Throughout the year, American Red Cross offices like the one on Clinton Avenue in Cortland train volunteers how to prevent, prepare for, and respond to disasters, and how to operate within a local community to provide the best services for those in need. Part of that training for these Disaster Volunteers involves teaching “Shelter Fundamentals” and the guidelines and procedures for setting up, running and closing a shelter during a disaster.
Thanks to grant from the Ralph R. Wilkins Foundation, Inc., of Homer, the American Red Cross of Cortland County and its Disaster Volunteers are ready to meet those needs at a moment’s notice. The grant included funds for a trailer, the cost of a tow package, and Red Cross branding.
“Our idea was to keep all of the purchases local,” said Kevin Carpenter, Disaster Program Manager for the Red Cross of Cortland County. “The trailer was purchased at the Lowe’s Home Improvement Center, the tow package was purchased and installed by O’Shea’s Automotive Service, and the branding was applied in kind by MAX Graphics, all from Cortland County.”
Max Graphics generously donated their services to add the specific Red Cross logo for the Disaster Relief Trailer.
“We are grateful for the Wilkins Foundation's contribution to preparedness for Cortland County,” said Charlie Anderson, of Cortland, a Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) volunteer. “With the donation of a Disaster Relief Trailer, the Foundation has allowed our responders to continue to be prepared and ready to serve community members quickly and efficiently.”
Carpenter, who oversees Cortland County’s DAT volunteers, said the trailer is “stocked and ready to roll” for the next emergency.
“Having such a valuable addition to the Cortland County Red Cross will enable our Disaster Action Team to respond more rapidly in the event that we need to open a shelter or reception center,’’ Carpenter said. “If that were to happen, all we have to do is hook up the trailer and tow it to a designated sight without spending the time loading it at the time the incident occurs.”
The trailer can be transported to any location within the county to immediately provide the cots, blankets and other administrative and first aid supplies needed to set up a shelter.
“The major benefit is to eliminate the need to obtain a truck and people to load and transfer these supplies from the Red Cross warehouse location, thus saving valuable time if a shelter must be opened without advance notice,” said Alice Anderson, a Disaster Action Team (DAT) member and Charlie Anderson’s wife.
Once it’s connected to the Cortland County Red Cross van, the trailer can transport the supplies and responders to the required shelter location.
The trailer also provides weather protection for these supplies. When the Red Cross opened a shelter last August during the flooding at Walmart and Walden Place, the transfer of materials from a storage area to a truck during heavy rain made it difficult to keep cots and blankets dry. The trailer is currently stocked and organized to establish a shelter. It will also give disaster responders the capability to move other supplies such as water and clean-up items that may be required to support community residents during an emergency.
“The Wilkins Foundation was happy to help and fill a need for our community,” said Steven Albro, Vice President/Secretary of the Wilkins Foundation. “The Disaster Relief Trailer enables the local Red Cross to be prepared and ready to respond to help the Cortland community in times of crisis.”
Photo: The new disaster trailer, purchased with funds donated by the Wilkins Foundation, is stocked and ready to respond if there's an emergency in Cortland County. From left to right are: Kevin Carpenter, American Red Cross Disaster Program Manager; Chris Sheppard of MAX Graphics, which donated the Red Cross branding on the trailer; and Steven Albro and Gail Lang from the Wilkins Foundation. (Photo courtesy of Michele Whalen).