My First Large Scale Disaster

By Jenny Berry, American Red Cross Disaster Services Intern

(left-right) Brenda Haney, Denis Davenport, Nick Cluppert and ME!

Can you believe it is only my second day interning with the American Red Cross and I have already been on a local disaster response call and now traveled to Platteville to be a part of a larger scale disaster operation. It all seems so surreal. I did not expect to gain this much experience in so little time.

On Thursday, I went with Nick Cluppert, Disaster Program Manager, and Maxine Klumb, disaster volunteer, to Platteville to observe the Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) that the Red Cross was opening with the help of community partners. We wanted to gain information on the MARC because the Northeast Wisconsin Chapter is looking to invite our local partners to information sessions come fall to educate the different partners on what a MARC is before a disaster strikes and we need to set one up. By doing this we will be able to provide information to community partners in the area and are able to demonstrate how they are a great resource for a community following a disaster.

When we first arrived we went to where the MARC was being held at Platteville’s High School. We were warmly welcomed by the American Red Cross Badger Chapter. Funny thing was that the first person I saw was a good family friend, Brenda Haney. Wow, it is small of a world! The Red Cross staff and Red Cross volunteers immediately filled us in the information we needed and much more about the MARC. I thought it was great with how much input we received. I think it will be very helpful when we create and setup a MARC come fall.  I also think that a MARC is a wonderful idea to have in times of a disaster because it makes it easier and more convenient for those who are suffering.

Some of the damage I saw as we toured the area.

Some of the damage I saw as we toured the area.

Volunteers, Brenda Haney and Diana O’Neill, invited us to go see the affected area. It was not until we reached the affected area when I realized how badly the area was hit. I understand that this was not a “major” disaster, but to me this was devastating. I still have crystal clear images of the damage that was caused to the homes of the community and the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. It is unbelievable how incredibly strong and destructive a natural disaster could be. When we arrived at the center of the scene I was in shock. Since I had never experienced or seen something even close to this, it took me a moment to take it all in. Nick, Maxine, Brenda, and Diane jumped right out of the Red Cross van without hesitation and went into action, going door to door of those affected. I then snapped out of it and jumped right out there with the others and started to help in our own little way by distributing information about the services provided by the MARC to those in the community that were affected by the disaster.

After that initial shock, it all started to come natural to me. In my opinion being able to lend a hand to even a few people is something that I have always aspired to do and to be. I now know that after even a few short days with interning with Red Cross so far, that I am meant to be helping others in any way that I can. It is beautiful to have been an observer of how the volunteers and staff of the Red Cross will travel and do anything possible to bring some light back into the lives and communities that are affected by emergencies and natural disasters. For someone who has had their eyes witness events that they have never seen before (house fire and community affected by tornado), I cannot say enough that the services provided by Red Cross is one of grave need in times of emergencies and natural disasters. Without a doubt in my mind, the Red Cross staff, volunteers, and community partners truly fulfill their mission and values which were one of the many things that drew me to the Red Cross.

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