4th Annual Disaster Training Conference

Last week, the Wisconsin Region conducted our 4th  annual Disaster Training Conference. Though the conference was held on the shores of Green Lake, attendees paid little attention to beautiful autumn scenery outside. The 183  attendees, Red Cross volunteers and staff from Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois, enjoyed four days of learning, sharing and networking.

The broad range of classes provided opportunities for brand new volunteers and seasoned veterans. The newest volunteer had been with the Red Cross for only two days and several in attendance had more than 20-years of service. Classes were offered to provide instruction on delivering the Red Cross mission, supervision & leadership along with diversity & inclusion. Workshops built upon classroom instruction and provided hands-on opportunities to set-up a shelter, conduct damage assessment and manage a disaster relief operation.

On Wednesday night, Red Cross volunteers partnered with the Berlin Fire Department to make homes in Berlin safer. They visited homes and provided smoke alarms testing, free smoke alarm installation, home evacuation planning and fire safety tips. 25 homes were visited and 69 smoke alarms were installed.  Community outreach like this is happening around the state and more than 10,000 smoke alarms will installed this year alone!

By all reports, the Disaster Training Conference was a wonderful success! It was wonderful to see so many Red Crossers come together to learn and celebrate together. Plans for next year’s conference are already underway. We hope to see you there!

 

Hurricane Matthew – WI Responds

Hurricane Matthew. Thousands of people in shelters. Thousands of relief workers responding. Too many lives lost. This disaster is a big one, for all of us, requiring many hands, heads, and hearts pulling together to help others in dire need. Shelter, food, and relief supplies are American Red Cross priorities.

Blood and platelet donations are needed from people in unaffected areas to make up for canceled drives. Check out the stories below. They’ll show you how the Red Cross is helping.

You Just Gotta Be Strong: a video from the American Red Cross features Terry, a shelter resident who was forced to evacuate his home in Tarboro, North Carolina, because of Hurricane Matthew

Haiti Needs Help from All of Usan opinion piece from American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern published in Huffington Post addresses rumors, issues, and concerns about disaster relief responses in Haiti. False information shared on the internet hurts people who need our help the most

Suffering Continues After Hurricane Matthew: a news release from the American Red Cross with details about how the Red Cross is responding to the disaster in the U.S. and in Haiti

From Wisconsin, there are more than 80 Red Cross relief workers deployed to help in the affected areas. More will likely be on their way in the days to come.

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Lori and Kevin Peterson and Gerry and Jim Gilmore drove their Emergency Response Vehicles from Wisconsin and are serving thousands of meals, water and distributing cleaning supplies to residents in the hardest hit areas.  

Please support this relief effort. Click here to donate money to Red Cross disaster relief. Click here to make a blood or platelet donation appointment.

Thank you!

How You Can Prepare & Prevent Home Fires

It’s National Fire Safety Week (October 9th-October 15th)!

Timing is precious when escaping home fires. You may have as little as 2 minutes to escape. Are you and your family prepared in case of a home fire or know how to prevent them?

An essential step is to install the right number of smoke alarms. Test them once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year. You can request for a smoke alarm from the Red Cross at www.getasmokealarm.org. Be sure to know 2 ways to escape from every room of your home and know the family meeting spot outside of your home.

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Red Cross Volunteers, Cindy Warner, Tom Davis, Peggy Leapley RN with evacuee Martin Freerks

A family of 2 share their Red Cross story about the fire that occurred in their California home.

He worries. She reassures.

As they prepared to leave the American Red Cross shelter at the First Baptist Church in Lake Isabella (CA) when evacuation orders were lifted for the Alta Sierra area, Martin Freerks agreed to one more step.

Through a donation from the local Home Depot, the Kern County regional office of the American Red Cross supplied his mom, Marcela, with box fans and air purifiers to ease any respiratory issues upon returning to her hilltop home.  In addition, Red Cross shelter volunteers Tom Davis (WI) and Cindy Warner (PA) installed five smoke alarms on 8/27/16 replacing the old ones throughout the two-story house.

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Volunteers installing smoke alarms on the second floor.

During the visit with Martin in late August, area residents still had to show proof of residence, and fire engines were still posted around the property monitoring backfires nearby.

It was during his school summer break when Martin caught a glimpse of the glow from the Cedar Fire.  He and his mother started packing everything they could in his medium-sized car. “I started moving what was flammable away from the house like the chairs.”  He pointed at the “dozer” lines and the melted metal next to the Kern-River-Valley-bleached bones.  The house was spared as were trees, rosemary and lemongrass on the property.

During their stay at the Red Cross shelter in Lake Isabella, Martin and his mom found a place that was air-conditioned, where they could sleep, shower, have three meals, snacks, and access information via the Internet and wide-screen television.  The shelter team included a nurse who would monitor any health issues manifested by the evacuees.

Hopefully, as mother and son gather their belongings and get their lives back to normal, the smoke alarms will be another safety step. When Martin returns to start Graduate School in a few months, he will be reassured—and she will be less worried—about the danger of home fires.

Be Prepared for a Home Fire – Communication is key!

  • Establish a family emergency communications plan and ensure that all household members know who to contact if they cannot find one another.
  • Practice escaping from your home at least twice a year. Press the smoke alarm test button or yell “Fire“ to alert everyone that they must get out.
  • Make sure everyone knows how to call 9-1-1.
  • Teach household members to STOP, DROP and ROLL if their clothes should catch on fire.

 

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Evacuee Martin Freerks shows workers, Tom Davis and Cindy Warner, the dozer tracks along the perimeter of his property.

For more tips, visit www.redcross.org/firesafety. If you’d like to donate and help those recover from home fires, click here.

Dear Wisconsin,

August has been a tremendously busy month for disaster responses! On the news, we’ve seen the devastation in Louisiana, California, Indiana, Ohio and now several parts of the country are bracing for hurricanes and tropical storms. In Wisconsin, we experienced a significant number of disaster responses. Though these disasters did not capture national media attention hundreds of people experienced the worst day of their lives. In a moment, lives were turned upside down, homes were destroyed, pets died and cherished belongings are gone forever. Some lost loved ones including a family that lost their 2-year-old son in a home fire. Through all this, the American Red Cross was there. Wisconsin volunteers and staff responded at all hours of the day and night providing assistance, guidance and hope. They were there to listen and to help people begin to recover and heal.

In August, the Wisconsin Region…

  • Responded to 81 local disaster events including two Level II Disaster Relief Operations
  • Opened 198 cases helping 463 people
  • Opened and ran a shelter for 6 days and provided 106 overnight stays to people with no other place to spend the night
  • Coordinated 2 Multi Agency Resource Centers providing a one stop recovery shop for clients to meet with numerous agencies and receive support
  • Opened a Reception Center which provided people with casework, health services and crisis counseling
  • Responded to 4 requests to provide hydration and food to first responders

And remember, all of this came on the heels of a Level III flooding response in July!

In addition to helping at home, 77 Wisconsinites accepted assignments in Louisiana, California and now Hawaii. They set aside their lives to travel to communities torn apart by disasters, worked long hours, slept in gyms and more. They worked in shelters, served hot meals, delivered supplies, counseled survivors and did behind the scenes work to raise money, provide logistics support, managed staff and provided operational leadership.

All of you have a role in making sure the Red Cross mission is delivered in Wisconsin and beyond. Whether you respond to disasters, recruit, train and mentor volunteers, raise funds, tell the story, ensure vehicles, supplies and buildings are available or work with partners, please know that you make a difference. So many have benefited and will continue to benefit from Red Cross services and you help make it happen! Thank you!

Warmest regards,

Marytha Blanchard,

WI Disaster Officer

#proudredcrosser

 

Team Effort Creates Results!

Floods and winds created the need for 90 disaster responders to fulfill the emotional, health and disaster needs people come to expect from the American Red Cross after heavy rained caused wide-spread flooding damage across eight Northern Wisconsin counties with the sacred tribal lands of the Bad River Reservation being the epicenter of destruction.

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The Red Cross provided the following:

  • Opened an overnight shelter
  • Spearheaded a Multi-Agency Resource Center, a one-stop location for disaster help
  • Staffed two Emergency Operation Centers
  • Integrated Care Team outreach after four fatalities
  • 105 Health and Emotional Health contacts
  • 690 Clean-up Kits distributed (bucket, mop, broom, squeegee, gloves, cleaners, etc.)
  • 2,862 Meals and Snacks served
  • 2,982 Distributed shovels, bleach, gloves, pet carriers and more
  • Truckloads of bottled water was provided
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Volunteers haul up cleaning supplies kit into the van

“You could see on the people’s faces signs of hope because the Red Cross was there. I was so honored by the work our team was doing,” said Kyle Kriegl, Northwest Wisconsin Chapter Executive.

“Sometimes we don’t realize how we impact people’s lives and make a difference. One of the families we helped had a military spouse deployed in Alaska. Our team was able to connect her with our Services to the Armed Forces caseworker who was able to work with his command and have him come home for emergency leave to help cleanup and recover from this disaster. That is what the Red Cross is all about to me — helping people,”shared Kriegl.

Join us for free training so you too can be part of the disaster response team!

If you would like to support our efforts with a financial gift, please do at redcross.org/donate.

Learn more about flood safety.

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The Disaster Team assisted the NW Wisconsin flood.

 

 

 

 

Volunteer of the Month, August 2016 Tim Majcen

 

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Congratulations Tim Majcen, the August 2016 Volunteer of the Month!

New to the Red Cross in 2015, Tim Majcen began his Red Cross career in Disaster Services as a Disaster Action Team Responder in the North Central Wisconsin chapter. He’s usually called in as the first Red Cross representative at the scene of a fire or other local disaster. Tim’s role is to assess the family’s immediate needs and start them on the process of accessing available Red Cross services.

In the past year, Tim has invested his time in training and opportunities to greatly expand his service through the Red Cross; assisting with client casework, disaster assessment, learning about Mass Care sheltering and becoming an instructor. He is also active in the Fire Preparedness Campaign, helping with smoke alarm installations and fire prevention education. “Tim has shown great enthusiasm and dedication in being trained and integrated into Disaster responses in Oconto, Marinette and Brown Counties,” says Disaster Program Manager Brian Cockerham, who nominated Tim for the award. “He has been a tremendous asset in our northern counties.” The DAT Responder role is crucial in bringing Red Cross services to where they’re most needed, Cockerham says. In addition to helping locally in northern Wisconsin, Tim hopes to participate in national disaster responses as needed.

He also volunteers with two groups, SCORE and the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC), to provide coaching and assistance to small businesses and start-ups in the Green Bay area. As a former banker, Tim says volunteering is a way to keep busy since he retired. “This whole retired thing—I’m just doing something else in life,” Tim says. He always thought of retirement as a time for “golf, rocking chairs and fishing,” but found out he needs more activity. “I don’t enjoy doing a lot of that stuff for any length of time,” he says. Volunteering gives him an opportunity to use his skills and learn new ones—which the Red Cross is eager to teach him. “I never realized how much training Red Cross volunteer needs to have,” Tim says. “When I signed up I thought hey, I’m healthy, I’m ready to go, give me a call. It’s been a long process to get prepared for a national call-up.”

Though Cockerham calls him a “great example of what a community based approach to volunteering can look like,” Tim is quick to point out that his work as a DAT responder is only one small role in the much larger need at the scene of a disaster. “There’s nothing glamorous about what I’ve done,” he says. “I’m not pulling people out of burning buildings or anything like that, but I enjoy doing it, and I’m doing something good for the world, and that’s pretty cool.”

Thank you, Tim for proudly representing the Red Cross in your community and for giving back to others in so many remarkable ways!

If you would like to join Tim as a Disaster Services volunteer, visit www.redcross.org/volunteer or contact the Office of Volunteer Resources at volunteerwisconsin@redcross.org. The American Red Cross has many volunteer opportunities, including disaster response, supporting military troops, helping with blood donation drives and more. Red Cross volunteers are united by their service and the feeling that in changing others’ lives, their lives are also changed.

“Hey, Don’t Freak Out!”

 

For Denise Parker hitting ‘send’ to her husband Anthony Parker, who is stationed in Kodiak, Alaska and serving in the US Coast Guard, was a scary proposition. Upon opening his email, he knew the next words would not be good. Thankfully, seven days after the Northern Wisconsin floods, he can chuckle about it “that’s the best she could do?” he smiled a sheepish grin knowing his wife experienced a harrowing experience and her life may have been in danger. Through the support of the American Red Cross, Services to Armed Forces Emergency Communications program, he was by her side as the reality of several feet of water in their home set in.

On July 11th, more than a foot of rain fell with several inches of rain in just over an hour. The babbling streams turned into torrent rivers, washing away roads and scaring the landscape adjacent to majestic Lake Superior.

As the water rose above her ankles, Denise knew she and the pets were in trouble. She called 9-1-1. They traveled three separate routes but could not reach her; they retreated. She felt alone.  Via Facebook, her mother was able to reach a gentleman nearby with a ‘pick-up’ truck. She was rescued, with no time to spare, after she waded through chest deep water. In each hand, she carried a five-pound pet. The Great Dane wanted nothing to do with the water outside and refused to swim so he was left in the home. Her eyes filled with tears as she shared the thought of him drowning as the Marengo River now ran through her home.

Once safe, she sent an email to her husband serving on the USS Alex Haley. Fortunately, the ship was coming into dock.

She also reached out to her local American Red Cross, like she had done twice before to reach her husband serving abroad throughout the course of his career. In each instance, the Red Cross validated the emergency – a father’s illness and her surgery – for the commanders and in each instance; he was granted emergency leave to be with his family.

“Hey, don’t freak out. I’m o.k. that’s what is most important. The house is under water and the rabbits died.”  As he says, “Don’t freak-out is the best she could do? She also didn’t say the water was up-to the steering wheel in my 2010 F-150 truck.”  She retorts, “I could have died last night.” They can smile about it now.

For Red Cross responder, Marilyn Skrivseth, this case struck a similar cord as her first contact with the Red Cross when her brother was serving oversees and the Red Cross made an emergency connection.  At first, she worked with the Parkers on the phone to begin casework.

She also encouraged them to visit the Multi-Agency Resource Center for cleaning supplies, bottled water and to garner referrals for assistance. Upon arrival, they received bottled water, cleaning supplies, bleach and more material goods. What they also received was contacts for a “muck-out” team which helps families remove the water, sludge, drywall and personal items.  Any soft material will be destroyed.  Knowing he has a short emergency leave, the race is on to recover from this disaster. Thankfully, due to the Red Cross support, they are not alone.

By: Barbara Behling

Photos: Marilyn Janke