December 2013, has been a particularly intense month for the Disaster Action Team responders. of the Los Angeles Region of the American Red Cross.
Weather is the most significant contributing factor in Los Angeles, as well as the rest of the country. A drop in the temperature prompts people to turn on heaters that may not have been used for months. The result – a lot of house fires. In December, over 100 local Red Cross responders have provided comfort and services at house fires and other local emergencies, with some responding to multiple incidents during the very busy and dangerous month.
During the week of December16, 43 Disaster Action Team (DAT) responders were activated for 23 separate responses. The neighborhoods affected covered the majority of Los Angeles County, including Pasadena, Belmont Shore, Ridgecrest, Altadena, Reseda, Long Beach, Gardena, Echo Park, Wilmington, Koreatown, Compton, West Hollywood, Inglewood, Panorama City, Whittier, Glendale and Lancaster.
“The opportunities our volunteers have had this month to help members of our community affected by disasters underscores how vital Red Cross’ disaster cycle services are,” says Scott Underwood, Regional Disaster Program Officer.
On Thursday, December 19, the Red Cross deployed nine teams of Disaster Responders in a 20-hour period. The needs of 16 families, more than 40 people, were dealt with by teams of volunteers. One of the fires on that day in the Echo Park area resulted in two fatalities and the red-tagging of a large apartment complex.
That very busy day started just after 2AM, when the Los Angeles Fire Department called the Red Cross to respond to that fatal apartment fire that had displaced a reported 25 residents. Red Cross volunteers met with all of the residents and ensured their immediate needs were met. A few days later, the fire department returned to these families in their temporary quarters and delivered food and toys for the displaced families and children.
That particular DAT team raced from Echo Park before the sun came up to reinforce a team at a fire in Koreatown where three families were in need of support. Yet another team of volunteers was hard at work in Wilmington, helping families affected by a house fire. Later in the day teams were deployed to Compton and West Hollywood and, finally, to Panorama City.
The week of December 23 also called out the services of many at the Red Cross. That week there were 12 responses by Disaster Action Teams. There were 20 DAT Responders activated, and 73 DAT volunteers who were on-call through the Christmas week. The Red Cross helped 19 families (28 adults and 18 children) in Baldwin Hills, West Hollywood, Azusa, South LA, Gardena, Culver City, Compton, Reseda, Covina, and Florence.
And then, the night of December 29, 25 units were displaced from the Lido Hotel in Huntington Park, and the Red Cross responded by opening a shelter at the Huntington Parks and Recreation Center on Florence. The shelter housed 11 clients over night. The Huntington Park incident only involved one unit but displaced many because of lost electricity and no access to the building. Sadly, the building was home to many temporary, as well as permanent, residents. Many of the residents were living there with government assistance and had housing vouchers expiring on New Year’s Eve.
Although there were no injuries from this incident, the cost in terms of human needs at this time of year was huge, and the Red Cross was there to provide a variety of services, both physical and emotional.
“Everyone knows in time of real need, they will see the Red Cross there,” says Nicolas Hippisley-Coxe, Volunteer Partner, Director of Disaster Services. “What they don’t see is that, in addition to the wonderful people who come out to help, there are the dozens of volunteers manning our response center. They are responding by ordering logistics, allocating man power and staying right on top of everyone’s needs. It takes a lot of us to make it all work.”
“And, so many gave up time with their families over these holidays to come out and serve others in need,” continues Hippisley-Coxe. “Their reward is the gratitude of everyone they helped.”