Trucks roll in for GPS hardware upgrade

Response trucks from around the upper Midwest are rolling in to the American Red Cross in Minneapolis. The trucks are getting GPS hardware that allows for live tracking during relief efforts.

Live tracking will be especially helpful when trucks are bringing aid to remote areas. “They’ll be able to find us,” says Earl, a volunteer based in Wisconsin.

Earl became a volunteer after seeing the Red Cross helping people during Hurricane Charley in 2004. “Before that I didn’t give to the Red Cross,” says Earl. “During Charley I saw the other side.”

Earl was on the road for 100 days in 2016 and 60 days in 2017 bring disaster relief to people in need. This included after heavy flooding in Louisiana.

There, he found himself nearly trapped by rising high water on a rural road. “I realized I couldn’t get through,” says Earl about reaching a swamp area unexpectedly in a parish near Baton Rouge.

His childhood on a farm, he says, calms any fear he might have in tough situations. Simply, he’s a volunteer because he says, “I enjoy this.”

Story and photos by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

The Long Road Ahead: Iowa’s Tornadoes Relief Efforts

The American Red Cross continues its effort to assist affected families since devastating tornadoes ravaged parts of central Iowa on July 19. The tornadoes leveled homes, overturned cars, and injured people.

Jeff Thelen (on the right) from Minnesota is responding to the Iowa tornado relief
efforts with Red Cross volunteers from nearby states, including Ernesto Lindsey
from Illinois. (Photo courtesy of Jeff), July 2018

Red Cross aid workers from Minnesota were among some of the first to reach people in the affected communities. The team has deployed 15 aid workers including six employees and volunteers in senior disaster management roles.

Disaster assessment shows hundreds of homes have suffered major damage. The team is working extensively on first-hand activities in the field as well behind-the-scenes relief to bridge from emergency relief to long- term recovery.

Marshalltown is the most affected area and is serving as the recovery hub for the response. In that area,  Jeff Thelen, a Red Cross volunteer from Farmington, MN, has been instrumental in distributing relief supplies. Along with his friend Ernesto from Illinois, Jeff has been going home-to-home. Already they’ve reached more than 150 households.

Multi-agency recovery center for people affected by tornadoes, Marshalltown, Iowa, July 2018. Photo: Steve Bonine/American Red Cross

“It’s very easy to spot homes in need by mere sight,” Jeff says. Emphasizing the level of destruction, he says they sometimes exhaust their truckload relief supplies mid-way through the day due to the demand and eagerness of the people to reaching out to Red Cross for disaster relief.

Nearly 400 Red Cross workers have mobilized to deliver relief and
hope. This includes 15 aid workers from the Red Cross in Minnesota.

As of July 30, Red Cross cumulative response efforts include:

The Red Cross will continue helping affected communities on the long road ahead that comes with rebuilding life after a tornado. We will provide support as long as it’s needed.  Click here to learn more about the response.

Story by Sohini Sarkar, Red Cross Volunteer

2017 Disaster Relief: A Banner Year for Mission Fulfillment

American Red Cross emergency response vehicles traveled 2.5 million miles to deliver food, relief supplies and other support to communities affected by disasters during 2017.

2017 was a banner year for American Red Cross mission fulfillment. Following multiple major disasters ranging from hurricanes and wildfires to tragic mass shootings, Red Cross workers helped people in need, providing more food, relief supplies and shelter stays than all of the last four years combined.

The American Red Cross Minnesota Region had a vital role supporting relief efforts around the nation. Responders — more than 90 percent volunteers — deployed to Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, California, and other locations. For example, our region supported 328 deployments, including 109 for the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts alone. Locally, Red Cross responders helped 952 people affected by 326 home fires.

Minnesota Red Cross volunteer Diane Dunder hands out meals in, Santa Rosa, California, during the wildfire relief effort, October 2017. Photo by Marko Kokic for the American Red Cross.

This year people were faced with major disasters and our region was there with deployments to disasters, working at home to support deployments, or providing direct relief to people impacted by disasters at home.

We are honored to serve alongside those from our region who provide humanitarian relief during times of great need. We are humbled by the dedication people have for the Red Cross mission to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.  To see more local thanks, click here.

10 tips to keep home cozy all season long

Image credit: Gemma Correll

Home cooking is cozy.

Kitchen fires are not.

Use the 10 tips below to keep cozy all holiday season long.

1. Avoid wearing loose clothing or sleeves that dangle

2. Never leave frying, grilling or broiling food unattended

3. Check often simmering, baking, roasting or broiling food

4. Use a timer to remember the stove and oven are on

5. Keep kids and pets away from cooking area, especially the stove and oven

6. Place items that can catch fire – like pot holders, oven mitts, and wooden utensils – away from appliances that generate heat

7. Clean cooking surfaces frequently to prevent grease buildup

8. Have, and know how to use, a fire extinguisher in or near your kitchen

9. Make sure appliances, especially the stove and oven, are turned off before going to bed or leaving the home

10. Test smoke alarms. Need them? Click here.

Want more tips for emergencies? Click here to find and download free Red Cross First Aid and Pet First aid apps for your mobile devices.

Cheers! 

Veteran becomes Red Cross volunteer

Story by Kathleen Todd for the American Red Cross Minnesota Region

Sharon Azan (Credit: ARC/LynetteNyman)

On  Veterans Day, the American Red Cross honors people like Sharon Azan.

In 1985, Sharon Azan was stationed in Naples, Italy, with the United States Air Force when she got a call from the American Red Cross. Five thousand miles away, Azan’s uncle had passed away, and her family contacted the Red Cross to relay an urgent message about his death.

It was that one phone call—all those years ago—that recently prompted Azan to connect with the American Red Cross in Minnesota. Now, she’s training to become a Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) volunteer.

“I figured this was a good time for me to help someone else,” Azan says. “I am so appreciative of what the Red Cross does and what it stands for.”

For more than 100 years, the Red Cross has been hard at work supporting the men and women of the American armed forces. Today, no matter where American armed service members are in the world, the Red Cross is dedicated to delivering emergency communications messages through the American Red Cross Hero Care Network, which is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Minnesota State Veterans Day Celebration 2016 (Credit: ARC/LynetteNyman)

The Red Cross provides around 370,000 services each year to active-duty military, veterans, and their families—including more than 3,000 in Minnesota last fiscal year. In addition to emergency communications, the Minnesota Red Cross provides courses and workshops to help military families cope with life after deployments.

The Red Cross invites you to say “thanks” by signing and sending cards through Holidays for Heroes to U.S. military and veterans. Click here for information, including where cards to send cards, the program deadline, and other important guidelines for the cards.

Smoke alarms are first line of defense to fight fires

By Kathleen Todd for the American Red Cross Minnesota Region

American Red Cross Minnesota Region smoke alarm installation, 2015.

When Suzie Olson of Saint Paul had a recent American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign visit, she had a big surprise.

“None of my smoke alarms actually worked. While I thought I had been on top of changing the batteries, my smoke detectors were so old that the smoke alarm itself was completely nonfunctional,” Olson says.  “I thought I had been so responsible about it.”

Olson took the first step to detecting a fire and now she wants others to take action. And the Red Cross wants to ensure that every household has working smoke alarms.

Please check the alarms in your home to see if they’re working. If not, replace the batteries or the alarms. The Red Cross can help you do this. Our Home Fire Campaign makes it possible for the Red Cross to install free smoke alarms that will help save lives during home fires.

Multi-unit apartment building fire, Robbinsdale, MN, 2016. Photo by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

The American Red Cross responds on average 60,000 disasters each year in the United Sates – and the vast majority of these are home fires. Since 2014, the Red Cross, in partnership with fire departments and other local groups, has visited homes and installed over a million free smoke alarms nationwide. Through these efforts, the Red Cross has saved over 250 lives.

In 2016, 43 Minnesotans lost their lives in fires. In 33 percent of the residential casualties, smoke alarms were absent or non-operating.

To request a smoke alarm installation for your home, community members can call 612-871-7676 or visit getasmokealarm.org. Appointments typically take 20-30 minutes.

Minnesota fire statistics provided by Minnesota State Fire Marshal

From Kissimmee to Immokalee: One Red Cross Nurse Responding to Hurricane Irma

By Mary Robertson, Disaster Health Services Nurse, American Red Cross Serving Northern Minnesota

This poem was shared by Irania T., a young girl at the Immokalee, Florida Red Cross shelter days after Hurricane Irma devastated her community.

On Sunday, September 9, 2017, I deployed to Florida to provide nursing services to people impacted by Hurricane Irma. I had never experienced disaster nursing in such a massive event and my family was, understandably, somewhat anxious for me.  “Mom, people are running from this storm, why are you going toward it?” For me the answer is simple, someone has to. Someone has to be there to set up the shelters, deliver supplies, and do all of the hundreds of other things that need to be done.

My first shelter was the hurricane evacuation shelter in Kissimmee, Florida, where there were more than 400 people. They were from all walks of life — rich, poor, homeless, young, and old — sleeping together on a school gymnasium floor. Many did not speak English, but everyone worked together for communication. Health care needs were as diverse as the population — diabetes, heart disease, pregnancy, and confused elderly people and children. Each one was given as much comfort and reassurance as possible. No one was turned away. Because of the hurricane, there was no electricity, no running water, no air conditioning, and only minimal light. Hurricane Irma arrived at 2 a.m. with 110 mph winds. I looked around and could feel the building “breathing” during the height of the storm, which passed at about 5 a.m. Once daylight arrived, people began to leave to check on their homes, family members, and friends. As quickly as the shelter had opened, it closed. My time in Kissimmee had lasted only 40 hours, but felt like a lifetime.

American Red Cross shelters Immokalee, Florida residents after Hurricane Irma destroyed most of their town, September 14, 2017. Photo by Daniel Cima for the American Red Cross

I received my next assignment about 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday. Along with three other Red Cross volunteers, we left for a community named Immokalee – just north of Naples. Immokalee is one of the poorest communities in Collier County, with a large number of migrant workers. When we arrived at the shelter, there were about 500 evacuees there.  They had generator power, no potable water, and three bathrooms for hundreds of residents and staff, and at the time no hot food. All the residents were calm and cooperative, thanks to the outstanding leadership from the shelter manager and support from diligent staff. There were no health clinics, pharmacies, or banks open in the community as all had been affected by the storm. The closest emergency medical services up and running were in Naples, 50 miles away.

Red Cross volunteers tried to bring a sense of calm to the residents: we gave them shelter and safety. Simply by seeing the Red Cross symbol, they put hope and trust in us. Every one of the volunteers did whatever it took to “get to yes” and inspired those around them to help one another under difficult circumstances. People often came up to say “thank you” for everything we were doing, which was an great tribute to the relief workers. For me, no amount of money means more to those who are privileged to serve as Red Cross volunteers.

Click here to learn more about the Red Cross response to hurricanes Irma and Maria. Click here to learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer.