By Mimi Teller
Have you ever had a friend with “connections”? That person who could get you free concert tickets or help you cut to the front of a long line? If yes, then you understand how that friend makes life a little more special or just easier at times, like American Red Cross volunteer Bernie Nazari. As Government Operations liaison, Bernie has long been connecting the Red Cross mission with the officials whose partnerships ensure successful disaster responses.
Government operations volunteers develop trust and maintain relationships between government partners and internal Red Cross teams to facilitate effective services to communities impacted by crisis. Bernie’s role is to make sure Red Cross actions are aligned with, supportive of, and complementary to government emergency operations, while working closely with the agencies and personnel making an impact on the ground. Bernie also represents the Red Cross to other external partners to establish and monitor situational awareness, while collecting, evaluating and communicating critical disaster response information.
“Red Cross relies on our friends at the fire department and police force to provide critical information” shared Bernie, “they advise us on the communities affected and threatened by fire, so we know when and where to open shelters”. In return, we share shelter population numbers, information that helps emergency responders gauge the number of people who have not evacuated.”
Bernie joined the Red Cross volunteer workforce in the mid ‘90’s as part of a high school summer community service program. His assignments included working the front desk and cleaning CPR manikins. Since, Bernie continues as an invaluable member of the Los Angeles chapter and beyond, serving as the volunteer partner for the L.A. chapters’ first female CEO, advising and leading advances in the mission’s access to and use of evolving technologies, and continuing to foster cooperative rapports with government partners ranging from front line responders to the Fire Chief and Mayor of Los Angeles.
Bernie’s government relationships exist solely to advocate for those in need, and to communicate with emergency response partners who make the decisions that affect each individual community. Examples include making officials aware that lifting evacuation orders at midnight can prove difficult for most people and if safe, to consider lifting evacuation orders earlier in the evening. Bernie has leveraged his relationships with utility companies to expedite the return of community services sooner than scheduled, and once met-up with an elderly gentleman at a police blockade to arrange for the man to retrieve critical medications from his fire threatened home.
“Helping people in a position where they feel helpless is something we can easily take for granted” said Bernie, “In the blink of an eye a disaster can take everything you ever owned — when that happens, my goal is to give people a sense of comfort and that someone is looking out for their interests.”