience. He started telling me about what it was like for him to have been alone and the fear he had experienced.”

As first responders, Red Cross volunteers are often the connection between individuals and community resources and local agencies. Mental health volunteers are critical in this role, as trauma can easily trigger harmful tendencies for those without adequate coping skills. The early intervention of a Red Cross mental health volunteer can be a key factor in the recovery process.

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Ford said that over her five years as a Red Cross volunteer, it is the firsthand experience of individuals helping one another that has been most rewarding.

“The way communities respond to disasters renews your faith in humanity,” said Ford. “People really do take care of each other.”

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Fire safety: lessons learned from the California wildfires

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

October 7, 2019- It is Fire Prevention Week. Every 24 hours the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio responds to on average three home fires.

During the weekend of October 4-6, 2019, the Red Cross responded to 8 home fires, assisted more than 34 individuals and provided more than $5,800 in immediate financial assistance, highlighting the importance of  fire prevention.

While it is not something that many Northeast Ohio residents think about, wildfires can occur here. Read the following article written by Doug Bardwell, a Red Cross volunteer, about his deployment to assist with last year’s California wildfires and the lessons he learned:

FIRE! One of the most chilling words you never want to hear — whether shouted by a family member, a neighbor or a coworker. Ready or not, it requires immediate action to save yourself or family members.

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In Northeast Ohio, we rarely experience a raging, neighborhood-consuming wildfire like they do in California. But we do experience hundreds of home fires in our community each year. So what lessons can we learn from the fires that happen each year in California?

Plan ahead for your home

One of the first things Californians discovered was that combustible materials should never be kept outside your house. That goes for trash, cardboard boxes and firewood.

Clean out old vegetation. If it isn’t green and growing, those dead trees, plants and grasses can be highly flammable.

Make sure outdoor barbeque grills are safely equipped with current valves and hoses.

Roasting marshmallows?  Build your campfires or bonfires in a pit a safe distance from your home. Afterward, wet down all remaining embers and make sure everything is cool to the touch before leaving the site.

Have fire extinguishers at the ready and hoses hooked up and ready to go.

Make sure your house number is clearly marked so the fire department isn’t wasting time trying to locate your property.

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Plan ahead for your family

If the need occurs for you to evacuate your home or your neighborhood, you’ll be happy if you’ve taken the time to pre-think and practice an evacuation plan. Everyone in the family should be aware of a pre-determined rendezvous point where the family will meet up.

You’ll also want to designate an out-of-town family member or family friend who everyone can reach to keep tabs on who has checked in and who hasn’t.

Make a kit. When you are trying to escape a fire, it’s not the time to be looking for your ID, your important papers, your medicines, your glasses or your wallet. Keeping duplicates of those items near your garage or front door, makes it easy to grab and go. It will make the days immediately following the event much less stressful.

For more tips on being prepared, watch this video.

And always . . .

Make sure your home is equipped with fully functioning smoke alarms. If you don’t have working smoke alarms, call your local Red Cross office and they’ll put you on the list for a free installation.

For even more lifesaving tips, follow the Northeast Ohio Red Cross blog. Just fill in your email address and tap the FOLLOW button in the left margin. (You’ll only get two or three articles a week and you can easily cancel at any time.)

[All photos by Doug Bardwell]

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Wanted: Northeast Ohio Heroes

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

October 2, 2019- Do you know a community member who entered a burning home to rescue a trapped family? A passerby who pulled a drowning child to safety? A neighbor who administered CPR or abdominal thrusts to a total stranger? A dog that alerted its family to a fire? Then the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio needs your help!

The Greater Cleveland Chapter and the Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter 46405978995_5834726541_cwill once again honor local individuals in 2020 who displayed extraordinary courage to become someone’s hero.

The Red Cross is asking for assistance from local communities to help identify ordinary people who have placed themselves in harm’s way or have even risked their own lives to save another.

Greater Cleveland Chapter

Nominees must reside or work within Cuyahoga, Lake or Geauga County. The heroic deed must have occurred in either 2018 or 2019.

Those individuals selected as heroes will be honored at the Greater Cleveland Heroes award breakfast at the Global Center for Health Innovation, 1 St. Clair Ave. NE, Cleveland, Ohio 44114, on Thursday, March 12, 2020, at 8:15 am.

Click here to learn more about the 2018 Greater Cleveland Hero award winners.

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Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter

Nominees must reside or work within Portage, Medina or Summit County and must have performed the heroic act in 2019.

All submissions will be reviewed by a selection committee. Individuals selected will be honored as local heroes at the Acts of Courage Awards ceremony to be held at the Hilton Akron/Fairlawn on Thursday, March 5, 2020.

To learn more about the 2019 Acts of Courage award winners and their extraordinary stories, click here.

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To nominate a hero, visit redcross.org/neoheroes.

The deadline to submit nominations for the Greater Cleveland Chapter and the Summit, Portage and Medina Counties Chapter awards is December 31, 2019.

Looking back at Las Vegas tragedy and lending a helping hand

By Renee Palagyi, Senior Regional Disaster Program Manager

October 1, 2019- In many ways, it is hard to believe that two years have passed since the horrific tragedy in Las Vegas. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, and sometimes it seems like it was yesterday.

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Renee Palagyi

I arrived two days after the shooting and spent the next three weeks leading disaster health services in the Family Assistance Center. During that time, the American Red Cross and its partners assisted more than 4,400 individuals who had been injured to some degree at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival. I’m certain those numbers are a small reflection of the total number who were seriously impacted. I also believe that many of the 25,000 in attendance will carry scars from that night for the rest of their lives.

Each time my memories of that time move to the back of my mind, though, it seems they are awakened by another shooting. Just over a month ago, I went to Dayton to assist those friends and family members trying to make sense of the senseless.

I know most of us think when a tragedy occurs, “I wish there was something I could do. I feel so helpless.” If there is anything positive for me, it is that I AM able to go and help, in whatever small way.

The Red Cross is called upon to take a leading role and assist victims in the worst of times. Being a paid staff member or volunteer means that we can be there, listening to the stories and providing some small measure of comfort, a hug or a blanket around the shoulders.

I encourage those who feel helpless to think about volunteering. If not for these types of events, in some other way.

I’m sure many are familiar with the beautiful quote by Fred Rogers: When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ ”

You, too, can be a helper.

To volunteer with the Red Cross and find your role as a helper, visit www.redcross.org/local/ohio/northeast/volunteer.html.

Watch the following video to hear Renee reflect on the Las Vegas shooting:

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer