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.

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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.

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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.

It is time to prepare for spring and summer storm season

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

May 1, 2020- Everyone around the world is understandably focusing on COVID-19 and this new normal we are living. But as we approach the spring and summer storm season, it is important to prepare because emergencies don’t take breaks.

Spring and summer in Northern Ohio ushers in tornado and flood season. This year’s tornado and flood season has already begun to make an impact in the United States.

In what some are calling the deadliest tornado season since 2011, the American Red Cross is responding across multiple states impacted by ongoing severe weather. Hundreds of tornadoes have been reported across the eastern half of the country in April, most of these occurring in the southeast.

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While taking increased precautions during the current public health emergency, the Red Cross is providing shelter, warm meals and emotional support for those with immediate needs after a disaster. Red Cross disaster workers, many of whom are working virtually, are also connecting affected residents to additional community resources to support their recovery.

More than 1,100 people displaced by storms and tornadoes across the Southeast spent Sunday night in 393 hotels across Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. This shelter is made available with the help of our valuable hotel partners and community stakeholders. Overall, more than 13,900 hotel stays have been provided to residents displaced by tornadoes and storms since nationwide COVID-19 social distancing measures were put into place.

The Red Cross has provided more than 45,600 meals and snacks. We are working closely with our hotel partners to ensure distribution follows social distancing and safe food handling protocols.

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To ensure everyone across Northern Ohio is prepared, here are some tornado safety tips:

  • Identify a safe place in your home where everyone, including pets, can gather during a tornado: a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor away from windows.
  • Make sure you have access to NOAA radio broadcasts, through streaming a NOAA radio station, or downloading a NOAA radio app in the Apple Store or Google Play.
  • If you are in a high-rise building during a tornado, pick a hallway in the center of the building.
  • In a manufactured home, choose a safe place in a nearby sturdy building.
  • Make a list of items to bring inside in the event of a storm.

While not common in Northern Ohio, spring and summer also means hurricanes. May 3 to May 9 is considered National Hurricane Awareness Week. Forecasters are warning of an active hurricane season in 2020. Experts are predicting that we could see 20 named storms this year in the Atlantic, making 2020 the second most active season in terms of number of storms.

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If you or a loved one are at a location when a hurricane hits, here are some hurricane preparedness tips:

  • First, talk with your family about what to do if a hurricane strikes. Discussing hurricanes ahead of time helps reduce fear, particularly for young children.
  • Protect windows with permanent storm shutters or one-half-inch marine plywood.
  • Identify a place to store lawn furniture, toys, gardening tools and trash cans.
  • Be prepared to evacuate quickly.
  • Make sure you have plenty of clean water for drinking.
  • Fill bathtubs and sinks with water for flushing the toilet, washing the floor or cleaning clothing.
  • Turn off propane tanks and unplug small appliances.
  • When the hurricane makes landfall, be sure to stay indoors.
  • Avoid contact with floodwater.

For more tips, download the hurricane safety checklist.

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Regardless if you are preparing for a hurricane, a tornado or any other storm, be sure to download the Red Cross Emergency App for instant access to weather alerts for the area and where loved ones live. The Emergency App and all Red Cross apps are available for free download in app stores or at redcross.org/apps.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Spring tornado safety tips with recommended precautions to keep older adults safe

By Jason Copsey, American Red Cross volunteer

April 3, 2020- As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves daily, the American Red Cross faces a spring storm season unlike any other in recent memory. Amidst the dramatic changes everyone is experiencing in their day-to- day lives, some things remain the same: Spring will bring storms, and the Red Cross will be ready to help those impacted by them.

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As always, preparation is a critical responsibility we all share. April, May and June are the peak months for tornadoes in the United States, with each month bringing hundreds of events across the country. Although tornadoes are most common in Plains states, they can occur anywhere, at any time.

Last year, an EF2 tornado (with wind speeds of 111 to 135 miles per hour) touched down near Shelby, Ohio, traveling 17 miles across Richland County and leveling multiple homes. Red Cross volunteers provided shelter and assistance to those displaced by the storm.

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The Red Cross recommends a number of precautions to keep safe during a weather event that could produce a tornado, including:

  • Know your community’s warning system. Many communities use sirens intended for outdoor warning purposes.
  • Identify a safe place in your home to gather — a basement, storm cellar or interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.
  • Move or secure items outside that can be picked up by the wind.

While preparation is critical for everyone, recent research indicates older adults are more vulnerable during weather events compared to other age groups.

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A report produced by members of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council and the American Academy of Nursing Policy Expert Round Table on Emergency/Disaster Preparedness for Older Adults identified several factors contributing to the heightened vulnerability of older adults, including:

  • A greater prevalence of chronic conditions, multi-morbidity, cognitive impairment and medication concerns during disasters.
  • A greater dependence on assistive devices (i.e. walkers, glasses) and support requirements, from caregivers and others, during disasters.
  • Likelihood of social isolation.
  • Potential for psychological distress.
  • Gaps in how prepared the caregivers of older persons are, especially those who care for older adults with dementia.

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Improving disaster preparedness among older adults, as well as response efforts, is even more important as we move into a 2020 spring storm season dramatically impacted by COVID-19. To help address this need, the report offers recommendations such as:

  • Older adults who are reliant on mobility aids should remove or minimize barriers affecting their ability to evacuate and should take steps to ensure their safety within their surroundings.
  • Programs that provide essential community services and assistance with daily living activities for older people (financial, medical, personal care, food and transportation) should develop plans and protocols related to responding adequately to the needs of their clients during emergencies and disasters.
  • Local governments should leverage data sources, such as registries, that identify at-risk individuals to enable emergency responders to more easily prioritize their search and rescue efforts following an emergency.
  • Healthcare professionals and emergency response personnel should receive training on providing geriatric care relevant to their discipline and how best to assist both older adults and their unpaid caregivers during disasters.

Many more tips to keep yourself and your family and loved ones safe are available at www.redcross.org.

You can also download the Red Cross Emergency App for instant access to emergency alerts, lifesaving information and ways to contact family and friends. Download the app for free in the Apple or Google app stores or at redcross.org/apps

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross 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

Red Cross continues to provide comfort and support despite COVID-19

By Ben Bellucci, Disaster Program Manager, Greater Cleveland Chapter

March 27, 2020- A handshake, a comforting approach, and most of all, a relieving hug is what Red Cross disaster volunteers have ingrained in them from the moment they desire to give back to their communities. In an instant, that has all changed: COVID-19 has changed the way we interact with our community during their darkest hours – in a physical sense.

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Ben Bellucci

Disasters are taking place around our nation, as we are challenged with stopping the spread of COVID-19. Home fires are still taking place every day and are our number one disaster in Northeast Ohio. We as a team, with the direction of our leadership, have had to come up with new and inventive ways to deliver the much-needed assistance to those who have lost everything.

  • 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.

We always talk about how we are honored to be in the position to facilitate a hug from members of our community, and volunteers play an integral part in our service delivery. We know that these are challenging times, and we know our community needs us to be there, now more than ever.

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Ben with his family at the Cleveland script sign at Edgewater Park

Because of social distancing, we can no longer give the physical hugs; however, we know you will feel the virtual hug from our community partners, our donors and, of course our volunteers.

We can’t wait for the days in which our physical hugs will return. Together, we will get through this!

If you are interested in volunteering and helping our community feel these virtual hugs, please click here.

If you are healthy and can donate blood, please visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-Red Cross (1-800-733-2767).

To learn more about the steps the Northeast Ohio Region is taking to protect disaster service team members and residents, listen to the latest episode of the Be A Hero podcast. Be A Hero can be heard on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and iHeartRadio Podcasts.

 

Red Cross urges Northeast Ohio residents to practice and prepare for future disasters

COVID-19 social distancing measures provide opportunity to be prepared

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

March 23, 2020 — As individuals and families remain at home at a higher rate due to the COVID-19 outbreak and social distancing measures, the American Red Cross is urging all Northeast Ohio residents to take the time to prepare for future disasters.

Sound the Alarm Event in Capitol Heights, Maryland 2019

Here are some safety tips to practice and follow while everyone is home together:

Home Fire Safety

Home Fire Save Story Birmingham, Alabama 2019

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
  • Test smoke alarms every month. If they’re not working, change the batteries.
  • Talk with all family members about a home fire escape plan, make sure everyone has two exits out of every room.
  • Practice your fire escape plan and have everyone meet at the designated safe location. Make sure everyone escapes in two minutes or less.

Flood Safety

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Tornado Safety

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  • Talk about tornadoes with your family so that everyone knows where to go if a tornado warning is issued.
  • Ensure you have access to NOAA Radio broadcasts.
  • Prepare a pet emergency kit for your furry friends.

Thunderstorm Safety

  • Discuss thunderstorm safety and lightning safety with all members of your household.
  • Pick a safe place in your home for household members to gather during a thunderstorm. This should be away from windows, skylights and glass doors.
  • Make a list of items to bring inside in the event of a severe thunderstorm.

Sound the Alarm Event in Capitol Heights, Maryland 2019

Visit redcross.org to learn more emergency preparedness tips to ensure you and your family are Red Cross ready. Be sure to download the free Red Cross mobile apps, available in the Apple App Store or Google Play, for tools and preparedness information you need every day.