Helping those in need after a disaster is challenging but rewarding

By Mike Arthur, Regional Mass Care & Logistics Manager, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

I’m grateful to live in northern Ohio, one of the safest areas of the country from a weather-related disaster standpoint. We don’t have to worry about a hurricane coming and wiping our homes away. We are unlikely to walk out our front doors and have trouble breathing due to smoke from a nearby wildfire.

I have never worried about the fate of my family and myself, where we would live and work after a disaster destroyed my home and place of work. I have never had to make a decision about which of my hard-earned belongings I need to take with me when I evacuate. I have never had my community devastated. Every year thousands of families have their lives changed drastically when their homes and communities are affected by disasters large and small.

Mike Arthur, during the Red Cross response to hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas in 2017
 

I’m also grateful that I get the opportunity to help people in need. As a Regional Mass Care & Logistics Manager, I get to put the skills and talents learned over the course of my life to good use leading and supporting the American Red Cross workforce in meeting the needs of our clients locally and nationally.

I get to deploy for a few weeks each year making an immediate difference in someone’s life. Deployments to large disasters are tough but incredibly rewarding. The hours can be long. The food is not always five star. I sometimes sleep on a cot in a staff shelter with my fellow workers. It can be stressful. Compassion fatigue is a risk.

Residents wait to receive clean up supplies from the Red Cross after hurricane Harvey in 2017.

I look forward to each deployment and go as often as I can. I feel like I make a difference. I have made incredible friends across the country. I have great stories to tell. I get to bring hope to those in need. I help provide a safe place to sleep and food in bellies, and sometimes, most importantly I can provide a warm hug, bright smile and a sympathetic ear. My life is fuller because of my deployment experiences. I hope you will take to opportunity to join me out in the field this year and experience the magic of helping.

Help those in need when they need it most by becoming a volunteer with the Red Cross. To find a volunteer opportunity that’s right for you, visit redcross.org/volunteer.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, Red Cross volunteer

March 23rd is Giving Day, and the need for Red Cross services is critical

By Tim Poe, Red Cross volunteer

March 23rd is the eighth annual American Red Cross Giving Day, when communities come together to raise awareness about our critical disaster relief mission and fund our lifesaving work across the country. As recent events show, the Red Cross mission and services are critically needed, as #HelpCantWait.

As I reported earlier this month, Disaster Action Team (DAT) responses in our region increased by over 30% in February, mainly due to home fires, and March has continued to be exceptionally busy. Nationally, the Red Cross responded to more than 15,900 home fires since January 1, providing help to almost 60,000.

Please see this video for a behind-the-scenes look at the work Giving Day makes possible.

The blood supply is vulnerable, and help is greatly needed, from blood donors, volunteers, and those providing financial support.

In addition, climate change, global instability, and the effects of the pandemic will continue to pose challenges for all humanitarian services. Challenges that, with your help, the Red Cross will rise to meet. 

On a personal note, as a disaster responder I have seen the benefits of Red Cross services. I often saw the relief on people’s faces when we arrived after a home fire, knowing they would have help recovering. And, as assistance was provided, I also frequently saw human resiliency and signs of hope returning. Such moments occur, on average, more than three times a day in Northern Ohio and are made possible by donors and volunteers.

Here are some examples of what a financial gift can provide:

  • $3: one comfort kit containing hygiene items.
  • $15: one smoke alarm installation with fire safety education.
  • $50: a full day of food and shelter for one person.
  • $135: one smoke alarm and fire safety education for a hearing-impaired person.
  • $150: travel, meals, and shelter for one day for a deployed Red Cross disaster relief, health, or mental health worker.
  • $200: a full day of food and shelter to a family of four. Includes the cost of Red Cross workers to provide this service.
  • $350: the daily cost to deploy an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV).
  • $605: financial assistance for a family impacted by a local disaster, like a home fire. This helps the family purchase food, lodging, clothing, and other critical needs.
  • $4,000: a Sound the Alarm event. Includes installing smoke alarms and providing a fire safety package, deploying an ERV for the day, and lunch for volunteers. Average events install around 200 alarms.

To participate in Giving Day, please visit redcross.org/GivingDay. A gift of any size makes a difference.

For Northern Ohio volunteer opportunities, please visit this link..

To donate blood, visit RedCrossBlood.org.

To learn lifesaving skills like CPR and First Aid, consider taking a class at redcross.org/TakeAClass.

Video streamers can also help. See here if interested.

Red Cross celebrates community heroes during Red Cross Month in March

Please help celebrate the month and Red Cross Giving Day, March 23, by volunteering, donating blood or providing financial support, as #HelpCantWait

By Tim Poe, Red Cross volunteer

As busy and challenging as 2021 was for the American Red Cross’ Northern Ohio region, 2022 may be even more so. Disaster Action Team (DAT) responses in our region increased by over 30% in February, and we continue to face a national blood crisis.

Red Cross volunteer Ben Weisbrod responds to a hotel fire in Parma

As always, volunteers, staff and donors have been stepping up, but we could use your help. Throughout March, the Red Cross honors those who make its mission possible during the annual Red Cross Month celebration—a national tradition started nearly 80 years ago when Franklin D. Roosevelt issued the first national Red Cross Month proclamation. Each U.S. president since has also issued a proclamation.

“When emergencies strike, our community rallies together to help families and individuals when it matters most,” said Tim O’Toole, the Regional Disaster Officer for the Northern Ohio Region. “We honor this dedication during our Red Cross Month celebration, and we invite everyone to join us by turning their compassion into action by joining our response teams. We need help both here locally and to also send teams across the nation to major disasters.”

Help can’t wait during emergencies. Over the last 12 months—between 2/23/2021 and 2/23/2022—Northern Ohio Disaster Action Teams responded over 1,100 times to help families in need in our region, the vast majority of them victims of home fires. Just this past week our teams were in Harrison County assisting victims of flooding as shown in this video.

Nationally, the Red Cross has responded to more than 10,000 home fires, helping more than 37,000 people, since January 1, 2022.

My experience as a Red Cross volunteer has been exceptionally rewarding, whether in communications, disaster response or assisting in another capacity. It is an honor to work alongside so many compassionate, capable people, helping those in need and seeing the appreciation and relief of those we assist.

Please consider joining the Red Cross Month celebration by volunteering. You can also provide financial support on Giving Day or any time.

Jessica Voorheis donates blood at the Emerald Event Center in Avon

Blood donors are needed. The American Red Cross blood supply remains incredibly vulnerable – especially as doctors begin to resume elective surgeries previously delayed by the Omicron variant. It’s critical that individuals schedule a blood or platelet donation immediately to help ensure patients get the care they need as soon as possible.

To make an appointment to give blood, visit RedCrossBlood.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS or download the Red Cross Blood Donor App. As a thank you, all who give in March will receive a $10 e-gift card, thanks to Fanatics. March blood donors will also have a chance to win a trip for two to the 2022 MLB® All-Star Game® in Los Angeles (terms apply; visit rcblood.org/team for details).

Edited by Glenda Bogar, Red Cross volunteer

Weekend disaster responses include helping people affected by flooding

Jewett Flooding

Flooding during the President’s Day weekend kept some Red Cross disaster workers busy across the Northern Ohio Region. Heavy rains in some parts of the region, along with melting snow caused flood damage that brought a Red Cross response to Lorain, Stark, Wayne and Harrison counties.

The village of Jewett in Harrison County was especially hard hit. Red Cross disaster program managers Tim Reichel and Mike Arthur were accompanied by volunteers Dan Best and Arden Tohill on Saturday, when they distributed clean-up kits to nearly two-dozen affected residences.

Jewett Flooding

“Those buckets have everything they need to get a good start,” Tim said during an interview with WTOV 9 news. “They’ve come out of their homes, they’ve welcomed us, we’ve gotten a few hugs along the way,” Tim continued. “It’s what we do and it’s a pleasure to do it.”

Weekend responses also included home fires in Cleveland, Akron, Wooster, and Masury, Ohio in Trumbull County. More than 60 children and adults received Red Cross assistance throughout Northern Ohio.

February has been a very busy month for Red Cross Disaster Action Teams. Responses are up more than 30% over February of 2021, and Red Cross caseworkers are continuing to help hundreds of people find a path to recovery.

While President’s Day is a federal holiday, the Red Cross remains ready to respond to emergencies, today and every day of the year.

“While many will be relaxing with family and friends, our teams remain vigilant,” said Tim O’Toole, Regional Disaster Officer.

Jewett Flooding

If you’d like to help neighbors in need following a home fire, flooding or some other disaster, visit redcross.org/volunteer to apply for a spot on our Disaster Action Teams. The Red Cross is also in need of trained medical and mental health professionals to assist people following disasters big and small. A virtual information session for licensed healthcare and mental healthcare providers will be held this Thursday, February 24, from 12:00 to 1:00 pm. To RSVP for this event, email neovolunteer@redcross.org, or call 216-431-3328. A Microsoft Teams meeting link will be emailed to you prior to the event. A conference call option will also be available.

Multiple weekend fires force dozens to flee their homes

Red Cross disaster workers respond to 17 calls for help

85 residents of Northern Ohio – including more than two-dozen children – spent part of the weekend seeking shelter, following 17 separate calls for assistance due to home fires. 

One of the first calls on Friday night came from Strongsville, where fire affected 18 units of an apartment building complex.

Disaster Program Specialist Jessi Graber responding to fire in Strongsville

Multiple family fires also occurred over the weekend in Elyria, Bowling Green, Rossford (Wood County) and Toledo, where three multiple family fires occurred.

Red Cross volunteer disaster responder Bob Osicki, also in Strongsville

“It’s important for people to use extreme caution if using space heaters or other alternatives to help heat their homes,” said Mike Parks, Regional CEO, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio.  “While we don’t determine the cause of these fires, we do know that alternative heating sources are a major contributor to home fires this time of year.”

Red Cross volunteers who responded to these fires provided the affected residents with more than $20,000 collectively in immediate financial assistance, to help these families find a safe and warm place to stay, get something to eat, replace clothing or fulfill other needs.

The funds are provided by generous donors, who contribute to the Red Cross disaster relief fund, to help during and after disasters big and small.

Donations to help people affected by disaster can be made here.  And to learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer disaster responder, visit us here.

Red Cross responds to weekend home fires, works to make homes safer

Volunteers install smoke alarms, assist people during their darkest hours

A dozen weekend fires kept responders busy in Northern Ohio, as firefighters throughout the region worked hard to prevent loss of life and property, while Red Cross volunteers assisted nearly 3-dozen people who were chased from their homes.

In Toledo, fire affected residents living in an eight-unit apartment building on Friday, January 7.  See coverage of the response here.

In all, 35 people were assisted by the Red Cross, which distributed more than $9,200 in immediate financial assistance, to help residents find safe shelter, food, clothing, and other immediate needs.

Red Cross volunteers provide refreshments for Akron firefighters battling a blaze at the former Lawndale School on 01-10-22. Photo credit: Teresa Greenlief, American
Red Cross volunteer.

Red Cross workers also helped about 40 Akron firefighters on Monday morning, as they battled flames in an abandoned school building, providing snacks and hot beverages on a bitterly cold morning.

On Saturday, several Red Cross
volunteers and the Cleveland Fire Department fanned out in the city’s Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood to install free smoke alarms and provide home fire safety information to residents.  This followed a fatal home fire in the area last month.

“People don’t stand a chance if there’s no alarm to warn them about a fire,” said homeowner Juan Ramirez, while Red Cross volunteer Benjamin Cutler installed several new alarms in his Franklin Avenue home.  Volunteer Ellen Braun briefed Mr. Ramirez about keeping him and his family safe, including information about testing smoke alarms every month.

“We walk right under it (smoke alarm) every day. You just don’t think about it,” he said.

Marc Ruckel of West Clinton Avenue said he was grateful that the Red Cross was helping him check smoke alarms off his to-do list.  “It’s something I needed to do,” he said, adding, “I just never got around to it.”

Northern Ohio residents can visit soundthealarm.org/noh to request a home fire safety visit, which includes free smoke alarm installations.  Due to the ongoing pandemic, appointments to fulfill smoke alarm requests may be delayed.

For additional photos, visit our Flickr photo album here.

Northern Ohio Red Cross Disaster Response Teams assisted over 500 people this Holiday Season

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross Volunteer

In Northern Ohio and nationwide, the American Red Cross was exceptionally active this holiday season, as it was for the entire year.

Between November 22, when this year-to-date post was published, and January 2, 2022, Northern Ohio Disaster Action Teams (DAT) responded to 181 incidents, assisting 542 people.

 34 of these incidents, assisting 100, were over the Christmas weekend.
 Another 34 incidents, assisting 110, were during Thanksgiving week.
 Nine incidents occurred over the New Year holiday weekend, with 41 people assisted.

Canton Shelter

Responses included:
 Fatal fires in Toledo, Cleveland, and Akron.
 A home explosion in Toledo, and large multi-family fires in Maple Heights and Toledo.
 A parking garage collapse in Lakewood, which led to the evacuation of a large
apartment building. The Red Cross provided meals and snacks to residents and first responders following the collapse.
 A shelter opening in Canton, where for two days, the Red Cross helped provide meals and a place to stay to families who were temporarily displaced.
 Eight Northern Red Cross staff members and volunteers deployed to Kentucky following deadly tornadoes.
 Installation of 50 free smoke alarms.

To illustrate DAT’s effectiveness, Tom Revolinsky, Disaster Program Manager for the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio said, “Dave Huey (volunteer) and I went on a multi-family late night fire where one family’s apartment was destroyed and another was heavily damaged, and an 11-year-old girl had critical injuries. When Dave and I spoke with family members, the appreciation and relief in their voices that the Red Cross was there to help brought back into focus the importance of our mission.

Tom also spoke of the importance of fire safety and ongoing efforts.

Maple Heights fire 12/21

“Responding to fatal fires is the most difficult thing we do,” Tom said. “To help prevent these tragedies, the Red Cross installs free smoke alarms. During installation, families are educated on fire prevention and assisted in developing an escape plan. In early December we installed 50 smoke alarms, making 16 homes safer, in the Aetna Road area of Cleveland where a fatal fire occurred in early November. On January 8th, we are installing smoke alarms with the Cleveland Fire Department in the W. 54th street area of Cleveland where twins tragically perished in a fire in early December. Smoke alarms save lives.”

Jani Memorich, a volunteer Disaster Action Team (DAT) leader, spoke very highly of fellow DAT members and their dedication.

“Awesome work done by awesome people,” Jani said. “We are truly blessed in Northern Ohio to have such a dedicated team working with DAT. As a DAT responder and someone who has deployed to other states for disasters, I get to tell the Red Cross story from my perspective as a volunteer. This brings awareness to people who may never have needed the services of the Red Cross and only vaguely understand all we do.”

Jani also expressed hope that more will volunteer, saying, “Hopefully through our own volunteerism we can inspire others to take up the mantel. There is so much work to be done and so few who actually do it. That is my hope for 2022, that more people give of themselves, to help mend others.”

If you are able, please consider volunteering with the Red Cross, either as a DAT member or in another capacity. Information can be found here.

More relief workers from NOH head to tornado-stricken KY

Many will spend the holidays away from home to help others

Two more disaster workers – volunteers – from Northern Ohio left their homes today to head to Kentucky, where they will join the American Red Cross disaster relief operation in Kentucky.

Al Irwin and Barb Gabel departed from the Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley chapter headquarters Monday morning, December 20th, in an emergency response vehicle (ERV), fully aware that they will be spending the Christmas holiday away from home.

Al Irwin and Barb Gabel

“It’s the first time in forever I haven’t been with my kids,” Barb said. “They understand. They know this is what I really want to do, so I’m going to celebrate when I get home.”

Al shared similar sentiments. “Especially at this time of year, I can’t even imagine what they’re going through,” he said. “Anything we can to to help alleviate their pain, I’m all in.”

Today, some 470 trained Red Cross disaster workers from all over the country remain on the ground in multiple states, providing shelter, meals, comfort and support after last week’s devastating tornadoes that left behind a heartbreaking trail of destruction. Our hearts go out to all those whose lives have been forever changed by these deadly storms.

  • In Kentucky, hundreds of people remain displaced, and the Red Cross is working alongside state officials and other community organizations to support those staying in emergency shelters and other temporary accommodations, such as state park lodges and hotel rooms.
  • With the help of partners, the Red Cross has served more than 28,000 meals and snacks, distributed more than 16,700 relief items, and provided more than 3,800 individual care contacts to help people with medical or disability needs, as well as emotional and spiritual support during these challenging times.

This will be the third time Al has been part of an ERV crew at a disaster. He expects to be loaded with food, water, and critical supplies when they arrive at their destination in Kentucky, and to then drive into impacted areas to bring much needed relief to people who have suffered so much.

“Anything I’m feeling right now, they have it much, much worse,” Barb said. “Anything I can do to ease their pain and make them happy, I’ll do it.”

Volunteers respond to multiple local disasters; mobilize to assist in national relief efforts after horrific weekend tornadoes

It was another busy weekend for American Red Cross Northern Ohio disaster volunteers. Disaster action team members assisted families in nine counties who were affected by home fires, storms and a building collapse. The Red Cross helped 56 individuals, providing $11,433 in immediate assistance. Tragically, two young children died in one home fire. The Red Cross continues to provide home fire safety information to residents and install smoke alarms for those who need them. To request a smoke alarm, visit this site

December 12, 2021. Bowling Green, Kentucky. Sharon Wilson speaks to Red Cross volunteer Amy Miller and explains what happened to her last Saturday morning. Photo by Marko Kokic/American Red Cross

In addition to responding to local disasters, the Red Cross is deeply saddened by the loss of life and incredible devastation brought by the horrific tornadoes that touched down this weekend across multiple states in the center of the country. Over the weekend, Red Cross personnel and volunteers were busy mobilizing to help assist on large relief efforts in Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Missouri to provide safe shelter, comfort and support in the face of one of the most devastating tornado outbreaks in years. Northern Ohio volunteers will be leaving in the coming days along with two emergency response vehicles from the Region, each with a two-person crew.

If you are a current volunteer with the Red Cross, please consider deploying to assist in the relief efforts around the Midwest and southern tornadoes. With such widespread damage, we know families will need support for weeks to come and the Red Cross will be there for as long as we are needed. To be considered for deployment, please update your availability in Volunteer Connection and someone will contact you. The Red Cross also needs additional volunteers who are willing to be trained and to deploy to future disasters.  A two-week commitment is typically required. Visit our website or call 216-431-3328 to apply.

In addition to disaster relief, the Red Cross has also provided approximately 200 additional blood products to hospitals in response to these devastating tornadoes. We remain in contact with our hospital partners throughout the affected areas and stand ready to provide additional blood products as needed. We anticipate Red Cross blood drives in affected communities may be canceled or experience lower donor turnout in the coming days, straining supply levels. We depend on the community to donate blood so we are able to provide it to those in need each day. If you are eligible to give, please schedule an appointment in the coming weeks. If you have questions about your eligibility to give, learn more here or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Dedicated volunteers spend Thanksgiving week assisting home fire victims

While many of us enjoyed time relaxing with family and friends over the Thanksgiving holiday, American Red Cross disaster volunteers were busy responding to multiple incidents across the Northern Ohio Region. During the week of Thanksgiving, November 22-28, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio responded to 34 home fires, affecting 110 adults and children. We distributed more than $22,000 in immediate assistance to help these families begin the recovery process.


Of the many responses that happened in the past week, three occurred on Thanksgiving Day. Dedicated volunteers in the Northern Ohio Region left their own families and celebrations to assist families facing one of the worst days imaginable. Without the continued commitment of volunteers who are available 24/7 to respond to disasters, the Red Cross could not meet the needs of the many communities we serve.

The Red Cross normally sees an increase in local disasters, especially home fires, during the holiday season and this year is no exception. Cooking accidents and home heating mistakes often lead to fires that leave families stranded during the winter months. The Red Cross encourages the community to celebrate safely in the coming weeks and to read up on our tips to cook and decorate safely.


It’s also important that families are prepared for a home fire that could happen at any time. In most cases, families have less than two minutes to escape a home fire, although many believe they have much longer. The Red Cross encourages you to protect your family by taking two simple steps.

  1. Practice your two-minute escape drill
  2. Test your smoke alarms monthly

In an effort to #EndHomeFires, the Red Cross continues to provide home fire safety information to residents and to install smoke alarms for those who need them. On Monday Nov. 29, volunteers visited 22 homes and installed 67 smoke alarms in Cleveland and East Cleveland. View our photo album here.

For more information on the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, fire safety tips, or to request a smoke alarm, please visit this site. The Red Cross also has an urgent need for volunteers to respond to local disasters and help in other ways as we carry out our lifesaving mission. Learn more about our volunteer positions and sign up today.