Red Cross Responders Stepping Up After Manitowoc Fire

We can’t say THANK YOU enough to our dedicated volunteers!

Stories and photos by: Andrea Wandrey, American Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer

“Look at that smile, isn’t that priceless”, says Taira Grubb, as she is watching one of her shelter residents unfold his new pair of pants. He is one of more than 80 elderly residents that lost everything in a Manitowoc apartment fire—from clothes to medication and furniture, photos and memories. American Red Cross responders from all over Wisconsin raised their hands quickly to help open up and run a shelter at the Wilson Junior High School, to provide basic needs like food, clothing and a place to sleep.

(l-r) Taira Grubb Bobbi Holiday and Jane Lazarevic

Taira Grubb has been a volunteer with the Red Cross for more than ten years. She is one of five disaster action team members in Washington County and traveled with fellow volunteers Bobbi Holiday and Jane Lazarevic to Manitowoc to help. Her favorite part of shelter-work is learning about the clients. “I really enjoy talking to them”, she says. Just like Taira, Jane appreciates the personal interactions: “I like making them laugh and helping them think positively”. Jane is a long-time Red Cross volunteer, and recalls that initially she was not sure how her professional background in technology could be helpful to the Red Cross. However, she quickly found out that there is always a way:

“Whatever you can do, you can give something”, says Jane.

In previous deployments she worked in many different positions, from setting up computers, to logistics, staffing and general shelter work. Likewise, her fellow Washington-County volunteer Bobbi has held different positions at the Red Cross. She was previously an office manager and is in disaster-work now, experienced in assisting clients in traumatic situations like the Manitowoc fire.

Terry Wesenberg, a licensed clinical social worker and licensed counselor and Red Cross Volunteer.

A variety of skills were needed at the Manitowoc shelter and highly-trained workers are indispensable. Terry Wesenberg joined the shelter as a licensed clinical social worker and licensed counselor. He is one of the Red Cross’s most experienced mental health professionals. For many years he was in the army, offering his help to soldiers. After his retirement from the Armed Forces he worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for six years in disaster work. Being a Red Cross Volunteer for more than 30-years, he has helped more people than he could count. “I headed out to help after six Hurricanes”, he recalls. He travelled to the Gulf Coast to assist after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in 2005, and was in New York for Hurricanes Irene and Sandy in 2011 and 2012. When asked about his most memorable experience in all these years, he recalls his conversation with a 90-year-old woman after Superstorm Sandy. “When storm hit, she carried six white banker-boxes from her basement into her living room, to protect them from the flood”, he recalled. The boxes contained pictures, stories, and poems from her deceased granddaughter. With the water forcing its way into the house, the boxes got wet and all memories destroyed. Yet the woman refused to throw them out. “This is all I have left” Terry recalls her saying.

His extensive experience helps Terry support the Manitowoc fire victims, who also lost all of their belongings in the fire. Although his work can be tough, Terry very much enjoys volunteering, specifically because of the fellow volunteers he meets. “If you go out you will meet the best people. You want to know them all”, he says.

 

“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!

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

Danz Street Fire Bring Multiple Agencies Together

The American Red Cross ran a Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) at our Green Bay, Wisconsin office on April 29th. This is the second in the state and the first following a large- scale apartment building fire. MARC is a collaboration of private and public agencies that come together and provide assistance in one convenient location. In a comfortable setting, victims of disasters learn and share what resources are available, help them receive assistance and take one giant step closer to recovery.

With the help of bi-lingual volunteers, we helped disaster clients create personal recovery plans, navigate paperwork and locate assistance for their specific disaster-caused needs.  Representatives from government, non-profit, and religiously-affiliated disaster relief organizations included:

  • American Red Cross
  • Salvation Army
  • Vincent DePaul
  • Green Bay & Brown County Housing Authority
  • First United Methodist
  • Brown County Human Services
  • 2-1-1
  • Crisis Center
  • Head Start
  • Register of Deeds
  • Preble High School Culinary Program served an amazing meal

Agencies in the MARC are vetted and their staff and volunteers adhere to high ethical standards to maintain the confidentiality and dignity of the clients. A verification system was implemented to confirm those who have been affected by the disaster. (click for WBAY-TV 2  ,  WFRV-TV 5 , Fox 11  and NBC26 video coverage)

The intentions of a MARC is to save the clients time, money and gas as there is no need to go from one organization to the next. Each client leaves with real assistance – some even received first months rental assistance and confirmation they could start moving into a new apartment later that same day after meeting with agencies! By the end of the day, 12 of the 16 families had confirmed new housing arrangements!

The mother who could now replace her son’s eye glasses was thrilled, the Red Cross would replace them at no cost. With the service, he will also have a complimentary eye exam. “He’ll be a better student when he can see again,” she exclaimed. For all the families, referrals for on-going services, bring them deeper into the recovery process and provide a little piece of mind.

The Danz Elementary School has served as the overnight shelter, provided food, snacks and hope for nearly 70-people after their apartment building fire earlier in the week.

Letter from a Danz Student written to the children of the families impacted.

Letter from a Danz Student written to the children of the families impacted.

No April Fool’s Day Joke

We are proud of our American Red Cross responders! Here’s just a brief one-day recap:

  • For a large apartment building fire on S. Cesar E Chavez Drive in Milwaukee, we opened a shelter for residents displaced by fire. Many of whom, had to jump to a neighboring buildings before being rescued by fire fighters. We are now working one-on-one with them to address emergency needs and longer term living solutions as the building is, now, rubble.
  • An apartment building fire in Taylor (Jackson County) has taken the life of an elderly gentleman. We are assisting survivors with lodging, food, clothing and emotional support during this difficult time.
  • We also responded to fires in Sheboygan County and to a family of six in Cudahy (Milwaukee County) after fire destroyed their homes too.
  • Altogether 32 people have been assisted with their immediate disaster-caused needs.
  • National Deployments! Three of our trained responders, Brenda Haney of Deforest and Cheryl and Doug Mason of Chippewa Falls, are deploying to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

 “It is days like today that leave me in awe at the dedication of wonderful volunteers and staff who give so much of their time and energy to help people in need. They respond day and night, rain or shine, to bring help and hope to so many. If you run into a disaster volunteer or staff member in the next few days please thank them for what they do.” Marytha Blanchard, WI Disaster Officer

Doug and Cheryl Mason are Oklahoma bound!

Doug and Cheryl Mason are Oklahoma bound!

Fire!!! Could this happen to you?

Please watch this news story courtesy of Fox 6 in Milwaukee and then take the actions steps!

Click on link below:

 http://fox6now.com/2015/01/15/five-year-old-boy-receiving-treatment-at-the-hospital-after-two-alarm-blaze-at-duplex-in-milwaukee/

People can take several steps to protect themselves and their loved ones and increase their chances of surviving a fire.

  • Every household should develop a fire escape plan and practice it several times a year and at different times of the day.
    • Include two ways to get out of every room and consider escape ladders for sleeping areas or homes on the second floor or above.
    • Pick a place outside for everyone to meet and make sure everyone knows where it is.
    • Practice that home fire drill until everyone in the household can do it in less than two minutes.
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of the home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Test them every month and replace the batteries at least once a year.

Fire experts agree that people may have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home before it’s too late to get out.

10710893_10152718411990071_1668250310886687572_nMore than forty percent (42 percent) of Americans feel confident they can escape their burning home in two minutes. Most parents (69 percent) believe their children would know what to do or how to escape with little help.

  • The problem with these assumptions is that less than half of parents (48 percent)   with children ages 3-17 have talked to their families about fire safety.
  • Only a third (30 percent) of families with children have identified a safe place to meet outside the home.
  • Less than one in five families with children (18 percent) have actually practiced home fire drills.

Seven times a day, someone in this country dies in a home fire. Just in the past month, three lives have been lost in Wisconsin alone. For more information, please visit redcross.org/firesafety

Top Ten Red Cross Cold Weather Safety Tips

freezing-temperatures-jpg

As temperatures drop this winter, the American Red Cross offers ten steps people can take to stay safe during the cold weather.

  1. Layer up! Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm. Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing your body heat.
  2. Don’t forget your furry friends. Bring pets indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
  3. Remember the three feet rule. If you are using a space heater, place it on a level, hard surface and keep anything flammable at least three feet away – things such as paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs.
  4. Requires supervision – Turn off space heaters and make sure fireplace embers are out before leaving the room or going to bed.
  5. Don’t catch fire! If you are using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
  6. Protect your pipes. Run water, even at a trickle, to help prevent your pipes from freezing. Open the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals out of the reach of children. Keep the garage doors closed if there are water lines in the garage.
  7. Better safe than sorry. Keep the thermostat at the same temperature day and night. Your heating bill may be a little higher, but you could avoid a more costly repair job if your pipes freeze and burst.
  8. The kitchen is for cooking. Never use a stove or oven to heat your home.
  9. Use generators outside. Never operate a generator inside the home, including in the basement or garage.
  10. Knowledge is power. Don’t hook a generator up to the home’s wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.

For more information on how to stay safe during the cold weather, visit winter storm safety.