How to help during hurricane season

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

June 1, 2020- The Atlantic hurricane season 2020 starts June 1 and continues through November 30. According to the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this year has a 60% chance of being worse than normal.

Predictions include 13 to 19 named storms, of which six to 10 could develop into hurricanes, and three to six of those could develop into major hurricanes, Category 3 to Category 5.

We’ve already seen the first two tropical storms: Arthur, which began on May 16, touching the coast of North Carolina, and Bertha, which gained tropical storm status for a few hours on May 27, making landfall in South Carolina.

Texas Tornadoes 2020

So how can you help?

While Northern Ohio is far from most hurricanes, our volunteers often are called on to provide assistance to areas impacted by violent winds and high floodwaters. And due to new precautions being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, volunteers are needed more than ever to help with responses to large hurricanes and wildfires.

“This year hurricane preparations will be the same—yet different,” said Tim O’Toole, regional disaster officer. “This is due in large measure to working within the COVID-19 environment.”

He said COVID-19 makes everything more complex. “While our preference is to utilize non-congregate sheltering, such as hotel rooms and dormitories, large events such as hurricanes will require us to open congregate shelters. The COVID environment will require us to increase spacing in shelters in order to comply with social distancing guidelines. This means we may need to open more shelters, but with fewer people in them to provide an adequate response.”

Texas Tornadoes 2020

Tim said such a response will require a larger volunteer disaster workforce.  And that more volunteer health workers will be needed, as residents seeking shelter will be required to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms.

“However, we are trying to reduce the number of workers needed on the ground, and are hoping much of the management and recovery teams can be virtual,” he said. “We have had success with this model in responding to recent tornadoes and flooding in the southern U.S, but hurricanes and wildfires will be the real test.”

Virtual volunteers don’t have to leave their homes. They can perform valuable services doing family reunification work or casework.

All it takes is some free training that the Red Cross will gladly provide. If you start now, you could be trained and ready to help before the next big storm hits. Start your volunteer experience here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Northern Ohio Region weekend disaster report: May 22-25, 2020

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

May 26, 2020- While many across Northern Ohio were remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in defending our country and took time to get out of their homes to enjoy the summer-like temperatures, the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio was responding to local disasters to assist residents in need.

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During Memorial Day weekend, May 22-25, Disaster Action Team members were assisting residents experiencing one of the worst days of their lives. To comply with social distancing guidelines, the Red Cross responded virtually to assist 65 individuals in 9 counties, Ashland, Columbiana, Cuyahoga, Lorain, Lucas, Stark, Summit and Trumbull, and provided more than $10,200 in immediate financial assistance.

“It is so gratifying to know our Disaster Action Team volunteers are ready, willing and able to respond to disasters like home fires, even on weekends and holidays,” said Tim O’Toole, Regional Disaster Officer for the Red Cross of Northern Ohio.  “And they have adjusted to the new protocol for responding virtually, so that they are safe and the residents they assist are kept safe.”

To date, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio has responded to 1,039 local disasters, assisted 4,553 individuals and has provided $881,325 in immediate financial assistance.

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Even during this historic, challenging time, the Red Cross continues to respond in times of crisis, thanks to the extraordinarily dedication and compassion of Red Cross volunteers.

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Wherever you are, there’s a role you can play right now with the Red Cross. Visit https://www.redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer.html to find an opportunity near you.

 

Northern Ohio Region weekend disaster report: May 15-17, 2020

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

May 18, 2020-  With the sun shining and the temperatures allowing for shorts to be worn, many in Northern Ohio were taking advantage of the warmer weather and enjoying the outdoors to get outside of their homes. However for some, they were experiencing one of the worst days of their lives due to a local disaster, such as a home fire.

While other Northern Ohioans were basking in the sun, American Red Cross disaster responders were assisting residents in need.

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During the weekend of May 15-17, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio assisted more than 80 individuals in 11 responses and and provided more than $9,300 in immediate financial assistance.

All of the weekend disaster responses were done virtually to comply with social distancing measures.

This year to date, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio has responded to 1,021 incidents, assisted 2,917 adults and 1,551 children, as well as provided $862,520.

Texas Tornadoes 2020

One of the responses was an apartment fire at a 36-unit building in Dundee, Michigan in Monroe County on Saturday. This was the second large response for the American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio in as many days.

“I’m proud of our disaster team. I’m always proud of them; but I’m especially proud during these uncertain times. Kudos to our staff and volunteers for continuing impeccable service delivery every day,” said Rachel Hepner-Zawodny, executive director.

Texas Tornadoes 2020

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.

Northern Ohio Region weekend disaster report: May 8-10, 2020

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross on Northern Ohio

May 11, 2020- Over the weekend, Northern Ohio residents were finding new and creative ways to show their love and appreciation to the mothers they know, while adhering to social distancing to ensure everyone’s safety from COVID-19.

Home Fire Save Story New Orleans, Louisiana 2019

While many were celebrating mothers, unfortunately some were experiencing the worst days of their lives due to a local disaster and the Northern Ohio Region Disaster Action Team was there to provide support and assistance because emergencies don’t take breaks.

During the weekend of May 8-10, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio assisted 34 individuals and provided $8,995 in immediate financial assistance.

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To date, the Northern Ohio Region has responded to 996 emergencies, assisted more than 4,300 individuals and have provided $838,790 in immediate financial assistance.

Safety for Red Cross Disaster Action Team members and the residents we assist is our number one priority. While our workers can no longer hug people due to social distancing, it does not mean the renowned comfort the Red Cross is known for has to stop.

DAT home fire responses Atlanta, Georgia video screenshots 2019

The Red Cross has come up with new ways to deliver the much-needed assistance to those who are experiencing the worst day of their lives:

  • We have screening questions that we ask residents before we respond, to protect our volunteers and those we assist.
  • We can conduct interviews over the phone, to ensure that we have a timely response in order to meet their needs and get them assistance in the form of shelter, food, clothing, disaster health services or disaster mental health services.
  • We have the capability to conduct video interviews, so the resident sees the smile, and the helping demeanor of our volunteers.
  • We have developed ways to deliver cards loaded with financial assistance to a location of the resident’s choosing, always with the safety and health of our volunteer and those in need of assistance at the forefront.
  • We also have volunteer caseworkers who will work with residents on the phone to connect them with community partners.

Tennessee Tornadoes 2020

The Red Cross is looking for individuals to join the disaster action team 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.

Red Cross continues to respond to local disasters virtually

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

April 27, 2020- For everyone in Northern Ohio, and across the world, COVID-19 has changed many aspects of everyday life and forced us to adapt to this new normal. However, one aspect that COVID-19 could not change was the fact that emergencies do not take breaks.

Regardless of the pandemic, local disasters, such as home fires, are still occurring and the Red Cross’ mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies must go on. However, the Red Cross has had to find a new way to provide the Red Cross assistance that many rely on following an emergency.

Safety for Red Cross Disaster Action Team members and the residents we are assist is our number on priority. While we no longer can give a hug or a handshake due to social distancing, it does not mean the renowned comfort the Red Cross is known for has to stop.

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The Red Cross has come up with new and inventive ways to deliver the much-needed assistance to those who are experiencing the worst day of their lives:

  • We have screening questions that we ask our clients before we respond, to protect our volunteers and our clients.
  • We can conduct interviews over the phone, to ensure that we have a timely response in order to meet their needs and get them assistance in the form of shelter, food, clothing, disaster health services or disaster mental health services.
  • We have the capability to conduct video interviews, so the client sees the smile, and the helping demeanor of our volunteers.
  • We have developed ways to deliver cards loaded with financial assistance to a location of the client’s choosing, always with the safety and health of our volunteer and clients at the forefront.
  • We also have volunteer caseworkers who will work with our clients on the phone to connect them with community partners.

Over the weekend, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio virtually assisted 13 adults, 6 children and provided more than $3,500 in immediate financial assistance.

The Northern Ohio Region will be hosting two virtual volunteer information sessions this week. The two sessions, tomorrow, April 28 5:30-6:30 p.m. and Wednesday, April 29 12-1 p.m., will provide you an opportunity to learn how you can make a difference by providing disaster response assistance, assisting at blood drives which keep our nation’s blood supply stable and providing support to our military, veterans and their families

The information sessions will take place online.

For more information and to RSVP, contact Melanie Collins at (330) 204-6615 or melanie.collins4@redcross.org.

 

Northern Ohio Region actively assists residents in need during first week

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

April 13, 2020- During its first week following the territorial realignment, the new American Red Cross of Northern Ohio was active in assisting residents in need who were experiencing the worst day of their lives.

Tennessee Tornadoes 2020

Last week, the Northern Ohio Region responded to disasters in Carroll, Columbiana, Cuyahoga, Jefferson, Lorain, Lucas, Medina, Portage, Putnam, Stark, Summit, Trumbull, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties. In those 14 counties, Disaster Action Team members assisted and comforted 115 residents, who suffered disasters such as home fires and storm damage, and provided $22,870 in immediate financial assistance.

Even during a pandemic, other disasters don’t stop—and neither does the work of the Red Cross.

Our brave volunteers are still responding to disasters like home fires, tornadoes and earthquakes, so impacted families receive help and hope—even during these trying times.

Tropical Storm Imelda 2019

The American public can help “flatten the curve” by practicing social distancing, staying home as much as possible, washing their hands, and taking other precautions to stay healthy.

You can help the Red Cross deliver its lifesaving mission nationwide during this public health emergency by donating at redcross.org.

DAT home fire responses Atlanta, Georgia video screenshots 2019

The Red Cross is also 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.

 

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