Friday, February 4, 2011

3 Fires in 3 Days -- Response Supported by Local Contributions

For several families in our area, digging out from this week’s snow was the least of their worries. Over the course of three days, four families were put out of their homes by fire and each time the Vermont and the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross stepped in to help those affected. The ability to provide such assistance locally is not sustained by funds provided by the American National Red Cross in Washington, D.C., nor is it available because of federal funds, despite a Congressional mandate to provide relief during times of disaster. The Vermont and the New Hampshire Valley Region of the American Red Cross, and in turn the support provided to local victims of disaster, is sustained by the support of donors in our region.

Yesterday, members of the Berlin Disaster Action Team of the Central VT/NH Valley Chapter of the Red Cross, stepped in to help the latest victims of fire. After a Middlesex family of three was displaced by a fire late Wednesday evening, emergency assistance was provided, ensuring that the immediate sheltering needs were met and financial resources available for food and clothing.

The Middlesex fire comes on the heels of Tuesday’s apartment fire in Canaan, NH affecting two families and an early morning house fire in Monkton on Wednesday. In each instance, Red Cross assistance was provided.

After a house fire or other disaster, the recovery process begins at the moment the disaster strikes. The Red Cross, who is mandated by a Congressional Charter to provide relief during times of disaster, carries out that Charter through the work of Chapters across the country. Across the three Chapters that make up the Vermont and the New Hampshire Valley Region, this relief is carried out by a network of local, volunteer Disaster Action Teams.

When called upon by local officials or those displaced by fire or other disaster, the Red Cross assists with emergency shelter, food, clothing, medical and disaster mental health services and supports families and individuals further by providing referrals to other community support resources. Those affected by disaster are interviewed to determine their immediate, emergency needs. Disaster Action Team members, when called upon, also provide rehydration and food to firefighters and other first responders on the scene of disaster.

Despite a Congressional mandate to respond during times of disaster, the American Red Cross is not funded by any federal or state budget line items. Additionally, while a part of the American National Red Cross, local Red Cross chapters, like the three that comprise the Vermont and the New Hampshire Valley Region, do not receive annual funding from its national parent organization. In fact, local chapters pay a national assessment to the American National Red Cross.

In fulfillment of its humanitarian mission, all emergency assistance provided by the Red Cross is provided without charge. To fund this assistance, and to support the training and tools required to respond, the Vermont and the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross relies upon donations made by members of the community.

To help the victims of this and other disasters, donations can be made to the American Red Cross by sending a contribution to the American Red Cross, 29 Mansfield Avenue, Burlington, VT 05401-3323. Please specify Disaster Services in the memo of your check.