When the American Red Cross responds to a disaster, the help goes beyond food and shelter. Trained Red Cross workers help with assessing the damage and need for services in the area, with health and mental health services and meet one-on-one with families to plan their next steps
Recently a multi-agency resource center (MARC) opened in Lake City, South Carolina, to offer a place where residents of Florence County can visit to meet with federal, state and local agencies to get assistance and support after the recent flooding.
For instance, FEMA and Small Business Administration representatives are on hand, along with the Southern Baptist Convention volunteers ready to help clean the mud out of flooded homes.
One of those visiting the MARC was Nadine Evans, a 76-year-old widow who lost the home she and her husband built to the floodwaters. She saved what she could, especially her dog, Cee Bee. Her main concerns were getting a new pair of eyeglasses and a leash for her dog. As she talked, the woman’s eyes filled with tears. The trauma of loss finally took its toll.
“I had the sense enough to get out because I knew what was coming,” she said. “When the river starts rising up, it’s time to get going.” But she knew that this time when she left, there would be no return trip. “It’s what hurt so bad, especially when you built it with your own hands,” she said. “It’s hard for all of us, but we’ll make it through.” For years, the house was the family gathering spot for Thanksgiving. Despite the setbacks, Nadine said, “I told the family not to worry because we’ll meet some place, even if it’s on the side of the road.”
As she was packing her tote bag, a Red Cross volunteer handed her a new pink dog leash. She nodded and smiled as she clutched the leash and left.
DISASTER HEALTH SERVICES
The Red Cross maintains a roster of health services specialists who are licensed as physicians, nurses, emergency medical technicians and paramedics. When disaster strikes, these highly trained specialists deploy to provide health services to disaster victims as well as Red Cross volunteers involved in disaster response and recovery.
One of the critical things for health services is to provide and advocate for items in Red Cross shelters that are necessary to deal with residents’ functional needs - things like walkers, wheelchairs and specialized medical equipment, according to John Decker, a Disaster Health Services Manager currently deployed to Charleston, South Carolina.
Another example of how Red Cross Health Services can help is the assistance provided to Shirley Green of Hopkins, S.C. Flood waters caused minor damage at her home. She’s cleaned up most of the mess, but a long road to recovery still lies ahead.
“I’m a diabetic,” she explained. “Thankfully the nurse here is helping me replace my insulin – I have to have that.” Green was able to meet with a Red Cross nurse at one of several multi-agency resource centers (or MARCs) set up across the state. At a MARC, people can access services from a diverse network of government and non-profit partners working to help people recover from a disaster.
For Green, the care and concern of Red Cross Nurse Debi O’Neil brought some comfort in the midst of a difficult experience. Besides helping her replace her prescription medication,O’Neil took some extra time to check out an injury the woman had sustained while cleaning up after the floods.
“I’m just very grateful,” Shirley said. “I know I’ll be okay.”
Red Cross Disaster Health Services can also assist with replacing lost medications, help with negotiations with insurance companies and pharmacies, check vital signs in the field, provide referrals to local health specialists, and provide immunizations.
HOW TO HELP
The Red Cross depends on the continued support of the public to help people affected by disasters big and small. People can help by donating to Red Cross Disaster Relief to support disasters big and small by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations to Disaster Relief will be used to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small.