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Disaster Action Teams (DAT) – Below the Radar but not Invisible

The Disaster Assistance Teams are small, core groups of committed volunteers working a 24 x 7 weekly on-call rotation.

Dino Ingram is a Red Cross volunteer and contribution writer. This is the first of a three part series.

“If it bleeds, it leads”. I can’t count how often I’ve watched a news lead story or read web headlines talking about natural disasters: tornadoes, wildfires, typhoons, earthquakes, floods. These events affect people on the local, national, and world stage. These tragedies quite naturally and instinctively grab our hearts and attention as we watch the situations unfold from the safety of our living room or office.

We’re moved by compassion, as we observe how people are affected by these catastrophes. The physical and emotional toll that these tragic events take on the victims is revealed through both traditional and new media sources. We also discover wonderful things about the hearts and intent of individuals and organizations volunteering their time and treasure, providing comfort, care, aid, and assistance to the men, women and children who have become unwilling participants in an event whose magnitude can’t be truly measured.

What we don’t necessarily hear about is the family of ten whose rural home, gutted by fire, is left with nothing but one small box of photos, or the retired couple who’ve lost their house and possessions to fire caused by a lightening strike, or the multiple families with little children forced from their apartment complex because an ice storm has knocked out power, making their homes cold and uninhabitable. Understandably, these disasters fly below the radar because they don’t grab headlines. However, they have no less impact on the victims than any large-scale disaster. Who’s going to help the individual victims of a house fire, ice storm, heat wave or other ‘displacing’ event? Enter the Red Cross DAT team.

The Disaster Assistance Teams are small, core groups of committed volunteers working a 24 x 7 weekly on-call rotation. They consist of a captain and three to four individuals trained to respond to individual and family needs in these types of emergencies. When they’re called upon, they’re on-site, providing resources for food, clothing, personal care items and temporary housing. They assist the victims with paperwork, monetary assistance and support, allowing them to get dry, warm, safe and secure. The DAT also provides the victims with contact information and resources available to meet specific needs, all designed to help them get back on their feet and resume life as they know it.

On a daily basis, Red Cross DAT teams respond to house fires, ice storms, blizzards, tornadoes, floods, heat waves and any other event that displaces individuals and families from the place they call home. They also provide refreshment and relief to first responders and emergency personnel, via canteen services, giving them food and drink so they can be renewed and continue doing their jobs.

In upcoming articles I’m going to put some names and faces on local volunteer DAT Captains and talk about their service to the Red Cross and even get a little bit personal.