Volunteers show their versatility and willingness to help

Northern Ohio disaster workers in Kentucky assist at the scene of a car crash

Arden Tohill and Al Irwin are volunteers who responded to the call for help from the people of Eastern Kentucky, after devastating flooding there in late July. Among the first to deploy to the devastated region, they have been driving an emergency response vehicle through “the hills and hollers of Eastern Kentucky,” as Arden puts it, delivering much-needed food, water and other essential supplies. But last Saturday, their day took an interesting and unexpected turn, as Arden wrote in an email:

Al Irwin, left, and Arden Tohill – Photo credit: Jim McIntyre/American Red Cross

Interesting day, Saturday. On the way back to the kitchen, we were among the first to come upon a traffic accident. Al (Irwin) is still a licensed EMT, so there was no question about stopping.

Some firemen, who were nearby doing wellness checks, heard the crash and came flying on their 4-wheelers. The only problem was that they weren’t packed for a medical situation. One of them saw that I had my nitrile serving gloves on and asked if we had any more so I ran back to the ERV, grabbed the box of gloves we had just purchased and the first aid kit for the minimal supplies we had. 

After they got the passenger out, Al was holding her head steady to prevent spinal injury until an ambulance arrived with a collar. Al had me take over while he went on to something else.  In a few minutes a doctor who was out running household errands popped in to examine the passenger.  He asked if anyone happened to have a small flashlight so that he could check pupil reaction . Of course I had one, so I passed head-holding to a fireman and dug the light out.

After they finally got the driver out and boarded, we started passing out water to the first responders.

Al Irwin and Arden Tohill preparing to distribute meals to residents in flood-stricken Kentucky at Carr Creek Elementary school in Knott County – Photo credit: Remy Kennedy/American Red Cross

We don’t know the condition of the passenger, but we do know that Arden Tohill and Al Irwin are two talented, dedicated volunteers and true humanitarians, as illustrated by the account above. We are grateful for their service to the Red Cross.

Editor’s note: As of Monday, August 8, more than 430 trained Red Cross disaster workers were on the ground in Kentucky helping to provide a safe place to stay, food to eat, critical relief supplies and emotional support for those affected by this tragedy. Volunteers are also replacing prescription medications, eyeglasses or critical medical equipment, like canes and wheelchairs, which were left behind in the rush to get to safety.

  • Sunday night, the Red Cross and our partners provided comfort and care for almost 500 residents in numerous shelters across Eastern Kentucky. In the last week, the Red Cross and our partners have provided a total of more than 4,500 overnight stays for residents forced to leave their homes.
  • With the support of local partners, the Red Cross has helped to provide some 56,000 meals and snacks to people in need. In addition, we’ve given out thousands of critical relief items to nearly 800 households.

People in Eastern Kentucky are really hurting

People from Northern Ohio are really helping

They are working in shelters; they are distributing food and water; they are arranging logistics and they are establishing communications.  10 American Red Cross volunteers from Northern Ohio are playing crucial roles in the massive effort to bring comfort and care to people in eastern Kentucky, following deadly flooding last week. Our thoughts are with everyone who has been affected by the flooding that has upturned lives and destroyed homes across at least nine counties in the state.

Photo credit: Mike Parks, American Red Cross

Nearly 250 trained Red Cross disaster workers are on the ground, and more help is on the way.  Sunday night, almost 640 residents took refuge in one of the many shelters being supported by the Red Cross and other partners. The Red Cross is providing a safe place to stay, food to eat, emotional support for those affected by this tragedy, and is helping with replacing prescription medications, eyeglasses or critical medical equipment that were left behind in the rush to get to safety.

Northern Ohio volunteers: Al Irwin and Arden Tohill drove an emergency response vehicle to Kentucky on Saturday. Mahogany Coward is helping with logistics from the University of Kentucky.

More than 15,400 people are without power, and as many as 60,000 are either without water or under a boil advisory.

This deadly flooding — along with the recent heavy rainfall in Missouri, explosive wildfires in California and the ongoing Northwest heatwave — are clear examples of how more intense climate-related disasters are happening more often. Over the last two years, on average, the Red Cross responded a new, major disaster every 10 days. We see firsthand how families and communities are suffering and depending on us for help – with our volunteers continuously on the ground, setting up shelters, arranging for hot meals and offering comfort for people forced from their homes.

You can help people affected by disasters like floods, fires and countless other crises by making a gift to Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift is a commitment to helping people in need, and every single donation matters.

Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

More relief workers from NOH head to tornado-stricken KY

Many will spend the holidays away from home to help others

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

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

Al Irwin and Barb Gabel

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Northeast to Southwest: American Red Cross is Ohio-strong

NEO volunteers assisting residents affected by downstate tornadoes

More help from Northeast Ohio is on the way to tornado stricken Dayton and the surrounding area.  An Emergency Response Vehicle, which is stationed in Cleveland, will be deployed with a two-person crew to help provide meals and emergency supplies to residents affected by Monday night’s storms.

More than 130 Ohioans spent the night in 6 shelters last night.  They were among nearly 500 people who took refuge in more than 30 Red Cross and Community shelters in several states that have been hit hard by bad weather this week.

Red Cross volunteers Pam Williams and Monica Bunner working in Dayton

In addition to the ERV and its crew, six other disaster workers from Northeast Ohio are assigned to the relief operation, and are already in Dayton, fulfilling various roles – from mass care to government operations to reunification.

“Basically we help families reunite,” said Monica Bunner, a disaster volunteer from Medina. “Say someone is missing as a result of the disaster and could be in a shelter. The Safe & Well site allows one to register and send messages to loved ones to let them know they are OK.”

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                                           Photo credit:  Todd James/American Red Cross

Prepare in Advance

More spring storms are in the forecast this week for a vast swath of the country.  You can prepare for violent weather in the following ways:

Educate your family on how to use the Safe and Well website.

Assemble an emergency preparedness kit, which includes a battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio). For a detailed list of supplies to include, see updated Be Red Cross Ready Checklist.

Create a household emergency plan that includes your pets.

Stay informed about your community’s risk and response plans.

Download the Emergency App for iPhone or for Android.

Remember, if you or a member of your household is an individual with access or functional needs, including a disability, consider developing a comprehensive evacuation plan in advance with family, care providers and care attendants, as appropriate.

Complete a personal assessment of functional abilities and possible needs during and after an emergency or disaster situation, and create a personal support network to assist.

Many kind-hearted people have offered to help, driven by the compassion that is typical of Northeast Ohioans.  While the Red Cross does not accept donations of items, we do encourage financial support. It is the quickest and best way to get help to the people who need it most, by allowing us to be flexible in the help we deliver.  Financial donations can be accessed quickly, and can ensure that we can provide the residents affected by the tornadoes what they need most.

You can donate to American Red Cross disaster relief by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS, or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Hurricane Florence Hits Coast – Red Cross Volunteers Respond

More than two dozen volunteers  from NEO deployed to disaster relief operation

The American Red Cross is helping people in multiple states as Hurricane Florence pummels the Carolinas with strong winds, heavy rain and dangerous tidal surges. Twice the size of Louisiana, Florence is inundating communities and leaving hundreds of thousands without power.

 

Residents of Wilson, North Carolina take refuge in a Red Cross shelter.   
                                    Photo credit: Danial Cima/American Red Cross

As Hurricane Florence comes ashore, the Red Cross is providing safe shelter and comfort for evacuees across six states. More than 20,000 people sought refuge in more than 200 Red Cross and community shelters Thursday night to escape the storm’s wrath. View some of their stories here.

As of midnight, 14,000 people were in 124 shelters in North Carolina, and 5,600 people in 59 shelters in South Carolina. An additional 430 people stayed in 23 shelters in Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee and Maryland.

Akron Volunteers 4

Red Cross volunteers Linda Taylor, Bob Schneider, Teresa Greenlief and Cameron Fraser prepare to depart Akron in Emergency Response Vehicles.  Photo credit: Mary Williams/American Red Cross

About 2,000 Red Cross disaster workers from all over the country have been mobilized to help shelter, feed and support people affected by Florence, including 29 from Northeast OhioFour Emergency Response Vehicles based in Northeast Ohio departed from Cleveland, Akron and Canton today, staffed by two-person crews.  They have been assigned to meet in Macon, Georgia.

Susie&Sue

Volunteers Susie Muetzel and Sue Wisdom prepare to depart Cleveland in an ERV.  Photo credit: Jim McIntyre/American Red Cross

Working with partners, the Red Cross has served 47,000 meals and snacks in North Carolina and South Carolina. To bolster relief efforts, the Red Cross is mobilizing nearly 100 emergency response vehicles and more than 120 trailers of equipment and supplies, including 100,000 ready-to-eat meals and enough cots and blankets for more than 42,000 people.

See photos of local media coverage here.

HOW YOU CAN HELP The Red Cross depends on financial donations to be able to provide disaster relief immediately. Help people affected by Hurricane Florence by visiting redcross.org, calling 1- 800-RED CROSS or texting the word FLORENCE to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from this disaster.

The Red Cross honors donor intent. Donors can designate their donation to Hurricane Florence relief efforts by choosing that option when donating on redcross.org or on 1-800-RED CROSS.

PLEASE GIVE BLOOD More than 140 blood drives have been canceled through early next week due to Hurricane Florence, resulting in over 4,200 uncollected blood and platelet donations. Eligible donors in unaffected areas are urged to make an appointment now to give blood or platelets to help maintain the nation’s blood supply. There is a critical need to platelet and type O blood donations. Appointments can be made by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

 

 

Meet ERV – the Newest Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle

By Doug Bardwell – American Red Cross volunteer

Responding to disasters, both locally and nationally, a team of two or more American Red Cross volunteers typically responds in an officially marked vehicle. For larger events, the vehicle of choice will probably be ERV – the Emergency Response Vehicle.

Originally, Clara Barton used a wagon for battlefield rescue missions.  As World War I and II occurred, military-style trucks were marked with the large Red Cross symbol and put into service.

Not until 1984 did the Red Cross begin standardization of the fleet, settling on the boxy, ambulance-style vehicle most often associated with disaster relief. Able to drive into affected neighborhoods to feed hundreds after a hurricane or tornado, the box truck design was also able to be loaded with hundreds of mops, pails and disinfectants for flood survivors.Red Cross Ready (002)

The design served the Red Cross admirably for years, but much of the fleet was more than 10 years old and in 2013, the decision was made to upgrade the fleet with a more modern vehicle type.

Meet ERV – Gen 2

ERV (002)

The newest style ERV is sleeker, more maneuverable and will cost less to operate than the last generation of vehicles.  And although they are more affordable, the vehicles are still very costly, at about $150,000 each.  We are grateful to The Sam J. Frankino Foundation, and Greater Cleveland Board Member Lorraine Dodero, for the generous donation that made the purchase of the new ERV possible.

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Greater Cleveland Board Member Lorraine Dodero cuts the ribbon for the new ERV, with Regional CEO Mike Parks

With modern materials and manufacturing processes, the vehicles are expected to last longer as well. While still providing ample room for supplies, the new ERV can easily be transformed from day-to-day local emergency responses, to hauling supplies for a larger disaster.

Modern two-way radio communications and GPS dispatching systems are just the beginning of the technology installed in the newest generation of response vehicles.  Ergonomics are also a large consideration, making it easier for both Red Cross volunteers and those being served alike.

Want to meet ERV in person?  Consider joining the team of volunteers known as the Disaster Action Team – who respond to local fires and other disasters.  Become a volunteer and help us provide support and hope when all seems lost.  Begin your volunteer process here.

Messy, Stressful, Heartwarming; Volunteers Describe Work in Texas

Disaster Workers Return After Two-Week Deployment 

Furman&Sue

Northeast Ohio Red Cross volunteers Furman Alden and Sue Wisdom

Furman Alden and Sue Wisdom are back home, after spending two weeks on deployment following Hurricane Harvey.  The Northeast Ohio volunteers spent long hours driving an Emergency Response Vehicle through streets in and around Houston, making sure residents had access to warm meals, water and snacks.

“No one sees skin color, religion or politics,” said Sue, a Lake County resident and a veteran of disaster relief operations.  “From the youngest to the oldest, the way people came together to help each other, it’s heartwarming.”

Sue said several little boys volunteered to help distribute meals, going door-to-door after receiving their own meals and learning about the work of the Red Cross.  “They were amazing,” she said.  “I gave them cookies, and one of them said ‘You are so nice.’  That made may day!”

Furman Alden, also a veteran of disaster work, said he has never seen so much debris piled so high in front of so many houses. The Youngstown resident said, “The whole way down the street, they emptied their houses completely.   Furniture, dry wall, everything. It was messy.”

He says they were the first relief workers to reach a neighborhood that had been cut off by flooded roadways.  “We were the first ones to get in there.  They were so happy to see us.”

It was a struggle getting anywhere.  Furman says driving was stressful, due to bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go traffic.  But the ERV he and Sue drove was a lifeline for so many Texans who lost so much in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

More than 7,000 Red Cross disaster workers responded in Texas, Florida, and other areas hit hard by Harvey and Hurricane Irma, providing the same life-sustaining services that Sue and Furman delivered.  More volunteers are needed to continue the mission.  Visit our website at redcross.org/neo, and click the VOLUNTEER tab to begin an application.

A message from the Volunteer Services Department:

All volunteers must complete a free online volunteer application, which includes acknowledgement of policy statements and a criminal background check

Volunteers will need to successfully complete disaster training before being eligible for potential deployment, this can include a combination of in-person and/or online training

Depending on adjustment of the real-time needs of the disaster locations and your specific abilities- you may not deploy immediately or at all. 

Call 216-431-3328 for more information.

This video was created on the day Sue Wisdom and Furman Alden left Northeast Ohio in response to the residents of Texas following Hurricane Harvey.

Local Volunteers Helping in Texas

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Red Cross volunteers Cameron Fraser and Rick King are improvising.

“We’re both trained in logistics, but when we got here, we saw a greater need and offered to help deliver meals,” Rick said as he assembled packages of snacks. “Flexibility is key. Our snack packs could end up being lunch, dinner and breakfast.”

Rick and Cameron are among more than two dozen volunteers from Northeast Ohio who have been deployed in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.  They have been assigned to help residents in and around Texas City, Texas.

“We went from Baton Rouge to Hempstead in the Great Texas ERV Drive,” Rick said, referring to a convoy of more than 40 emergency response vehicles (ERVs) that made their way to the Houston area. “It took us hours and hours to get there.”

ERV drive

In total, eight groups headed to the area last Thursday.  They were able to communicate with one another through a smart phone app.

Cameron and Rick are working with partners from the Southern Baptist Convention, who set up a mobile kitchen for preparing the meals Red Cross workers will deliver.

“There’s a feeling of nervous energy,” said Rick. “We’ve spent time training on what to expect and we’re ready to go.”

To become a Red Cross volunteer, visit our volunteer page, or call 216-431-3328.

By the numbers:

· Saturday night, at least 32,399 people sought refuge in 226 Red Cross and partner shelters across Texas overnight. The Red Cross is also assisting the Louisiana state government with an emergency shelter which hosted nearly 1,700 people last night.

· More than 2,700 Red Cross disaster workers are on the ground, and more than 660 are on the way.

· Shelter supplies to support more than 85,000 people are on the ground.

· Along with our partners, we have served more than a half million (515,000) meals and snacks since the storm began.

· We have trailers of kitchen supplies on the ground to support 14 kitchens, each able to produce 10,000 meals a day, and 2 more trailers are on the way.

· We also have about 150,000 ready-to-eat meals currently on the ground with an additional 5,000 on the way.

· More than 215 emergency response vehicles have been activated to help deliver meals and relief supplies.

· Mental health and health services professionals have provided some 15,000 contacts to provide support and care to evacuees.

· We’ve distributed more than 27,000 relief items like diapers and comfort kits that contain deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other hygiene items for people forced from their homes. Cleaning and relief supplies to support more than 15,000 homes are on the ground, with an additional 5,000 on the way.