Gordon Burgess, site manager at the Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) in Little Axe Elementary School in Norman, OK, traveled from Woodward, OK, where he works at the Red Cross in disaster relief.
He said last year his community was struck by a tornado and received significant aid from the Red Cross. He is happy he can now give back to another community through the same organization.
Red Cross disaster worker Keith Anderson of Kansas is proud to volunteer in the Oklahoma tornado response on Memorial Day!
Beautiful flowers brighten up the Moore Community Center
The OK State Florists’ Association donated these beautiful flowers to the Red Cross shelter at the Moore Community Center to comfort and show gratitude for volunteers.
Many growers of flowers in California, Florida and South America wanted to donate the “Thank You” bouquets.
Red Cross volunteer Larry Fortmuller explains the workings of the Multi Agency Resource Center in Moore, OK.
Story by Lilly Watson, photo by Nikki Baxendale
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.
Roundup, Mont. – It is often said that disasters bring us together, and that certainly holds true for the American Red Cross and citizens of Roundup.
The Dahl fire, which started in late June, brought Red Cross volunteers to town to help with relief efforts. What they found upon their arrival, was an incredibly resilient community that continues to inspire admiration.
One of the organizations frequently cited as a driving factor behind that resiliency is the Musselshell County Recovery Team, which was founded after severe flooding hit the area in 2011.
“We knew we needed to form some type of group,” said Linda Picchioni, chair of the MCRT. “There was just too much help that was needed.”
A grant from the United Methodist Committee on Relief enabled the MCRT to fund a part-time staff member, which led to volunteers learning skills such as case management, how to work with FEMA and which non-profits, such as the Red Cross, can help following disasters.
Unfortunately, the town needed that knowledge sooner than anyone had anticipated. “We went from flood recovery to fire recovery,” Picchioni said.
When Red Cross volunteers from around the country arrived in Roundup, they were pointed to the MCRT as a potential partner. The MCRT noticed how quickly the organization responded and was interested.
“You guys were here the first night. It was invaluable,” Picchioni said, before adding that Red Cross personnel “have been so personable.” Fairly quickly, the organizations decided to co-locate their service centers to most effectively reach the people who needed help.
“This whole community should be used as an example,” said Patty O’Hara, a Red Cross client services volunteer from Santa Cruz, Calif. “It has just been extraordinary.”
Karen Dittman, the Red Cross service center supervisor who is also on her sixth disaster deployment, agreed. “This partnership should be a blueprint.”
A blueprint is exactly what the MCRT hopes to offer. Their ultimate goal is to present a manual to rural communities on how to respond to disasters.
“People need to know how to help, not just that they want to help,” Picchioni said. “The building blocks have to be in place.”
This is an enormous relief operation now, but we also know it will be a massive long-term recovery effort and the Red Cross will be there throughout.
- This is already the largest single-country personnel deployment in global Red Cross history. The number of emergency response teams in or en route to Haiti equals those that responded to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami – an emergency that spanned 14 countries.
- It is clear that what took minutes to destroy will take many years and the collective support from governments and relief agencies across the world to help mend. The American Red Cross is working in close coordination with other responding organizations and will undoubtedly collaborate on joint, long-term recovery projects.
- Terrible times like these bring out the best in people, and we are grateful for the support being given to the American Red Cross. This generosity will help thousands of survivors cope with and recover from their losses.