Sandy Postcard From Choua

Greetings from Greater New York, Superstorm Sandy Aftermath Followed by Nor’easter, November 7, 2012

Hello from Greater New York,

I’ve been going out doing Disaster Assessment (DA). There are so many homes affected and or destroyed by the storm. DA is on hold right now due to the snow mix with rain. Based on the data that we collected, upper managements are planning to deliver supply of goodies to those affected areas. Yesterday, I went to eat with my team and our server asked where we were from. One of the teammates told her that we are with Red Cross and the server just broke down and cried. She was very grateful and happy that we were there for her community. She thanked us for leaving our families and friends to come help out.  It was such an amazing experience  with this disaster response so far. I am so happy and proud to be Red Crosser!!!

Thanks,
Choua

Choua Yang is one of 5,700 or so Red Cross disaster relief workers responding to Superstorm Sandy. (Around 50 are from Minnesota.) 90 percent of Red Cross responders are volunteers. You can help support Red Cross humanitarian disaster relief.

Right now we’re helping someone after a fire

Red Cross volunteers respond to a house fire in the south metro. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Right now the American Red Cross is helping someone recovering from a fire. Across our Northern Minnesota Region, we respond more than 400 fires each year. (And more than 63,000 across the nation annually.) That does not account for  home fires that not requiring Red Cross assistance. In September, we experienced one of the busiest fire response months that Red Cross disaster volunteers have seen in quite a while. There were 48 responses region-wide, including a 12-unit apartment fire in Brainerd where all 12 families needed assistance. To date, October has been no-less busy with 14 incidents. Combined, we’ve assisted 329 people with emergency relief after a fire.

So, we feel compelled to ask: are you prepared for a fire? Are you ready to not return for hours, days, or maybe never to the home you have now? Take a moment to answer those questions. Then what?

The Red Cross recommends two easy steps to help protect your home and loved ones from a fire: get a smoke alarm and create a fire escape plan.

  • Smoke alarms save lives. Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a home fire in half.*
    • Place smoke alarms on every level of your home, including bedrooms.
    • Test smoke alarms once a month and replace batteries at least once a year.
    • Fires can spread quickly and every second counts. Having a plan in place can help you escape, but less than one-fourth of Americans have actually made a plan and practiced it.*
      • Home fire plans should include at least two ways to escape from every room of your home.
      • Select a meeting spot at a safe distance from your home where family members can meet after a fire.
      • Discuss the plan with everyone in the household and practice it at least twice a year.
      • For more information visit http://www.redcross.org/homefires.
  • Download the American Red Cross First Aid App to get access to life-saving information on what to do for common, everyday first aid emergencies. The app is available in the Apple App Store and on Google Play for Android.

* Statistics provided by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Red Cross Pugsley?

The other day while riding along the Minneapolis Grand Rounds bike path, we stumbled across Blaine Mogren. He loves bikes. He looooooooves bikes. Among the bikes in his collection is this fine (pictured left) Surly Pugsley. He has six of them. This particular one he calls Fire Engine Pugsley. We can see why. For starters, its BRIGHT RED. It also has loud horns,  flashing lights, and a fire-fighter rubber duck. And crosses, white ones (like on the Swiss flag). After a minute of chit-chat with Blaine this thought emerges: let’s make a Red Cross Pugsley!

After all, the Pugsley is (via Wikipedia) revolutionary: In 2005, Surly began selling the Pugsley, the first mass-produced mountain bike with extremely large volume tires, up to 4 inches wide, for deep snow and sand riding. The front and rear wheels share a common hub size and can be interchanged, allowing for additional gearing combinations. Noted bicycle technical authority Sheldon Brown said, “Pugsley is, in its way, as revolutionary as the original mountain bikes were in the early 1980s.” Bicycling Magazine wrote, “It’s not ideal for everyday use, but it can handle a wide variety of demands and conditions well.” Let’s repeat that last bit: a “wide variety of demands and conditions.” Sooooooooo, that could include disaster response in your hometown (or ours where it snows for months except last winter).

Tell us, what do you think? What would your Red Cross Pugsley look like? Would it be red with white? Or white with red? Would you have side bags for water and snacks that you would distribute to people affected by disasters or those responding to them? …..

Story and photos by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

 

Banging on doors, pounding on windows saves lives

Story and photos by Red Cross Volunteer Amy Conger

Nathan Steen (l) receives comfort kits for his children from Red Cross disaster relief volunteer John Trieb, July 5, 2012. Photo credit: Amy Conger/American Red Cross

Hudson, Wisconsin resident Nathan Steen was watching TV around 2:30 in the morning, July 5, 2012, when he started to smell an odd, almost chemical-like, smell in his basement apartment. He opened the door to his unit and was shocked to see thick black smoke in the hallway. Running to the fire alarm pull switch in the hallway, he yanked it several times but did not hear the alarm. Nathan couldn’t see flames or the source of the fire, so he went back to his apartment, woke his wife and two children, and called then called 911. He then ran to the other apartments, banging on doors to alert his neighbors to the fire. He was pounding on windows from outside, yelling “Fire!”, when the police arrived and began to assist getting people out from the other 9 units of the building.

Red Cross disaster relief volunteer Jason Winget (l) assisted resident Jannelle Waara following the Hudson apartment fire, July 5, 2012. Photo credit: Amy Conger/American Red Cross

The other residents report opening their doors to thick black smoke before rushing out of the building. A main concern of all the residents was the failure of the alarms to sound. Nathan Steen was truly a hero to alert everyone to the danger before it spread to other areas of the building. The fire appears to have occurred in a basement storage area, but the incident is under investigation by the Hudson Police Department.

Kevin Williams (c) shares his surprise about Red Cross disaster relief with volunteer Jason Winget, July 5, 2012. Photo credit: Amy Conger/American Red Cross

Red Cross volunteer workers Jason Winget and John Trieb assisted residents of the two lower units with emergency disaster relief. They will be able to return to their homes after the smoke damage is cleared. Everyone assisted by the Red Cross was thankful for the help. Kevin Williams, who was displaced by the fire with his mother, said that the Red Cross helped bring relief and comfort to them. He didn’t know that Red Cross volunteers helped people in situations like this and said that he would consider volunteering himself in the future to help others dealing with disaster from fire.

Visit our website redcrossmn.org to learn more about Red Cross services and opportunities.

Every Donation Counts

Ruby Born, 6, held a lemonade stand and raised money for Red Cross disaster relief. Photo credit: Nancy Rogers/American Red Cross

When Ruby Born, 6, came to the Red Cross office in Duluth, Minnesota, after the flash flooding, she had a sparkly yellow skirt, a beautiful smile, and a plastic bag filled with cash for the American Red Cross disaster relief operation helping affected families. “We sold lemonade,” she told the Red Cross.

Ruby held a two-day lemonade stand in her Superior, Wisconsin, neighborhood (just across a bridge from Duluth), selling an estimated 60 cups of lemonade.  Her parents Jeanne and Hector matched Ruby’s $150 in sales. And Enbridge Energy in Superior matched their combined gift for a total contribution of $600.00.

Red Cross disaster relief workers distribute clean up supplies in flood damaged Willow River, MN. Photo credit: Judy Hanne-Gonzalez/American Red Cross

The Red Cross continues to respond to flash flooding that resulted after a storm dumped more than 9 inches of rain across northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin, causing widespread damage and displacing hundreds of people. The Red Cross supported around 200 people in shelters.  Red Cross disaster relief workers conducted damage assessment across several counties in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Other Red Cross workers are still on the ground distributing water, food, and cleaning supplies to people in the most impacted areas.

Asked why she raised the money, Ruby’s mom said the family talked together about the flood and discussed ways to help.  Ruby said, “I want to give the money to the Red Cross.”

Red Cross disaster relief workers provide food from mobile trucks, Fond du Lac, Minnesota. Photo credit: Judy Hanne-Gonzalez/American Red Cross.

Thank you Ruby, and to everyone, for supporting the American Red Cross and helping fulfill our mission to reduce human suffering in the face of emergencies.

Every dollar counts, including those made from selling lemonade. If you would like to help people affected by the Northland flooding and other disasters here and around the world, you can make a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to your local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross P.O. Box 37423, Washington, DC 20013.

Red Cross and the Minneapolis Tornado

A year ago, May 22, 2011, an EF1 tornado swept through Minneapolis, mostly on the North Side where it ripped up homes and trees, displaced hundreds of our neighbors, killed two people, and injured dozens of others. The American Red Cross responded immediately, providing safe shelter, food, water, and emotional support to survivors. Like others, right now we’re remembering this tragic event. Watch our tribute video.

Disaster relief workers at the Red Cross shelter lifted spirits and gave people a shoulder to cry on. They connected displaced families with a network of organizations focused on long-term recovery. In all, the Red Cross provided 1,377 overnight stays for people with no place else to go and more than 151,000 meals and snacks. (Photo credit, left: Amanda Mark, American Red Cross)

“People often enter a shelter at their lowest point. Sometimes that’s really what people need…someone to support them and provide energy they don’t have.” A Red Cross Shelter Worker responding to the Minneapolis tornado that hit May 22, 2011.

Red Cross emergency disaster relief also includes distribution of bulk items, such as blankets, personal hygiene items, and cleaning supplies. Red Cross workers distributed more than 10,800 such items, including 1400 comfort kits for individuals, to meet basic needs after the tornado. (Photo credit, left: Carrie Carlson-Guest, American Red Cross)

“Thank you Red Cross! We’re getting what we need thanks to you.” A Minneapolis Tornado Survivor after receiving relief supplies from the Red Cross.

 

Disasters affect everyone, adults and children alike. Red Cross disaster mental health volunteers responded and met with individuals and families, providing more than 2,800 health and mental health consultations to help people cope with the tornado, its destruction, and the stress of rebuilding a life after disaster. (Photo credit: Lynette Nyman, American Red Cross)

“Without the American Red Cross we would have nowhere to go.” A Tornado Survivor who relied on the Red Cross shelter for many nights after the disaster.

 

More than 350 Red Cross workers were part of the Minneapolis tornado relief operation. Ninety-five percent were Red Cross volunteers from Minnesota and around the country who contributed more than 25,000 volunteer hours worth nearly $600,000. (Photo credit, left: Lynette Nyman, American Red Cross)

“Thank you, thank you, thank you.” From everyone…

 

The Red Cross relies on donated money and goods from individuals and organizations to help our community. Donations for Red Cross disaster relief from the storm included $525,000 in money and $188,000 in goods – totaling $713,000. However, due to the scope of the disaster, the Red Cross spent $793,000 on the response – $80,000 more than what was donated – to help those in need.   (Photo credit, left: Anne Florenzano, American Red Cross)

If this post inspires you, consider becoming a part of the Red Cross. There’s a place for everyone. You could give time, money, or blood. You could help us prepare for the next disaster, tornado, or emergency. You could learn CPR or First Aid. You could provide comfort when people need it the most. Learn more on our website.

“Many many thanks…” From all of us…

Apartment Fire Survivor “Worse than Back to Square One”

On Friday, March 9, 2012, a fire burned an apartment building in Minneapolis. That afternoon at the Red Cross service center volunteer relief worker Kevin Berger spoke with two people affected by this disaster and learned more about them.

Kimberlee Overvold and Carl Robinsen survived the March 9, 2012, St. George apartment fire in Minneapolis. Photo credit: Kevin Berger/American Red Cross

Kimberlee Overvold was at the temporary Red Cross service center just a few blocks from where she had lived for 11 months before a fire destroyed the St. George apartment building on 17thStreet. She was trying to collect herself and figure out her next steps. Overvold and her boyfriend were in the process of finding a bigger apartment but then the fire took it all away. Overwhelmed with the emotion of the situation she said,“I keep thinking I’m going to wake up and it’s going to be a dream.”

They had just gone to bed around 1:45 a.m. when the fire alarms sounded at 2 a.m. Kimberlee said at first they thought it was a false alarm because even as they headed out of the building there was no signs of smoke or fire. However, it wasn’t long before flames rushed through the building and they found themselves meeting up with their neighbors in a bus temporarily used as a shelter.

Before moving into the St. George apartments she had been homeless for nearly 2 years. Back then she said at least she had some possessions, but now “I’m worse than back to square one” as she’s lost everything. Pointing at herself with her mobile phone in hand, she said, “this is my living room now as all my stuff is gone.”

She reflected on some of her family pictures and watercolors she had from her late grandmother. “That’s the stuff I’m going to miss.”

The St. George apartments burned, displacing more than 30 residents of Minneapolis. Photo credit: Kevin Berger/American Red Cross

Her boyfriend, Carl Robinsen, was also considering how to move forward. “I’m not worried about what caused this to happen, we just need to fix it.” He said they were thankful that no one was seriously hurt or killed in the building that housed 32 units. “You can’t replace life,” he said.

One concern is replacing clippers and shears valued at more than $1500 and needs for the barber program he’s just four months from completing at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC). As lunch passed by at the Red Cross service center Robinsen was wondering if he should make his way to his job as a janitor in Edina so that he could at least think about something else for a while.

The couple left the service center with information from the Red Cross and The Salvation Army for a temporary place to stay and getting some clothes before finding a new home.

Text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 to American Red Cross disaster relief, helping people recover from this fire and similar disasters. Or go to redcross.org to donate even more financial support. This story and the accompanying photos are by Kevin Berger, a volunteer American Red Cross disaster relief worker based in Minnesota.