PHOTO: 13 year old steps up to volunteer his help in Moore, OK

May 25, 2013

PHOTO:  13 year old steps up to volunteer his help in Moore, OK

Red Cross Disaster Worker Butch Cooper of Arkansas and 13-year-old Duane Reese unload supplies at an aid station at the Southgate Pentecostal Church in Moore, OK. Photo credit: Jecoliah Ellis/American Red Cross


Disaster Alert: Wildfire in South Dakota

July 20, 2012

Disaster Alert

South Dakota– A wildfire destroyed or damaged homes, threatened others and prompted the evacuation of scores of residents in Custer County on Thursday.

The Black Hills Area chapter talked to Emergency Management, deployed team members, dispatched a disaster trailer, opened a shelter and provided assistance to disaster victims as needed.


Fast Facts: Montana Wildfires

July 17, 2012

The following information shows our total service delivery as of July 15, 2012 in Montana:


Story: Bringing Disaster Relief to those in need

July 16, 2012

This story is written by Red Cross volunteer Allen Crabtree.

The job of the Red Cross has not changed

“…My work was, and chiefly has been to get timely supplies to those needing,” said Clara Barton in an interview published in the New York Sun on January 10, 1908. “It has taught me the value of Things. They have lost all. They want food, clothing, shelter, medicines, and a few calm practical persons to administer them. This seems to have been my work.”

The early American Red Cross, under Clara Barton’s leadership, relied on wagons and ambulances drawn by horses and mules to deliver supplies and comfort to wounded Union soldiers in the US Civil War. Starting with a voluntary, independent relief organization to collect and distribute supplies to the wounded from the first battle of Bull Run, she was able to convince US Surgeon General William A. Hammond to issue her a general pass in July 1862 to travel with army ambulances “for the purpose of distributing comforts for the sick and wounded and nursing them.”

Barton collected some relief articles herself, appealed to the public for others, and learned how to store and distribute them. Besides supplies, Barton offered personal support to the men in hopes of keeping their spirits up: she read to them, wrote letters for them, listened to their personal problems, and prayed with them.

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In the 150 years since the fledgling American Red Cross started providing relief to those in need, the mission has not changed but the methods and techniques have evolved with the times. Today the Red Cross responds to natural and man-made disasters with a fleet of Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs) and trained relief workers. These red and white “box” trucks, emblazoned with the American Red Cross logo and “Disaster Relief”, are mobile feeding and supply vehicles that carry food, water, and cleanup supplies directly to residents in neighborhoods that have been affected by fires, floods, tornadoes and hurricanes. The disaster relief work being done following the most destructive wildfires that Colorado has ever seen that affected thousands of families and homes is a good example of the continuing work of the Red Cross first begun by Clara Barton.

Organizing the ERV Relief Effort

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It takes a coordinated effort of many hands to field ERVs into the neighborhoods where they are needed for effective disaster relief. It begins with the call to assemble crews and deploy individual ERVs from their home chapters to the disaster scene, often many states away. Once in the disaster area, it takes the talent and organizing skills of someone like Todd Vesely to pull it all together.

“My job as the ERV manager on the Colorado wildfires operation is to see the jobs that need to be done and then get it done,” said Vesely.

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Vesely is the key to assigning crews to individual ERVs, making assignments for their routes and the supplies that they will carry, organizing the stocking of each ERV and the movement of supplies from the warehouse to where they are needed, monitoring the maintenance and paperwork to keep the fleet of vehicles running, handling the personnel issues that are inevitable with a large crew of volunteers, and getting everything done on schedule. He also works with others at the Disaster Relief headquarters to coordinate assignments for outreach teams including client case workers, mental health workers and health workers who are also providing services to devastated neighborhoods. Vesely works with the Red Cross’ external partners to confirm which neighborhoods will be opened to returning residents and Red Cross crews.

Vesely has been a volunteer with the Nebraska chapter of the Red Cross for 1 ½ years, following his retirement after 20 years in the US Marine Corps. This is his fourth disaster deployment with the Red Cross.

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“I started as an ERV driver and must have done something right,” said Vesely, “because they keep asking me to do more. I am now managing the ERV program here for the Colorado Springs wildfires.”

His motto for running an efficient, smooth operation? “A little praise goes a long way,” said Vesely. “Our volunteers are already motivated to help others – I just try to set the stage so that they can do their jobs, praise them when they do them right, and help point them in the right direction when there are problems. There are very few problems with our volunteers – they are a great bunch of people.”

He added that the Red Cross family reminds him in many ways of his service family – dedicated to getting the job done.

Clara Barton and her early American Red Cross workers would be proud of the work that Vesely and the other volunteers have been doing to provide relief in the aftermath of the devastating Colorado wildfires. It is, after all, the work that she chose to do, and which the Red Cross today continues.


Story: John Gardner begins the recovery

July 13, 2012

This story is written by Red Cross volunteer Bill Fortune.


When John Gardner first heard about the Waldo Canyon Fire and the potential for evacuation he and his wife did the right thing. They packed some things and left their home. That was Saturday, June 23rd. After staying in a hotel for a couple of days they decided to return to their home on Monday June 25th. Feeling safe up to that point they unpacked and settled back in their home. However, that turned out to be a short visit. The very next day they saw flames coming over the ridge and fled for their lives. They had to move fast and grabbed whatever they could. Their home was a total loss, including the restored 1962 Jaguar convertible that was in the garage. John was in good spirits on Thursday, June 12, when he and family members were working their way through the ashes. They had found a few items including his wife’s jewelry box but weren’t expecting to find much more. “I have come to terms with the loss” John said, “We got out and that is what matters most. Everything else can be replaced.”

I asked John if, prior to the fire, he had followed one of the Red Cross preparedness tasks that suggested taking video of his home and belongings for later reference. He said that he had done that a few years back but in the haste to leave he left without taking it. “That will be high on my list for next time”, he said, “That and to pack a kit with some clothes in it. All we had was what we were wearing.” John and his family were grateful for the Red Cross support especially the water, masks, and work gloves. “Just knowing that you folks are here makes a difference.” John said as he turned to get back to the work of recovery.


In a driveway down the street from John’s home someone had placed burnt bricks in the shape of a heart. Just another sign of the compassion that is prevalent in this community.


Story: Red Cross, Local Family Work Together for Disaster Relief

July 11, 2012

This story is written by Red Cross worker Daphne Hart.

Evolving partnership following Montana fires

Montana Wildfires (June - July 2012)

BROADUS, MT – Neighbors take care of each other in Montana, but every so often people need a little extra help, and when a disaster strikes, the American Red Cross is there.

Staff and volunteers from around the country have come to assist with relief efforts following a series of fires that burned nearly 250,000 acres in the southeastern part of the state.

“This is the first time the Red Cross has been here,” said Jan Stevens, whose family homesteaded their Ashland area ranch in 1883. “It’s been a wonderful experience.”

It’s also been a partnership. The Stevens family is working with the organization to help distribute food and water to nearly 70 of her neighbors.

“The homes here may literally be miles apart,” said Kyle Miller, a 22-year-old student from Spokane, Wash. who is helping with mobile feeding efforts. “It’s been very helpful to have someone from the community who is willing to help us in this manner.”

In addition to distributing basic necessities to their neighbors, the Stevens Ranch is also a temporary home to the crews battling the Ash Creek Complex blaze. It’s the third time a fire camp has been set up on their property.

Sadly, Stevens thinks it won’t be the last.

“We’re set for a very long season of fires, we usually don’t get started this early,” she said.

Although everyone hopes it won’t be necessary, one thing Miller hopes the community takes away is that they won’t be facing future disasters alone.

“If the fires come back, Red Cross volunteers will come back too.”


Story: Red Cross forges partnership with NORAD and NORTHCOM to enhance disaster response capabilities

July 10, 2012

This story is written by Red Cross Volunteer Allen Crabtree.

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“The American Red Cross actively collaborates with a number of non-governmental, faith based and private sector organizations, and military partners,” said Eric Jones, American Red Cross Disaster Officer for Disaster Readiness and Capacity Development.   “These partnerships allow us to greatly enhance and expand our joint capabilities to provide emergency relief to individuals and communities whenever and wherever disaster strikes.  We can accomplish amazing things when we work together!”

One of the Red Cross’ key partnerships is with the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM).  Jones recently met with representatives from NORAD and NORTHCOM at the American Red Cross Service Delivery Site for disaster relief in Colorado Springsto discuss with our partners how the Red Cross is responding to the Colorado wildfires and how the partnership could be implemented in future disasters.

NORAD was established in 1958 as a joint command between the governments of Canada and the United States to provide coordinated defense against Cold War threats toNorth America.  NORTHCOM was established in 2002 to coordinate defense support of civil authorities and to provide command and control of Department of Defense (DOD) homeland defense efforts.

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“Partnerships and partnering are important to us,” said Captain James Terbush (MC USN) at US NORTHCOM.  He continued: “The American Red Cross is a Primary partner of the NORAD NORTHCOM Interagency Team. We value highly this relationship and look forward to close collaboration with the Red Cross for this disaster and in the future.”

“Think of this partnership as an insurance policy for disaster relief,” Jones said.  “For example, there will be future disaster situations where air space and areas is restricted and the Red Cross will need the active participation of NORTHCOM and other DoD elements to help us get our emergency relief assets on the ground.  This partnership could facilitate the needs of the Red Cross being met with military assets and aircraft.  The collaboration we build today could be of immeasurable value tomorrow.”

Captain Terbush summed his observations of the meeting with these words:  “Thanks for the terrific visit to your American Red Cross, Colo. Springs, Disaster Recovery HQs yesterday. We gained a tremendous amount of information about your response to the Colorado Wildfires and also a different perspective on the strategic workings of ARC, up and down the chain. [This is] all excellent for our situational awareness.”

“This meeting and others like it provide a forum to share agency roles and allow for networking,” said Jones.  “The more we understand our respective missions and goals, the better we will be able to manage partner expectations and foster coordination so that the Red Cross can provide disaster relief where and when it is needed most!”


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