Tag Archives: Disaster Response

Red Cross Support to Gilroy Garlic Festival Shooting Relief Operation

Family Assistance Center welcome sign

On Sunday, July 29, 2019, a tragic mass casualty event occurred at about 5:30 PM, in the closing hours of the Gilroy Garlic Festival. Shortly after midnight that evening, the City of Gilroy Fire Department and Emergency Operations Center (EOC) formally requested American Red Cross support for a city shelter providing refuge for people who were not able to retrieve their personal belongings, vehicles and or identification. The Red Cross opened a shelter at Christopher High School in Gilroy and operated that shelter until Thursday, August 1 during which time Red Cross volunteers and community partners provided health, mental health, feeding and recovery planning services.

Santa Clara County asked the Red Cross to support a Family Assistance Center (FAC) at Rucker Elementary School in Gilroy starting Monday, July 30, 2019. Red Cross provided disaster health services, disaster mental health, caseworkers, feeding, and logistical support to the facility while it was opened. The Red Cross also arranged child-care services at the FAC in partnership with Children’s Disaster Services.

The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Victim Services Department and the FBI’s Victim Services Unit managed the center and provided support to those affected by the Disaster.

The Red Cross is still supporting the Disaster Relief Operation which has evolved into the Recovery Phase.  Assistance is continuing for people who lost family members or who were injured or otherwise adversely affected when they fled from the scene of the shooting.

Red Cross workers enjoy donated lunch

Many local eateries and businesses came forward to provide the Red Cross, first responders and impacted residents with donated meals. Pictured here is a donated hot lunch from Noah’s Bar and Bistro in Morgan Hill.

The Red Cross effort was truly part of a team effort with key partners including the Santa Clara County District Attorney, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the City of Gilroy, the City of Gilroy Unified School District, Morgan Hill Emergency Manager and Children’s Disaster Services.

To learn more about Red Cross services in the Northern California Coastal Region, please visit www.redcross.org/norcalcoastal.

 

 

Coping Tips After Recent Mass Shootings

imageAfter events like the recent mass shootings in Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton, people may have feelings of fear, anxiety, grief, and helplessness. These are all normal feelings after this type of event. Something like this is upsetting for everyone. People near the emergency are affected, as well as people all over the country who may have family in the areas; who may know someone who was affected; or people who are watching the media coverage of this tragic situation.

Children are especially at risk as they may become afraid that the event will happen again, or that they or someone in their family may be injured or killed. The injuries and fatalities are difficult for them to understand. How a parent or other adult reacts around the child following a traumatic event can determine how quickly and completely the child recovers.

This is difficult to understand why something like this happens and it’s important for people to connect with and support each other. The Red Cross offers the following tips to help people stay strong:

  • Events like this can cause feelings of uncertainty and anxiety since no one knows what could potentially happen next. Remember that it’s okay to feel nervous.
  • Stay informed but limit media exposure of the events, especially for children. Children are especially vulnerable to stress reactions related to media.
  • Parents should let children talk about their fears and then reassure them about their safety. Talk with them in ways that they can easily understand. Let them guide the conversation; share details only when they ask about them.
  • Be patient with yourself and others. It’s common to have any number of temporary stress reactions such as anger, frustration, and anxiety.
  • Spend more time with family and friends and offer your support. Hug one another and listen.
  • Watch for signs of stress in your family, friends, and children. Get help from others if needed.
  • Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, drink plenty of water, and get enough rest.
  • To reach out for free 24/7 crisis counseling or support, contact the Disaster Distress Helpline at (800) 985-5990 (press 2 for Spanish) or (800) 846-6815 (TTY) or text the Disaster Distress Helpline at text ‘TalkWithUs’ or ‘Hablanos’ (for Spanish) to 66746. 

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Additional Resources

 

Santa Clara County home fire illustrates value of smoke-alarm installations

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Mo Ghandehari, left, and Gordon Sakai visited the same Gilroy home twice: once to install two smoke alarms; a second time when the same alarms were activated by a fire in the attic.
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Summoned to the scene of a house fire in Gilroy this past November, American Red Cross volunteers Mo Ghandehari and Gordon Sakai thought the residence — badly damaged — seemed eerily familiar to each of them. That’s because it was.

The two Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) members for South Santa Clara County had been there before; in fact, just seven months before as installers on a Red Cross smoke-alarm installation team.

“We had installed two alarms in the very same home as part of our Red Cross Home Fire Campaign,” Ghandehari says.

In this case, the eight occupants of the home were alerted to the fire by a neighbor who, seeing smoke billowing from the attic of the Lewis Street house, had knocked loudly on the door. But if the neighbor hadn’t happen to see the smoke, the recently installed Red Cross smoke alarms — also sounding a warning — might have been the only thing separating the home’s two adults and six children from almost certain tragedy.

“The incident really underscored for us the value of our smoke-alarm installation program,” Ghandehari says.

On average, home fires kill 7 people and injure another 36 — every single day in the United States. That’s why the Red Cross launched its nationwide Home Fire Campaign in 2014 with the goal of reducing the number of home fire deaths and injuries.

A key component of the campaign is a series of Sound the Alarm – Save a Life smoke alarm installation events in which Red Cross volunteers, working with local fire departments and other partners, visit neighborhoods to offer to install free 10-year smoke alarms, replace batteries in existing alarms, and help families create escape plans. It is believed that the Sound the Alarm neighborhood visits, in which more than 1.5 million alarms have been installed, have already saved more than 550 lives throughout the United States since the Home Fire Campaign began.

In addition to neighborhood-wide Sound the Alarm efforts, the Red Cross also works with its partners to promote appointment-based home visits. And the South Santa Clara County team, which also consists of volunteers Terrie Berry and Gilbert Dalit, has diligently scheduled and followed up on those individual home visits.

“In fact, it was an appointment that brought Gordon and me to the Lewis Street residence,” Ghandehari says. “We had announced the program at the Gilroy Senior Center, and that particular home visit resulted from our Senior Center outreach.”

Once the fire occurred at the residence, Ghandehari and Sakai offered the occupants Red Cross financial assistance to help them with short-term emergency lodging, as well as “comfort kits” containing personal hygiene items.

But it was the sound of two smoke alarms, installed just seven months earlier, that could have very easily been the most important assistance the Gilroy family received from the American Red Cross.

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For more information about the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign in this region, please go to: soundthealarm.org/NorCalCoastal. The page includes information about:

  • How people can volunteer to help or sign up to have free smoke alarms installed.
  • The generous donors who have made this lifesaving work possible!

Read about the great work our regional Sound the Alarm teams did during a special spring push in April and May.

Red Cross workers see — firsthand — the value of the Home Fire Campaign

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Helen Cosentino, right, and Kelly Donnelly-May are thanked by John Hulliger, one of the responding members of the Hollister Fire Department. Hulliger, himself, has assisted with many of the Red Cross “Sound the Alarm” events in that community.

Two Red Cross workers, preparing for a recent “Sound the Alarm” event in the city of Hollister, saw first-hand why the organization’s campaign to reduce home-fire injuries and deaths is so important.

“We were in a particular neighborhood, going door to door to let residents know of our upcoming smoke-alarm installation event there,” says Helen Cosentino, the Disaster Program Specialist for the Central Coast Chapter. “But as we approached one home, we heard what sounded like a smoke alarm that was already going off. My volunteer partner ran to the front door, pounded on it, and screamed for the residents to get out.”

Having been alerted to a kitchen fire by their smoke alarm — and by Red Cross volunteer Kelly Donnelly-May — a man and woman quickly emerged; Cosentino, meanwhile, wasted no time dialing 9-1-1 on her cell phone. Within minutes, the Hollister Fire Department was on the scene, ensuring that the home was vacant and that the fire — which was confined to the stove area — was extinguished.

For Cosentino, the incident on April 16 illustrated perfectly why the American Red Cross launched its Home Fire Campaign almost five years ago:

  • Home fires kill 7 people and injure another 36 — every single day in the United States.
  • And having working smoke alarms inside homes can — and does — reduce those tragic numbers.

In fact, it is believed that the campaign’s Sound the Alarm home visits — in which Red Cross volunteers, working with local fire departments and other partners, install free smoke alarms for residents that need them — have already saved more than 550 lives since the national campaign began!

“Having smoke alarms just in that one home on that one day may have prevented a tragedy,” Cosentino says.

Since the Home Fire Campaign began, volunteer teams across the country have installed more than 1.6 million smoke alarms in homes that need them. In just Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Cruz counties alone, volunteers and partners working out of the Central Coast Chapter installed more than 1,500 free smoke alarms during “Sound the Alarm” home visits in 2018.

But the Red Cross wants to do more, and during a three-weekend push this spring (April 27-May 12), the organization has set a goal of installing an additional 100,000 smoke alarms.

In fact, the Sound the Alarm event that Cosentino and “Kelly May” had been preparing for that afternoon in Hollister was part of that spring push. And on Saturday, April 27, 28 volunteers from the local chapter and Hollister Fire Department installed 130 alarms in 55 homes, making 170 residents safer in that city and in nearby Tres Pinos.

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For more information about the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign in this region, please go to: soundthealarm.org/NorCalCoastal. The page includes information about:

  • How people can volunteer to help or sign up to have free smoke alarms installed.
  • The generous donors who have made this lifesaving work possible!

Read about the great work our regional Sound the Alarm teams did in just April alone.

I’m still useful

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Ki Daniels poses in front of the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, where she was staying in an American Red Cross evacuation shelter after flood waters from the Russian River inundated her home on February 26, 2019. (Photo: Barbara Wood)

By Barbara Wood

Ki Daniels, who has been living in an American Red Cross evacuation shelter since February 26, 2019 when forced to flee as the Russian River overtopped its banks, knows what it takes to recover from a disaster. That’s because in October 2017, Ki lost her home and all she owned in the Tubbs Fire, a loss from which she only recently had begun to feel she’d recovered.

Nonetheless, Ki, who had just recently completed renovating a home she thought would give her a fresh start on the banks of the Russian River, is upbeat about her future. She says her second loss of a home and most of her belongings in less than two years is “another opportunity for re-creation.” And she credits the Red Cross – which helped her recover after the Tubbs Fire and in the Sebastopol shelter gave her a safe, warm place to sleep, medical care, emotional support and meals – with helping to make that “re-creation” possible.

“The services that the Red Cross provides to those fleeing disaster is the foundation for their tomorrow,” Ki says. “I’ve been so well cared for.” She credits the Red Cross for helping her to manage her medical problems, as well as providing medication and medical supplies and providing a special adjustable, heavy-duty medical cot on which to sleep.

“It’s little things like that that make the world look different for someone who has medical problems,” she said.

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Ki Daniels shares the story of her recent escape from Russian River flood waters with a news reporter in front of the evacuation shelter in Sebastopol that the American Red Cross opened on February 26, 2019. (Photo: Barbara Wood)

Ki, who has a master’s degree in clinical psychology and a business as a Feng Shui consultant, said she arrived at her Russian River home after an out-of-town trip only to learn the area was being evacuated. “I just grabbed a trash bag,” she recalls. She filled it with her medications, a blanket and pillow, and a few papers. A sheriff’s deputy took off his jacket and gave it to her. “I was freezing,” she remembers.

After arriving at the shelter in the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, “the Red Cross absolutely gave me all the additional support I needed,” Ki says. Red Cross volunteers helped her find a change of clothing and other necessities. “My heart’s not broken – it may be cracked, but it’s not broken,” Ki says. She also says that her attitude about the future changed while she was in the shelter, especially after she volunteered to help the Red Cross assist some of the shelter residents.

“Being here really shifted my mind. I’m still useful,” she smiled.

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About the author: Barbara Wood is a Red Cross volunteer writer with our Silicon Valley Chapter.

Community togetherness in times of need

By Lindsay R. Peak

rc420 x 279Having survived the Valley Fire that decimated so much of Lake County in 2015, the mother/daughter duo of Kathleen Connors, 66, and Kelly Grimsley, 33, moved to Santa Rosa in August 2016 to make a “fresh start.” They had barely settled there when they heard the astonishing news in October 2017 of the threatening Tubbs Fire near their new home.

The two quickly fled, traveling toward Healdsburg in search of safety. A wrong turn landed them in Guerneville. Realizing their mistake, they looped back toward the freeway, eventually arriving at the emergency Red Cross shelter at Windsor High School in the early morning hours.

Remembering the feeling of being displaced with her daughter and a just a few important papers, fire survivor Connors pensively jests, “This was as ‘fresh’ as it gets.”

Night one, the pair slept on wrestling mats on the shelter’s floor. Night two, there were cots. “That was a really welcome thing. We could really rest a little bit,” says Connors.

In the days to come, community donations began to pour in. Connors and her daughter recounted the large mountain of available items piling up in the center of the gymnasium, including bedding. Padding their cots with layers of sheets, blankets, and warm comforters made their unthinkable situation feel a little more like home.

“All of our immediate needs were met,” says Connors.

Connors had limited experience with the American Red Cross prior to staying in the shelter. She recalls participating in basic training decades before while volunteering as a candy striper, but not much more.

No strangers to giving, Grimsley and Connors had regularly volunteered with local charities and non-profit organizations. Grimsley, diagnosed with autism and with other medical challenges, enjoys donating her time to help benefit others. Most of the projects Grimsley and her mother had choosen to work on are geared toward fundraising for or increasing awareness of a particular cause.

But this experience was different, as the first-time shelter clients were receivers instead of givers of volunteer services.

“What an extraordinary compassion [it is] to receive,” says Connors. “I never gave it a second thought when on the other side. It’s just what you did. Being on the receiving side, you see that these people are really extraordinary. The compassion was extraordinary. To receive that was just amazing.”

Connors further explains, “All the resources were organized. We saw everyone working with law enforcement. We had food. Medical care was available. A hug was there if we needed a hug.”

Commencing the long process of rebuilding, Grimsley took to the Internet. Online, she discovered that a beloved local chapel was among the structural fire victims. Once praised for its exquisite mosaic wall, only the tiles survived. A handful of individuals sought volunteers for an art project aimed at making trinkets from these recovered tiles.

Mother and daughter had frequently taken art classes, so the project seemed like a perfect fit.

With their spirits down, the creative process was a welcome distraction. It was a way to occupy their minds, bring them together with the community, and use their talents in a positive way while going through the many stages of grief.

Over a period of three months, this mother and daughter worked roughly 200 hours on the project. After the tiles were cleaned, tumbled, and polished, they were crafted into crosses, ornaments, garden accents, and tie tacks, among other things. In all, the pair and others involved created over 1,000 unique keepsakes.

The tile creations were given away at a variety of events aimed at community togetherness. They served as a sign of strength, symbolic rebuilding, and comfort in times of need. Some mementos were sent to the Camp Fire this past fall. Others were distributed to local churches.

By word of mouth, more and more volunteers participated in the project. And, it is not over.

“There are still projects to do. There are still tiles,” says Connors.

Connors and Grimsley presented each Red Cross volunteer with one of their masterpieces as a token of appreciation at the California Northwest Chapter’s September BBQ celebration.

Connors has many human-interest stories and positive experiences to share, including a misunderstanding about the comfort level of a standard-issue cot.

After leaving the shelter, she and her daughter were briefly displaced again. Connors marched into the local Red Cross office to seek assistance one more time. Connors asked a Red Cross representative if she could borrow one of the cots she got so familiar with over the course of a few weeks in the shelter. The Red Cross representative looked at Connors with a confused look and said, “You want to borrow… a cot?” Connors confidently replied, “Yes. We were in a shelter. We slept really good on the cots. I will bring it back. I want to borrow it just for a few days.” The woman left momentarily and returned, visibly concerned. Without saying yes or no to the request, the representative compassionately stated, “Ma’am, I think you need a pysch evaluation.”

Connors, taken aback, then explained how the community donations and experience with the Red Cross made the standard-issue cot more than a cot to her and her daughter in their time of need.

Understanding her experience more completely, the two shared a good laugh.

“It was a fun moment,” says Connors.

Rising from the ashes, this mother-daughter twosome remain positive as they continue to search for permanent housing. They have slept in numerous places including an office and at Red Cross volunteer Peggy Goebel’s home.

Uprooted twice by natural disaster, Connors has learned and shares a mantra about one’s home:

“Home and sacred ground is where you are whatever moment in time it is.

“The fire was the fire,” she says. “We have to choose to appreciate things that came out of the fire that were amazing. There were a lot of people we wouldn’t have met or known had it not been for the fire. It has its moments. There is a little silver lining.”

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About the author: Lindsay Peak is a volunteer writer for the California Northwest Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Red Cross supports residents affected by current storm

Thursday, February 14, 10 a.m. — The series of storm systems that have pummeled California this week are causing flooding and mudslides in some of the Northern California counties that make up the American Red Cross’s Northern California Coastal Region (NCCR).

Red Cross disaster teams in our region opened two evacuation centers in the past 24 hours due to weather-related issues. Here are reports received this morning related to those incidents and other incidents:

In Marin County: A mudslide in the middle of the night caused a home in Sausalito to slide into a vacant home below it. One woman was rescued. About 50 homes are currently evacuated in the area as a precaution while officials determine the stability of the rest of the homes on the hill. Red Cross is operating the evacuation center at Sausalito Fire Station 1. Twenty-five to 30 residents are currently at the evacuation center. Red Cross volunteers are on site providing care and comfort to the residents awaiting word from officials.

In Santa Clara County: The Weather Service issued a flood warning for the portion of the Guadalupe River in the middle of the City of San Jose at 2:30 a.m.  Red Cross opened an evacuation center at Willow Glen Community Center at 3:30 a.m. An evacuation advisory was issued at 4:21 a.m.  The evacuation advisory was lifted at 6:45 a.m. today. In total 20 people, three dogs, and three cats (managed by our partners) took refuge at our evacuation center.

In Santa Cruz County: A large oak tree fell on a home in Boulder Creek this morning, displacing residents there; the home is also being deluged by water from intense rains in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The local Red Cross chapter’s Disaster Action Team has provided support (emergency lodging, food, and clothing) to a family of four (2 adults and 2 children). There were no injuries reported.

Many thanks to the dozens of amazing Red Cross volunteers from our region who answered the call overnight and this morning to help those in need of shelter in the middle of this most recent storm.

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With winter storms affecting residents in California and elsewhere in the U.S., please take a few minutes to read this Red Cross story, which includes important tips on staying safe.

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