“The Volunteer You Would Need” Red Cross Volunteers are There When Disaster Strikes.

Written By: Dawn Miller, American Red Cross – Wisconsin Region

Photos provided by: Megann Hooyman

When the volunteer from the American Red Cross arrived it was like seeing an old friend and that was just what Megann Hooyman and her family of Appleton needed. The moments leading up to it were a blur of smoke and sirens.

Megann’s family, including her husband, Andy, 4-year old daughter, Zoey and the two-year old twins, Rylee and Callie, had arrived home from a holiday event with Santa. It was a festive Saturday morning so it took Megann a few moments to realize something was wrong.

When she opened her door all she saw was black and smoke. The glass from the oven was shattered on the floor and smoke was everywhere. She bent down to Charlie, their basset hound, but he was already gone. In the living room the smoke was so thick she could not see her hand in front of her.

She ran out the front door and yelled for someone to call 9-1-1. Smoke billowed out behind her. When she opened the door it allowed oxygen in to ignite the flames again.

Andy grabbed the fire extinguisher nearby and used it to keep flames down until firefighters arrived. “It was lucky that we had the fire extinguisher and that Andy knew how to use it,” says Megann.

Within moments Megann heard the sirens and the fire department was there. The fire fighters not only got the fire under control but assisted the family’s other dog, Zebby, who suffered bad burns and smoke inhalation. The ambulance assisted Andy who also was treated for smoke inhalation.

The fire damage was extensive and their possessions were destroyed.

Megann says the American Red Cross volunteer appeared out of nowhere. It’s like seeing a familiar face when you see the American Red Cross logo and that red vest. “It was nice to have that one reliable thing you know you can count on for information and support.”

Megann says the volunteer being there made her feel less alone. “I would have felt lost because I wouldn’t have known what to expect.”

He offered honest advice, time to process next steps and he made sure they were ok. He made sure they had housing and asked if they needed community resources like the food or clothing pantry. He gave them a $625 debit card for necessities like shampoo, conditioner and diapers. “It goes pretty fast when you have little ones,” says Megann.

Megann says she is thankful for such a supportive community. In the weeks following the fire, they stayed with family and were offered much support from friends and community who rallied to help keep the holiday season merry.

“You donate, you give back but you never think you are going to be on the receiving end,” says Megann. “But you need these services.”

Megann recently became the newest member of the American Red Cross Disaster Action Team.

“I hope I volunteer but I hope I don’t because it’s not a good situation,” says Megann. That’s why she’s not only being trained in disaster response but also wants to assist in fire safety and prevention education.

Megann is joining the team of compassionate and caring volunteers in red vests so she can be a friend when someone needs it the most. “You see it in school and on t.v. but you never think it will happen to you,” says Megann. “I don’t know any way to thank those who helped us except to give back and volunteer.”

If you want to be like Megann, please check out the volunteer opportunities at redcross.org/WI/volunteer.  Join us as we #Help1Family!

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!

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.

 

 

 

 

“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

 

ON THE GROUND AND IN THE SHELTER: RHINELANDER VOLUNTEER SHARES TEXAS TORNADO STORIES

By Max Seigle, American Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer

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Carol on left with Marie (in ERV) who is from Nebraska and Jim (right) from Michigan.

Carol Miller started the New Year more than 1,000 miles away from home. She wasn’t on vacation or with her family. On January 1st, she arrived in Texas to help tornado victims for her 13th national deployment with the American Red Cross.

“I didn’t even think of it as a holiday. I just rolled up my sleeves and went to work. I just focused on what had to be done first,” Miller said in a recent interview with the Red Cross Public Affairs.

Miller, from Rhinelander, served as a Health Services Supervisor in communities near Dallas, following the deadly Texas tornadoes at the end of December. She was one of more than 580 Red Cross volunteers working in disaster zones across the state. Overall, the assisted close to 900 individuals and families in need.

“Insulation everywhere, piles of debris, all of their belongings, their lifetime… everything is stacked at the curb ready to be taken away,” Miller said.

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In part of her role, Miller saw first-hand the devastating aftermath of the tornadoes. In the city of Glenn Heights, she visited hard-hit neighborhoods with a Red Cross team offering a variety of assistance. Miller focused on securing immediate medical needs for residents.

“I helped replace a lot of prescriptions, wheel-chairs, walkers, eye glasses, helping people find sources for hearing aid replacement,” Miller said.

Miller also recalled helping a family find a new hospital bed for their mother and nebulizers for people with asthma. She talked about being an advocate for clients with their pharmacy and insurance company, and also helped with clinic referrals.

In the city of Garland, Miller spent time at Red Cross shelter. While serving there, she met a mother and her four kids, ages 2 to 13. Their father was in the hospital recovering from injuries he sustained in the tornado.

“The mom would get very tearful as she thought about her home and her concern about her husband and what they’re going to do next,” Miller said.

Miller worked with the family to get diabetic supplies for the mother and asthma medications for her five-year-old son. Other volunteers in the shelter helped with temporary housing assistance. Miller said the mother was grateful.

“My greatest reward is getting a hug from people like that,” she said.

During her deployment, Miller also heard stories from residents about the day the tornadoes hit. They described a pea-green sky and still surroundings, then the disaster.

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“This was more like five freight trains or a couple of jet engines,” she said residents told her.

The family she met at the Garland shelter said they took cover in a bathtub with the father holding a mattress on top of them. Afterwards, it took crews a half hour to 45 minutes to get them out of their home. She said the father had injuries that required surgery while everyone had cuts and bruises.

Miller spent more than a week in Texas. She’s now surpassed the dozen mark with 13 national deployments with the Red Cross. These are experiences she has grown to treasure.

“Just the thanks you get from the clients and just being able to help my fellow brothers and sister in their time of need. It’s very rewarding personally, it’s a way to give back because we’ve been very blessed,” she said.

Thank you Carol for proudly representing the Red Cross in Texas. Your desire to help others in their greatest times of need is inspiring.

The American Red Cross has many volunteer opportunities, including becoming a disaster responder, supporting military troops, and many more. Red Cross volunteers are united by their service and the feeling that in changing others’ lives, their lives are also changed. To learn more, visit www.redcross.org/volunteer or contact the office of Volunteer Resources at volunteerwisconsin@redcross.org.

 

Stepping into a Client’s Shoes

By Viv Chappell, Red Cross Grants Specialist

MKE Simulation_3 Photo Layout On September 23, 2015, I stepped into the shoes of an American Red Cross disaster client. Fortunately for me, it was part of an emergency training drill, rather than a real event. I took part as an actor in a simulated aviation crisis—the General Mitchell International Airport 2015 Full Scale Exercise. Every three years, the airport and community partners put the Airport Emergency Plan into action, simulating a response to help prepare for the real thing.

In this scenario, a commercial airline—Dairy Air—experienced an emergency when a plane with 120 souls aboard landed short of the airport runway. The impact resulted in several small fires, major damage to aircraft, mass casualties and much scattered debris. In an aviation disaster response such as this, numerous stakeholders are involved, from the airline, to first responders, to the Red Cross. During this exercise, the Red Cross mobilized Health Services and Disaster Mental Health responders to assist with triage, as well as Government Liaisons, Public Affairs, Staffing personnel, and Family Assistant Specialists (FAS).

MKE Simulation_Actor AssignmentFAS volunteers work with specific families affected by an aviation disaster. They assist in the flow of information to and from families and friends of the people on the flight. FAS workers also provide support by listening to the concerns of the crash victim’s loved ones, obtaining or contacting resources, as well as providing logistical support for their needs.

My assignment was that of distraught and angry friend of Mary Jo Noyse, a passenger on the plane that went down. The other loved ones and I were guided to the Family and Friends Center, and each assigned a Red Cross Family Assistant Specialist. My assigned volunteer, Taira Grubb, sat down with me and assured me that she would do everything she could to help me get through the situation. She listened to my fears and angry demands with a soothing calmness. She confirmed that my friend Mary Jo was on the flight manifest, and took down identifying information about her. She helped me contact my friend’s family to notify them of the crash. She brought me water and a snack as we awaited news. As we talked, I thought of a real friend of mine, and imagined what it would feel like if she had really been in a plane crash. When I welled up with emotion, Taira comforted me and patted me on the back, a tear in her eye brought on by sincere compassion.

MKE Simulation_Disaster Vols w VestsI looked around the room filled with Red Crossers in their familiar disaster relief vests, providing comfort to a dozen more people. I hope we never have to activate this response for a real situation. But if we do, I know from first-hand experience that the Red Cross will be there to provide care and support to people in their darkest hour.

To find out more about the Red Cross disaster relief, please visit the Wisconsin Red Cross Disaster Services page.

Western Wildfires Do Affect Us

Red Cross workers witness the devastating affect of wildfires

Red Cross workers witness the devastating affect of wildfires

The United States as a whole is in the midst of one of the worst, and most expensive, wildfire seasons on record. To-date this year, more than 8.5 million acres have burned. In addition to the wildfires currently devastating California, Red Cross disaster workers are assisting with relief efforts for an additional 26 large-scale active wildfires that are currently burning across Idaho, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

So far this wildfire season, Red Cross teams across multiple states have operated 52 shelters that saw over 2,400 overnight stays, served nearly 41,000 meals and snacks and distributed nearly 5,000 relief supplies to assist those impacted by raging wildfires. The Red Cross is also working with partners to provide care for evacuated pets and animals.

When disasters hit, the impact is felt far and wide – property is damaged, people are displaced, and lives are upended. But one of the greatest impacts of a disaster is often unseen: the effect on people’s emotional health and mental well-being. Trained Red Cross caseworkers are providing much needed mental health services for individuals and families impacted by these disasters, helping people deal with the intensity of the disaster and connect with additional resources within their community. And as fires continue to burn, Red Cross disaster workers are also looking ahead to coordinate recovery efforts for both individuals and families impacted and displaced by these devastating fires. The Red Cross will continue to work within communities to provide the needed resources to help people respond and recover from wildfires – even after the smoke clears.

Disaster Preparedness

People in the path wildfires, hurricanes and other severe weather should download the Red Cross Emergency App for real time access to weather alerts, preparedness information, safety tips and shelter locations. The Emergency App provides expert advice on what to do during floods, tornadoes, wildfires and other disasters. The app also provides lifesaving information on emergency first aid for various situations such as what to do for heart attacks, heat-related emergencies and includes water safety tips. Pre-loaded content ensures that guidance from Red Cross experts is available anytime, anywhere – even without mobile connectivity. The Emergency App is available for free in app stores for smartphones and tablets and can also be found by searching for American Red Cross or by going to redcross.org/apps.

Wildfire Tips

With no end in sight to critical fire weather in the affected states, the Red Cross has safety steps people should follow if they live in an area where a wildfire is possible:

  • If a wildfire threatens, be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
  • Listen to local radio and television stations for updated emergency information.
  • Always back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape.
  • Confine pets to one room or spot so that you can find them if you need to evacuate quickly.
  • Arrange for temporary housing at a friend or relative’s home outside the threatened area.
  • Keep indoor air clean by closing windows and doors to prevent outside smoke from getting in.
  • Use the recycle or re-circulate mode on the air conditioner in your home or car.
  • When smoke levels are high, do not use anything that burns and adds to indoor air pollution, such as candles, fireplaces and gas stoves.

Click here for additional safety information, including what do to before, during and after a wildfire.

  • To support wildfires and residential fires alike, please consider making a financial contribution at redcross.org/donate
  • To become a disaster responder like Gene Wallis and Vicki Gurriell, you can start your volunteer application at redcross.org/volunteer