Photo and Story by Dan Bedell
Navigating past mountains of mud-caked, molding furniture, appliances, drywall, flooring and other debris that line almost every street in Jersey shore communities like Seaside Heights has become routine for emergency response vehicle (ERV) teams with the American Red Cross.
Their efforts are clearly appreciated by home and business owners, staff and work crews hired in the weeks since hurricane Sandy to rip out furnishings, walls, flooring, fixtures and insulation in a race against time to reduce the risks of rot and mold.
“Here, you look like you could definitely use more of these,” shouts ERV driver Dale Kiriaze of Reno, NV, offering safety masks to grimy-faced workers who applaud the truck’s arrival after steering around debris, potholes and puddles from a steady rain.
“Just promise me you won’t go using them to rob a bank,” he adds, drawing a much-needed chuckle from weary workers who gratefully accept the free masks and other items from Kiriaze and his Red Cross colleague, Kelly Phillips of Lake Tahoe, CA.
“I could really use a bottle of water,” says one worker in muddy overalls, to which Phillips hands him a dozen bottles to share with others in the group, then tosses each a fresh pairs of work gloves and offers clean-up supplies like disinfecting bleach, buckets, mops, garbage bags and tarps.
The Red Cross team then moved to another street to repeat the process. Their efforts, and those of ERV teams from across the country, have to date added up to more than six million relief items distributed free to thousands of people in New Jersey, New York and other states, each gift welcome as it’s one less expense they must bear in coping with the cost, not to mention the stress and back aches, of recovery from Sandy.