Learning Preparedness in Spanish

On May 29, our Red Cross region hosted its first Latino Leadership Summit. Held at Urban Ventures in Minneapolis, the summit brought together local Red Cross leaders and Latino community representatives for a conversation about emergency preparedness. Eleven people representing Latino groups, businesses or service organizations attended. They learned more about the importance of being prepared before disasters happen as well as Red Cross services and programs. They offered, in return, insights into how the Red Cross can do a better job sharing its preparedness message with Spanish-speaking communities and helping them become more disaster resilient in Minnesota.

Here are some highlights:

Victoria Krook, a K-12 educator in Brooklyn Center, says that reaching families one-on-one is best. Winter, she says, is a major emergency issue to address: "Parents don't know frostbite, how quickly it can happen."

Victoria Krook (above), a K-12 educator in Brooklyn Center, says that reaching Latino families one-on-one is best. Winter, she says, is a major emergency issue to address in Latino communities: “Parents don’t know frostbite, how quickly it can happen.”

Maria Arboleda, a program coordinator in higher education, says that many people have resources to be prepared, but that "if we want get this education out to communities, then we need more Spanish speakers and more people from the communities."

Maria Arboleda (above center), a program coordinator in higher education, says that many Latino families have resources to be prepared for disasters, but that “if we want to get this education out to communities, then we need more Spanish speakers and more people from the communities.”

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“Every mom is a first responder,” says Arturo Lopez (above left), a cadet in law enforcement training. Lopez says that building trust, reaching children and training women are keys to sharing preparedness messages with Latino families.

Our Latino community partners left the summit with fresh enthusiasm and concrete action steps for preparing and preventing emergencies at home and work. Our Red Cross action plan includes helping them reach their goals and building on our new shared energy.

Story and photos by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Fire Chases Away Christmas Joy

by Anne Florenzano/American Red Cross

A tired Yvonne Johnson sat at a table in her apartment complex community room. “I am still in disbelief,” she said. “You hear of people in the news who have fires like this, but I never thought it would be ME in this situation. It still seems so unreal!” she said.

Red Cross volunteer Sheila Miller (l) helps Yvonne Johnson (r) with emergency disaster relief after an early morning blaze burned her home on December 26, 2012. (Photo credit: Anne Florenzano/American Red Cross)
Red Cross volunteer Sheila Miller (l) helps Yvonne Johnson (r) with emergency disaster relief after an early morning blaze burned her home on December 26, 2012. (Photo credit: Anne Florenzano/American Red Cross)

Yvonne, her teen daughter and nephew had enjoyed Christmas together in their apartment in Plymouth when their building fire alarm went off at about 12:30 a.m. They were still up, and dressed, and they grabbed their new gifts and put on their boots and coats and went outside. A half-hour later they were given the okay to go back into their apartment. At approximately 3:30 a.m. Yvonne was woken out of her sleep by the smell of smoke and her daughter saw sparks and flame out of the balcony window coming down from above. Yvonne and the two teens raced out of the apartment, this time dressed only in pajamas and unable to save anything but a clutch with her phone and keys.

The three of them took refuge in their car to stay warm. Eventually Yvonne was able to send her kids to warmth and sleep with her sister while she made arrangements for help from the Red Cross for temporary lodging, clothes and food. The firemen have told her that her apartment is uninhabitable because of water damage. Fortunately her landlord has some empty units where Yvonne can begin rebuilding her home, but she won’t know until she can get back into her apartment if any of the kids’ Christmas gifts or the furniture she recently inherited from her Mom can be salvaged. Yvonne is a middle school English teacher at the Woodson Institute for Student Excellence, and she said, “I’ve never had any help or assistance before – never in my life – but I need this help today.”

Disasters are hard any time of year, but can be especially hard around the holidays. Since Friday, December 22, the Northern Minnesota Red Cross has helped more than 8 families, including 20 adults and 15 children. Our volunteers respond to more than a disaster a day here in our region.  In addition, more than 100 volunteers from our area have deployed east to help those affected by Superstorm Sandy–several are on their second deployment, missing holidays with their families because they want to help those in need. Everyone can help those affected by local and national disasters: please consider making a year-end gift to the Red Cross at redcross.org.

Staffing Red Cross Disaster Response

Red Cross volunteer Kris Posey (right) helps get other volunteers, including Lori Olsson (left), quickly and safely out the door for disaster response.

Question: Who are those people working tirelessly to get Red Cross relief workers deployed to disaster locations, such as Superstorm Sandy? Answer: They’re Emergency Services Staffing volunteers!

In the case of our American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Region, we’re  talking about volunteers Kris Posey, Susan Waananen & Cari McCollor. Although they’re often not working on the ground in affected disaster areas, they’re working hard to get those who are responding in the field out the door quickly and safely.

Emergency Services volunteers work behind the scenes 24/7 when disaster occurs. They’re in the Red Cross offices on weekends monitoring email, helping arrange training and processing volunteers. They’ve been doing this nearly every day since before Superstorm Sandy made landfall on the East Coast. Every day, they return calls and answer emails that come in from our 700+ volunteers across our Red Cross region.

Hey, Cari, we like that henna tattoo!

In addition, we’ve had staff services volunteers in the office these past few weeks learning all there is to know about national deployment.  Thank you Steve, Marcia, Lois, Bonnie, Barb, Jan & John. We’re building great capacity throughout our region.

Thank you to Emergency Services staffing volunteers. You help make our mission happen. And we love you for it!

P.S. Emergency Services staffing volunteers also deploy to disasters. Cari (pictured) is now on the East Coast working as part of the Red Cross field response to Superstorm Sandy. Return home happy and safe!

P.P.S. Question: Do you want to join our team? Answer: Yes, I do. I really really do 🙂

 

A couple portraits from the flooding disaster

You’ve heard the news or seen the images of the dramatic and traumatic events that continue to unfold in northeast Minnesota. We want you to know that the Red Cross is going full force–ramping up each moment–to help the people who are affected by this disaster. Last night we supported 185 people in shelters across the region. We offer, here, a couple portraits of people who are affected by this disaster.

Portraits and Photos from Judy Hanne-Gonzalez, Executive Director, American Red Cross Northland and North Star Chapters.

Michael Ray Marchand

When Michael Ray Marchand looked out his trailer door early morning on June 20, he could not believe his eyes. The twice-homeless veteran, who lost his leg and wears a vibrantly-colored prosthesis in a design based on the American Flag, saw pouring rain, downed power lines, and a home teetering as the soil beneath it washed away. Marchand was evacuated by his landlords and called 911 for help.  He was rescued by a fire truck and taken with sirens blaring to the Red Cross shelter at the First United Methodist Church (aka Coppertop church) in Duluth.  “Red Cross has given me food and a place to stay,” Marchand says. “I can’t believe it. This is the third time I’ve been homeless.”

 

 

Charles, Koda, Michelle, and Jayden

Michelle Henry, Charles Goggleye, and their children Koda Duane, five years old, and Jayden, two years, were staying with a sister in the Fond du Lac neighborhood when they were evacuated mid-morning on Wednesday by police as flood waters quickly rose. They escaped in their car, but it quickly broke down leaving them stranded again. They called Charles’ mother only to find that his brother and five children had also been evacuated and were staying there. So they found transportation to the Copper Top Church, where Red Cross workers were providing food, blankets, and a warm dry place to stay.  Red Cross volunteers entertained the children with movies. “We love the Red Cross,” says Koda. “They’re really nice!” Jayden and Koda loved the Red Cross comfort kits they were given, which included crayons, coloring books and toothbrushes.  The kids rushed to open the new toothbrushes and practiced brushing their teeth.

The Red Cross will soon begin mobile feeding as impacted areas become accessible; damage assessment volunteers are gathering and will deploy within 24 hours. Perhaps you’re already helping in some way, but if you’re wondering about HOW YOU CAN HELP, you can make a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. This gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to this and other disasters here and abroad. Visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS. Contributions may also be sent to local American Red Cross chapters or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

Wildfire Risk High For Much of Minnesota

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Samantha Schmidt, 9, spent the night at a Red Cross shelter for wildfire evacuees in Colorado. (Photo credit: RJ Sangosti / The Denver Post).

The American Red Cross is providing food and shelter in Colorado where a fast-moving wildfire has already forced hundreds of people from their homes with thousands more put on notice that they may also have to evacuate.

Wildfires in Minnesota are unlikely to occur in high density population areas, but state officials say that much of Minnesota is at increased risk of wildfires because of continued snow melt, warming weather, and dry vegetation. The risk will remain high, state officials say, until green vegetation emerges. (Source: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources)

The Red Cross encourages everyone who might be at risk or in a path of possible evacuation because of wildfires to prepare now.

IF A WILDFIRE THREATENS your neighborhood, back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape. Wildfires can spread quickly, igniting brush, trees and homes. The Red Cross has important steps people can follow to lessen the threat of a wildfire. Confine your pets to one room so you can find them if you need to get out quickly. Listen to local radio and television stations for updated information, and be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. These steps will help limit exposure to smoke:

  • Keep indoor air clean by closing windows and doors to prevent outside smoke from getting in.
  • Use the recycle or re-­circulate mode on the air conditioner in your home or car. If you do not have air conditioning and it is too hot to stay inside with closed windows, seek shelter elsewhere.
  • When smoke levels are high, do not use anything that burns and adds to indoor air pollution, such as candles, fireplaces and gas stoves. Do not vacuum because it stirs up particles that are already inside your home.
  • If you have asthma or another lung disease, follow your health care provider’s advice and seek medical care if your symptoms worsen.

BEING PREPARED can be your best offense when it comes to wildfires. You should plan two ways out of your neighborhood in case one is blocked. Set up a place for family members to meet outside your neighborhood in case you can’t get home or need to evacuate. Arrange for temporary housing at a friend or relative’s home outside the area. Post emergency phone numbers by every phone in your home and in everyone’s cellphone.

Other steps you can take include:

  • Make sure driveway entrances and your house number or address are clearly marked.
  • Identify and maintain an adequate water source outside your home, such as a small pond, cistern, well or swimming pool.
  • Set aside household items that can be used as fire tools: a rake, ax, hand saw or chain saw, bucket and shovel. You may need to fight small fires before emergency responders arrive.
  • Select building materials and plants that resist fire.
  • Regularly clean roofs and gutters.

More wildfire steps and tips are available. Check out The Denver Post for more on the ongoing wildfire and response in Colorado. You can text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 and support Red Cross disaster relief.

Mora fire invites reflection

Once a week Angela Carlson heads to the American Red Cross Central Minnesota Chapter where she supports local disaster action team volunteers. On Thursday, December 8, Carlson received a phone call from a volunteer who said someone might have died that day from fire in the chapter’s local response area.

A Red Cross volunteer told me that her pastor had called and reported a death in an apartment building fire in Mora. The first thing I did was contact the Sheriff’s office to verify that the Red Cross had been asked to respond. When I had confirmed that they wanted us there, I called the volunteer back to dispatch her and a second volunteer responder to the scene. After starting incident paperwork, I called Judy and Dick Pike, long-time Red Cross disaster relief workers. I told Judy that I wasn’t sure why I was calling, and that I just needed some support to process the dispatch. I reviewed my next steps with Judy who was very helpful.

"I have empathy for the individuals involved and understand that it’s difficult to be in any position during a disaster," says Angela Carlson, the client services caseworker who handled the Red Cross disaster dispatch for the tragic fire in Mora, Minnesota. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

The Mora fire was the first dispatch involving multiple chapters and multiple deaths that I have been involved in since I started with the Red Cross in October. While I was at the local chapter I felt much support from staff both in St. Cloud and in Minneapolis. Being in St Cloud rather than Minneapolis that day made a huge difference in the disaster response dispatch, giving it a local and community-based feel. People there checked in with me and made sure I was doing all right. In the end, a couple people said that they really looked forward to meeting me at the next Disaster Action Team meeting. I felt the same.

I was exhausted at the end of the day. The Mora fire response left me feeling reflective of the mission and vision of the Red Cross and of the services we provide. While I can’t fully appreciate the devastation families feel after a disaster because I don’t respond on-scene, I have empathy for the individuals involved and understand that it’s difficult to be in any position during a disaster. It’s meaningful to know that our clients are being served with such compassion.

This is a response that I will carry with me, especially after learning details about the people who died. There was a phone call that I took from a volunteer who was helping family members who did not yet know that a loved one had died. There was also a surviving teenager. That has been the hardest for me to process. I’ve been thinking about her a lot and when I do my heart just breaks. But each time that happens my heart mends itself stronger and that, in turn, helps me support our Red Cross volunteers more effectively so that they can continue serving our communities in great ways.

Angela Carlson, is a client services coordinator for the American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Region. She is based in Minneapolis at the Twin Cities Area Chapter.