Disaster Update – Typhoon Haiyan

November 12, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan swept across the central Philippines on Friday leaving a trail of massive destruction in its wake. With sustained winds reported at over 145 miles per hour, and significantly stronger gusts, Haiyan was the second category 5 typhoon to strike the Philippines this year. The typhoon affected 4.3 million people across 36 provinces.

Philippine Red Cross volunteers throughout the region are reporting significant damage and a growing death toll, while the full extent of the devastation continues to unfold. While relief efforts are underway, blocked roads, destroyed infrastructure and downed communication lines are making the response particularly challenging.

The Philippine Red Cross is leading the response effort and their volunteers have been caring for people even before Typhoon Haiyan made landfall—working closely to support pre-emptive evacuations of more than 125,000 families. The Philippine Red Cross is the largest humanitarian organization in the country, with 1,000 staff and an estimated 500,000 active volunteers engaged in response to this emergency. Red Cross has begun distributions of relief supplies, but delivery in the worst affected city of Tacloban has been significantly constrained by damage to local infrastructure.

The American Red Cross has deployed four people to the Philippines. These include two people who specialize in telecommunication and who are traveling with satellite equipment, and two others who specialize in disaster assessment. The Red Cross network has deployed teams in logistics, disaster assessment, shelter, health, water and sanitation.

In addition to supplying people, expertise, and equipment, the American Red Cross is helping reconnect families separated by Typhoon Haiyan. People searching for a missing family member in the Philippines should remember that many phones lines are down. If still unable to reach loved ones, people contact their local chapter of the American Red Cross to initiate a family tracing case. 

STORY: Dynamic Duo, Leah and Ralphie

December 6, 2012

Story by Lilly Watson, photo by Destry Carr

blind volunteer photo

NEW YORK, N.Y. – American Red Cross volunteers of many appearances and backgrounds from cities all across America fill the fourth floor of the Red Cross Greater New York Chapter as they head out into the areas affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Leah Seabury, age 24, manages to stand out amongst her diverse peers. It’s likely her lovable Guide Dog, Ralphie, who stands close by on his harness ready to help her move around the chapter and out on visits to disaster victims, helps her stand out.

In New York, on her first deployment from the Raleigh Regional Chapter in North Carolina, Seabury works in a multitude of service delivery areas, including the Disaster Action Team and Client Casework, her current assignment for Hurricane Sandy. Seabury says her passion for public service is what brought her to the Red Cross three years ago when she received Ralphie as her guide dog.

“I love helping people, and if I had my vision, I would work in public safety,” Seabury shares. “The Red Cross gave me the chance to still live my passion for helping others despite my disability.”

Read the rest of this entry »

STORY: Red Cross Volunteer Spirits Soar with JetBlue and Il Volo

December 6, 2012

Story by Lilly Watson, photo by JetBlue


NEW YORK, N.Y. – Even before Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, JetBlue started preparing for the Red Cross’ recovery.

To get the volunteers coming from across the country to New York, JFK airport’s “hometown airline,” arranged flights, and made the company’s Red Cross trained volunteer group, JetBlue Ready Team, available to begin work on the relief operation.

But on December 4, JetBlue gave Red Cross volunteers a much-needed breather by inviting dozens of them to a meet-and-greet with Il Volo, a critically acclaimed trio of Italian operatic pop teenage tenors. The personal reception was followed by a concert as part of the airline’s terminal T5 concert series at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tips for Emotional Support and Health

December 4, 2012

Story by Lilly Watson, photo by Nikki Baxendale

Spiritual Care-Photo

NEW YORK, N.Y. – While many services provided to disaster survivors may vary depending upon the type and size of the disaster, there is one type of service the Red Cross always brings to those in crisis: emotional support.

Since the days after Hurricane Sandy made landfall on October 29, Red Cross Spiritual Care Teams have provided the Spiritual Care Services of presence, words of comfort, hope and prayer to people affected by the disaster. Red Cross clients and the family of loved ones who have faced profound loss, sometimes including the death or a spouse or loved one, can open up to Spiritual Care Team members about how this trauma has affected them and their spirituality.

Team members are ordained, licensed or commissioned by a religious authority to function in the specialized ministry of care or equivalent chaplaincy training.

Matthew Cobb, a Red Cross Spiritual Team member on the Hurricane Sandy operation in New York from Manhattan, Kansas, believed that his specialized training helps him understand religious backgrounds and cultural sensitivities, but he sometimes cannot reach everyone straight away. Here are six steps that all people can take to provide emotional support to people feeling loss and desperation:

1. Check the person’s breathing. Encouraging deep breaths can reduce anxiety and panic and allows survivors to begin getting in touch with their emotions. “When you’re connected to your breath, you can get in touch with your true emotions and begin getting it out through expression,” Cobb said.

2. Make sure the person is drinking plenty of water. Even if a storm survivor says he or she is not thirsty, chemicals in the brain are released during times of acute stress and anxiety that make people thirsty or dehydrated. The pause required to take a sip of water can lower the breath and help a person in an emotional state begin to refocus.

3. Pass the tissues. “Offering tissues to someone in distress lets them know that you recognize something is broken and that the expression of that is natural,” Cobb said.

4. Hugging and contact allows a shocked and grieving person to feel they can collapse. By being close to someone physically, his or her breath can begin to move from shallow and anxious to be on pace with the steady and deep breaths of the person of support.

5. Be accepting of thanks. “When someone in anguish thanks you for being there, you can know that appreciation means that he or she is moving out of imminent emotional distress,” Cobb said. Receiving these thanks fully and graciously lets the victim feel reciprocal of your service.

6. Look for early signs of acceptance. “When someone asks you to keep them in your thoughts or prayers, it signals that they are aware that this is a tough situation,” Cobb said. “While it will be hard, he or she is recognizing that there will be an end with your emotional support.”

While emotional support is Cobb and other members of the Spiritual Care Team’s specialty, many Red Cross workers bring this type of relief to everyone they serve. While Spiritual Team Members are trained to know the right words to say to people facing severe loss, the presence of a Red Cross worker can often be a sign of support to those trying to move on after a disaster.

“Just being there is so important, even before you say something,” Cobb said.

Cheering for Charity

November 28, 2012

3. Gotham City Cheerleaders and owners of Redds Restaurant in Carlstadt, N.J., presented a check for $1,700 to Denise Juarez, representing the American Red Cross.

Photo and story by Elizabeth (Betsy) Morse

When the Gotham City Cheerleaders picked a disaster relief team to root for, the American Red Cross was the unanimous choice.

The group aspires to become the official cheerleading squad for the New York Giants football team, but in the meantime, they sharpen their skills with tailgate party performances and other appearances.

When Superstorm Sandy hit the New York/New Jersey area, several of the team members and their families were directly affected; the others knew they wanted to help. The team tried to volunteer to raise morale in devastated neighborhoods, but quickly found that many areas were closed to them. So they turned to using their public appearances into fundraisers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Red Cross Is A Welcome Sight For Sandy Clean Up Crews

November 28, 2012


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.

Video: Staten Island Resident Finds Relief

November 16, 2012


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 398 other followers