In the early morning hours of July 7, a six-alarm fire at the Hallmark House Apartments in Redwood City destroyed the 72-unit building, claiming the life of one resident and displacing more than 100 people.
The American Red Cross and several other local partner organizations worked together to bring order to the chaos. The residents evacuated to the Fair Oaks Community Center early Sunday morning. Later, about 30 residents moved to a Red Cross shelter at the National Guard Armory in Redwood City.
The Red Cross shelter was open for six days and an onsite Assistance Center provided residents with information and support from the Red Cross and partner agencies. Our Disaster Mental Health volunteers provided emotional support throughout the week as residents returned to the burned building to view the damage and salvage belongings.
Within three days of the fire, 12 Red Cross caseworkers opened 72 client cases. Silicon Valley Chapter volunteers Geoff and Ann Ziman were two of the caseworkers assisting in the response.
Since 1999, Geoff and Ann have responded to 15 national disasters and more than 100 local disasters. Assisting on the Redwood City fire felt different to the couple—mainly because of the strong sense of community and partnerships working to help those affected by this local disaster.
“The partnerships that the Red Cross built with the city, county, and other non-profits were remarkable,” said Geoff. “Since we were working as a big team, it made the process easier, not just for us as volunteers, but for the clients who also supported one another as a community during this tough time.”
Though caseworkers had dozens of clients to assist, the process ran smoothly.
“The willingness the client casework team brought to the table was outstanding,” said Liz Ford, Client Casework Manager for the response. “They were able to take on tasks outside of their job assignment and willing to do whatever it took to meet the clients’ needs.”
Despite the added pressures of the Asiana Airlines incident response happening at the same time, the Redwood City fire became a great example of what partnerships in the community can accomplish.
Personnel from San Mateo Public Health and Behavioral Health, Lions Club, and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members assisted at the shelter. The Salvation Army provided meals and clothes for residents, and Project ACCESS and a number of other agencies offered a variety of services at the Assistance Center.
View more photos from this response at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/redcross_bayarea/sets/72157634608195741/