By: Trevor Riggen, Vice President of Disaster Services Operations and Logistics, American Red Cross
Today marks the two-year anniversary of one of the largest responses in the long and proud history of this organization. It was a storm and challenge so unique that they had to come up with a new name just to describe it – Superstorm Sandy. It was a massive, powerful storm that hit the most densely populated area of the country at the tail end of hurricane season followed by falling temperatures, snow, and enormous need throughout the region.
I want to begin by saying thank you to each and every one of you who donated money or raised your hand to join in serving those in need during the long weeks that followed landfall and to the thousands more who have served in our ongoing recovery efforts. So much great work was done by…
Efforts will include installing smoke alarms and urging people to practice fire escape plans
The American Red Cross announced today a new campaign throughout Wisconsin and across the country to reduce deaths and injuries from home fires by as much as 25 percent over the next five years.
Seven times a day someone in this country dies in a fire. The Red Cross campaign focuses on joining fire departments and community groups nationwide to install smoke alarms in communities with high numbers of fires and encouraging everyone to practice their fire escape plans.
The Red Cross also is asking every household in America to take the two simple steps that can save lives: checking their existing smoke alarms and practicing fire drills at home.
The Red Cross will begin with canvassing the Thurston Woods neighborhood in Milwaukee and Stevens Point on Saturday morning, October 11th. The Beloit community canvassing will…
Barbara Skolaski, August Volunteer of the Month, embodies the dedication and hard work of American Red Cross office support volunteers.
Barbara started with the Red Cross in 2003 after retiring from her lifelong job in 2002 and working a part-time job for a year. A friend who volunteered for years with Biomedical Services encouraged her to try out the Red Cross, while another friend suggested a local retirement community. Barb was able to fit both organizations into her schedule. “This gave me the feeling of having a ‘part time’ job,” Barbara stated.
Her work entering data may seem mundane to some, but it is essential to keep information comprehensive and useful. Barb loves data entry and the Red Cross was able to offer that kind of work. However, Barb noted it is the people at Red Cross that make it a real pleasure to ‘go to work’ and associate with such friendly, sincere and helpful people.
Of course her team members at the Red Cross note she is one of their most dedicated volunteers, working about 12 hours per week. “Barbara is kind, caring, and always welcomes us in the morning with a ‘Good morning dear, how are you today?’” noted Dana Pavelsky, Red Cross Major Gift Associate. Although Barbara works in two departments, she is still a steadfast ally when someone needs assistance on short notice. She arranged her schedule to work on a time-sensitive project related to the Typhoon Haiyan response and used her expertise to complete the job. Ms. Pavelsky also noted that, “No amount of nasty Wisconsin weather keeps Barb from her mission of getting here to help us out.”
The fund development team says Barb is a joy to be around and has great insight about the Red Cross. Barb feels that volunteering with the American Red Cross is a wonderful way to give back to the community while providing much personal satisfaction. Thanks to Barb for making our work easier and our days brighter.
A ‘big heart’ and a desire to help drew Anthony Maass, Volunteer of the Month, to become an American Red Cross disaster responder in 2006. “I am always willing to be there for someone when they need a person to talk to,” Anthony noted. Whether he is cleaning and arranging a storeroom, securing fleet maintenance for the Emergency Response Vehicle, or helping people after a disaster; Anthony is willing to do the work to keep things running smoothly and meet the needs of our Red Cross clients.
Antohny volunteers because he enjoys learning new skills and ways to handle difficult situations. He also enjoys meeting volunteers of varied backgrounds who are working toward the common goal of meeting emergency needs after a disaster. Anthony noted that sometimes you just have to be willing to be there for someone when they need a person to talk to. Not only does Anthony develop great rapport with clients needing assistance after a disaster, he is supportive of new volunteers who are learning the ropes. ‘He always has a positive attitude and wants to help further the humanitarian mission of the Red Cross in his community,’ Linda Soltis-Schroeder, Regional Volunteer Specialist, stated.
Anthony has responded locally to help people whose home has burned, but his most memorable volunteer experience was working in Merrill, WI after the tornado where Anthony saw the true meaning of team work. He truly enjoys being a part of a team that can make a huge impact through many different people coming together to help each other and the community. Thank you Anthony for helping people and laying the groundwork for Red Cross responses!
This week, more than 20 trained disaster responders from across the Western Wisconsin Region traveled to Volk Field, Camp Douglas to participate in the U.S. National Guard Patriot Exercise. The Patriot Exercise is designed to provide realistic training for a joint inter-agency domestic response. The extent of the Patriot Exercise included more than 1,100 personnel from across 30 states and spanned a total of 5 days. This was the first year the Red Cross was invited to actively participate in this exercise.
The Red Cross opened a shelter and a relief center where role players, acting as victims of the disaster incident, were able to receive emotional support, refreshments, and register themselves in the Red Cross Safe and Well system (Safe and Well serves as a communication tool between loved ones who may have been separated during a disaster).
Shirley Keeton, Red Cross Disaster Program Specialist, comments on the importance of being involved with trainings such as these. “This is chance to have conversations with military personnel about what the Red Cross can do, to educate and be educated on what’s going on between partners.” One of these educational opportunities arose when the New Jersey Air National Guard asked the Red Cross to train their unit in sheltering. 17 members were trained in shelter fundamentals and had an opportunity to visit the Red Cross shelter that was established for the Patriot Exercise. Captain Mann of the New Jersey Air National Guard comments, “Oftentimes we are asked and expected to do certain things like sheltering. The Red Cross training today has allowed us to see how it is done and be better prepared for the next time.”
The Western Wisconsin Region was thrilled to participate in the Patriot Exercise. Not only did we play an educator role and talk about what the Red Cross can do but this also gave our disaster workforce an opportunity to practice their skills and work as a team. “Connecting classroom training to a real life situation has been very valuable for a volunteer such as myself who has not had an opportunity to be deployed,” Kathleen Laffin, a Red Cross volunteer who participated in the exercise, reflected on her time at Volk Field. We look forward to participating in the Patriot Exercise again next year. To view more photos visit our Facebook Photo Album.
This weekend many of you will be celebrating the Fourth of July with family and friends. Whether its a cookout in the backyard, going to the beach with the family, or enjoying the local fireworks display, the Red Cross wants you to have a fun and safe weekend. Please follow these tips from the American Red Cross and have a great weekend!
HIGHWAY SAFETY Millions of people will be on the highways over the Fourth of July weekend. The Red Cross offers these five things everyone should do to stay safe while traveling:
Buckle seat belts, observe speed limits.
Do not drink and drive.
Pay full attention to the road – don’t use a cell phone to call or text.
Use caution in work zones.
Clean the vehicle’s lights and windows to help the driver see, especially at night. Turn the headlights on as dusk approaches, or during inclement weather.
FIREWORKS SAFETY The best way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public fireworks show put on by professionals. Here are five safety steps for people setting fireworks off at home:
Never give fireworks to small children, and always follow the instructions on the packaging.
Keep a supply of water close by as a precaution.
Make sure the person lighting fireworks always wears eye protection.
Light only one firework at a time and never attempt to relight “a dud.”
Never throw or point a firework toward people, animals, vehicles, structures or flammable materials.
GRILLING SAFETY Every year people are injured while using charcoal or gas grills. Here are several steps to safely cook up treats for the backyard barbecue:
Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use.
Never grill indoors – not in the house, camper, tent, or any enclosed area.
Make sure everyone, including the pets, stays away from the grill.
Keep the grill out in the open, away from the house, the deck, tree branches, or anything that could catch fire.
Use the long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill to keep the chef safe.
Swimming Safety Many of you will head to the beach or a pool this weekend. Here are some swimming tips to keep you and your family safe.
Learn to swim and only swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards.
Always swim with a buddy; do not allow anyone to swim alone.
Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacketsaround water, but do not rely on life jackets alone.
Provide close and constant attention to children and inexperienced swimmers you are supervising in or near the water. Avoid distractions while supervising.
Limit the amount of direct sunlight received between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., and wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a protection factor of at least 15. Reapply often.
Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water regularly, even if not thirsty. Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine.
For a backyard pool, have appropriate equipment, such as reaching or throwing equipment, a cell phone, life jackets and a first aid kit.
Secure the backyard pool with appropriate barriers including four-sided fencing.
Know how and when to call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
Never leave a young child unattended near water, and do not trust a child’s life to another child.Teach children to always ask permission to go near water.If a child is missing, check the water first.
FREE SWIM AND FIRST AID APPS Another thing people can do is download the free Red Cross Swim and First Aid Apps. Swim App users can learn water safety and drowning prevention information for a variety of aquatic environments. Children can have fun learning water safety tips with the child-friendly videos and quizzes in the app. The First Aid App puts expert advice for everyday emergencies at someone’s fingertips. The apps are available for smart phones and tablets and can be downloaded from the Apple or Google Play.
Across Southwestern Wisconsin, tornadoes and severe storms have swept through the area since June 16th leaving a path of damaged homes and power outages. Verona and Platteville were the hardest hit communities.
Red Cross ongoing response efforts build on the feeding, distribution of relief supplies and other support the Red Cross provided immediately after the tornadoes struck. Red Cross has provided meals and snacks to residents affected by the storms via our emergency response vehicle, distributed relief items which include rakes, gloves, tarps and other supplies and provided health and emotional support for those in need. All of this couldn’t be done without the tireless efforts from our staff and volunteer workforce.
Red Cross volunteer Anke Boudreau, comments after spending time with families in Verona, WI on Tuesday: “After such a storm people are in shock and when the Red Cross comes we are able to serve as a stabilizer. Whether it is a gentle reminder to those families cleaning up to take a moment to drink some water and eat some food or alerting a family to seek help for their two young children since school is out for the summer. If school was in session they may have access to the school counselor but there are other resources that we can help direct them to. We are providing the emotional first aid.”
As residents begin to recover, it can be a confusing process and it’s not always easy to find the help they might need. On June 19th and 20th a Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) was opened at the Platteville High School to help guide residents through their recovery. MARCs bring various nonprofit organizations and government agencies together in one convenient location to provide support. Nick Cluppert from the American Red Cross Northeast Wisconsin Chapter and two disaster volunteers travelled to support the MARC on Thursday. Nick Cluppert states, ““This is a “one-stop-shop” for disaster clients. By working together, with several nonprofits and government agencies, in one convenient location, we make it easier for people to receive the help they need. This may even include help, they didn’t even realize they needed!”