Chris Ciccotelli has been helping people not only as Regional Mass Care Lead for the American Red Cross, but throughout most of his life. He is a military veteran in the Air Force and was a firefighter for the New York City Fire Department for 17 years.
His role as a Regional Mass Care Lead provides activities and services on a congregate basis to communities, including feeding, sheltering, reunification, and distribution of emergency supplies in the occurrence of disasters.
He joined the Red Cross in August of 2018 and his first deployment was in March of 2019 for the Nebraska floods, where he was assigned as a Shelter Manager.
“When I was in Nebraska we had this big shelter set up, and one of the things that stuck in my mind was that there was a lot of flooding out there, a lot of homes were totally destroyed and people that could never go back to their homes. But we had people having a good time, laughing, kids playing soccer and parents telling jokes,” he said. “We were able to get these people in a safe environment.”
After this experience, Chris realized that he enjoyed working in shelters and said he found his niche.
“Working on the fire service and in the military, I liked that no matter how much training you do or how much you prepare, you can still be caught off guard with things; because you never know what is going to happen next,” he said.
When responding to disasters, Chris mentioned that you must be prepared for anything, make decisions quickly depending on how the situation changes, sometimes with no guidance.
He gained a lot of experience with this as a firefighter as well, after he was in the military for four years. Chris was trained in firefighting, emergency medical skills and technical rescue.
“I was used to working in stressful situations,” he said. After he retired in 2018 as a firefighter, he decided to keep helping people through volunteering.
Chris has participated in three disasters with the Red Cross: the Nebraska floods, Hurricane Dorian, and responding to a fire emergency in February of this year in Homestead, Fla.
Currently, he works to coordinate with volunteers if shelters are needed during COVID-19.
“I am keeping up with all the Mass Care doctrine that comes out specific to COVID-19, making sure the appropriate volunteers know about it (feeding, logistics, sheltering), getting people available to serve on standby teams in the event sheltering is needed. I am hosting two web calls a week for Q&A for anyone in the region to ask any questions about Mass Care things, so they can be more comfortable responding to incidents,” he said.
He has also recently been assigned to deploy to Mississippi due to multiple tornadoes in the area, working as a mentor for the local shelter lead. He is helping her virtually, making sure all clients have everything they need during this difficult time.
For Chris, what is most rewarding about working for the Red Cross is helping clients, working with volunteers, and getting supplies together to have shelters and assistance available during times of disaster.
To learn more about being a part of the disaster team, just like Chris, along with many other opportunities to lend a helping hand, visit redcross.org/sflvolunteer to become a Red Cross volunteer.
Written by Maria Lago