A Red Cross volunteer since 2000, Rachel Olmanson, from Cleveland, MN, has deployed to two national responses – Hurricanes Matthew and Katrina – where her involvement was working mostly to distribute meals and relief supplies to people living in neighborhoods.
Recently, Rachel got a new perspective on disaster relief compared to her past experiences. After multiple tornadoes hit southern Minnesota communities on September 20, Rachel took on the role of photographer and traveled with damage assessment and client casework teams in the towns of Waterville, Faribault and Morristown.
Rachel documented damage assessment teams reviewing general damage and caseworkers meeting with residents to provide relief and recovery support. While visiting one Waterville residence, Rachel took pictures showing a hole in the wall and ceiling of an upstairs bathroom that was caused by a tree limb. Homeowner Bernice was home when it happened. “We were sitting right here and Farrell said it sounds like it busted a window.”
Rachel’s pictures depict volunteers action planning, assessing overall damage, community members coming together to clear fallen trees and other debris, and residents assessing home damage while trying to figure out next steps. “I really could see a sense of community with neighbors outside helping each other to remove brush and trees off and around homes,” she says.
I’m in Oklahoma working with teams on Community Partnerships that connect with local and visiting agencies and organizations responding to the May tornadoes, including the one that hit Moore. We’ve found more than 300 contacts, from major corporations to families, that have “pop-up” sites responding to these disasters.
We’re operating out of a Multiple Agency Resource Center in Moore. It’s similar to FEMA Disaster Response Centers, but being operated by volunteer, non-government organizations. Here, clients check-in with a Red Cross relief worker and then move from table to table to access recovery service referrals on site. The process works well. If anything, it’s slowed by the high volume of cases. More than 3500 families are impacted.
The Oklahoma Red Cross is well prepared with strong community support and presence. From what I can see, Red Cross disaster relief functions are going strong in all functions.
We’re expecting severe weather the rest of this week and have had to interrupt Red Cross work because of it early Tuesday and probably today. Being aware and prepared starts with each of us!
P.S. I’m including a photo of the disaster in Moore and a picture of me (left) with Becky Tsongen, who’s also a Red Cross community partners relief volunteer from Minnesota.
Following the devastating tornadoes that swept across the Midwest and South early Wednesday morning, we urge you, your family, and your friends to take a moment or two now and prepare for what’s turning out to be an early tornado season.
Pick a safe place in your home or apartment building, such as a basement, storm cellar, or an interior room with no windows, where household members and pets can gather.
Use a weather radio that broadcasts National Weather Service watches and warnings. A weather radio can alert you to storms during the night, helping to save your life or the lives of your loved ones. Learn more in this NPR story.
Watch for tornado warning signs such as dark, greenish clouds, large hail, a roaring noise, a cloud of debris or funnel clouds. Secure outside items such as lawn furniture or trash cans, which could be picked up by the wind and injure someone.
If a tornado watch is issued, it means tornadoes are possible and you should be ready to act quickly. If a tornado warning is issued, it means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by radar and you should go underground immediately to a basement or storm cellar or to an interior room such as a bathroom or closet.
If a tornado warning is issued and you are outside, you should hurry to the basement of a nearby sturdy building. If you cannot get to a building, you should get in a vehicle, buckle in, and drive to the closest sturdy shelter.
If flying debris occurs while you are driving, you should pull over and stay in the car with the seat belt on and your head below the window, covering your head with a blanket or other available protection.
If you do not not have a vehicle, you should find ground lower than the surface of the roadway and cover your head with your hands.
You can help those affected by disasters like the Midwest tornadoes and storms, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Consider making a donation today by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or sending a text with the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to someone’s local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Contributions enable the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters.