Just a week ago, the Disaster Action Team in Caledonia County conducted a drill. Such an exercise helps to build skills and allows the team to maintain a degree of readiness. As they concluded the drill, it would have been hard for them to imagine all that they would be called upon to accomplish in the week ahead.
Mirroring the real-life experience of an American Red Cross volunteer, the drill was not held at a convenient time. In fact, last Saturday night’s drill started at 11pm. Team members assembled and with the help of others, they practiced how they would respond to a house fire in Danville. The volunteers provided assistance to their imagined fire victims and organized support for the non-existent first responders on scene at the mock fire. With a few unexpected twists thrown in by the drill organizers to keep them on their toes, the team performed exceedingly well.
What followed this week put their skills to the test in some very real world situations. On Monday, the first of several calls came in for assistance. A Concord family of five was displaced from their home by fire. Volunteers trained in client casework met with the affected family to help assess their emergency needs. Support was provided to replace food and clothing lost in the fire.
On Wednesday, the pace really picked up. A tragic boating accident on the Passumpsic River in Barnet left a canoeist missing. The Red Cross was asked to provide support at the scene. Food and beverages were the direct assistance delivered to first responders and family, but it was the warmth and compassion of the volunteers that was probably the most important element of their work. Over the course of two and a half days, the corps of Red Cross volunteers remained on scene to lend support.
Wednesday also brought another fire to the region, this time striking two homes in Lyndonville. Again, volunteers met with the displaced and provided financial support to replace lost food and clothing. This response took place while other team members remained on scene at the search and rescue.
A bright spot for the tired team came on Thursday as they spent the day with the K-12 students of Concord talking about preparedness and displaying several of the Red Cross tools used in disaster response. This included an Emergency Response Vehicle from which food and supplies can be delivered across our region during times of disaster. That same vehicle only recently returned from a long stint in New York in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. In addition, the team set up an all-in-one trailer and tent Emergency Response System (ERS) built by MMIC, a Caledonia County business that has loaned the ERS to the Red Cross.
Today, team members are back at it with another fire response. Last night, the home of another Concord family was struck by fire. While it appears they have made arrangements for lodging, they will be provided support for food and clothing.
In all, at least 11 Red Cross Disaster Action Team members from Caledonia County engaged in this week’s activities. Judy Kennedy and Barb Byrne, the Co-Coordinators for the Caledonia County team have devoted considerable time in recent months to ensuring the readiness of their team. This week, that work paid off for the people of Caledonia County.
American Red Cross staff work hard to ensure that the material and financial resources needed by our volunteers is there when it is needed most, but it is the hard work, compassion and tireless dedication that the volunteers bring to their work that allows the Red Cross to deliver the kind of service provided in Caledonia County this past week. In all, 90% of the American Red Cross disaster services workforce is comprised of volunteers. Without their efforts, the organization simply could not deliver on its mission.
To support the work of Disaster Action Teams like this one across our region, a donation can be made to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters. Visit www.redcross.org/charitable-donations, call 802-660-9130, text REDCROSS to 90999, ext. 111, or mail your contribution to American Red Cross, 29 Mansfield Avenue, Burlington, VT 05401.