Disasters that affect societies on a large scale attract the majority of headlines. However, the American Red Cross responds to a disaster every eight minutes and assists an average of 190 families per day; the majority of the responses are to fires. Our volunteers are the brave individuals that make up the disaster action teams around the country, for communities like ours – providing support that may not be found elsewhere.
Amanda Hall, a legal operations specialist at Merrill Lynch in Jacksonville, Florida has volunteered for the Red Cross since September 2008. She is a disaster action team captain, emergency response vehicle driver and continues her Red Cross education by consistently participating in community disaster courses. She is the epitome of what makes the Red Cross successful in its mission to aid those suffering from disaster by being a dedicated and interactive volunteer.
Hall responded to a crisis to assist in the aftermath of a fire that caused a truck to explode, destroy a camper and the majority of the couple’s personal items.
The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department’s dispatch system informed her that one of the individuals was transported to UF Health in Gainesville by life flight.
An essential component to disaster relief is providing emotional care to the victims. They are physically rattled, in fear and need. Hall recognized that the spouse needed emotional support and an advocate to work on her behalf between the hospital, fire department and the Red Cross.
Once she arrived, Hall reached out to the fire department to find out where the client’s truck and camper were towed to and learned that the firemen were able to save some medication as well. With an advocate working for the client, the process went smoothly. A taxi to Gainesville was accommodated by the hospital and the medication was dropped off so the client was prepared to travel.
UF Health performed its service of providing transportation to Gainesville, however, everything the client had was destroyed or lost.
“She couldn’t even rent a car, or buy a plane ticket as her credit cards and driver’s license were gone,” said Hall, “her husband may have his ID, but he was hospitalized.”
The client didn’t know how she was going to leave Gainesville, so Hall told the client with confidence that she wasn’t going anywhere until everything was sorted out.
“I reached out to see if the Gainesville chapter had anyone available to meet her at the hospital, and at least sit with her for a little bit until she was able to settle in and feel comfortable. She had absolutely no one,” said Hall.
The taxi reached Gainesville safely and after a while, the client who sustained injuries left the hospital healthy. Once discharged from the hospital, their insurance was able to assist with providing transportation back to New Hampshire, their home state. They called Hall once the returned home to inform her they made it home okay. She learned that the client that sustained injuries was doing much better and they wanted information to send a thank-you letter to the fire fighters that responded.
“She jokingly said that Jacksonville, Florida was the best place to have to go through what her and her husband went through, and she was very thankful that their situation happened where it did,” said Hall. “The clients were also very impressed with JFRD, and said that they were very compassionate and they could tell that they cared.”
While the Red Cross does offer a variety of resources and aid during crisis, emotional support is intrinsic to disaster relief and invaluable. It is the work of volunteers like Hall that help clients when all is lost and panic sets in.
“Having support immediately available is so important because it provides a level of comfort to the clients,” said Hall. “We know that the person or family isn’t going to go through their situation alone.”
The Red Cross assists those suffering by providing physical, emotional and informational services, and experiences like a common fire proves how important all phases of relief are to the people we serve.