Homeless in less than 60 seconds

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer 

March 27, 2020- Editors Note:  Doug Bardwell is a Northeast Ohio volunteer, who was one of the first Red Cross volunteers to respond to Tennessee following the tornadoes in early March– before COVID-19 measures such as social distancing and shelter at home took effect. As disasters do not stop, despite the COVID-19 outbreak, American Red Cross disaster services team members continue to stand at the ready to assist residents in need. For more information, click here

One day after the devastating tornadoes ripped through areas in and around Nashville, TN, I deployed with the Advanced Public Affairs Team (APAT) of the American Red Cross.

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Photo by Doug Bardwell

 

Different than typical deployments where volunteers have one job and stay in one location for most of their deployment, our two-man teams job was to visit all the areas affected as quickly as possible. In the case of the Tennessee tornadoes, they touched down multiple times in a line some 89 miles long.

Our task was to document the extent of the damage and provide photos and captions to Red Cross Headquarters, where they would be used to start fundraising efforts for the event. Our immediate challenges were road closures, downed power lines and traffic jams.

The worst of the damage seemed to be in Cookeville, east of Nashville. Almost entire residential developments were wiped off the landscape by what appeared to have been a 500-plus-foot-wide twister. Home foundations and basements were about all left behind. Deaths in this area alone approached 20, as there was less than a one-minute warning for most of these residents. Then, in less than 60 seconds, the tornado passed, leaving lives changed forever.

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Photo by Doug Bardwell

Many told stories of being thrown down their basement steps as the twister hit. In one case of a two-story home, a couple sleeping upstairs watched as their roof was torn off, their outside walls collapsed and they rode their mattress all the way into the basement.

Another fortunate man and his mother survived when his second-floor bedroom came crashing down on his mother who slept below him on the first floor. Luckily, with help from neighbors, he was able to dig her out and get her to the hospital with just a few broken ribs and a broken ankle.

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Photo by Doug Bardwell

At the other end of the spectrum, I spoke with a man who emerged from the rubble of his home to discover the four neighbors to the side of him had perished, as did four people in the home right behind his. It’s hard to make sense of how tragedy happens so randomly.

Being the first Red Crossers on the scene in most of these locations, we passed out bottled water as we met people and learned of their needs. Everyone was happy to hear about remotely served meals that would be coming as they combed through their wreckage trying to salvage family mementos.

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Photo by Doug Bardwell

Many were also surprised that they could go to Red Cross shelters for meals even if they weren’t living there. It felt good being able to spread a little “good news” to these people who hadn’t had much to smile about lately.

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Doug Bardwell (left) is holding a child as he listens and comforts a resident following the tornadoes. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

In one case, all that was needed was spending 10 to 15 minutes holding someones baby so they could chase and round up their six little dogs that had run away during the storm.

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Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

As the days passed, we transitioned to covering those in shelters, often in the most vulnerable areas. There were plenty of people with harrowing stories to tell.

A few days after the event, Multi-Agency Resource Centers (MARCs) were set up where people could come and get mental health, public health, HUD, SBA and FEMA  assistance. It was great to see how our Red Cross mental health workers were such a blessing to those affected by the storm.

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Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

By the end of the week,  it was also heartwarming to see the volunteerism evident around Nashville. Reports indicated that more than 20,000 volunteers offered to help with cleanup efforts through an organization called “Hands On Nashville.” Even in the small community of Cookeville, in just one church alone, there were 3,500 members out helping people sort through debris looking for salvageable items.

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Photo by Doug Bardwell

It was plain to see why Tennessee is called the Volunteer State.

If youd like to volunteer, the Red Cross in Northeast Ohio is in need of blood volunteers and disaster response volunteers. You can sign up here and receive all the training youll need.

In fact, right now, while the nation and world is battling the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, there is a severe blood shortage. There is an urgent need for eligible and healthy donors to give blood now. To make an appointment to donate blood, visit https://www.redcrossblood.org. Your blood donation can help save injured disaster victims and patients in need during these challenging times.

To see more photos from Doug’s deployment in Tennessee, visit our Flickr page.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Northeast Ohio Region weekend disaster report: March 26-29, 2020

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

March 30, 2020- Everyone in Northeast Ohio is trying to adjust to the new normal following the COVID-19 outbreak, including the American Red Cross.

The Red Cross is known not only for the assistance we provide individuals who suffered from a disaster, but also for the comfort we provide residents, such as a hug, to let them know that everything will be okay. However, in the aftermath of COVID-19, the Red Cross has had to change how they provide assistance to those in need.

Tennessee Tornadoes 2020

Emergencies do not stop, and over the weekend, the Red Cross, with the safety of our disaster team members and the residents we assisted in mind, responded to disasters throughout the region. Comfort was provided, despite the inability to provide a Red Cross hug to those suffering the worst day of their lives.

“Many thanks to our responders who use extra COVID-related precautions to make certain clients receive the help they desperately need. One of those adjustments is not giving the hugs they have given over the years,” said Renee Palagyi , senior program manager. “Social distancing now challenges them to show the compassion and care they feel through their words. And our clients continue to feel the love!”

During the weekend of March 26-29, 2020, the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio responded to local disasters, such as flooding in Cleveland, assisted 23 adults, 13 children and provided more than $7,600 in immediate financial assistance.

COVID-19 Volunteer

 

The Red Cross is looking for individuals to join the Red Cross to continue to respond to disasters in local communities. We also have a wide variety of important volunteer-from-home opportunities available. Find your opportunity to make a positive impact today by visiting redcross.org/volunteer.

 

Northeast Ohio Region weekend disaster report: March 13-15, 2020

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

March 16, 2020- While residents in Northeast Ohio were taking precautions to remain safe from the coronavirus, members of the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio Disaster Action Team were assisting residents facing the worst day of their lives, as disasters do not adhere to social distancing measures.

During the weekend of March 13-15, the DAT team responded to disasters in four of the five chapters of the Northeast Ohio Region, with disasters occurring in Columbiana, Cuyahoga, Erie, Lake, Richland, Stark and Trumbull counties.

The Red Cross assisted 32 adults, 29 children and provided $12,460 in immediate financial assistance.

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While we all take extraordinary steps to contain the coronavirus, the Red Cross is asking all healthy individuals to donate blood, to help maintain the nation’s blood supply as blood drives across the country continue to be cancelled.

Over the last few days, we have seen blood drive cancellations grow at an alarming rate. Through March 13, about 1,500 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled across the country due to coronavirus concerns, resulting in some 46,000 fewer blood donations. We expect that number to rise.

We understand why people may be hesitant to come out for a blood drive, but want to reassure the public that we are taking additional precautions to ensure the safety of our donors and staff.

Monroe Carell Jr Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, Nashville, Tennessee 2019

We are checking the temperature of staff and donors before entering a drive to make sure they are healthy. Hand sanitizers are available for use before entering the drive, as well as throughout the donation process. We are also spacing beds, where possible, to follow social distancing practices between blood donors.

Red Cross employees follow strict safety procedures, including wearing gloves and changing them often, wiping down all donor-touched surfaces and equipment and preparing the arm for donation with an aseptic scrub.

A blood shortage could impact patients who need surgery, victims of car accidents and other emergencies, or patients suffering from cancer. One of the most important things you can do to ensure we don’t have another health care crisis on top of the coronavirus is to give blood.

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If you are healthy, feeling well and eligible to give blood or platelets, please make an appointment to donate as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Northeast Ohio Region weekend disaster report: February 28-March 1, 2020

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

March 2, 2020-  To kickoff March is Red Cross Month, the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio responded to 11 separate local disasters, including several home fires across the region.

California Wildfires 2019

As the calendar changed from February to March, Disaster Action Team members assisted 45 individuals in Cuyahoga, Lorain, Summit, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties. The Red Cross also provided more than $9,000 in immediate financial assistance.

In 2014, the Red Cross launched the Home Fire Campaign, a nationwide initiative to reduce the number of fire-related deaths by 25 percent. As of the current date, 715 lives have been saved across the country through the Home Fire Campaign, including 15 in Northeast Ohio.

DAT home fire responses Atlanta, Georgia video screenshots 2019

As part of the Home Fire Campaign, the Red Cross will be installing smoke alarms in communities across the country from April 18 to May 3 during an initiative called Sound the Alarm, Save a Life. In just six years, our home visits have accomplished so much, including the installation of more than 2 million smoke alarms.

Watch below to hear Doreen and Lial McCullough story to learn how a smoked alarm saved their lives during a home fire:

For more information on Sound the Alarm and to sign up to volunteer at a smoke alarm installation event near you, visit SoundTheAlarm.org.

Northeast Ohio Region weekend disaster report: February 21-23, 2020

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

February 24, 2020- Despite the sunny and warm weather this weekend, local disasters did not take a break.

During this past weekend, the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio assisted 22 individuals and provided more than $4,500 in immediate financial assistance, as well as providing snacks and beverages for first responders.

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One of the incidents that the Red Cross responded to was a massive fire which occurred Sunday night on Hilliard Boulevard in Rocky River.  The fire, which destroyed residental complex which was under construction,  forced some nearby residents to flee their homes because of their proximity to the fire.

Three residents received immediate financial assistance to help them find shelter Sunday night, when they indicated they had no other place to stay.  Red Cross workers plan to continue contacting affected residents to assess their needs and provide appropriate assistance.

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Five volunteers responded to the fire to distribute blankets, water and snacks to the residents who were unable to return to their homes, and to the firefighters from various communities who responded to the fire.

“We could not help people in need without our volunteers,” said Ben Bellucci, disaster program manager for the Red Cross of Greater Cleveland.  “They are vital to our mission, providing comfort and care when people like the folks in Rocky River need emergency assistance.”

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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.

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.

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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.

 

Home fire experience prompts East Liverpool resident to become Red Cross volunteer

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

February 20, 2020- Imagine coming home after a day of work or shopping for the upcoming holiday season, only to find that your home is on fire. That was the case for one East Liverpool family, following a fire believed to have been caused by the wood burner.

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As he was driving home from work in Canfield on the evening of Dec. 15, 2017, John Pomeroy noticed he received an unusually high number of text messages and missed calls. Being unable to read the messages as he was driving, he decided to return the calls. That is when he heard the unthinkable.

Before John could ask, his daughter Jocelyn picked up the phone and immediately said, “Dad, the house is on fire. This is not a joke.”

After shopping for gifts with her mother, Jocelyn was the first person to discover the fire. As soon as she opened the front door, all she could see was the home filled with smoke. Confusion and fear set in.

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John and Jocelyn Pomeroy

Once John arrived on the scene, he immediately checked on his family to make sure everyone was safe. Then the gravity of the situation began to sink in and he pondered what to do next, as firefighters extinguished the fire.

Prior to the home fire, John and Jocelyn only thought the American Red Cross assisted with large scale disasters, such as hurricanes and tornadoes. John remembers being amazed by how quickly the Red Cross arrived on the scene and the compassion the Disaster Action Team members showed his family.

One memory Jocelyn has of that evening was being wrapped in a Red Cross blanket, an item she still owns today, and the comfort she received from its warmth and softness.

“It is really helpful to have someone there to help you, give you a blanket and tell you everything will be okay,” said Jocelyn.

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John and Jocelyn with Kristen Gallagher and Karen Conklin

Even though John personally knew Lake to River Chapter Executive Director Karen Conklin and Kristen Gallagher, disaster program specialist, through Ohio high school wrestling, he was comforted by the Red Cross’ commitment to helping his family get back on their feet.

“We are grateful for the Red Cross and all of their hard work to help others in need,” stated John.

While John and his family were fortunate to be able to return to their home following the fire, he never forgot what the Red Cross did for them. John was so inspired by his experience that he signed up to become a Red Cross volunteer during a volunteer information session in East Liverpool.

“Despite so much going through my mind, the Red Cross was there every step of the way,” said John. “As a volunteer, I hope to provide others in need the same comfort and support that we received. I want to help others know everything will be okay.”

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John signing up to become a Red Cross volunteer

Although Jocelyn has to wait until she turns 13, she also is eager to become a Red Cross volunteer. Until then, she is looking forward to the opportunity to apply to be a Summer Youth Corps member this year.

The Red Cross will host informational sessions across Northeast Ohio to help you learn about the many ways you can make a difference as a Red Cross volunteer. Youll hear from current volunteers and have an opportunity to ask questions. Volunteer applications will also be available.

Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga County Volunteer Information Sessions

Saturday, Feb. 29

10-11 a.m.

Red Cross Regional Headquarters

3747 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, OH

Summit, Portage and Media County Volunteer Information Sessions

Saturday, March 1

10-11 a.m.

Red Cross Akron Office

501 W. Market St., Akron, OH

Can’t make it to a volunteer session, but interested in volunteering? Click here to visit our volunteer page to learn more about volunteering with the Red Cross and to submit a volunteer application.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

 

Northeast Ohio Region weekend disaster report: February 14-16, 2020

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

February 17, 2020- During Valentine’s Day weekend, with love in the air in Northeast Ohio, the American Red Cross showed compassion and assistance to local residents who experienced a disaster, such as a home fire.

This past weekend, the Red Cross responded to home fires in Bedford, Cleveland, Killbuck, Vermilion and Wellsville, assisting 19 adults, 14 children and provided more than $7,600 in immediate financial assistance to help residents affected by a local disaster get back on their feet.

In 2014, the Red Cross launched the Home Fire Campaign, a nationwide initiative to reduce the number of fire-related deaths by 25 percent. As of the current date, 715 lives had been saved across the country through the Home Fire Campaign, including 15 in Northeast Ohio.

Hurricane Florence 2018

 

Sound the Alarm is a critical part of the campaign. In just six years, our home visits have accomplished so much, including the installation of more than 2 million smoke alarms.

This year, Sound the Alarm will take place from April 18th to May 3rd.

Unfortunately, the lack of working smoke alarms in a home can lead to tragedy. That was the case for Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter board member Rob Griggs and his family. Watch Rob’s story and hear the reason he has worked to prevent other families from going through a similar pain by ensuring working smoke alarms are placed in homes across Northeast Ohio:

For many of us, a smoke alarm is the one item in our homes that we tend to not notice, but for Jackie and her three children, it alerted them to a home fire while they were sleeping, ultimately saving their lives:

For more information on Sound the Alarm and to sign up to volunteer at a smoke alarm installation event near you, visit SoundTheAlarm.org/NEO.