From Northeast to Southwest: American Red Cross is Ohio-strong

NEO volunteers assisting residents affected by downstate tornadoes

More help from Northeast Ohio is on the way to tornado stricken Dayton and the surrounding area.  An Emergency Response Vehicle, which is stationed in Cleveland, will be deployed with a two-person crew to help provide meals and emergency supplies to residents affected by Monday night’s storms.

More than 130 Ohioans spent the night in 6 shelters last night.  They were among nearly 500 people who took refuge in more than 30 Red Cross and Community shelters in several states that have been hit hard by bad weather this week.

Red Cross volunteers Pam Williams and Monica Bunner working in Dayton

In addition to the ERV and its crew, six other disaster workers from Northeast Ohio are assigned to the relief operation, and are already in Dayton, fulfilling various roles – from mass care to government operations to reunification.

“Basically we help families reunite,” said Monica Bunner, a disaster volunteer from Medina. “Say someone is missing as a result of the disaster and could be in a shelter. The Safe & Well site allows one to register and send messages to loved ones to let them know they are OK.”

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                                           Photo credit:  Todd James/American Red Cross

Prepare in Advance

More spring storms are in the forecast this week for a vast swath of the country.  You can prepare for violent weather in the following ways:

Educate your family on how to use the Safe and Well website.

Assemble an emergency preparedness kit, which includes a battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio). For a detailed list of supplies to include, see updated Be Red Cross Ready Checklist.

Create a household emergency plan that includes your pets.

Stay informed about your community’s risk and response plans.

Download the Emergency App for iPhone or for Android.

Remember, 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.

Many kind-hearted people have offered to help, driven by the compassion that is typical of Northeast Ohioans.  While the Red Cross does not accept donations of items, we do encourage financial support. It is the quickest and best way to get help to the people who need it most, by allowing us to be flexible in the help we deliver.  Financial donations can be accessed quickly, and can ensure that we can provide the residents affected by the tornadoes what they need most.

You can donate to American Red Cross disaster relief by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS, or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Bring IT On: Disaster Services Technology

When a disaster strikes, who is it that gets the basic IT services that we’ve come to depend upon back up and running? The Disaster Services Technology team – a unique group of volunteers who deploy to a disaster response to set up communications technology!

The team provides the necessary infrastructure that a response may require, from internet capabilities (think: Safe And Well Services) to telecommunications (like an antenna based radio if cellular services are down).

“We can service everyone from a single user connection up to a whole site,” said Ed Finley, National Field Communications Engineer.

This week the team held a rare hands-on training at our Akron office. The three-day course is only offered once a year in each division. The training staff has already taught the course in Mobile, Ala.; Oakland, Calif.; and Austin, Texas. After Akron, they will head out to Tinton Falls, N.J.; Columbia, S.C.; and Minneapolis, Minn.

The course gives volunteers the opportunity to train on equipment that will deploy to a disaster response; such as laptops, cell phones, routers and satellites.

“Not only will students learn how to set-up and use the equipment, but also that there is a support system behind them that will help them get through the process and be successful,” said Ed.

Students at the Akron class hail from all over Ohio and the rest of the country – California, New York, New Jersey, Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, and West Virginia.

If you are interested in joining the Disaster Services Technology team, visit www.redcross.org/volunteer and sign-up to be a volunteer. You’ll go through a couple of basic Red Cross courses, including Disaster Services Technology Overview, and from there you’ll be able to train with some of the IT leaders who we are lucky enough to have living in Northeast Ohio before deploying.

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Remembering Hurricane Katrina

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Ten years ago, the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States, Hurricane Katrina barreled its way onto land, causing devastation from Florida to Texas.  And the Red Cross launched the largest disaster response in its 134 year history, involving more than 245,000 disaster workers and volunteers who helped millions of people with shelter, food and funds to help them get back on their feet.

John Gareis and Tony Rivera of the Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross were among the relief workers dispatched to the hurricane-affected region.  They were featured this week in a story about the 10th anniversary of hurricane Katrina, aired by WKYC channel 3.

As noted in the story, the Red Cross established the Safe and Well website to let family and friends know you’re OK after a disaster.  And to help children be better prepared for future disasters, the Pillowcase Project was launched.  It teaches students in third, fourth and fifth grades how to create a disaster kit by packing essential items into a pillowcase for swift escape and easy transport in the face of emergencies.

If you are a registered volunteer who has taken the Disaster Services Overview course and are interested in presenting a Pillowcase Project to children, please call John Gareis at 216-431-3219 or email him at John.Gareis@redcross.org.  If you are not a volunteer yet, log onto redcross.org/volunteer to get started.

And as we note the tenth anniversary of hurricane Katrina, millions of people in Florida and along the Gulf Coast are breathing a bit easier, as all tropical storm warnings and watches were dropped following the weakening of what once was tropical storm Erika.  But it serves as a reminder that this is peak season for hurricanes, and the Red Cross is ready to assist, whenever and wherever needed.