By Mimi Teller/AmerIcan Red Cross
People in the Los Angeles area are displaced every day from their homes by sudden events such as fires and floods. While it might seem the American Red Cross magically appears in the middle of the night when disasters strike, it’s both our first responder partners and volunteers like Ralph Galvan who ensure support and hope arrive, especially during the dark, wee hours.
During Red Cross Month this March, the Los Angeles region has chosen to highlight three special volunteers including Ralph, who aids the mission when most everyone else is fast asleep.
Since 2010, the Baldwin Park resident has supported the Red Cross mission in many ways – as a disaster responder, public affairs spokesperson, in shelters and on smoke alarm campaigns, to name only a few. More recently, Ralph has taken on a new volunteer role as duty officer (DO), the person who coordinates and sends disaster response teams into the field. Since Ralph works in customer service by day, his volunteer duties mostly happen during his off hours, when he should be fast asleep.
When an emergency occurs, the responding fire agency will either contact the Red Cross emergency dispatch number or provide the dispatch number directly to the people affected by the disaster. Once notified of an event, the dispatch service will contact the DO on schedule, or Ralph, if he is the DO on standby.
“I don’t mind being wakened by calls in the middle of the night or early morning hours” shared Ralph, “I just have to make sure my phone is on the loudest possible volume and sitting right next to me.”
Once notified of an event, Ralph will contact the responding agency to verify the details. Ralph’s next call is to the person or families affected to learn how many people were impacted and of any immediate needs. When there are verified needs, Ralph’s next step is to organize and dispatch a response team within a few hours or less. These teams provide water, snacks and toiletry kits, immediate lodging and basic financial assistance when eligible, along with comfort and support.
If five or less people are affected, Ralph sends out a team of two people, but when disasters involve more than five, more people and larger teams need to be assembled. One response can take the duty officer 2-3 hours from start to finish and recently, Ralph had four, back-to-back disasters requiring response teams.
“Back-to-back events make for long and busy mornings” Ralph acknowledged, “If I get a nap I can re-adjust my body, but if I can’t, I just go with the punches the day brings. It’s important for me to follow-through on what I signed up to do, I simply say ‘here we go, let’s do another one’”.
Ralph has served his community in other ways as well; he has worked for parks and recreations, currently sits on his community’s water district board of directors and has run for city council.
“Giving back is what drives me to volunteer”, Ralph shared, “When it comes to my work with the Red Cross, I can be that one person sending help someone’s way when they have lost absolutely everything.”
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org/la or CruzRojaAmericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCrossLA.