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Volunteer Helps People Cope After Crash-Landing

Red Cross Training Vital to Airline Response
“Knowing we were able to meet their needs–in their native languages and with cultural sensitivity–was great.” - Vicky Powell

Although many passengers and crew aboard Asiana Airlines Flight 214 walked away from the crash-landing, all experienced the trauma.

Vicky Powell, Red Cross Disaster Mental Health (DMH) Manager for the Silicon Valley Chapter, was responsible for the Red Cross DMH team, which provided emotional support to the passengers and crew aboard the Asiana flight, their families, first responders, and Red Cross workers.

“Sometimes a lot of what we do is helping people with the wide range of emotions they experience, which are very normal after such an unusual event,” Vicky said.

The Santa Cruz Mountains resident has been a volunteer for the Red Cross since 1999 after retiring from a career in county mental health. Her years of experience in the field helped the team overcome the unique challenges of a major disaster, which intensified under the spotlight of the local and international media.

“Many passengers were concerned about their families and some were unaware that they were suffering from injuries,” she said. “To add to the confusion, many of the crew, passengers, and their families were Chinese or Korean nationals who spoke little or no English.”

Through a partnership with San Francisco and San Mateo County Behavioral Health Departments, Vicky assembled a team, which included bilingual/bicultural mental health professionals to support those affected in their own language.

“Families were able to get a lot of support,” said Vicky.

Vicky’s team assisted several families and passengers who had to fly home and were understandably anxious about the flight. They were provided with specific tips on how to handle their anxiety.

“It was well received, I think it really helped,” Vicky said.

Passengers also had to cope with the death of three teenagers and constant media scrutiny.

Despite the challenges, Vicky said she knows her team made a difference.

“Knowing we were able to meet their needs–in their native languages and with cultural sensitivity–was great,” she said.

Learn more about volunteering or contact your local Chapter.