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Between October and December 2017, the Red Cross responded to six of the year’s largest and most complex disasters. This included back-to-back hurricanes — Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Thanks to the help of our partners and volunteers, the Red Cross was able to mobilize immediately to provide shelter, food, comfort and a path to recovery. Through it all, the Red Cross Eastern PA was able to send volunteers, emergency response vehicles, and critical aid to the hardest hit areas – with the help our generous partners.

  • PJM Interconnection
  • PPL Electric
  • West Pharmaceuticals
  • Air Products
  • Toll Brothers
  • Arkema
  • Kessler Topaz Meltzer
  • Penn Mutual
  • SKF USA
  • Tri State Toyota

With the support of our partners, the Red Cross provided more food, relief items and overnight shelter stays than in the past four years combined. The Red Cross mobilized 56,000 disaster workers — 92 percent volunteers — to provide help after 242 significant disasters such as wildfires, floods, tornadoes and other emergencies in 45 states and three territories. Altogether, Red Cross emergency response vehicles traveled 2.5 million miles to deliver food, relief supplies and support to communities affected by disasters. That’s the same as driving around Earth 103 times.

Thank you – as always – for your ongoing commitment to the Red Cross. We could not provide disaster relief without your help.

 

Some of us may not be familiar with the term ice jam. It’s when ice chunks build up to form a dam. Water then builds up behind the ice blockage and can cause flooding.

The science of ice jams may be interesting but the results for people in Northeast Pennsylvania were devastating. Beginning on Tuesday, ice jams on the Tunkhannock Creek flooded several homes in Nicholson, Wyoming County. The American Red Cross Northeastern Pennsylvania Chapter mobilized more than two dozen volunteers to provide lodging, food and clothing assistance to affected families.

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Flooding from the Tunkhannock Creek

However, the problems continued. Wednesday morning, a significant ice jam formed between Pittston and Wilkes-Barre along the Susquehanna River. This caused a sharp rise in water levels and began flooding streets in West Pittston.

Even before evacuations were ordered, the American Red Cross NEPA started readying more resources, including disaster workers and supplies. Eventually, evacuations were ordered Wednesday evening for dozens of homes in West Pittston, and the Red Cross opened a shelter at the Wyoming Area Secondary Center in Exeter. That shelter housed eight evacuees overnight. Another shelter in nearby Duryea was opened and managed by local officials, and the Red Cross provided the facility with supplies.

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‪The Red Cross shelter at Wyoming Area Secondary Center

By Thursday morning the ice jam had broken free with water levels quickly dropping on the Susquehanna River and its tributaries. All evacuation orders were lifted and the shelters closed after all residents had returned home.

The Red Cross reminds all residents that dangerous ice has been left behind by the flood event and everyone should steer clear of the ice. In addition, the rapidly changing conditions on the river serve as a reminder of the importance of emergency preparedness and being Red Cross Ready.

The Red Cross urges everyone to Get a Kit, Make a Plan and Be Informed. For more information, visit us on the web at http://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies. For the latest weather alerts, including river flood warnings, download the Red Cross Emergency app today by visiting http://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/mobile-apps.

Across U.S., Red Cross Responds to Nearly 60% More Home Fires in First Days of 2018 Than in 2017

As part of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, Red Cross Eastern PA will install free smoke alarms over the upcoming Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service weekend and on Monday.

  • SEPA: Saturday, January 13th in Philadelphia from 9a – 2 p.
    • Boys Latin Charter MS – 344 N. Felton Street (near 63rd & Callowhill) and St. Matthews AME Church, 215 N. 57th Street (57th & Race)
  • Tri-County: Saturday, January 13th in Ashland, Schuylkill County from 9:30a – 3p.
    • American Hose Company 639 Walnut Street, Ashland, PA 17921
  • NEPA: Monday, January 15th in Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County from 9a – 2p
    • Hollenback Fire Station 1020 North Washington Street Wilkes Barre, PA 18705
  • NEPA: Monday, January 15th in Carbondale, Lackawanna County from 9a – 2p.
    • Carbondale Fire Bureau 8 6th Avenue Carbondale, PA 18407
  • SEPA: Monday, January 15th in Norristown, Montgomery County from 9a – 2p.
    • Montgomery Hose Company is 201 W Freedley St, Norristown, PA 19401.
  • Tri-County: Monday, January 15th in Reading, Berks County from 9:30a – 3p.
    • Tri-County Chapter 701 Centre Avenue, Reading, PA  19601

Highmark

HOME FIRE CAMPAIGN SAVES 332 LIVES The Red Cross responds to as many as 64,000 disasters every year and most of these are home fires. Sadly, seven times a day someone in this country dies in a home fire.

To combat these statistics, the Red Cross launched its Home Fire Campaign in 2014, focusing on installing free smoke alarms in neighborhoods at high risk for fires and teaching people about fire safety. Since the start of the campaign, the Red Cross and partners have installed more than 1 million smoke alarms and helped to save 332 lives.

The Red Cross depends on the generous support of the American public to fulfill its crucial mission. If someone would like to help, please consider making a donation today by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 gift.

Red Cross volunteers across the country have already responded to 3,150 home fires in the first nine days of the year, compared to 2,003 fires in 2017. Some of this may be attributed to the recent string of dangerously cold days, as colder temperatures are often linked to a rise in home fires. Heating, holiday decorations, winter storms and candles all contribute to an increased risk of fire during the winter months, according to the National Fire Protection Association and the U.S. Fire Administration.

After a home fire, a Red Cross volunteer is often among the first on the scene – offering emotional support, helping those affected to find a place to stay and assisting with recovery. As of January 9, the Red Cross has already opened 4,400 cases to help a total of 12,500 people get back on their feet after home fires in 2018.

 

-Monica Cryan

Written by: David Haas

In 2017, the American Red Cross worked harder than ever in its mission “to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers.’

This year Red Crossers delivered more food, relief supplies and shelter stays than the last four years combined. Eastern Pennsylvania volunteers supported many of these efforts, including volunteer deployments for back-to-back-to-back-to-back hurricanes — Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate – the deadliest week of wildfires in California history, and the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history in Las Vegas. Learn more about the value of your contribution to 2017 disaster work in this video.

As 2017 comes to a close, Eastern PA Red Cross leaders are preparing a response plan for the devastating and quick-moving wildfires in Southern California, ready to assist local Red Crossers who are opening shelters, and providing food, comfort, and a safe place for thousands of residents displaced from their homes.

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The 2017 National Red Cross statistics are staggering.  More than 56,000 disaster workers — 92 percent volunteers — provided help to people affected by 242 significant disasters in 45 states and three territories. This year, the need for emergency shelter soared, with the Red Cross providing twice as many overnight stays than it did during the past four years combined. The Red Cross:

  • Opened 1,100 emergency shelters to provide 658,000 overnight stays
  • Served 13.6 million meals and snacks
  • Distributed 7 million relief items
  • Provided 267,000 health and mental health contacts
  • Supported 624,000 households with recovery assistance

Altogether, Red Cross emergency response vehicles traveled 2.5 million miles to deliver food, relief supplies and support to communities affected by disasters. That’s the same as driving around Earth 103 times.

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“There was someone every step of the way with a red vest on letting us know everything was going to be okay,” said Houston-resident Tabitha Barnes, who received Red Cross services after Hurricane Harvey flooded her home.

As volunteers in this region know, the most common disaster is not a hurricane or flood, but rather a home fire. There were nearly 50,000 home fires in the US this year which required Red Cross assistance, and caseworkers helped 76,000 affected families to recover.  Eastern PA volunteers respond quickly to local fires, including multiple teams that responded to the November 17th fire at the Barclay Friends Senior Living Community in West Chester where 140 people were evacuated. Dozens of people wrapped in blankets and sitting in wheelchairs were seen in news reports and being served by the Red Cross at a shelter nearby. The Red Cross House in Philadelphia is another unique resource available to help families and individuals get back on their feet after a house fire with temporary stays.

Eastern PA volunteers also support the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, working to help prevent home fires and save lives. Since the Campaign launched in 2014, 303 lives have been saved, more than 1 million smoke alarms have been installed, and 940,000 youth have been taught about the importance of fire safety. Hear from Rosie Saunders how having a working smoke alarm saved her daughter’s life: https://vimeo.com/229324955.

And if you have not done so yet, consider donating blood at year-end when donations decline because of the holidays. Also consider a year-end financial donation. An average of 91 cents of every donated dollar goes to providing food, shelter, relief supplies, emotional support and other assistance, as well as supporting the vehicles, warehouses, technology and people that make help possible.

Written by: Samantha Antenucci

Months after the hurricanes wreaked havoc in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, local residents still face hurdles on the path to recovery. While most of us cannot imagine the devastation, local Red Cross volunteers who have traveled to the affected areas have had a first-hand look at the recovery efforts.

When the hurricanes first struck, Red Cross volunteer Heidi Dampman was originally intending to leave for a vacation. When she first heard about Hurricane Harvey, she postponed her plans and took of an extra week of unpaid time off from work to go down to Texas to help. She recalled, “Even if I was going to get fired for taking off, I still would have done it. If I would have lost my job, that would have been alright, because for the first time in my life, I knew I was doing something right.”

Hurricane Harvey 2017

September 1, 2017. Woodsboro, Texas An Emergency Response Vehicle delivers hot meals in the town of Woodsboro, Texas where there is still now power a week after the storm made landfall. Photo by Chuck Haupt for the American Red Cross

Dampman’s positive attitude was contagious during her time in Texas where she drove a Red Cross emergency response vehicle into damaged neighborhoods to provide families with hot meals and drinks. As she was setting up for her shift, she had an idea to lift the spirits of the community members. She turned up the music in the truck for the neighborhood to hear, and as soon as she did, young children to the elderly, came out of their homes and started dancing in the streets! Dampman was giving them more than just a hot meal, she gave them hope.

Even though there were some heartwarming stories, Dampman remembers the hardships of her deployment as well. She recalls an image of a family standing outside of their home with all their belongings sprawled out on the front lawn. With an estimated five feet worth of flood damage, their home was destroyed.  When she offered the family food and water, they started crying. Dampman said, “It was difficult. You really got attached to the people there.”

Unfortunately, home destruction is not uncommon. John and Jane Hoopingarner, both Red Cross volunteers, worked in spiritual care for victims of Harvey as well. The Hoopingarners were deployed for two and a half weeks to Beaumont and Port Arthur and volunteered to listen, encourage, and work to restore some sense of normalcy to the hurricane victims. When the Hoopingarners arrived, they witnessed “the miles of damage with homes that were flooded to the roof and so many people lost absolutely everything.”

 

They described how some people were able to return to work and began to start over, but so many people were left homeless and moving from shelter to shelter. While there, the couple lived in and worked in the shelter with other victims, consoling them as much as they could. Mr. Hoopingarner recalled how many were in an emotional and physical downward spiral and how they managed to escape the disaster on helicopters and boats.

Mrs. Hoopingarner shared some of the stories of the people she encountered at the shelter. She shared how a family consisting of a single mother, and her two children, a 12-year-old daughter with disabilities and her 16-year-old son, came to the shelter after the hurricane. The family was in turmoil and Mrs. Hoopingarner consoled the family every day, sometimes twice a day, until her deployment ended. Once she left Texas, Mrs. Hoopingarner described how the mother found a job and started working while the people at the shelter would look after her daughter while she was at work!

When asked what people can do to help the victims of the hurricanes, they emphasized, “Though the recovery is still raw, we ask people not to forget what happened to Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico once the news stops reporting on it.”

Though the damage is done and the news has simmered down, the recovery is still new, raw, and will take years to bounce back.

 

pleaseantville-halloween-5Looking back on the events two years ago when Superstorm Sandy was covering the almost the entire eastern Atlantic Ocean, I remember feeling astonished that the storm would actually turn toward the coast and make landfall in New Jersey. Hurricanes come north, of course, but not often and not with such threatening power. Were we ready? I suspected we weren’t, because how could we be? We tend to be “ready” for events we have already experienced. Sandy was unprecedented. Still, it was incredibly comforting to be a volunteer for the Red Cross. These were the folks who knew how to prepare and they were on the job.

I wrote, soon after the storm, about a friend who had texted me “Thank goodness for the Red Cross.”  Yes, indeed, for so many reasons. Here’s the rest of my 2012 blog post:

“What a week it’s been. Our job is to take care of the important stuff: shelter, food, comfort, survival. Currently, the Red Cross is sheltering close to 9,000 people in 171 Red Cross shelters across 13 states. Wow. . . Locally, close to 200 people (196) and 19 pets stayed the night in local SEPA Red Cross shelters in Montgomery, Bucks and Philadelphia Counties.

When I was in our offices last Thursday, I peeked in on a meeting of disaster preparedness personnel on the potential for a large hurricane to incapacitate the East Coast early the following week. At that point, the encounter between Sandy and the coast of New Jersey was still purely hypothetical and only one model was suggesting the storm would not turn safely out to sea. Even so, our staff was taking the situation seriously and beginning to make the preparations necessary to provide support and shelter should the worst case scenario occur. Thank goodness they did.

Needless to say, we’ve been moderately busy since then. At the height of the storm, we were ready with 14 shelters set up in five counties. We hosted a phone bank to answer storm related questions at a local television station. Tweets, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, a Hurricane App and several media appearances by our CEO, Judge Renée Hughes, shared vital information with the citizens of Southeastern, Pennsylvania. We helped people prepare and they did. We encouraged them to “shelter in place” by staying home, staying off the streets and letting our public officials do their jobs. People listened and we made it through this.

For those forced to evacuate, we provided warmth with blankets, food, shelter and the companionship of volunteers and others in the same situation. We take comfort seriously and believe it helps everyone weather the storm. And with comfort in mind, we are proud to say that Halloween celebrations went ahead for several of our younger shelter residents at a shelter in Pleasantville, NJ. “

I remember feeling so moved by these Halloween festivities. It’s so important to help children feel a sense of normalcy when their entire world has been disrupted. I was proud to be a Red Cross volunteer on that day, and I still am.

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Although I’ve only been interning with the Red Cross Communications team for several weeks, I have already gained an entirely new perspective on both this community and providing assistance to those in need. The future of the Red Cross is dependent on volunteers who recognize the importance of this organization and then donate their efforts towards fulfilling its mission.

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During my time at the Red Cross, I have had the opportunity to assist outside of the office. One day, I hope to be part of the Disaster Action team and respond to local disasters. So far, the closest that I have come to disaster response is participating in Red Cross Fire Safety Walkthroughs. During Fire Safety Walkthroughs, Red Cross workers distribute fire safety materials, such as educational materials as well as a 9-volt battery for smoke detectors. The educational material comes in multiple languages and provides individuals with information on how to prevent a fire, making an escape plan and pet fire safety.  In the past several weeks, I’ve participated in Fire Safety Walkthroughs in the two communities surrounding the fatal fires at Gesner Street and North Sixth Street. When fire suddenly destroys homes and claims the lives of community members, the scene is always very sensitive.  It has been difficult to see the tremendous toll these disasters have on communities. As we made our way up and down the streets, I did my best to be respectful to people’s properties, especially the homes where the fires occurred.

Gesner St Fire picture of Laurel

When I am in the office, I work with both internal and external means of communication to keep the general public as well as Red Cross employees and volunteers informed about what is going on in the community and the office. I really value working beside and learning from my manager, Sara, and the rest of the Communications department. Our many responsibilities have so much purpose, which causes me to constantly look forward to my time here. This branch of the Red Cross employs many friendly and intelligent people. I’ve received nothing but a warm welcome to this team. The Red Cross never stops responding, so as long as I’m here I’m sure I will be kept busy by providing the community with the information they need to stay informed and safe.

~submitted by Laurel, a high school intern for the communications department

If you are interested in volunteering with the American Red Cross, click here.