Spring can bring devastating weather

Spring can be a time for devastating weather. It’s the peak time of year for tornadoes, flooding, thunderstorms and other severe weather.
The American Red Cross wants you to know what steps you can take to stay safe if dangerous weather is predicted for your community.

PREPARE

  • Download the free Red Cross Emergency App. Available in English and Spanish, the app features expert advice on how to prepare and respond to tornadoes, floods and other disasters. It also features real-time local alerts for severe weather and hazards and a map with local Red Cross shelters open when a major disaster happens. You can text GETEMERGENCY to 90999 or search “Red Cross Emergency” in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
  • Get a Kit. Make a Plan. Be informed. Use Be Red Cross Ready tips in English or Spanish. If you or a member of your household is an individual with access or functional needs, including a disability, consider developing a comprehensive evacuation plan in advance with family, care providers and care attendants, as appropriate. Complete a personal assessment of functional abilities and possible needs during and after an emergency or disaster situation, and create a personal support network to assist. A great resource is FEMA’s online landing page for people with disabilities.

TORNADO SAFETY

  • Tornado Watch – Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans, and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives!
  • Tornado Warning – A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Tornado warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. Go immediately underground to a basement, storm cellar or an interior room (closet, hallway or bathroom).
  • During any storm, listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay informed about tornado watches and warnings.
  • Know your community’s warning system. Communities have different ways of warning residents about tornadoes, with many having sirens intended for outdoor warning purposes.
  • Pick a safe room in your home where household members and pets may gather during a tornado. This should be a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.
  • Practice periodic tornado drills so that everyone knows what to do if a tornado is approaching.

Click here for more tornado safety tips.

THUNDERSTORM SAFETY

  • Listen to local news or NOAA Weather Radio for emergency updates. Watch for signs of a storm, like darkening skies, lightning flashes or increasing wind.
  • Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are likely to occur. Many people struck by lightning are not in the area where rain is occurring.
  • If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning. If thunder roars, go indoors! The National Weather Service recommends staying inside for at least 30 minutes after the last thunder clap.
  • Avoid electrical equipment and telephones. Use battery-powered TVs and radios instead.
  • Shutter windows and close outside doors securely. Keep away from windows.
  • Do not take a bath or shower or use plumbing.
  • If you are driving, try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle.

Click here for more severe thunderstorm safety steps. 

FLOOD SAFETY

  • Listen to area radio and television stations and a NOAA Weather Radio for possible flood warnings and reports of flooding in progress or other critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS).
  • Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice.
  • When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground and stay there.
  • Turn Around, Don’t Drown! Stay away from floodwaters. Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and less than 2 feet of water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • Keep children out of the water. They are curious and often lack judgment about running water or contaminated water.
  • Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood danger.

Click here for more flood safety tips.

From Florida to the Carolinas

From Florida to the Carolinas, American Red Cross workers from Minnesota have supported Hurricane Matthew relief efforts. Assignments have ranged from working in a shelter and serving meals to coordinating with response partners and providing medical and mental health services. Others gathered stories and helped raise money for the response. Big picture number as of October 27: more than 50 Red Cross workers from Minnesota have deployed to areas impacted by the storm across the southeastern United States. Take a look.

14712963_10154611990962179_2000084266616440590_oCarole Madland visited people in shelters and neighborhoods in North Carolina. Sometimes she hitched a ride to reach isolated communities. Overall, the Red Cross mobilized 2,200 workers, 13 kitchens with partners, and 111 response vehicles for the state. Big picture number as of October 25: the Red Cross has mobilized more than 5,800 disaster workers since Hurricane Matthew first threatened communities in the southeast.

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Rachel Olmanson took meals to people in affected communities. Above is the view from Rachel’s truck while her team was next in line for food pick-up at a field kitchen in North Carolina. Big picture number as of October 25: the Red Cross and its partners have served more than 1.3 million meals and snacks in affected communities in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

 

matthew_daveschoeneckIn Florida, Dave Schoeneck (upper left) assisted with relief effort coordination. The Red Cross has worked closely with government officials and non-government organizations (NGOs), such as Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps and others. Big picture number: around 13,000 homes are affected in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

 

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In South Carolina, Dave Snetsinger (second on right) was a shelter worker. Overall, the Red Cross has had nearly 1,200 workers, 5 kitchens with partners, and 53 response vehicles for relief efforts in the state. Big picture number as of October 25: the Red Cross has helped provide nearly 100,000 overnight shelter stays in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

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Mark and Gail Noren (right and center) are doing search and care, which means finding neighborhoods and people in need of meals and feeding them in North Carolina. Big picture number as of October 25: Red Cross and its partners have served 697,000 meals and snacks across hurricane affected areas in the state.

 

a9r13mhx5w_h375qp_a98-2In Georgia, Judy Hanne Gonzalez helped gather and share stories about the Red Cross and its Hurricane Matthew relief efforts. Judy also assisted with fundraising in Florida. Big picture number: as of October 25, the Red Cross has raised $8.1 million in designated donations and pledges for a relief response that’s estimated to cost $24-$28 million.

Thank you to everyone who has responded to the Hurricane Matthew relief efforts!

Essential Red Cross Work: Disaster Services Technology

Story and photos by Jonathan Yoon/American Red Cross

Disaster Services Technology (DST) plays an important role in American Red Cross relief operations. This past June, I had the opportunity to spend time with Red Cross volunteers who were training as DST responders.

During the three-day training in Minneapolis, volunteers were given the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with experienced DST responders. From novice to expert, every member had an essential role in order to ensure a continuous, successful relief effort. They learned how to use satellite technology to stand-up communications. After a computer network is built, other relief workers, mostly volunteers, can use electronics, like laptops and radios, for various means of communication while responding to a disaster. Additionally, DST training focuses on volunteers learning how to work together as an early response team to catastrophic events.

American Red Cross trainees, Debbie Johnson and Phyllis Wiggins, checking supplies for disaster services technology operations during a practice run
Red Cross volunteers Debbie Johnson and Phyllis Wiggins checking supplies for disaster services technology operations.

The DST team is the forefront of Red Cross communications. By setting up satellite connectivity, these volunteers make sure the Red Cross will be ready to help a community and its people when they’re affected by a major disaster. One of the instructors commented, “Imagine all communications are down. You can’t call or text. We can setup a network for laptops and cell phones, and make a response headquarters.” Without the DST team, there would be no way for the Red Cross to stand-up a relief operation from its core. Their essential work builds the foundation for response efforts.

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Red Cross DST volunteers learning how to fix a disaster relief vehicle antenna.

Another volunteer, Jane Lazarevic, who has four years of experience on a DST team, was back for a review session. “I was deployed to St. Louis this past January for two weeks during a disaster response, working for DST and staff.” I was fortunate enough to hear about her experience responding to the flooding relief effort earlier this year. It was incredible to hear her testimony about how she was able to help others as a DST volunteer in addition to her regular life routine back home.

So what’s next for these trainees? While summer brings sun and fun, these volunteers are ready to respond to hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and tornadoes. The next time you see or hear about the Red Cross, think about what’s happening behind-the-scenes to make the response happen. You might even feel the urge to become a DST volunteer. Click here to learn more about the Red Cross and volunteer opportunities.

Everybody (including the Red Cross) loves Donna

Story and photos by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Donna Parrish lost her home of 30 years in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, during a fire on June 3, 2016
Donna Parrish lost her home of 30 years in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, during a fire on June 3, 2016

Among the dozens of people displaced by the five-alarm (big and powerful) fire in the very early morning hours of June 3 in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, is Donna Parrish.

Donna, who’s old enough to have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, has lived at Beach South Apartments for 30 years. Hers is a home now gone, literally it was burned through and through.

Her memory of the beginning is waking after midnight and hearing a crackling sound that she thought was hail –a storm, after all, was expected to arrive in the next twenty-four hour period. But the sounds were no storm of weather. She went to look out the blinds, through the window, into the darkness. Smoke and sparks are what she saw. And someone with a fire extinguisher, she says.

The most burned units at Beach South Apartments in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, June 3, 2016
The most burned units at Beach South Apartments in Robbinsdale, Minnesota

Moments later a pounding on the door announced that escape from the burning building was necessary right then, without hesitation. She fled with only her pajamas and slippers. I’ll have to take some quiet time to assess what’s next, she says.

Karri Solum and her mom Donna Parrish will need to find a new home after their apartment burned.
Karri Solum and her mom Donna Parrish after their apartment burned

Dozens of people are displaced because of this fire. Some will never return while others will have to wait for the smoke to clear and repairs to happen.

Red Cross volunteers are helping Donna, her daughter, and each of the others affected by this disaster get back their lives.

Learn more about American Red Cross disaster relief.

National VOAD honors Minnesota Red Cross disaster relief worker

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Red Cross disaster worker Ruth Talford received the 2016 NVOAD Spirit Award. Photo: Megan Mrozek/American Red Cross

We are pleased to announce that Ruth Talford, a disaster relief worker with the American Red Cross Minnesota Region, received the 2016 National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) Spirit Award. This award is given each year to a person who has exhibited outstanding commitment to the NVOAD movement. The award was presented to Ms. Talford during the NVOAD conference held in Minneapolis in late May. Conference participants included more than 400 people representing voluntary organizations from that respond to disasters around the country in a variety of ways, such as feeding, cleaning, and spiritual care. The Minnesota Region of the American Red Cross, the national American Red Cross, and other Red Cross regions were well-represented with several dozen disaster relief workers on-hand. This year’s conference service project was a Red Cross blood drive. Click here to learn more about NVOAD and click here to learn more about the MNVOAD.

In pictures : Red Cross responds to flooding in Louisiana

Hundreds of Red Cross workers are operating shelters and providing meals, relief supplies and health and mental health services in four southern states where thousands of people have been forced from their homes by floodwaters, many leaving with little but the clothes on their backs. More than 380 people spent Sunday, March 13, in 30 Red Cross and community shelters in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Texas.

Volunteers like Ethel Payne of Monroe, Louisiana, help provide comfort for families staying at Red Cross shelters. Volunteers often come prepared with toys and activities for children at shelters, which helps make them feel safe during difficult times. Flooding_LouisianaCima1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Terina Smith, Michael Stevenson and their three small children were rescued from floodwaters in Monroe, Louisiana, they found safety at a Red Cross shelter. Volunteer Ethel Payne has helped provide comfort and lifted their spirits during their time at the shelter. Flooding_LouisianaCima2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clifton Winsor has lived by himself in his Rayville, Louisiana, home since his wife’s passing in 2013. At 87, he’s lived through a lot, but this is the first time his home has flooded. Now, he looks toward the future. “At my age, it’s hard enough to think about what happens next after something like this,” he says with tears in his eyes, “but facing it alone without my wife makes it even harder.”Flooding_LouisianaCima5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The American Red Cross delivered water and snacks to neighborhoods affected by flooding in Rayville, Louisiana. For many residents, it was the first day they were able to get back into their homes to assess damage.
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When Carroll Taylor saw the water rising in the backyard of her West Monroe, Louisiana, home, she knew she had to leave. When she came back the next night, she found about 6 inches of water had entered her living room. When the Red Cross came through her neighborhood, she had spent two days pulling carpeting out of her home, bleaching her walls and cleaning the concrete floor below. “I was mad that this happened to me at first, but then I realized I was lucky,” she says. “I didn’t get it as bad as others – and I won’t need as much as others – but I’m so grateful that the Red Cross is here to help those who will need it.”Flooding_LouisianaCima7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can help people affected by disasters, such as the current flooding and countless other crises, by making a donation to Red Cross Disaster Relief. You can donate by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. These donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. To learn more about the Red Cross relief effort across flood-affected areas, click here.

Photos by Daniel Cima. Captions by April Phillips.

What’s a Red Cross dispatcher?

By Kaylee Beevers, American Red Cross intern

Across the United States, the American Red Cross has people who volunteer their time as dispatchers during Red Cross disaster responses. These volunteers help fulfill the Red Cross mission to reduce human suffering during emergencies. Red Cross dispatchers coordinate response teams that provide basic comfort and care to families after home fires and other disasters. These dispatchers serve their communities with care. This volunteer role is one of the most worthwhile ways to get active in the Red Cross. Below are brief portraits of five volunteers who serve as disaster response dispatchers for the Minnesota Red Cross region.

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Mike and Deb Hofmann, St. Cloud 
Based in central Minnesota, Mike and Deb Hofmann proudly serve together as Red Cross volunteer dispatchers. The couple met in high school and they currently living in Cold Spring. Mike has served the American Red Cross for 40 years through multiple volunteer positions and Deb has been with the organization as a dispatcher for 10 months. Some of the most rewarding parts of the job for the couple is knowing you can help people during their time of need and offer services. Deb says, “When they’re looking for a way to go, we give them a direction.” Their advice? If you want to get involved, connect with your local Red Cross chapter.

Dunder 1Diane Dunder, Duluth
After retiring as a health and physical education teacher, Diane Dunder decided to take on the volunteer role as a Red Cross disaster relief dispatcher. Dunder says she was graced with “the best instructors who knew what they were doing and were very well informed about the job.” Some of the role’s challenges in her area,  she says, are not having enough field responders as well as other dispatchers. “We all have other things going on in our lives and yet more help would be appreciated.” One of Dunder’s greatest rewards while serving as a dispatcher was helping an elderly woman after a house fire. The victim had health issues and Dunder spent several days following up and working with healthcare and mental healthcare professionals to make sure that the woman was safe. “Being a dispatcher is a great way to volunteer and keeps you educated,” says Dunder.

Joe ReinemannJoe Reinemann, Mankato
Stationed in the southwest Red Cross chapter in Mankato, Joe Reinemann has been a volunteering dispatcher for more than a year. Reinemann usually works as a dispatcher during night shifts that start from 4:30 to midnight or from midnight to 8 am. Reinemann, who helped create the most recent dispatcher training materials, says “we’re upgrading our dispatcher manual. It’s extremely hands-on. It’s also one-on-one.” Reinemann felt nervous when he received his first dispatch call for Red Cross disaster response. He wanted to make sure that everything went well, but he says “the help and training are so great that sometimes you don’t even need any assistance from other dispatchers.” Reinemann’s advice to future volunteers is to “DO IT! It may be imitating to sign up, but it’s not complicated at all.”

Jan Reyers, Mpls-St.Paul Metro
Jan Reyers has served as a volunteer with the Red Cross for more than 35 years. Most currently, he’s disaster response dispatcher based in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. Originally from White Bear Lake, Jan is proud to serve with the Red Cross alongside his wife Bonnie, who is also a dispatcher. “It’s always nice to have your wife as a dispatcher to help coach you along.” Being a dispatcher has taught Jan how to prioritize what he’s doing and to get it done correctly. Jan says the skills you need in order to become a dispatcher are communication, organization of information and people, and demonstration of empathy. Having served as a disaster responder in the field helps. “Get involved, sign up and be available to serve,” is Reyers’ advice to all anyone who wants to participate with Red Cross disaster relief teams.

Learn more
The need for Red Cross volunteer dispatchers is great. Last year the Red Cross supported more than 2,500 people affected by local disasters, which were mostly home fires. It’s a great way to serve and to meet new people. The current Red Cross dispatchers need to you step up and to get involved! More importantly, your neighbors, friends, family and thousands of others across this region need you. You never know when hard times will strike and you could lend a hand to someone who needs it the most. You could be the person who gives someone hope during a time of despair and a way to look toward a brighter tomorrow. To learn more, click here.