JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Shortly after an EF-3 tornado hit Jefferson City on May 22, 2019, American Red Cross disaster responders were on scene to help, working with local partners to provide temporary shelter.
By the next day, the Red Cross teams had transformed the Thomas Jefferson Middle School at 1201 Fairgrounds Roads into a shelter, complete with food, water, blankets, cots and other essentials for the individuals affected. Soon, the Red Cross set up two more shelters in south of Jefferson City in Eldon to support residents in the area, one at the Eldon Community Center and the other at Upper Elementary School in Eldon.
Red Cross volunteer, Pam Protzman, a retired nurse, mother of three and grandmother of three, was ready to help when the tornado hit her hometown that night. Her husband, a firefighter, headed work and Pam went to the Red Cross office where her son towed a Red Cross trailer filled with shelter supplies to the Thomas Jefferson Middle School shelter site.
“Within one hour, we had a shelter open,” she recalled. “My goal was to get people out of the rain and into a safe shelter. Get them dry. It was past midnight.” She was asked by the city fire chief to go to the emergency operations center where she stayed on duty for 36 hours as the Red Cross liaison, coordinating requests from emergency managers.
Through disasters near and far, Protzman has noticed a common thread: “When the Red Cross rolls into town, the people take sigh of relief and thank us. They know help is here. That’s what I pride myself on.”
“To help people – to be there when they’re at their lowest. That’s what the Red Cross is about,” Protzman said.
She was one of dozens of Red Cross volunteers and staff on site in the days after the tornado.
Abigail Anderson, Executive Director, Red Cross Central and Northern Missouri, vividly remembers the outpouring of support from the community.
“It was truly amazing to see the outpouring of community support and to see the difference our disaster responders made working closely with our community partners to help those affected,” Anderson said. “I am so grateful to be a part of the Red Cross to be able to be on the frontlines of offering hope, comfort and help to those in need in times of disaster.”
Summary of Red Cross Response to the Jefferson City tornado, May 22, 2019:
Overall, the Red Cross provided nearly 1,050 overnight shelter stays, more than 9,100 meals, and handed out more than 300 comfort kits and emergency supplies. The Red Cross assisted nearly 400 individuals, helping them with immediate needs and on through the recovery process by connecting them with local partner organizations. Red Cross teams also made nearly 550 health and mental health contacts following the tornado.
During May and June 2019, Red Cross disaster workers not only supported Cole and Miller Counties for the Jefferson City tornado response, but also supported those affected by flooding and additional tornadoes across the state of Missouri. During those two months, more than 570 Red Cross disaster responders of which 475 were volunteers, responded to help those affected by storms in local communities in Missouri.
Red Cross role in a disaster:
The primary role of the Red Cross following a disaster is to respond to immediate need of those affected, by providing a safe place to stay in shelters, meals, snacks and water and comfort kits.
The Red Cross coordinates with community, government and emergency management officials to determine where and when additional assistance is needed, and conducts damage assessments of homes to determine assistance and works with partner organizations that can provide additional assistance. Red Cross caseworkers determine specific needs of those affected, plus health and mental health counseling, and spiritual care are there to provide assistance. They also work with partner agencies to ensure additional assistance and support is offered if needed.