Like many New Yorkers, the Pichardo family didn’t know that much about their local Red Cross until they needed it.
In October of this year, Raymond Pichardo was awakened by screams and commotion in his Bronx three-story apartment building. Soon after, he heard someone yell “Fire!”
He and his wife quickly escaped the smoke-filled building, joining neighbors gathered on the sidewalk. Helpless, they all watched as fire crews arrived and began extinguishing the flames.
“It was scary,” recalls Mr. Pichardo, “we saw flames shooting out the windows.”
Soon, Red Cross volunteers arrived at the scene to help.
In the city that never sleeps, neither does the Red Cross. 24/7, the organization provides emergency assistance following incidents like home fires across the Greater NY region.
The Red Cross response to each incident begins in their Emergency Communication Center operated out of their Manhattan HQ. There, a Red Cross team monitors for local disasters using a variety of disaster information services, such as Breaking News Network and FDNY radio frequencies. Then, they rapidly deploy teams to help those affected.
Once at the scene, Red Cross volunteers meet with residents to address their emergency needs. This can consist of health and emotional support, blankets, shelter, food, clothing and more.
Firefighters quickly put out the two-alarm blaze in the Picardo family dwelling, but serious fire and water damage meant that they, and fellow residents, would not be permitted to return to their homes for the foreseeable future.
“The Red Cross provided us with blankets and basic things we needed like metro cards and lodging at a hotel. Then they made arrangements for us to come to their headquarters the following day,” says Mr. Pichardo.
All residents who have suffered such a loss are invited to meet with a Red Cross caseworker at the Greater New York HQ. The caseworker’s role is to find out if the families have any additional needs and point them to other agencies and community groups who can provide further assistance such as longer-term housing.
Fortunately, no one was hurt in this particular incident. But fires are not a rare occurrence in the City. According to FDNY, such disasters occur at a rate of about seven per day.
While fires can occur in any neighborhood, the majority of them occur in the most vulnerable communities in and around our City. Every day and night, thousands of times per year, trained Red Cross volunteers are aiding stunned families like the Pichardo’s who have just fled for their lives, and who can least afford a catastrophic life event.
Most people don’t know everything the Red Cross does, but they don’t have to. What’s important is that volunteers and staff are always there and ready to help their community when disaster strikes. Raymond Pichardo knows this all too well now.
“I’m really thankful for the service the Red Cross provided, very grateful. They helped me a great deal,” recalls Pichardo.
To watch a message from the Pichardo family to Red Cross supporters, click here.
If you want to learn more about the Greater New York Red Cross, click here.
To find the Red Cross chapter nearest you, click here.