I’ve always admired seeing people respond to disasters and I’ve wished that I could be right there with them. It’s hard for me to put my finger on why I’ve felt that way, but there’s something about arriving early to a scene of a disaster that gets me going.
As a child I was intrigued by disasters, whether it was a tornado, flood, hurricane or earthquake. But after school my life took different direction and I went into sales where I’ve spent much of my career, working mostly at AT&T and then with StayWell, a partnership organization with the American Red Cross. Several years ago, I accepted a health and safety services sales position with the Red Cross. This brought me closer to my life-long interest in disaster relief response. And soon I applied to become–and was accepted to be–a Red Cross Emergency Services Volunteer who responds to disasters in the Northern Minnesota Red Cross Region.
To date, I’ve had the opportunity to respond to three fire disasters: one duplex fire and two single family resident fires. It’s hard to explain, but getting a call to respond at 3:00 in the morning gets my adrenalin flowing as I never know what to expect until I get there. One of my first lessons learned was to bring my reading glasses as I felt very much unprepared in assisting my response partner in filling out forms and having to admit out loud “I can’t read this without my glasses!” How embarrassing was that! Well, never again. The next day I went straight to Office Max and bought some supplies to better prepare myself for the next response. I’m happy to report that it’s going more smoothly now that I can read the Red Cross disaster documents.
My experience with the disaster team members has been very positive. I’m learning new skills by taking training courses, such as Disaster Assessment, Disaster Action Team Simulation, Client Case-Work, Shelter Fundamentals, Psychological First Aid, and Emergency Response Vehicle Operation.
Being a Red Cross disaster volunteer has many benefits. Having first-hand disaster response experience, for example, has added credibility to my social and business speaking presentations. But for me what’s most rewarding is being able to help people get through a difficult time. I’ve learned that a hug and kind word gives them strength to move on from tragedy. For me, each call to action brings its own unique circumstances. I’m grateful for those who’ve welcomed me to use their home, car, or other space for warmth on a winter night while I’m helping their neighbors affected by disaster. I enjoy the human connections and can confirm that the comfort we bring, the smiles we create and the words of thanks we receive are some of the reasons that I’m a disaster volunteer.
Guest Blog Post by Terry Menge, Prepardness, Health & Safety Services Sales Manager, American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Region (AND Red Cross Volunteer Disaster Relief Worker)