Peter Ersts, the Clinton County Disaster Action Team (DAT) Coordinator, has been volunteering with the North Country Chapter of the American Red Cross since 2011. As the DAT coordinator, Ersts responds to both local and national disasters.
The most common disaster Ersts responds to locally are residential fires. When responding to home fires, DAT responders try to provide comfort, shelter, food and clothing to the families quickly so they can be as supported as much as possible during a tragic situation. Last year, the North Country Chapter responded to more than 30 home fires.
Nationally, Ersts was deployed twice for sheltering and providing Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs) to disasters. He was first sent to Gulfport, Mississippi for Hurricane Isaac relief and then The Rockaways, NY for Superstorm Sandy relief. Ersts has become familiar with the hectic pace that goes along with a national disaster response. “Everything happens quickly when you’re deployed. You don’t know when you’ll get the call that you are deployed, but when you get it, you have to get your affairs in order within a few short hours,” said Ersts.
Ersts’ best memories as a volunteer are the thanks he has received when leaving his past deployments. He spent two weeks working in a shelter during Superstorm Sandy relief, and in that short period of time he really got to know the people staying there.
A software developer for the American Museum of Natural History Center for Biodiversity and Conservation for the past 15 years, Ersts began volunteering for the North Country Chapter to give back to his community and put some of his five weeks paid vacation per year to good use. Anytime he is deployed, Ersts uses his vacation time to do so.
In his limited free time, Ersts works as a trail steward in the Adirondack Mountains, clearing trails of trees, debris and brush for the estimated seven to ten million tourists that visit the Adirondack Park annually.
Passionate about his volunteer work with the Red Cross, Ersts wants to raise awareness for the need of volunteers within the community. “What people may not realize about the American Red Cross is that we are a finite resource that only really works because of the dedication of volunteers and donors,” said Ersts.