Life of a Disaster Volunteer!

Guest Blogger: Carmen Bierstaker, Disaster Team Volunteer

Carmen collecting donations for the Firefighters' Bucket Brigade 5.27.10

After watching all of the Red Cross Volunteers assisting those affected by Hurricane Katrina, I felt a need to do something here in Green Bay.  I met with Jody and realized that the Red Cross a had alot of opportunities for me to volunteer – but I was soon to find out that those that helped with the hurricane were part of a Disaster Action Team (DAT) – and this team would soon be my new family.  I have met alot of great people and new friends that make up the DAT team including our fearless Judy Gregory.  Ms. Judy as I like to call her.

During the past 3 1/2 years I have taken several classes to help prepare me to assist families that have been displaced due to fires, flooding and wind/tornado damage.  I have gone on several fire calls for personal residents, large and small apartment buildings, and have helped with mock disasters for the Kewaunee Nuclear Plant and Austin Straubel Airport. 

 I work full-time, but am still able to volunteer my time as a lead on one of the evening teams.  Every 8 weeks, my team member Perry Robinson and I are on call for an entire week  Monday thru Thurdsay 6:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. and Friday 6:00 p.m. until Monday 6:00 a.m. (24 hour on-call during the weekend).  The 8 week rotation allows us to know which week to slightly adjust our personal lives.  

On Monday of my scheduled week, I make 2 calls – one to Perry to let make sure he’s available and to tell him I hope not to talk to him all week (we all know if we have to call our team member that means someone is in need of assistance)  and the next call goes to Red Cross dispatch to give them my phone number.

I don’t sit home while I’m on-call I just make sure that pen and paper is nearby and that I’m within 20 minutes of the Red Cross garage.  When we get the call from dispatch, we are given: name, address, size of family, and a fire department contact name and phone number.  My first call goes out to Perry to have him meet me at the garage, the next call goes out to Judy.  Our black bags are in the suburban with all needed paperwork, set the GPS (if needed) and off to the call we go.  We have never met a client that wasn’t happy to see us and all are thankful for the help.  All clients are given a comfort quilt (hand made and donated to us), comfort kits (which include:shampoo, conditioner, comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, razor and shaving cream), monetary assistance to purchase clothing, food and storage bins, and if needed we can put them in a hotel for up to 3 days.  

Our main goal is to comfort the family and help them in their immediate time of need, get them through the first couple of days, until they can get a handle on what to do and where to go to next.

Personally, it has been very rewarding each and everytime I have been able to help a family.  I tell anyone who will listen what we do and I am not too proud to ask for their donations by sewing quilts, saving shampoos and soaps from hotel stays, or giving monetary donations.  I am proud to say that I am a volunteer on the Lakeland Chaper American Red Cross Disaster Action Team.


One Response

  1. I am very proud of you and the work you do!

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