Red Cross Responds to Indian Reservation Water Emergency
By Michelle Wang, intern contributor, American Red Cross
In times of need, the American Red Cross is always up to fulfilling its mission. Members of the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation in Humboldt County recently faced a water emergency. The low water levels due to the drought caused their water system to malfunction, filling the system with debris. Without sufficient pressure, the water system failed to provide the tribe with sufficient drinking water. As a result, the tribe reached out to the Government’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES’ Warning Center) and asked for assistance. In turn, Cal OES relayed this information to the Red Cross to help meet the immediate emergency needs of the community while they worked on a long-term solution for the tribe.
The tribe requested for three days of drinking water that could sustain approximately 150 people. Joe Lund, the Director of Operations of the Northern California Coastal Region, and local Union City volunteer, Byron Corley, arranged a box truck loaded with four pallets of water to be delivered directly to the reservation.
Late in the evening on Saturday, June 27th, Byron received an urgent call about the water emergency. Knowing he was working by himself, he dropped everything and hurried to the Alameda warehouse where he began to transport the pallets of water from the warehouse to the truck right away. Working tirelessly, he stocked the delivery truck with 8,200 bottles of 16.8 oz water bottles. Also responsible for driving the Red Cross truck, Byron left the warehouse at around 7 p.m. After spending the night at a hotel, he continued his delivery route and reached the Hoopa reservation around 9 a.m. on Sunday, June 28th. Byron then met up with on-duty fire station workers who helped to unload the truck.
“They were a very nice and friendly group and were spontaneous with their ‘Thank Yous,’” says Byron. So far, all of Byron’s disaster experiences have been with teams to shelter and feed clients at various venues nearby within the Bay Area as well as on deployments with other volunteers. This water emergency was his first solo experience of bringing aid to others, especially on such short notice. He says that he was in a “get the job done and get back home” frame of mind, which helped him to make such a quick delivery.
“The fact that I knew the water was badly needed and that lots of folks were looking forward to its arrival was rewarding enough.”
Tracy L. McBroom, Division Disaster State Relations Director, continues to work with Cal OES on the long term solution for the Hoopa Indian Valley tribe after those three days. They plan to collaborate with the Water Board in bringing portable water for the tribe.
In August of last year, the Red Cross also responded to a water emergency in the Toledo area in which around 500,000 residents did not have access to drinking water. The Red Cross coordinated with local and state emergency management; however, the people who staffed the water distribution sites were none other than Red Cross volunteers. Red Cross volunteers like Byron do not hesitate to sacrifice their own time when it comes to the well-being of their community. Even a community that is an entire night’s drive away cannot stop them. The unpredictability of crises emphasizes the importance of these Red Cross volunteers, and in this case, Byron demonstrated incredible readiness to respond to the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation in its time of need—even in the middle of the night.