Red Cross adapts sheltering strategies to maintain safety as hurricane season begins, pandemic continues

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

July 31, 2020- Providing shelter and care after a major disaster—such as a hurricane or tropical storm—is especially challenging during a pandemic.

Hurricane Hanna 2020

July 28, 2020. Edcouch, Texas Marc Lazerow of the American Red Cross welcomes the Cantu family to their cots at a Red Cross shelter for people displaced by Hurricane Hanna in Edcouch, TX on Tuesday July 28, 2020. Family units are grouped closer together while other cots are spaced further apart for social distance from others. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

As the 2020 hurricane season begins, Mike Arthur, the Red Cross’ regional mass care and logistics manager for Northern Ohio, updated area volunteers and staff on sheltering methods during the pandemic. Here is an overview of initiatives:

The Red Cross’ mission is to assist everyone, regardless of background or illness status. Several steps are being taken to ensure safety and provide assistance for all in need following a disaster. These include following CDC guidance to identify those with COVID-19 symptoms and adhering to public health guidelines for quarantines. In addition, each shelter will have an Isolation Care Area. Those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or show signs of illness will be separated from the general shelter population.

When possible, the Red Cross will employ non-congregate sheltering. Red Cross representatives will work with partners and communities to find non-congregate options, such as hotels, dormitories and campgrounds.

Hurricane Hanna 2020

July 28, 2020. Edcouch, Texas The Cantu’s family get their temperatures checked as part of a COVID-19 screening precaution before entering a Red Cross emergency shelter for people displaced by Hurricane Hanna in Edcouch, TX on Tuesday July 28, 2020. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

When a congregate shelter is needed, ensure safety. In some cases, a congregate shelter may be the only option. In this event, the Red Cross will work to reduce the risk of infection, including:

  • Ensuring resources are available for Isolation Care Areas.
  • Requiring everyone to be screened before entering a shelter.
  • Increasing health and security staff.
  • Following social distancing practices inside the shelter.
  • Maintaining a safe environment through increased cleaning and disinfection of facilities.
  • Following safe practices when providing food and supplies and handling waste removal.
  • Providing virtual support services where possible.
  • Moving to smaller shelters and finding non-congregate housing as soon as possible.

While Northern Ohio is not prone to hurricanes, the region does experience disasters that require mass care and sheltering, such as apartment building and condominium fires. And wherever hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and other national disasters occur, many local Red Cross volunteers and staff deploy to affected areas.

Hurricane Hanna 2020

July 28, 2020. Edcouch, Texas Diana Buckley of the American Red Cross checks on Jose and his wife Maria Elvia, who needs hospice care, at a Red Cross emergency shelter for people displaced by Hurricane Hanna in Edcouch, TX on Tuesday July 28, 2020. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

Additionally, every day in Northern Ohio, Red Cross staff and volunteers help people recover after a home fire. The organization is reducing COVID-19 risk in these cases as well, particularly by using virtual support as much as possible.

Hurricane Hanna 2020

July 28, 2020. La Feria, Texas Siblings, from left to right, Yakelin, 10 years old, Reyes Jr., 11 years old and Edwin, 16 years old, play with their smart phones while resting in their cots at a Red Cross emergency shelter for families displaced by Hurricane Hanna, in La Feria, TX on Tuesday July 28, 2020. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

With these and other adaptations, the Red Cross is doing all it can to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure while effectively continuing its mission. Help is needed to sustain this important work. If you are interested in becoming a Red Cross volunteer, information is available here. If you are able to provide financial support, please visit this page.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

“Red Cross Roadie” hits the road again

IT worker heads to USVI ahead of strengthening storm

 

By Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross

July 29, 2020- David Schindler is heading to his 35th assignment as an information technology (IT) volunteer for the American Red Cross, as tropical storm Isaias chugs toward the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

He is being deployed as the disaster services technology chief, responsible for setting up workstations, ensuring connectivity, and troubleshooting tech issues for Red Cross disaster workers who could be assigned to respond to the storm.

“It’s the best job I’ve ever had,” said the unassuming IT expert from his home in Lake County, as he prepared Tuesday night for his trip to St. Thomas, USVI.

How long he stays is anybody’s guess.

“I spent 21 months in Austin, Texas for the Hurricane Katrina response,” David said, recalling one of his first Red Cross assignments.  It was also his longest, but lengthy assignments are routine for him.

“I spent six months in Puerto Rico for (responding to) Hurricane Maria,” where he helped establish satellite services for the people of the devastated island.

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David Schindler on a Zoom virtual news conference on July 28 prior to deploying to the U.S. Virgin Islands

“David is an outstanding volunteer, and an outstanding individual,” said Emily Probst, the workforce engagement manager for the Red Cross of Northern Ohio.  “So many people depend on him, and he always answers the call.”

“I call myself a Red Cross roadie,” David said, recalling the Jackson Browne song about the workers who are the first to arrive to set up the stage and the band’s equipment, and are the last to leave after packing everything away for the next show on the tour.

David spent a career as an information technology systems manager before retiring 16 years ago and using his experience to assist us whenever and wherever people need Red Cross help.

What’s changed since then?  “Laptops have gotten lighter.  Cellphones are different. We had flip phones when I started.  Now we use smartphones.”

Hurricane Hanna 2020

July 28, 2020. Edcouch, Texas Juanita Casanova of the American Red Cross surveys flooding caused by Hurricane Hanna, on the outskirts of Edcouch, TX on Tuesday July 28, 2020.  Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

David rates the technology we use as state-of-the art.

As a disaster services technology chief, David said he has worked with up to 80 others on disaster responses, and at times, he has been the sole technology worker.

“Every operation has unique challenges,” David said.  He’s not too concerned about traveling for this assignment, despite COVID-19.  The Red Cross is following CDC guidelines and has instituted several procedures to ensure the health and safety of its workforce and the people we are assisting.

“I’m a little concerned about wearing a face covering all day, but it’s a petty thing when you think about the job we’re doing.”

If you’re healthy and you would like to help others who may be affected by severe weather this hurricane/wildfire season by working in a shelter, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.

 

 

Early active hurricane season highlights need for disaster support

By Eric Alves, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

July 27, 2020- Earlier this year, weather experts predicted that the 2020 hurricane season would be one of the most intense seasons in recent memory. So far, the early hurricane season has not made any efforts to debunk those predictions, with an unprecedented 8 named storms already developing, with 4 months remaining in the season.

Currently there are two different storms affecting different regions of the United States, which the American Red Cross is actively monitoring to assist residents in need.

Hurricane Hanna

Hanna

  • Record-earliest eighth named storm in the Atlantic Basin and the first hurricane of the season.
  • Downgraded to a tropical storm overnight after making landfall twice Saturday evening along southern Texas’s Gulf coast as a Category 1 hurricane.
  • Heavy rainfall has already produced numerous reports of flash flooding across south Texas, and tropical storm conditions are expected to continue Sunday afternoon.

Red Cross Response:

In response to Hanna, the Red Cross has pre-positioned thousands of cots, blankets and other shelter supplies across the Gulf Coast.

The Red Cross has also opened 3 Red Cross shelters in Cameron, Nueces and Kleberg Counties and is supporting the state with hotel stays as needed. The Red Cross is also serving hundreds of meals and snacks with partners so far.

Hurricane Douglas

Douglas

  • First Eastern Pacific major hurricane of the season as it became a Category 4 storm on July 24. As of Sunday morning, Douglas was downgraded to a Category 1 storm.
  • Although some slow weakening is anticipated over the next two days, Douglas is expected to maintain its hurricane intensity as it passes dangerously close to the main Hawaiian Islands on Sunday and into Monday. If it does make landfall, it would be only the third hurricane to make landfall in Hawaii.
  • With the close passage of the storm, damaging winds, flooding rainfall, dangerously high surf and mudslides could threaten the islands. Impacts from Douglas will first impact the Big Island before moving to Maui and other islands into the beginning of this week.

Red Cross Response:

The Red Cross has pre-positioned relief supplies to support residents in need. The Red Cross is also currently supporting 5 government-run evacuation centers and several more are expected to open today.

In addition to Hanna and Douglas, the Red Cross is closely monitoring Invest 92L in the Atlantic. It is expected to move westward during the next several days, and it could become a tropical depression or storm this week as it moves toward the Lesser Antilles.

While a busy hurricane season, along with a busy wildfire season, is enough cause for concern, the current environment surrounding COVID-19 is making responding to disasters more difficult.

As COVID-19 numbers increase, it is making it challenging for the Red Cross to deploy trained disaster volunteers to other parts of the country should an emergency occur. To help respond to these disasters, the Red Cross needs volunteers from the Northern Ohio Region


, who are willing to travel when necessary, to lend a helping hand.

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Shelter Help Needed

There is a special need for volunteers to support sheltering efforts. Because of COVID-19, the Red Cross is placing those needing a safe place to stay in emergency hotel lodging when possible. If hotel stays aren’t possible, then the Red Cross will open traditional shelters. To help keep people safe, we have put in place additional precautions and developed special training for our workforce.

We need volunteers to help staff shelter reception, registration, feeding, dormitory, information collection and other vital tasks to help those we serve. We have both associate and supervisory level opportunities available.

Health Services Support Needed 

If you are an RN, LPN, LVN, APRN, NP, EMT, paramedic, MD/DO or PA with an active, current and unencumbered license, the Red Cross needs your support. Volunteers are needed in shelters to help assess people’s health. Daily observation and health screening for COVID-19-like illness among shelter residents may also be required. RNs supervise all clinical tasks.

Roles are also available for Certified Nursing Assistants, Certified Home Health Aides, student nurses and medical students. We need volunteers who can provide care as delegated by a licensed nurse in shelters. This could include assisting with activities of daily living, personal assistance services, providing health education and helping to replace medications, durable medical equipment or consumable medical supplies.

If you are interested in helping our community should a disaster occur, please go to redcross.org/volunteertoday

Northern Ohio Region weekend disaster report: July 10-12, 2020

By Eric Alves, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio 

July 13, 2020- The coronavirus is a topic that is on the top of everyone’s mind in Northern Ohio. We are all concerned about the new increase in cases, which is why over the weekend the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio lent a helping hand to those helping keep our communities safer.

On Friday, July 10, the Red Cross of Northwest Ohio helped support the COVID-19 testing site on Put-in-Bay by providing snacks, beverages and lunch for the essential workers who were administering the tests to the workers on South Bass Island.

In addition to providing support to the COVID-19 testing site over the weekend, the Red Cross responded to local disasters, such as home fires and storm damage, in Columbiana, Cuyahoga, Lucas, Putnam, Summit, Trumbull and Wayne counties.

In addition to providing comfort and support to 46 residents during their time of need, the Disaster Action Team provided the residents $11,980 in immediate financial assistance.

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To date in the new fiscal year, which began on July 1, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio has assisted 117 adults, 84 children and has provided $44,900 in immediate financial assistance.

Volunteers make up 90 percent of our workforce. Our volunteers are without a doubt the face of the Red Cross. If you are interested in helping your local community, we have a wide variety volunteer opportunities, including important volunteer-from-home opportunities available. There truly is an opportunity for everyone. Find your opportunity today by visiting redcross.org/volunteer.

Furthermore, have you or someone you know recovered from COVID-19 and you would like to help others recover? The Red Cross is calling on individuals who have recovered from the coronavirus to donate convalescent plasma to aid in the treatment of others suffering from the virus.

To donate, visit RedCrossBlood.org and fill out the donor eligibility form.

Northern Ohio Region weekend disaster report: July 3-5, 2020

By Eric Alves, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

July 6, 2020- The Fourth of July is a significant time in Northern Ohio. Despite the coronavirus changing or putting a hold on many traditions, it is still an opportunity to relax and create some memories.

However for some in Northern Ohio, the tranquility of the holiday weekend was disrupted by a disaster.

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Luckily, the dedicated members of the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio Disaster Action Team were ready to help residents in need at a moment’s notice, to provide support and comfort, despite their own plans.

Over the holiday weekend, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio responded to several local disasters, including five multi-family home fires in Akron, Cleveland and Toledo, a water main break in South Euclid and a fireworks explosion in Toledo.

During the active weekend, the DAT team assisted 109 individuals in Columbiana, Cuyahoga, Lucas, Mahoning, Seneca, Stark, Summit and Trumbull counties, and provided more than $22,800 in immediate financial assistance.

DAT home fire responses Atlanta, Georgia video screenshots 2019

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 following a disaster, please visit redcross.org/donate to provide a financial donation. Any amount donated truly helps with their recovery.

Volunteers, such as members of the DAT team, are the face of the Red Cross. Without their tremendous and selfless dedication, we would not be able to serve the 31 counties and 5.3 million residents of Northern Ohio.

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Be one of the many volunteers that make up 90 percent of the Red Cross’ workforce and help others in need in your local community by becoming a Red Cross volunteer today. Visit redcross.org/volunteer to learn more and to apply.

Northern Ohio Region weekend disaster report: June 12-14, 2020

By Eric Alves, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

June 15, 2020- For many of us, the weekend is a time of tranquility. It gives us a chance to stay at home, hang out with family and friends and decompress after a stressful week.

However, for some in Northern Ohio, that tranquility was disturbed due to a local disaster, such as a home fire.

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Luckily, an American Red Cross Disaster Action Team member was there to help comfort the resident, even if it was done virtually, and helped guide them on getting back on their feet.

The weekend of June 12-14 was a particularly busy weekend for the Red Cross of Northern Ohio. In fact, the weekend was so busy that some of our DAT workers had to respond to one disaster call, immediately following another.

This weekend, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio assisted 70 individuals in Ashtabula, Columbiana, Cuyahoga, Erie, Hancock, Holmes, Lorain, Lucas, Monroe (MI), Summit and Wood counties. The Red Cross also provided $14,890 in immediate financial assistance to the residents affected.

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The year to date, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio has assisted 3,185 adults, 1,703 children and provided more than $945,000 in financial assistance.

Your donations make a big impact in helping the Red Cross assist residents following a local disaster. The Red Cross uses your donations to help provide food, shelter, relief supplies, emotional support, recovery planning and other assistance during disasters.

Texas Tornadoes 2020

To help the Red Cross help residents of Northern Ohio following a disaster, visit redcross.org/donate. Any amount donated truly helps and goes a long way in making a difference.

 

Red Cross assists residents following summer storm

By Eric Alves, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

June 12, 2020- As many of us know, here in Northern Ohio we are prone to intense summer storms. This was the case on Wednesday night as the region was forced to withstand heavy rain and high wind speeds due to the extremely high temperatures we were experiencing.

For many in Northern Ohio, myself included, our power went out due to those harsh conditions outside. Whenever the power goes out, it can be scary and even stressful as we worry about things like the food in our refrigerator. However, now imagine how scary a power outage can be if you need that power to keep the medical equipment that you rely on running.

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That was the case for some residents during the storm. Luckily, the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio was there to provide support and assistance.

“A power outage is very significant to the person experiencing it. Sometimes it can constitute what Red Cross considers a true humanitarian need, but only in certain circumstances. Our responders are trained to ask certain questions to determine if we can assist financially. These answers may lead us to having a member of disaster health services evaluate a resident,” said Renee Palagyi, senior program manager, disaster cycle services.

Renee added, “A resident who has medical equipment powered by electricity may or may not qualify depending on the severity of their condition and the frequency of equipment use. Some individuals are considered medically fragile and even despite not needing medical equipment, may not be able to withstand extremes in temperature. Ultimately, our disaster health services volunteers, with their extensive nursing backgrounds, are the best at determining who meets the criteria in these situations.”

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Following the Wednesday night storm, the Red Cross provided storm assistance to 25 individuals, many of which were dependent on medical equipment, and provided over $4,000 in immediate financial assistance.

In addition, the Red Cross assisted 46 residents who suffered from a home fire and provided an additional $9,355 in financial assistance.

For the year to date, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio has assisted 3,139 adults, 1,677 children and have provided $933,715 in immediate financial assistance.

Puerto Rico Earthquake 2020

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 donate to assist the Red Cross in continuing to help residents in need throughout the region, please visit redcross.org/donate. Any amount donated truly helps.

 

 

 

Northern Ohio disaster response team active at the start of June

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

June 8, 2020- As the calendar changed to June, the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio was very active responding to local disasters, such as homes fires, both virtually and complying with social distancing guidance.

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During the week of June 1- June 7, 2020, the Northern Ohio Region Disaster Action team responded to disasters in Columbiana, Cuyahoga, Huron, Lake, Lorain, Lucas, Ottawa, Sandusky, Stark Summit, Toledo and Wyandot counties, assisting 47 adults and 32 children.

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The Red Cross of Northern Ohio also provided over $16,000 in immediate financial assistance to those experiencing one of the worst days of their lives.

This year to date, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio has responded to 1,092 incidents, assisted 4,753 individuals and has provided $920,770 in immediate financial assistance.

As remnants of Tropical Storm Cristobal threaten the central part of the United States with torrential downpours and flooding, the Red Cross stands ready to support those affected by the storm. In addition, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio currently has six disaster workers deployed to assist with the flooding in Michigan following the two recent dam breaches.

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.

Texas Tornadoes 2020

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.

Texas Tornadoes 2020

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

 

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.

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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.”

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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.