WI Red Cross Nurse Volunteer Assists Houston Residents after Hurricane Harvey

It’s been two weeks since Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, TX. There is still so much to do with cleaning up and taking care of those in need. Carol Miller, a Red Cross volunteer and nurse from Rhinelander, WI arrived in Houston the day after the disaster and has been assisting at the Brown Convention Center, one of the many shelters set up. She shares her story:

(Left to right): RNs Darryl Lemick (CA) and Darla Soles (MD) talk to a resident at one of the dormitory DHS desks.

As a team of 28 Red Cross volunteers, they rode in the back of a city dump truck to get to the shelter because of the high waters. Although it was not an easy transport, they arrived safely to prep for the receiving of 5,000 disaster survivors. By Sunday evening on August 27th, there were a total of 4,900 people staying there. A shortage of cots and beds began that same night as well. The total increased greatly over night to more than 10,000 people. Carol expressed her gratitude towards the local volunteers because they pitched in their assistance to the team when some Red Cross volunteers were not able to get into the city.

Carol’s office views over Dormitory D in the shelter.

By Wednesday this week, things started to turn around for the better. Prior, Carol and her team worked diligently on a minimum of 12-hour shifts but have dropped down to 8-hour. They also received additional good news: they were getting handicap accessible showers! It’s definitely the little things that count. Also, the number of people staying at the shelter dropped to roughly 1,600 that same day but she mentioned that the current population “includes many people with the highest level of needs- those with access and functional needs, mental health issues, healthcare needs and those with limited ability to self-determine the next steps to recovery.”

She added, “Community partners have set up areas to provide eye refraction and glasses, dialysis, prescription meds, acute dental care, immunizations, lab work, behavioral health, and social services and housing referrals.”

(Left to right): Carol in Staff Wellness Office with RNs Jada Mai (CA) and Jill Boesch (AZ)

Another dorm area is set for shelter residents that have pets where they have access to medical services and food supplies from local veterinarians and pet supply retailers.

Carol ends with asking for a prayer for the people affected by Hurricane Harvey. We cannot thank her and the rest of the volunteers enough for their support, courage and love for the community.

You can still help! To donate to the Red Cross and learn how your donations are helping those impacted by disaster relief, please visit http://www.redcross.org/news/article/Harvey-Donations-Hard-at-Work-Red-Cross-Efforts-Ongoing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wisconsin’s Longest Tornado Leaves a Path of Disaster

Early evening on time on May 16, 2017, a deadly tornado cycle took aim on Barron and Rusk counties in northern Wisconsin. The EF-3 twister with winds of at least 140 miles per hour ran for 83 miles which makes it Wisconsin’s longest tornado since modern documentation began in 1950. The storm damaged 231 homes and four commercial buildings.

The storms epicenter was the Prairie Lakes Estates mobile home in Chetek and the Jennie-O turkey farm were tossed, turned, stripped and shattered to pieces. Leaving 40 homes destroyed, one person dead and 35 injured. Across county lines, in Rusk County, Conrath was hit the second hardest from the same tornado.

The American Red Cross quickly set up two reception centers at Mosaic Telecom in Cameron, the Ladysmith Sheriff’s Department first and then the Holy Trinity Church in downtown Conrath. Red Cross Disaster Responders from all over Wisconsin rushed in to support the shelter conduct damage assessment, work one-on-one with clients including by providing financial support, replacing medications and equipment to providing an emotional support to those left temporarily homeless.

For the Rutledge family, the trauma of the storm was multi-faceted. The family huddled in their mobile home before it broke apart and thrown across the earth. One member of the family was transported to Regis Hospital with life-threatening injuries. While looking at the remains of their home, they heard noises. Garnering the attention of first responders, they lifted twisted metal, shattered wood and through insulation carefully, quickly – yet carefully – through the remains. When their bunny “Racer” was in the arms of the family, they knew not all was lost.

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By Barbara Behling, American Red Cross

See American Red Cross Wisconsin Chapters Flickr site for more photos.

Our largest Multi-agency Resource Center, often called a “one-stop shop” for residents, was spearheaded by the Red Cross. For two days, Mosaic Telecom hosted 26 agencies.  These agencies provided assistance ranging from; rent assistance, security deposits, furniture, household supplies, food, clothing and much more. Each attendee started with the Red Cross caseworkers to help people create personal recovery plans, navigate paperwork, and locate assistance for their specific disaster-caused needs.

Non-profit, government and community organizations included:

  • American Red Cross
  • Habitat for Humanity ReStore
  • Barron County DSI
  • Red Cedar Church
  • Rural Development – USDA
  • Salvation Army
  • St. Vincent de Paul
  • United Way 211
  • WestCap
  • WI Judicare
  • Workforce Resources
  • Public Health
  • Benjamin’s House – Emergency Shelter
  • Citizens Connected
  • Johnson Insurance
  • Mosaic Telecom
  • Ruby’s Closet
  • USDA Rural Development
  • Wisconsin Works
  • Housing and Urban Development
  • Barron County Veterans Service

The Red Cross has also trucked in rakes, gloves, masks, googles, bug spray and plastic bags to help in the clean-up process.

For Polk County resident, Sue Ames-Lillie, this was the first MARC she has been to, even though she has responded to hundreds of residential fires. She recalls one mother and child in particular. “The mother was battling stage-4 cancer and yet she still had the strength to carry her son upon arrival. After striking a conversation, I learned he had lost his favorite toy.” Sue ushered them in for lunch, then offered clothing along with other items provided by multiple resources. “Permission was granted to take him to a special area where toys and stuffed animals were waiting for children. His frown turned to a smile and this is how I will forever remember this day” Sue shares with gleaming eyes.

Local and regional trained disaster responders were on-scene immediately and knowing an out pouring of community support would swell, the Red Cross activated 26 ‘event based volunteers’ who worked alongside 64 registered Red Cross workers (90 total) to provide:

  • 2, 117 meals & snacks served
  • 1,721 personal hygiene kits and cleanup items distributed
  • 213 individuals met with and assisted
  • 302 health services visits
  • 78 mental health services visits

 

Moving forward the Red Cross is a partner in the Barron County long-term recovery process to ensure community resiliency is achieved. Our community education team will also be available to area schools and groups to share emergency preparedness information such as The Pillowcase Project for grade school kids.

Overall, the Barron County Sherriff’s Department estimates about $10 million in damages. The Rusk County Sheriff said their area sustained heavy damage to public and private properties, including homes and rural farms.

Three generations of the Rutledge family, Mary, Deeann & Cynthia embrace Racer, the rabbit after he was rescued from the mobile home which collapsed upon him in the Chetek tornado.

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!

 

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.

Greenfield’s Life-Saver Receives National Award

At only 11 years-old, Abram Suminski of Greenfield, Wisconsin, is a official recipient of the American Red Cross Certificate of Merit for selfless and humane action in saving a life. This is the highest award given by the Red Cross to an individual or team of individuals who saves or sustains life by using skills and knowledge learned in the American Red Cross Preparedness, Health and Safety Services courses.

When Abram Suminski was learning first aid basics in an American Red Cross Babysitter’s training course, I doubt he knew how quickly he’d be putting them to use in a real-life situation. Good thing he was prepared though when his younger brother, Logan, was in need. Shortly after, the brothers were playing in their grandmother’s basement when Logan started to choke on a piece a candy. Abram saw his brother turning purple and jumped into action to perform abdominal thrusts. His quick actions dislodged the piece of candy from Logan’s throat, saving his life!

Abram’s instructor from the Babysitter’s training course heard of his life-saving story, and she, along with the Greenfield Rec. Department (where the training took place), nominated Abram for the Red Cross Certificate of Merit, which is signed by the President Barack Obama, who is the Honorary Chairman of the American Red Cross!

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Abram Suminski holding his award with the help of his younger brother, Logan.

On Tuesday night at the Greenfield Common Council Meeting, Abram received the Red Cross Certificate of Merit. The Mayor of Greenfield, Michael J. Neitzke, and local Red Cross CEO, Patty Flowers, had the honor of presenting the award to Abram. In attendance, were some very special guests including Abram’s family, the vice principle of his school, his Red Cross instructor and the Greenfield Fire Department.

If you’re thinking about signing up for a Red Cross training course, don’t hesitate – be prepared! Information about the Red Cross Babysitting course, First Aid, CPR/AED and other training courses are available at redcross.org/takeaclass.

To see live action watch the Fox 6 news clip!

 

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.