The Faces of a Disaster Response Operation
By Catie Ballenger, American Red Cross Public Affairs
Trained American Red Cross volunteers are working around the clock in California to help people impacted by the massive wildfires which have forced whole communities from their homes. Who are these incredible people who generously give of their time and talent in the face of disaster? In this series, we will introduce you to many of them. For part one of this series, click here, for part two, click here and for part three, click here.
Name: Terry Vollrath
Home Region: Gold Country
Deployment Focus: Mass Care with a Focus on Sheltering
Deployment Length: 23 Days
The Red Cross 2021 California Wildfire disaster response is very personal to Terry. He is local to the area, residing in Placerville California and has friends who have evacuated from their homes.
Terry is passionate about the work he does at the Red Cross.
“Sheltering is at the heart of Red Cross service delivery. We help reduce the stress on those affected by disaster by providing a safe place to stay and sleep, three meals a day, snacks, water, adequate toilet and shower facilities and access to other Red Cross services such as Disaster Health Services and Disaster Mental Health. But, sometimes, the most important part of my job is to sit down and listen to the shelter guests’ stories,” Terry said.
As a shelter manager, Terry is busy. He ensures that staff know what their job is, how to do it and have what they need to do it. He assigns shifts, manages days off, sends in reports to headquarters. He attends meetings and works to address and solve issues as they arise throughout the day.
Terry deploys to disasters to give back to the community in times of need and stress.
“The Red Cross is an amazing organization of skilled volunteers from numerous walks of life. I’ve been able to meet some great people,” explained Terry.
“Please come and try it. You will never forget the experience, the look on a client’s face as you help them through an issue or provide for a need.”
Name: Patti Fogg
Home Region: San Diego
Deployment Focus: Disaster Health Services
Deployment Length: 9 Days
Patti Fogg’s experience as a Red Cross teen aide in high school can indeed be credited as one of the reasons she chose nursing as her career. First, she volunteered for 25 years, teaching CPR/AED classes. Then, after the pandemic hit, Patti began working as a disaster health volunteer.
Patti’s deployment to the California wildfires is her second deployment but her first virtual one.
“It was an excellent experience, especially working with a great, supportive team. It was fulfilling to help people get the medications and medical equipment they needed,” said Patti.
Patti loves volunteering for the Red Cross and has enjoyed her deployments. “Both times have been a very positive experience. I have made many friends and met so many wonderful people through the Red Cross. I encourage everyone to try volunteering. The Red Cross is an amazing organization and I know they will enjoy being a volunteer.”
Name: Jane Burke
Home Region: Northwest
Deployment Focus: Disaster Health Services
Deployment Length: 10 Days
After 42 years of emergency nursing, Jane Burke was not ready to give up her license. Volunteering with the Red Cross in Disaster Health services allows her to still nurse in disaster situations.
Jane was virtually deployed to serve those impacted by the 2021 California Wildfires from her home in Washington. “I was glad to help virtually. It worked for my family. But I do enjoy boots on the ground response,” said Jane.
While on her deployment, Jane was up early and on her computer every morning attending meetings via Microsoft Teams. She would then begin connecting with evacuees that may benefit from Red Cross health services. Jane explains that in addition to helping them replace medications and medical equipment, she would also be a resource to connect them to other services and organizations. In addition, Jane said, “much of my job was to listen. They needed to vent about the incredible loss and trauma they just went through.”
Jane encourages volunteers who are considering disaster deployment to be flexible.
“The first few days of a new disaster response operation can be chaotic as things are still getting set up. Then, in a few days, the team expands and the structure becomes better defined. It can be stressful if you like order. But, it is worth it.”
Red Cross disaster volunteers, like Jane, Patti and Terri are an important part of our team. Join us to make a difference in your community and help someone in need after a disaster. Learn more at redcross.org/volunteer.