Disaster Response Summary May 2017

redcross-ak-imageThe American Red Cross of Alaska responds to calls for assistance, on average, almost once a day state-wide. In May, 77 people were assisted; of those assisted, at least 19 were children under the age of 18.  Including, 5 who were listed as young children (0-5).

VOLUNTEERS, all across the state, give up their free time to make this amount of help in their communities possible.

Breakdown of service by area:

Anchorage: 10 individuals received aid

Eagle River: 2 individuals received aid

Fairbanks: 1 individuals received aid

Delta Junction: 6 individuals received aid

Juneau: 12 individuals received aid

North Pole: 6 individuals received aid

Chugiak: 3 individuals received aid

Wasilla: 24 individuals received aid

Teller: 1 individuals received aid

Kwethluk: 4 individuals received aid

Copper Center: 2 individuals received aid

Anaktuvuk Pass: 4 individuals received aid

Big Lake: 2 individuals received aid

While at the Anchorage Fire Department’s Open House…

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Red Cross correspondent Lucy looking skeptically at the Jaws of Life car at the Anchorage Fire Department Open House on Saturday, May 20. 

On May 20, two of your correspondents from the Red Cross of Alaska’s Anchorage office visited the Anchorage Fire Department’s open house. Originally conceived, we thought this outing was going to be more about how our community’s emergency response system functions. It was clear from the moment we arrived that our day would have less to do with Powerpoint presentations and more with stuff kids and adults both find engaging: watching cars get dismantled with the Jaws of Life kind of stuff.

 

We arrived about 45 minutes after the open house started and didn’t expect much of a crowd on such a drizzly day. We were guided to a distant section of the parking lot by groups of young men in matching grey on drab blue uniforms with reflective sashes and authoritative ball caps announcing their association with the Anchorage Military Youth Academy. They had the unglamorous but important role of greeting the public at the gate, serving food, and providing what looked like safety patrols in the parking lot.

By trailing a slow-moving pod of parents and kids, we eventually found ourselves in a large warehouse-like structure full of people eating hotdogs and chips. The only seats we could find were next to this exercise where a fire fighter sounded a fire alarm that would signal to a kid who would be feigning deep sleep on a mattress on the floor to promptly lose their minds—with excitement—before being guided through an obstacle course to escape a house fire.

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Fire Fighter Meghan McClain helping a young girl escape

Over the ten or fifteen minutes we spent watching, it was difficult to see what made it so exciting. After some vigorous discussion, your correspondents concluded it was likely the adrenaline rush that comes with playacting plus the simulated taste of danger plus all the soda, caramel apple suckers, and external stimuli. (Did I mention there was a near constant ratter-ratter of a jackhammer station where kids got a chance to chisel away parts of reinforced concrete?) Regardless, and through no fault of the fire fighters running this exercise, some of the children didn’t make it. A few veered off course to play with the orange cones separating their “bedroom” from our table. Others simply finished the first few obstacles before doubling back to the front of the line.

 

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Red Cross Informational Booth

We eventually found our way to the Red Cross booth that was sandwiched between a rope rescue station, a blood bank mobile, and the very, very, very popular dress-like-a-fire-fighter-and-blow-away-an-orange-cone-with-a-firehose station. I’m not sure what the Red Cross volunteers could have done to compete with that. Still, they were busy fielding questions and providing information about what we do in the community.

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The very popular dress-like-a-fire-fighter-and-blow-away-an-orange-cone-with-a-firehose station.

There was, however, a nagging feeling that there was still something else to find beyond the Jaws of Life demonstration and a spectacular fire engine that’s been repainted Breast Cancer Awareness pink and named Ms. Linda in honor of a Fire Captain’s mother who passed from the disease. We eventually found ourselves at a booth for the Anchorage Safety Patrol that, in the world of emergency services, felt like kindred spirits to the Red Cross.

Not quite knowing how to jump start a conversation with two fit-looking men who just watched me make a beeline for a ziplocked bag of brownies on their table, I hesitatingly asked a moustachioed man named Jason Cates how the Safety Patrol fit into things at the open house. He pointed to what your correspondents had assumed was a corrections-related van—with a variety of open compartments, grill-covered windows, and interior color scheme that felt like the visual equivalent of the word institutional—and asked if we’d ever seen it before. After some obvious hedging on our part, Jason then asked if we’d ever seen anyone too intoxicated to be in public. To this we could unhesitatingly answer in the affirmative. He pointed to the man next to him and then to the van and said, “we help those people.”

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One of your correspondents with Shane Cates and Chris Taylor of the Anchorage Safety Patrol

Jason then went on to describe how the Safety Patrol, in ways similar to the Red Cross, bridges gaps between other emergency services. Jason spoke passionately about how the safety patrol has an explicit focus on providing medical help to people, who, for a variety of chemically-induced reasons, are in need of assistance. This was an interesting parallel to some of the basic functions performed by the Red Cross. Where the Red Cross provides comfort and assistance to families after a house fire or at shelters during disasters, ASP responders transport people to a safety center where their recovery can be monitored by medically-trained staff.

One gobsmacking fact Jason hit us with was how in the last year alone ASP took nearly 30,000 calls. Prior to the formation of ASP, fire or police units—and sometimes both—might be dispatched. Now calls are taken by the Anchorage Fire Department Dispatch and routed as appropriate.

At some point, the arrival of new people interrupted our conversation and your correspondents felt it necessary to leave Jason and his co-workers to spread their message with new people. For all of those who dedicate their time and energy and health for the sake of public safety, we thank you.

 

April & May Volunteer Anniversaries

Volunteers carry out 90% of the humanitarian work of the Red Cross.

Our vital work is only possible because of people like you.

Whether helping one displaced family or thousands, providing care and comfort to an ill or injured service member or veteran, or teaching others how to respond in emergencies, it’s through the efforts of ordinary people that we can do extraordinary things.

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Julie’s Journal: Day 4 on Call, Thoughts on Red Cross Volunteers

Day 4 of being on the Disaster Action Team (DAT) and another wonderful night of Anchorage being safe from disaster and home fire.

My thoughts this morning turn to our volunteers. I am a paid staff member and of course, I’m just volunteering for a week. But I thought about how these hours really do add up.

24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Someone is doing this job on Christmas. Someone is doing this job when they could be doing other things. Volunteers abstain from alcohol when on call. They can’t leave town spur of the moment. They do always have to be aware that they may be needed at any  minute.

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Red Cross of Alaska volunteers gather from all across the state at the University of Anchorage Alaska for the Alaska Disaster Leadership Institute. 

They really do sacrifice a small part of their life to be on call for DAT.

These volunteers are ESSENTIAL to Red Cross. The average value estimate of a volunteers time is $22.00 an hour. Imagine if paid staff had to be on call 24/7. It would cost the Red Cross of Alaska approximately $192,720.00 per year to pay for these services from staff.

Instead, we are able to rely upon volunteers who SELFLESSLY give their time, talents and hearts to help those in need.

I’m overwhelmed with thoughts of how much is given to us and the community by our volunteers. They are the definition of INVALUABLE!!!

Thank you, Volunteers, for giving so much to so many!

-Julie Kent, Regional Chief Development Officer Red Cross of Alaska

Julie’s Journal: Day 3 on call with the Red Cross Disaster Action Team

Day 3 on the Disaster Action Team (DAT) and Anchorage is safe and sound once again!

I was driving into downtown and saw smoke coming from the side of a house. I thought, oh my goodness, am I going to be called to this shortly?

Pulling up close to the house, I could see they had a large meat smoker going. Phew! But I was ready!

My thoughts this morning went to all emergency/disaster personal, such as our fireman, police and paramedics. This is their life every day. Out on the streets, in our community, responding at all hours of the day. Keeping us safe.

I don’t think I’ve even been more grateful or understanding of them as I am right now.

Again, I will do this job for 1 week. Emergency responders and Red Cross respond and have to be ready 365 days a year. What respect and gratitude they are due!

-Julie Kent, Regional Chief Development Officer, Red Cross of Alaska

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Julie Kent, Red Cross of Alaska Chief Development Officer in a vintage Red Cross firefighter’s coat

Julie’s Journal: Day 2 on Call- False Alarms and a Perspective Change

It’s day 2 of being on DAT (Disaster Action Team)! Good news is Anchorage is safe and sound from home fires and disasters so I had a full night sleep. Funny moment yesterday when the DAT captain, Bruce, was in my office. His beeper went off and I said, Oh man! Is it time? And he said, No. It’s just my buzzer to let me know it’s time for lunch. Phew!

But I was ready! Went to sleep wondering if I was going to get a call. Made sure my phone was not on Do Not Disturb and was prepared that I could get that call anytime.

I watched this video yesterday :

I’m starting to think I’m going to be sad when this week is over. How amazing to be a part of this tremendous work.

It’s very interesting being connected to disasters. I’ve never woke up in the morning thinking of whether or not something bad has happened in our city the night before. Like you, I just wake up and go about my day. There was something comforting to wake knowing that if I didn’t receive a call, then Anchorage was safe from disaster last night.

I love how this experience is really changing my daily perspective. I thought this journey would be great but it’s even better than I expected.

 

-Julie Kent, Regional Chief Development Officer Red Cross of Alaska

Disaster Response Summary April 2017

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The American Red Cross of Alaska responds to calls for assistance, on average, almost once a day state-wide. In April, 46 people were assisted; of those assisted, at least 18 were children under the age of 18.  Including, 8 who were listed as young children (0-5). Four of those assisted was age 60 or older.

 

VOLUNTEERS, all across the state, give up their free time to make this amount of help in their communities possible.

Breakdown of service by area:

Anchorage: 31 individuals received aid.

Fairbanks: 4 individuals received aid.

North Pole: 8 individuals received aid.

Kenai: 1 individuals received aid.

Chugiak: 1 individuals received aid.

Wasilla: 1 individuals received aid.

 

Julie’s Journal: Day 1 on Call

So, today starts my week of volunteering for the Disaster Action Team (DAT Team). Before I went to bed last night, I realized, I NEED TO BE READY! Because at any moment this week, I may get the call to drop everything and respond to a home fire or disaster.

I’m both excited and nervous because I assume if I do receive a call, it may not be at the perfect moment and I may have to just drop everything and go! But I do know that I’m so honored to have the opportunity to see firsthand what we do and after the initial excitement of my first call, I know the depth of our mission will take over once I’m on the scene.

If all of Alaska is safe and sound from disaster this week and I don’t receive a call,  I already feel like I understand our DAT team better and appreciate that they always hold a little part of their life aside in case they are called upon.

My appreciation of them is growing by the day!

On with Day 1!

-Julie Kent, Regional Chief Development Officer, Red Cross of Alaska

This is a series of journal posts documenting our Regional Chief Development Officer’s journey as a member of our Disaster Action Team for one week. Read Julie’s original post here:

https://redcrossalaska.wordpress.com/2017/05/19/julies-journal-my-week-with-the-disaster-team/

 

Julie’s Journal: My Week with the Disaster Team

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Julie Kent, American Red Cross of Alaska Chief Development Officer

My name is Julie Kent and I am the Chief Development Officer for the Red Cross of Alaska.

Most days, I deal with fundraising and donors but I have a unique connection to our disaster team. Because it’s what they do that allows me to ask donors to support us.

So knowing what they do every day is very important to my work.

I offered to be on the DAT team (what we call our Disaster Action Team) for a week, going on calls anytime of the day or night. Seeing firsthand what they see. Meeting with people who have just been affected by disaster. Offering help to those in need. This way, when I talk to donors, I can speak firsthand about what we do.

I’m so excited but I’m thinking I should not underestimate how hard it might be. Most fires happen during the night so lack of sleep may be a concern and may affect my daily living. Also, dealing with devastation and high emotions from those affected by disaster may be more than I expect. This is what our disaster team does EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR. I can’t wait to spend a week in their shoes.

I’m so excited to be a part of this team and will keep a log every day of my actions with the team.

I start on Monday morning. Wish me luck!

-Julie Kent, Regional Chief Development Officer Red Cross of Alaska

Board Member Profile: Josh Howes

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Red Cross of Alaska board member, Josh Howes

 

A Compassionate Problem-Solver

Josh Howes is a problem-solver who has never met a challenge he couldn’t overcome with a little bit of compassion and a little bit of logistical know-how.

“I love to solve problems, especially when those solutions come with making other people’s lives better,” he says.

As the President of Premier Alaska Tours, Josh solves logistical problems, ensuring that visitors to Alaska have a wonderful experience. As a Red Cross of Alaska board member, Josh brings this same combination of kindness and operational knowledge to the table, working to raise funds the Red Cross of Alaska depends on to prevent emergencies, respond to disasters, and provide aid for those in need.

“I enjoy helping others and I enjoy putting together a plan to solve problems. Doing both of these things are exactly what disaster management is all about.” -Josh Howes

A Logistically-Minded Humanitarian

Prompted by his interest in finding solutions to humanitarian problems, Josh attended several Red Cross Disaster Services classes some years ago.

“I enjoy helping others and I enjoy putting together a plan to solve problems. Doing both of these things are exactly what disaster management is all about,” he says. When in June of 2014 the opportunity arose to serve on the board of the Red Cross of Alaska, he did not think twice.

“This is a great organization run by and for amazing individuals,” he says. With a bachelor’s degree in International Business and a master’s in Global Supply Chain Management, Josh uses his expertise to manage the logistical challenges present in fundraising events like the Kenai Fjords Dinner Cruise and the Red Cross Denali Ride & Dine.

Real Heroes Breakfast Emcee

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Josh co-hosting the Red Cross of Alaska’s Real Heroes Breakfast annual fundraiser event.

For the past two years, Josh has been involved with the Red Cross Real Heroes breakfast, first as a presenter and the next year as a co-host. In Josh’s words, this event honors those “individuals (who have) made a positive impact on the lives of other people in their community.”

The breakfast, Josh says, “is a very fun and inspiring way to start the day,” and is also the Red Cross of Alaska’s largest fundraiser of the year. Josh’s particular combination of compassion and logistical skill helps strike the perfect tone for the breakfast, an event he says is characterized by “lots of smiles, lots of tears, and lots of applause.”

Ultimately, Josh’s goal is to support the Red Cross to the best of his ability. “My hope,” he says, “is to help the Red Cross run smoothly and be a resource for the community.”