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.

Texas Tornadoes 2020

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: 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.

 

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.

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.

Texas Tornadoes 2020

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.

Texas Tornadoes 2020

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.

Texas Tornadoes 2020

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.

Texas Tornadoes 2020

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.

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.

 

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.

Tennessee Tornadoes 2020

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.

Tennessee Tornadoes 2020

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.

Tennessee Tornadoes 2020

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.

Tennessee Tornadoes 2020

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