Uncertainty resurfaces for people along Gulf Coast with Katrina anniversary
WASHINGTON, Tuesday, August 28, 2012 — With Isaac poised to make landfall in the same areas of the GulfCoast struck by Hurricane Katrina seven years ago, the American Red Cross has a series of tips for families and individuals in the region that may experience anxiety about the storm and anniversary.
“The combination of the approaching storm and Katrina anniversary will likely cause increased fear and unease for residents in New Orleans and along coastal communities as people relive difficult emotions,” said Rob Yin, manager of disaster mental health, American Red Cross. “It’s important that people remember to take care of themselves and make appropriate disaster preparations to stay safe which can also help to reduce stress. Don’t forget to reach out to others to offer or get help if you need it.”
Across multiple states along the Gulf, the Red Cross has launched a large disaster response as Isaac affects millions of lives with strong winds, heavy rain, flooding and coastal surges. Last night, nearly 800 people found a safe haven in 52 shelters open in five states. In addition, the Red Cross has mobilized 2,400 disaster workers, prepositioned 290,000 ready-to-eat meals and activated 187 emergency response vehicles from across the country to help. The Red Cross is also coordinating with multiple partners including a variety of civic groups, advocacy organizations, professional organizations and houses of worship to share their expertise and volunteers.
The Red Cross recommends that people be mindful that community members and disaster workers could experience anniversary reactions now or in the near future. Reactions can range from a mild upset for a day or two, to a stronger version with anxiety or depression. Most people will feel better within a week or two after the anniversary date as stress responses usually become less frequent and less severe over time.
Anniversary reactions could include:
- Experiencing similar feelings and thoughts that occurred during the event like sadness, fearfulness or uncertainty;
- Feeling the need to avoid events, places or people that are connected to the anniversary;
- Feeling nervous, on edge, jumpy or quick to anger;
- Difficulty sleeping, focusing or concentrating;
- Experiencing fatigue, pain, headaches or stomachaches; and
The following actions can help families and individuals cope with anniversary stress reactions:
- Stay informed and be prepared. If in the potential path of an approaching storm, pay attention to information and warnings from local authorities.
- Make sure your disaster kit and plans are complete. Being prepared for storms can reduce stress;
- Eat healthy. During times of stress it is important to maintain a balanced diet and drink plenty of water;
- Get some rest. Giving your mind and body a break can help you cope with stress;
- Stay connected with family and friends. Giving and receiving support is one of the most important things you can do;
- Be patient with yourself and those around you. Recognize that people may need time to put their feelings and thoughts in order;
- Stay positive. Remind yourself how you’ve successfully coped with stress in the past. Reach out when you need support, and help others when they need it.
- Reach out to a Red Cross Disaster Mental Health or community mental health professional for support, if the actions above don’t help or to get more support. You can also contact the 24 hour National Disaster Distress Hotline at 1-800-985-5990.
Isaac is predicted to trigger a large and prolonged disaster response with major flooding across several states. People can call, click or text to donate by visiting http://www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation’s blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.
When Mohammad Ghandehari got the call from the Red Cross asking to see if he would help manage a hurricane evacuation center, he didn’t hesitate to say yes. Within hours the retired 68-year-old chemist and grandfather of three, left his San Jose, California home and flew over 2,000 miles to volunteer and help the people of South Florida weather TS Isaac.
“That is what the Red Cross is all about – helping others,” said the shelter manager at Dr. Michael Krop Senior High School in Miami, FL. As shelter manager, Mo, as he likes to be called, oversees the operations at the shelter. Prior to opening the doors, Mo and his team inspect the facility, then makes sure that registration is smooth, confirms that everything is set for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and tends to the needs of his shelter residents. That includes the medical needs of the elderly and fun distractions for the children and in the case of Dr. Michael Krop Senior High School, a pet-friendly shelter, the needs of his four-legged residents as well.
It is a team effort to make a shelter run smoothly. “We all work together; the nurses, mental health workers, logistics, registration and our Human Society partners.” With Mo’s warm demeanor and inviting smile, it’s no wonder he is liked by so many.
Prior to volunteering with the Red Cross, Mo worked in research and development for a major oil company. Shortly after retirement, Mo reached out to his local Red Cross in Las Vegas. “The Red Cross is such prominent organization so I picked up the phone and told them that I wanted to volunteer,” explained Mo.
His first out-of-state deployment was for Hurricane Katrina seven years ago. “I learned a lot from that experience,” recalls Mo. Since 2005, he has been deployed to other relief operations in Oklahoma, Arizona, New England and now Florida.
When Mo isn’t tending to others in a shelter setting, he serves as captain of a disaster action team or trains fellow volunteers of the Silicon Valley Chapter of the Red Cross.
“If you have the time to volunteer, I encourage you to do it,” said Mo. “It is very satisfying to help others.”
For more information on how to volunteer with the American Red Cross, call 1-800-RED-CROSS, visit http://www.redcross.org or contact your local chapter. We are so thankful for Mo and his shelter team for taking such good care of the residents of South Florida!
Mohammad H. Ghandehari, PhD, is a resident of Morgan Hill, CA and volunteers with the Silicon Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Cynthia Gutierrez-White works in the Communications Department at the American Red Cross and is a volunteer spokesperson based in South Florida.
Today was a good day.
Yes, the wind picked up and the rain came down something fierce as South Florida started feeling the effects of Tropical Storm Isaac, but today was the day Red Crossers met PJ Herring, one of the 26 people seeking shelter from the storm at a Red Cross evacuation center in Miami-Dade County.
The shelter, at Dr. Michael Krop Senior High, was one of six that were opened to give people living in coastal evacuation areas or mobile homes a safe place to stay as Isaac skirted the Florida Keys.
At just three years old, PJ was already the center of attention in a corner of the shelter where a group of 7- and 8-year-olds were trying to keep themselves entertained.
And when three other Red Crossers and me showed up with cameras, well, PJ found a way to help us all have fun.
PJ was instantly curious about the camera that hung from strap around my shoulder, and in no time, he was snapping away taking shots of the mural that adorned one of the walls inside the school, of the other children who were playing near us and of Patricia Rojas, one of the Red Crossers who toured the shelter with us.
“I got you,” he would shout when he snapped a picture of anyone nearby. “I got you!”
It was a touching moment that I’ll always treasure. That reminds me why I love my job and the work I do for the American Red Cross. And I hope that all of us, soon, can go back home not at all the worse for wear.
-Chrystian Tejedor works in the Field Marketing Department at the American Red Cross and is a volunteer spokesman based in South Florida.
Story by Jennifer Ramieh
It was Hurricane Katrina that inspired Mental Health volunteer Behula Guydon to join the American Red Cross. An already planned family reunion was bringing several of her relatives from New Orleans to Grand Rapids, MI when the recommended evacuation was issued. “They called me and said we are grabbing what we can and are headed your way,” says Behula. “I had 15 of my family members stay with us more than a month until it was safe for them to return home. That’s when I decided I needed to get involved.”
While Behula has been actively volunteering in her home chapter, this is her first national assignment. Her husband, Paul is very supportive and knows that this is her passion. She is not sure what to expect with Hurricane Isaac but is looking forward to the chance to do the work that the Red Cross does.
It was also Hurricane Katrina that drove Health Services volunteer Laura Smelski to want to help people. Now with her kids grown, she has seized the opportunity to help people. “This is on my bucket list, to get out in the community and help people,” says Laura.
This is Laura’s second trip to Florida from her hometown of Syracuse, NY for the Red Cross in the last month. She returned home only a few weeks ago from Gainesville where she was on assignment from Tropical Storm Debby.