Disasters like Harvey, now Irma, keeping American Red Cross busy

By CHRISTY ARMSTRONG Staff Writer
Posted 9/8/17

As disasters like Hurricane Harvey and widespread wildfires have been ravaging the United States recently, the American Red Cross has been sending people to help.

Kelly Browand, volunteer …

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Disasters like Harvey, now Irma, keeping American Red Cross busy

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As disasters like Hurricane Harvey and widespread wildfires have been ravaging the United States recently, the American Red Cross has been sending people to help.

Kelly Browand, volunteer lead for the American Red Cross’ Southeast Tennessee chapter’s work in the Bradley and Polk counties, spoke to the Bradley Sunrise Rotary Club on Thursday about the organization’s efforts.

“We are involved in numerous ways all across the United States — and not just during emergencies like Hurricane Harvey,” said Browand.

The organization assists with domestic and international disaster relief efforts, biomedical services and emergency response training. It also works with the country’s armed forces and promotes emergency preparedness.

Browand said disaster relief is perhaps what the Red Cross is best known for among most Americans. Staff and volunteers with the organization are often “the second responders” people see when facing natural disasters, house fires and more.

Relief efforts often include providing food, clothing and personal care items and shelter to people in need. Referrals are also made for those in need of health care.

Red Cross volunteers will often set up areas where people can receive counseling and other “comfort care,” such as light refreshments. For example, when shootings occurred at two military locations in Chattanooga on July 16, 2015, the organization provided “comfort care” to witnesses waiting to give their statements by police.

Browand noted the Red Cross is busy providing these resources to people displaced by the recent hurricane and wildfires in the U.S.

“Currently, there are thousands of volunteers from the Red Cross in Texas and Louisiana alone,” Browand said. “Things are also being staged to respond to Hurricane Irma.”

She added that the organization responds to an emergency every 9 minutes or so. Many of these emergencies involve volunteers helping people living nearby.

There are some 326 trained volunteers in the 10-county Southeast Tennessee region during the past year. There were 288 disaster responses, and 294 families were helped.

Biomedical services offered by the Red Cross include accepting donations of blood and distributing them to hospitals. Browand said this is not done here, to avoid duplicating what regional organization Blood Assurance does.

The Red Cross also offers a variety of training classes for anyone in the community who wishes to become better prepared for emergencies. These include a classes in first aid, CPR and more.

The organization has also worked with U.S. military personnel to help with any personal needs they may have. Browand said she knows of a soldier overseas who received help finding transport back home because of a family emergency.

Many chapters nationwide also participate in the “Sound the Alarm” campaign, which involves installing smoke alarms in homes. The next opportunity to help will be Saturday, Sept. 23. Volunteers will meet at Journey Church on South Lee Highway at 9 a.m. for training. They will then divide into teams to go out and offer free smoke alarms to residents of low-income neighborhoods.

Browand stressed the organization is “always looking for volunteers,” especially in the Bradley and Polk counties. There are many different roles volunteers can play, and she said it is OK if someone does not want to respond to disasters like hurricanes.

The bulk of the responses in this area have involved helping people after house fires or tornadoes. In such cases, volunteers are often helping their literal neighbors. Though the local Red Cross will respond to natural disasters, it also needs volunteers to stay here in case of a disaster here.

“We actually have a great need for that right now,” said Browand.

She added that volunteers from other counties have actually had to respond to the Bradley and Polk counties in the past, because there were too few local volunteers.

Volunteer roles include everything from running shelters if the need arises to handling administrative tasks in the local office. Browand said their are roles for adults of all physical abilities.

All volunteers receive training for the roles they wish to play. These trainings are conducted at the Red Cross’ regional office in Chattanooga and may also be held in the Cleveland office, depending on demand.

Browand also stressed the Red Cross has a need for monetary donations in light of the recent natural disasters. “Less than 10 percent” of donations go toward administrative costs, she added.

To donate or learn more about volunteering, visit http://www.redcross.org/.

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