Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Red Cross Shelter Remains Open in Response to Flash Floods

Now in its sixth day of operation, the American Red Cross shelter at the Barre Auditorium that opened last Thursday night remains open today. As of this morning, 29 shelter residents were being assisted. While this number is down from the approximately 170 that sought refuge in several Red Cross shelters on the night the flash flooding struck, the number was greater than Sunday evening after fears of landslides placed additional homes in jeopardy.

Shelter residents are trying to regain some sense of normalcy in their lives. This has been aided by local school buses adding the shelter as a pick up and drop off sight, ensuring kids are have a way to make it to school. At the shelter, parents are playing basketball with their kids and movies are available for viewing on a television that is on loan from a local merchant. Of course, meals, showers and other resources are also available to the shelter residents.

American Red Cross volunteers from throughout the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley region have staffed the shelter 24 hours a day since its opening Thursday night. For residents at the shelter and out in the community, the Red Cross has made available comfort kits, providing basic items for hygiene, such as soap, a toothbrush, shampoo, a razor, etc.. Mobile Red Cross emergency vehicles have also driven through the most affected areas offering clean up kits, sandwiches, snacks and water. Clean up kits contain a mop, broom, sponges, a bucket, garbage bags, gloves, masks and other cleaning materials. To supplement the standard items of a clean up kit, volunteers have also been distributing rakes, shovels and hoses to aid homeowners in the clean up process.

The Red Cross continues to work with state and local officials, as well as volunteer organizations such as the Salvation Army and Volunteer Organizations Assisting in Disasters (VOAD). These associations help in ways as diverse as assistance with the feeding operations at the shelter, to support for volunteer organizations who specialize in the muck out process, to making referrals for long-term assistance as the initial emergency needs of those displaced by the flooding become long-term needs.

All American Red Cross disaster assistance is provided at no cost to those impacted by disaster. To help the victims of this and other disasters, contributions can be made to the American Red Cross at www.vermontredcross.org or 29 Mansfield Avenue, Burlington, VT 05401. Please specify “Disaster Relief” in the memo of your check. Also, the Red Cross encourages anyone interested in volunteering with American Red Cross Disaster Services and responding to incidents such as this one to contact their local Red Cross chapter.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Shelters Opened in Response to Flash Flooding

(May 27, 2011) The heavy rains that fell last night and into the early hours on Friday brought flash flooding to many parts of Central Vermont. Working with local emergency managment officials, and in response to their requests, the VT & the NH Valley American Red Cross opened four shelters. Between 11:00 p.m. on Thursday night and 2:15 a.m. Friday morning, shelters were opened in Berlin, Barre, Montpelier and St. Johnsbury.

Pictured above, an American Red Cross disaster services vehicle arrives in Barre as a shelter was being opened at the City Auditorium. In Montpelier, a shelter was opened at the National Life building. Those shelters, as of early this morning, had 70 and 50 people respectively.

An evacuation shelter was opened in Berlin, with shelter residents subsequently being relocated to the Barre Auditorium. The St. Johnsbury shelter was opened as a precautionary step in light of numerous homes being evacuated. With no residents seeking Red Cross services, that shelter was later closed down and volunteers put on standby should additional rains today create a need to re-open.

With over 300 shelter agreements in place with locations throughout the cities and towns of Vermont and New Hampshire's Upper Valley, Red Cross volunteers are prepared to act quickly in response to requests of local and state officials when sheltering needs arise.

This latest disaster will make an already tight financial picture for the Red Cross even tighter, as the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross continues to meet the needs of those impacted by disaster in an unusually busy year.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Vermont Public Radio Puts Spotlight on High Demand for Red Cross Services

As has been noted in this Blog many times, this past year has been an extraordinary one for the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross. Whether it was the Brooks House fire in our Green Mountain Chapter, a greater than 50% increase in demand for services seen by the Central VT/NH Valley Chapter, or the record-breaking floods that have been seen throughout the Northern Vermont Chapter, Red Cross Disaster Services has been on the scene helping our neighbors to recover.

Yesterday, Vermont Public Radio aired an interview with Regional Executive Larry Crist that focused on the impact the events of the past year have had on our organization's financial resources. To hear the interview, click on this link http://www.vpr.net/news_detail/90933/.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day Fire Displaces Two Families

(South Burlington, Vermont – May 9, 2011) Being forced from their homes due to fire was not how two families in a two-unit apartment building in South Burlington intended to mark Mother’s Day. The call came in to the Northern Vermont Chapter of the American Red Cross early Sunday afternoon that there was a fire on Southview Drive, impacting both apartments in the structure. The Chapter’s Chittenden County Disaster Action Team responded, interviewing family members from the apartments.

Disaster Action Team members are trained in client casework, among other skills, and interview those impacted by fire or other disaster to assess their emergency needs. The mother and her two children that lived on the ground floor were in need of emergency shelter and lodging was arranged at a local motel. The family on the second floor had made alternate arrangements.

In the face of the recent flooding and the assistance provided to over 200 people by Disaster Action Teams across Northern Vermont, it was easy to forget that the majority of the disaster services provided each year by the Red Cross in our region are in response to house fires. Disaster services volunteers are located throughout the region and are trained to provide disaster relief and emotional comfort. They are available to respond at any time, day or night, to disasters in their communities or surrounding towns. The Red Cross primarily assists with emergency shelter, food, clothing, medical and disaster mental health services where a verified need exists and will support the families further by providing referrals to other community support resources.

All emergency assistance provided by the American Red Cross is provided free of charge and made possible by donations from fellow community members. 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, Northern Vermont Chapter, 29 Mansfield Avenue, Burlington, VT 05401-3323. Please specify Disaster Services in the memo of your check.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mobile Kitchen On The Move Again

The Mobile Kitchen Unit has truly been mobile over the past week, making its latest appearance in Milton at the Agency of Transportation (AOT) depot yesterday afternoon. After the Governor's declaration of a State of Emergency, the Milton AOT site became a staging area for additional supplies and resources. This includes members of the Vermont Army National Guard (pictured below).

Mobile Kitchen Lead, Jesse Hannon (above), and Mass Care Lead Steve Pernicka's tomato soup received rave reviews from the Guard, State Police and VT Emergency Management folks on hand for last night's dinner service. The Mobile Kitchen Unit will be on site at the Milton AOT for the next few days.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Update: Vermont Flooding

Vermont remains in the midst of significant flooding. The American Red Cross has been active with State and private partners to assist throughout this period. Allow this entry to provide an update as to some of the activities we have been, and remain, engaged in to provide assistance to affected individuals and communities.

We presently have 25 cases open, providing assistance to 70 individuals. The primary form of assistance has been with lodging, placing individuals and families in hotels/motels as close to their homes as is feasible. Additionally, some of those we have helped have been provided financial assistance for food and clothing. Referrals to additional resources (State, community, etc.) are also provided. Some, but I am sure not an exhaustive list, of the towns where we have helped people would include: St. Johnsbury, Burlington, Derby, Beecher Falls, Essex Jct., Colchester, St. Albans, Cambridge/Jeffersonville. In several towns, including Johnson and Isle LaMotte, we have been in contact with local officials and they are aware of the services the American Red Cross can provide.

In addition to these individual cases referenced above, it is worth noting that we have had a shelter opened in St. Albans for the past 3 days to assist should any families need shelter from the rising lake level. [Pictured above are Jesse Hannon, Steve Pernicka, Tonya Hannon, Krissie Houghton, Christina Stetson, Conner Stetson (in front) and David Stetson as they open the St. Albans shelter.] A significant component to our initial response last week was to assist an additional 30+ families (over 75 additional individuals) in the Cambridge/Jeffersonville area. Exemplifying the importance of community partners, those displaced families were provided lodging through the generous support of Smuggler’s Notch and we did not need to open a public shelter. The Red Cross arranged for meals, preparing many from our Mobile Kitchen Unit.

During this crisis, we have provided 100 clean up and comfort kits, over 400 meals, over 550 snacks, deployed 6 Red Cross vehicles into the field and relied on over 20 volunteers to help provide the assistance described in this entry.

The Red Cross is actively assessing damage throughout the region. Continued rain and rising water levels are expected to translate into an increase in demand for Red Cross services. We remain active with our State and private partners in trying to address and anticipate additional needs.

Let's not forget, our response to the flooding comes on the heels of a major fire in Brattleboro, where we have assisted close to 50 families displaced by that disaster.