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.

Big Turn Out for Red Cross “Save A Life Saturday”

Photos and story by Anne Florenzano, Red Cross Volunteer

Phyllis Skinner (l) and Kenny Jackson (r) practice how to treat wounds at a Save A Life Saturday CPR class in Minneapolis. Photo credit: Anne Florenzano/American Red Cross

Over a hundred and fifty people signed up to get free, hands-on CPR training at the Twin Cities, Minnesota Chapter of the American Red Cross on Saturday, March 19. They were participants in the national Red Cross “Save a Life Saturday” event held in honor of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Just over a month ago, the events that unfolded in Arizona reminded the nation of the importance of being prepared in the event of an emergency. Many of the bystanders knew CPR and first aid and were able to save the lives of several victims, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who received help from her intern Daniel Hernandez.

Instructor Christen Asher reminds volunteers at a Save A Life Saturday CPR class to compress the chest 2 inches when doing CPR, and to keep an even rhythm. Photo credit: Anne Florenzano/American Red Cross

In honor of those lifesaving efforts, the Red Cross provided fast and easy classes in more than 100 locations across the country to teach the basics of hands-only CPR, the treatment of shock and how to treat wounds. The classes were shortened versions of Red Cross training courses, lasting approximately 45 minutes in sessions offered all day. The courses were offered free of charge through the generosity of sponsors Safeway and Walgreens.

Kenny Jackson and Phyllis Skinner were two participants who attended a morning session in Minneapolis, and are pictured here practicing how to treat wounds. Phyllis, a retired nurse, babysits her grandchildren a lot and wanted a refresher on CPR.

“It’s been a while,” says Phyllis, “and I want to feel confident if I ever need to use it.”

Kenny spends a lot of time at his lake place in the summer.

Instructor Tasha Nembhard goes over the basics of responding in an emergency situation with participants in a Save A Life Saturday CPR session. Photo credit: Anne Florenzano/American Red Cross

“I’m up at the lake every weekend I can from springtime on. I wanted some emergency training in case something happens. When I’m at the lake there often are not a lot of people around, and I want to be prepared,” says Kenny.

Regardless of the reason, many who attended Save-a-Life day in Minneapolis took will be better prepared if someone in an emergency needs help. If you could not make these introductory classes, click here to sign up for one of the many Health and Safety courses provided by the Twin Cities Red Cross. You can also click here to find video instruction on hands-only CPR, controlling external bleeding, and managing shock.