Responding to disasters large and small

When Hurricanes Harvey, Irene, and Maria hit, and wildfires blazed, the call went out for local American Red Cross staff to deploy to those disaster sites. Almost 180 Red Cross disaster relief workers responded to the call for help.

Most of them are regular volunteers in the Disaster Services department. They are trained to respond to disasters large and small, including home fires and tornados. They sign up for regular shifts, during which teams of two or three volunteers respond to calls from first responders and those affected by these local events.

After a call comes in, the team gathers at the Red Cross office to collect what they’ll need for the run, then heads out. It can take several hours at the scene to ensure that immediate needs are met and those affected know what to do next. In order to keep up with the demand while so many were deployed, some volunteers took on more shifts than they usually covered.

Steven volunteers in several different departments of the Red Cross, including Disaster Services. “It’s just a good way to give back,” he says of his multi-faceted involvement.

He is among the volunteers who remained in Columbus to respond to these local disasters. Upon arriving at the scene of a home fire, he and the team he is part of assess needs and provide immediate assistance to those affected. Many survivors lose clothing, household furnishings, and important documents. Some don’t have insurance to cover these losses.

“At times you see a whole house completely gone,” Steven says.

Within 72 hours, caseworkers, who are also part of the Disaster Services department, contact those affected to see how things are going and whether further assistance is needed. While they attended to these needs close to home, they, along with the entire department, were aware of the intense focus nationally and the reduced number of volunteers remaining in Ohio.

Thanks to the generosity of donors, volunteers like Steven are able to help those affected by local disasters meet immediate needs. These resilient survivors can find safe shelter and replace necessities like clothes, medications and infant formula. It’s the small things, Steven says, the things you don’t think to grab on your way out of a burning home.

The numbers of those whom the Red Cross is helping to recover from the storms are large; the number of those helped in Ohio are no less impressive. From the end of August to the end of October, 221 households – 742 individuals – have received help from volunteers like Steven and the donors who enable him to offer the basics people need when they’ve lost everything.

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