Now that we’re here, what do we do?

Lately all of our Red Cross chapters have been abuzz as more than two dozen of our local volunteers have been deploying to areas hit by the recent severe weather – such as  Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi – to help with the national American Red Cross disaster relief response.

The pre-departure process can be a whirlwind of activity: planning travel arrangements, packing, reading up on job assignments and finding out more about the area. But once Red Cross volunteers get on the scene, people often wonder, what exactly are they doing?

The full answer? A lot.

When it comes to disaster relief, the Red Cross is there providing people with food, shelter, emotional support and essential relief supplies (like hygiene kits, work gloves, tarps and coolers). But each of these areas requires a lot of people to make sure the logistics are in place, things run smoothly, and most importantly, people are taken care of.

Here are some snapshot accounts from a few of our local volunteers in the field, each one unique to their position within the larger operation:

Trish Coons, from Palm Beach Gardens serving in Alabama

Day 1: “We flew out at ‘zero-dark-thirty’ from West Palm to Atlanta, with a 25 minute layover, wondering if we’d be able to make our connecting flight. Thankfully, we made the flight and met up with great folks from northern Florida and San Francisco American Red Cross Chapters. The first day was raining and on the chilly side. We went directly to the Red Cross operations headquarters, which is located behind a mall in Hoover, AL. After checking-in, we headed to the shelter located at the Hoover Public Works building…this was my first stay in a shelter.”

Day 2: ” I was assigned an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV), which was sent to Alabama by the Charlotte Red Cross Chapter. It’s driven by a 20-year-old volunteer named Stephanie, and together we make a great team. We’ve cut a person off by accident (sorry if it was you!), made countless U-turns, and jumped a curb once (again…sorry!) but after a few hours we made it to our station in Gadsden, Alabama.”

Now that Trish and her ERV partner have received their supplies and gotten into place in Gadsden, they’ll begin driving around the affected neighborhoods to distribute vital supplies like snacks, meals, drinks and water. They will join the many Red Cross volunteers, like Carole Bird (right), who are also helping in the relief effort. Photo by American Red Cross.

Ken Chapin, from Micco, serving in Alabama

Part of the Red Cross response includes getting the right supplies, to the right people and the right location. Ken is working as a Bulk Distribution Supervisor, and in his pictures you can see the vast amount of food, water and supplies that are being shipped out of warehouses to the affected areas. This process is important because it ensures that our resources are being used wisely and responsibly, maximizing the help we can provide.

Because of the support of our generous donors, the Red Cross can provide essential items, like the cases of water being transported by the forklift operator pictured above. Photo by Ken Chapin.

As a Bulk Distribution Manager, Ken (right) helps to oversee the movement of supplies like the ones pictured behind him, ready to be loaded into the truck. Photo provided by Ken Chapin.

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