By Matthew Jervis, American Red Cross volunteer
When disaster strikes, complex coordination is necessary to ensure that the American Red Cross, along with other agencies, can rapidly help those affected. Thankfully, the Red Cross has many dedicated volunteers to assist with shelter and disaster operations throughout San Diego and beyond. James “Arnold” Torma was honored as the November Volunteer of the Month for his contributions to shelter operations in San Diego.
Prior to volunteering with the Red Cross, Arnold worked as a professional engineer in traffic engineering. When he chose to step back from his career, Arnold knew he had to give back to the community in some way. Volunteering with sheltering and mass care intrigued him, so he worked on becoming certified in using the National Shelter System, otherwise known as the NSS database. This database is publicly available and provides vital information regarding shelters providing care for people around the United States, noting the location and amenities, including dormitory and feeding space, bathrooms, parking lots and pet areas.
Displaced due to an emergency? Check to see if a shelter has been activated using the NSS database. If there is one open in San Diego, it will be known through Arnold’s meticulous maintenance of San Diego’s presence on the NSS. The Red Cross Emergency App also pulls its listing of open shelters directly from the NSS and is a good way to keep shelter and preparedness info at your fingertips, just a few taps away.
Thanks in large part to Arnold’s efforts, all shelters in San Diego County have been assessed in the past year so that the local Red Cross has the right contact information for each facility on file and ensuring that each potential shelter location is fully prepared if – or when – they need to be activated. Arnold’s job is vital because disasters are unpredictable and can strike at any minute. His level of organization and behind-the-scenes dedication is an incredible gift.
“There’s a value of contribution to volunteering,” said Arnold. “Every now and then it comes up in conversation and I mention it just in case someone else is interested and is looking for an avenue for offering their services as well. I think knowing that there is a need in the world for this kind of a thing and being able to make some sort of contribution towards that is a satisfying reward.”
Arnold enjoys volunteering with the Red Cross in part because of the flexibility to volunteer wherever your interest, availability and passions lead you.
Within the Red Cross there are countless different volunteer opportunities and something for everyone. To become a volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer.