Red Cross Month 2022: Reflections on a DAT call Eight Years Later

By Heath Wakelee, Volunteer

I’ll never forget the little guy looking up at me and with almost tears in his eyes, looking first to his father for approval and then back at me (after his father had nodded OK) to accept the Mickey Mouse doll that I had offered.

The little guy looked back at me, now with tears in his eyes and mouthed, “Thank you.” 

I almost lost it. Even today, that memory impacts me every time I think about that family and their kids.

It was a dark, cold and windy night in January. The single-family home was at the top of the property and it was still burning when our Disaster Action Team arrived.

The family (mother, father and two small children) were huddled on the wet grass in front of their home. A neighbor sat nearby with some paintings and photographs that he was trying to dry off and salvage after they were removed from the home.

That event took place over eight years ago. I hope those kids remain warm and safe.  I still think about them and wonder how they are doing. I think that I always will.

There was not much for us to do until the family started thinking about their recovery. The two kids were about three and five years old. Because of their age, they were not really able to comprehend the gravity of the situation. Their home was being destroyed.  The only thing that they really understood was that their toys were “gone.”

If you are interested in volunteering with your local Red Cross Disaster Action Team, click here.

You can also support the Red Cross by making a financial contribution or supporting our BASH virtual auction and event later this month.

Roseville Family Credits American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign After Safely Evacuating Blaze

By Peg Taylor, Red Cross Volunteer

Paula Metz and her family know firsthand the value of the American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign.

Their Roseville, Calif. home caught fire in August, 2021.

When the fire happened, the family of five, including one person who uses a walker, had to evacuate. They were able to respond quickly and evacuate safely due to the knowledge and evacuation planning provided them by the Red Cross.

“The fire happened so quickly. Having the Red Cross training was helpful. I felt a sense of readiness,” said Metz.

“Before, I wouldn’t have thought about my cars, full of gasoline, as being accelerants. One of the first things we did when we got out was to get our cars out of the driveway and away from the house. I’m now more aware of these things.”

“A month prior to the fire, the Red Cross did a telephone interview to educate us on fire preparedness, how to prepare an evacuation plan, how to use fire extinguishers, how to make sure our smoke alarms were working,” said Metz. “They also sent a package of information for me to read.”

Home fires are the most frequent and deadliest disaster in the United States. Every 24 seconds, a fire department in the U.S. responds to a fire somewhere in the nation, according to the National Fire Protection Association. On average seven people die each day from these fires and 36 people are injured.

When a home fire happens, those inside often have less than two minutes to get out safely.

To reduce the high number of home fire fatalities and injuries, the Red Cross launched the Home Fire Campaign in 2014. The program educates people about home fire safety, helps them create customized evacuation plans, and provides installation of free smoke alarms in neighborhoods at high risk for home fires.

So far, more than 1,200 lives have been saved in the U.S. as a direct result of the Home Fire Campaign. Seven of those, including the Metz family, live in the California Gold Country Region of the Red Cross.

Paula and her family are thankful they took the time to participate virtually in the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign. “I hope others check out Red Cross’ fire preparedness information,” she said.

For more information on the Red Cross’ Home Fire Campaign, to donate to the Red Cross, or to join thousands of volunteers across the country who come to the aid of people impacted by home fires, visit redcross.org.

Introducing Gold Country’s New Senior Disaster Program Manager

By Michelle Hogue, Communications Volunteer

All the way from Ohio, welcome our new Senior Disaster Program Manager, Doug Fee!

Doug comes to us with a large family which includes his wife, six kids (three boys and three girls) and a grandson. This includes two sons currently serving in the United States military.

Before joining the California Gold Country Region, Doug served as Disaster Program Manager (DPM) for the Northern Ohio Region. Looking for the opportunity to expand his career, Doug could have moved into the Senior DPM position in Ohio, but he had come out to California to serve as the interim Senior DPM from August to October 2021 and discovered “this place has everything.”

He is currently based in Sacramento, serving the eight disaster territories of the California Gold Country Region.

Doug has had experience working in disasters of all kinds. He has participated in hurricane and wildfire responses, and nuclear power plant hazardous materials (HAZMAT) planning – with Ohio having multiple nuclear power plants. With that, he has been a part of detailed planning in many areas of disaster response.

When asked what his favorite job responsibility is, without hesitation Doug said, “Mobilizing volunteers” and “the workforce engagement function.” The ability to engage and support volunteers is both rewarding and enjoyable for him. He is passionate about training DPMs to better engage, support and keep volunteers.

We look forward to getting to know, working with, and learning from Doug!

Have a question for Doug? You can reach him at doug.fee@redcross.org.

Wildfire Evacuee Thanks Red Cross Volunteers: ‘U Have No Idea’

By Stephanie Gaito, Volunteer

On Monday night, August 17, Margaret Grant received an after-hours call from her insurance agent. Evacuation warnings had been issued for the North Complex fires near Susanville, but she was waiting for more information.

Once the phone rang, Grant knew the call from her agent must be urgent, and she was correct. The agent urged her to immediately evacuate the home she shared with her fiancé and parents. Their property was in danger as the fire rapidly headed in their direction.

Grant and her fiancé, Rick Duckworth, moved six years ago to rural Susanville from Southern California to help her parents care for their family home and surrounding property. That Monday when they were evacuated, her family’s safety was the main concern. As each family member headed to a safe destination, her worries were put to rest.

“As long as my parents are safe with my brothers, Rick and I would have slept in our car and done whatever we needed to do,” Grant said.

Grant and Duckworth used their own resources to cover the expense of staying two nights at the Diamond Mountain Casino in Susanville. They didn’t want to bother anyone or use resources for others in need.

“At that point, it has been over two days, and we had pretty much run out of funds” she explained. “We didn’t know what we were going to do. Later that day, a lady called and asked if we had eaten, and at that point we hadn’t,” she explained through tears. “She called and took care of our food and she has called and checked on us every single day since.”

The woman who called Grant was a Red Cross volunteer, and she Textmade sure to take care of the family’s needs. The Red Cross assisted by covering additional nights at the hotel and by providing meal tickets and vouchers to Grant and her fiancé so their stay was as safe and hassle free as possible.

Grant and her family had made considerable efforts to protect their home from wildfire, including maintenance of defensible space and adding fire suppression tanks to the property. When asked if there was anything she would recommend to those looking to protect their homes, maintaining well equipment was high on her list. She said to make sure all equipment has been serviced and maintained to ensure sufficient water pressure, as this could save your home.

“I’m just grateful for the firefighters up here. Between the Red Cross and the firefighters, we would have lost our house if it wasn’t for them.”

If you would like to support Red Cross disaster relief efforts, visit redcross.org.

CA Gold Country Region Welcomes DPM Andrew Bogar

AndrewAndrew Bogar recently arrived from Alaska where he was the Disaster Program Manager for Juneau and Southeast Alaska for 4 1/2 years.

He joins the California Gold Country Region as the DPM for Humboldt and Del Norte counties.

He has worked very closely with tribal, government, and not-for-profit partners to build capacity to prepare, respond, and recovery from disasters in Alaska, ranging from wildfires to earthquakes.

Before coming to the Red Cross in 2014, Andrew served in the Alaska National Guard, U.S. Army and U.S. Navy.

Welcome, Andrew!

Paws-itively the purr-fect partners

Furry Friends + Red Cross raise the ruff!

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

When disaster strikes, a furry friend can afford tremendous comfort to a family, and most pet owners do consider their pets to be part of their family. Keeping them together, therefore, necessitates being able to keep owners and pets as close as possible.

For Camp Fire survivors, there was room to shelter their pets immediately across from the men’s and women’s dorms in the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds. While known for sheltering people, the American Red Cross turns to partner agencies to assist with pets.

Operating the temporary shelter and keeping the pets healthy is the responsibility of Furry Friends Pet Relief from Antioch.  Founded by Erin Piña of Oakley, California, Furry Friends began helping in mid-December and took over operation of the shelter on Christmas Eve.

A visiting veterinarian, Dr. Lauren Knobel, has been stopping in and helping set protocols to assure each animal is healthy and up to date on their shots.

Presently, the shelter is still housing over 30 pets, including dogs, cats, and birds. Assisting is shelter manager, Morgan Macy, of Yuba City, who has been here since the shelter first opened. “Thankfully, I can now say that all our dogs are happy and healthy again, and back in general population,” explains Macy.

The shelter is set up in a large A-frame building with dozens of cages of varying sizes. Birds and cats to the left and most dogs to the right. The exceptions are three pups and their mom, just to the left of the reception table.

Stealing the show are the three, fluffy, Alaskan Malamute pups, born on Halloween, shown here with (L-R) Morgan Macy, Grady Grammar and Demetra Poulos.

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If you are a cat person, then you are going to love Dinky, held here by Piña. She’s super friendly, and a crowd favorite.

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The shelter’s hours are 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. each day and owners are encouraged to spend time with their pets whenever feasible. “If it were me,” says Macy, “I’d be spending as much time as possible with mine. They are suffering just like their owners, and they need to work together as the family members they are.”

If owners can’t walk their dogs daily, one of up to 20 volunteers takes care of walking each animal, three times each day.  Large fenced enclosures enable the dogs to play catch or run freely for exercise.

One owner, Dustin Lee, (R) enjoys playing around with his Pitbull, Hitch. “I got him about a month ago from the local humane society, and we love to horse around together,” says Lee. They enjoy having space outside where Hitch can run free in the enclosure.

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Presently seven AmeriCorps volunteers from San Jose are also assisting Piña and Macy with feeding, watering, walking and cleaning cages. Here every day, the volunteers work from 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.

Shelter residents, as well as Red Cross workers, have been extremely complimentary about the pet shelter, and Furry Friends hopes to work with Red Cross again on future disaster responses that include pet-sheltering operations.

Time to Evacuate? Be Red Cross Ready

As the Red Cross continues to respond to the Camp Fire disaster in Butte County, we want to make sure you have the items you need close at hand should you have to evacuate.

Preparation is important!

Listen to local area radio stations, watch local TV news, and check your city and county websites for the latest wildfire information. Check every 30 minutes to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.

Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing your direction of escape.

Arrange for temporary housing at a friend or relative’s home outside the threatened area.

Identify nearby shelter sites and review directions to get there.

Keep your pets in one room so you can find them quickly if you have to evacuate.

Keep your indoor air clean. Close windows and doors to prevent the smoke outside from getting in your home.

Stock up on N-95 air respirator masks to help block smoke particles.

Review the Emergency Kit List below to ensure you have everything you need should you have to evacuate your home in an emergency.

Once you build your emergency kit, it can be helpful to keep it in your car so it’s with you when you evacuate.

  • Water: one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
  • Food: non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home).
  • Flashlight
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Medications (7-day supply) and medical items
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • Emergency blanket
  • Map(s) of the area

Consider the needs of all family members and add supplies to your kit, as needed.

  • Medical supplies (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, etc.)
  • Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
  • Games and activities for children
  • Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl)
  • Two-way radios
  • Extra set of car keys and house keys
  • Manual can opener

Oroville Scouts Ready to Help Despite Camp Fire Anxieties

Boy Scouts from Troop 29 in Oroville arrived at the Oroville Red Cross shelter Saturday ready to pitch in wherever they could help. The enthusiastic scouts moved supplies to storage areas, sorted donations, picked up litter, even occasionally handled babysitting dogs for people at the shelter.

Drew, one of the scouts, said his home is safe, but others in his troop were not so lucky. One family is unsure of the status of its home and some others are in areas at risk. Drew said that he felt good that all of the people at the shelter were getting the help they needed.

Kullen, another scout from Troop 29, said he had spent many restless nights unsure of where the fire would go. He had worked with his family to pack up all their important and precious processions, just in case. But still he worried that they would not have enough room in their two cars for everything they needed.

Though Kullen had his own worries, he was also very concerned about the people he encountered at the shelter. He overheard conversations. “They could not stop talking about the fire. It was very heartbreaking,” he said.

The Red Cross appreciates the assistance and hard work of Oroville Boy Scout Troop 29 and all of the organizations that support the Red Cross.

If you would like to donate to the American Red Cross California Wildfire Relief effort, go to redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.

Gold Country Partners with Intel in Folsom for Missing Maps Project

Imagine if your town had suffered catastrophic damage in a storm but emergency responders and aid workers couldn’t get there to help because your community wasn’t on any maps.

While this may seen strange to Westerners, it’s a real problem in other parts of the world.

To help get relief into people’s hands, the American Red Cross and partner organizations have joined with the Missing Maps project. Using OpenStreetMap, volunteers have put millions of people from high-risk countries on the map since 2014.

This makes a lifesaving difference for disaster workers combating deadly health crises like the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. And when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake ravaged parts of Nepal in 2015, volunteers worldwide sprang into action to map affected communities and roads to support relief efforts on the ground.

But much work still lies ahead to put more families in the world’s most vulnerable communities on the map—before disaster strikes.

On Thursday, November 1, Red Cross volunteers from the Gold Country Region will join with our partners at Intel in Folsom for a a Mapathon session. Our volunteers will be among about 50 people working together on the day’s mapping challenges.

You can help too! All you need is a computer and an internet connection. Volunteer at home, attend a mapathon or host one with family and friends.

  • Visit Missing Maps » to learn how to get started or to find a mapathon event.

If you are intersted in volunteering with the American Red Cross or to make a donation, visit redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.

Twice is Enough

By Georgia Duncan

“I couldn’t believe it could happen twice.” That’s how Heather Hournay, an Event Based Volunteer with the American Red Cross, began our conversation.

Heather and her family reside in Redding, California. She explained that on Friday the 13th in January, 2017 she and her family were sleeping when her husband awoke and discovered a fire in the ceiling of their daughter’s room. Just as the family had everyone and all the pets out of the house there was an explosion and the home was destroyed.

Heather said her church contacted the Red Cross and a Disaster Action Team arrived at her home. Red Cross volunteers offered the family comfort, gave them much-needed hugs and offered them assistance to get through the next few days. The family began their road to recovery.

Fast-forward to Thursday, July 26, 2018. The Carr Fire began moving toward her new home. Heather and her husband gathered their children, their pet rabbit, Guinea pig and dog and fled to a friend’s home.  As of today she is unsure if she has a home to return to.

Knowing her family was safe, Heather began searching for a place she could help others affected by the fire. She found the shelter at Shasta College that was helping evacuees. She found the Red Cross new volunteer intake area and applied. “It only took about 15 minutes and I was an official Event Based Volunteer,” reported Heather. Immediately she began talking to evacuees, offering a sympathetic ear and when appropriate, a hug. Heather said she has laughed and cried with other in the same situation she finds herself.

When asked she had decided to volunteer, Heather said, “I just had to work and serve to get through this.”