Disasters that affect societies on a large scale attract the majority of headlines. However, the American Red Cross responds to a disaster every eight minutes and assists an average of 190 families per day; the majority of the responses are to fires. Our volunteers are the brave individuals that make up the disaster action teams around the country, for communities like ours – providing support that may not be elsewhere.
Amanda Hall, a legal operations specialist at Merrill Lynch in Jacksonville, Florida has volunteered for the Red Cross since September 2008. She is a disaster action team captain, emergency response vehicle driver and continues her Red Cross education by consistently participating in community disaster courses. She is the epitome of what makes the Red Cross successful in its mission to aid those suffering from disaster by being a dedicated and interactive volunteer.
Hall responded to a crisis to assist in the aftermath of a fire that caused a truck to explode, destroy a camper and the majority of the couple’s personal items.
She received a call from the Red Cross dispatch system informing her of a fire on I-95 and was given the number to the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department’s dispatch system, which informed her that both individuals were taken to UF Health, one of them sustained injuries.
Hall responded swiftly and beat the fire department to the hospital, where she learned that the husband who suffered injuries needed to be transported to UF Health in Gainesville by life flight.
An essential component to disaster relief is providing emotional care to the victims. They are physically rattled, in fear and need an individual to be there when all seems lost. Hall recognized that the wife afflicted by fire will need emotional support and an advocate to work on her behalf between the hospital, fire department and the Red Cross in Gainesville.
Once she arrived at UF Health, Hall helped the wife by assisting her when she spoke with the case worker at UF Health. She also reached out to the fire department to find out where the client’s truck and camper were towed to and learned that the firemen were able to save some medication as well. With an advocate working for the client, the process went smoothly and a taxi to Gainesville was accommodated by the hospital and the medication was dropped off so the client was prepared to travel, which covered the immediate needs associated.
UF Health performed its service of providing transportation to Gainesville, however, everything the client had was destroyed or lost.
“She couldn’t even rent a car, or buy a plane ticket as her credit cards and driver’s license were gone,” said Hall, “her husband may have his ID, but he was hospitalized.”
The client didn’t know how she was going to leave Gainesville, so Hall told the client with confidence that she wasn’t going anywhere until everything was sorted out.
“I reached out to see if the Gainesville chapter had anyone available to meet her at the hospital, and at least sit with her for a little bit until she was able to settle in and feel comfortable since she had absolutely no one,” said Hall.
The taxi reached Gainesville safely and the client who sustained injuries left the hospital healthy. Once discharged from the hospital, their insurance was able to assist with providing transportation back to New Hampshire, their home state. They called Hall once the returned home to inform her they made it home okay. She learned that the client that sustained injuries was doing much better and they wanted information to send a thank-you letter to the fire fighters that responded.
“She jokingly said that Jacksonville, Florida was the best place to have to go through what her and her husband went through, and she was very thankful that their situation happened where it did,” said Hall. “The clients were also very impressed with JFRD, and said that they were very compassionate and they could tell that they cared.”
While the Red Cross does offer a variety of resources and aid during crisis, emotional support is intrinsic to disaster relief and invaluable. It is the work of volunteers like Hall that help clients when all is lost and panic sets in.
“Having support immediately available is so important because it provides a level of comfort both to the clients and also to us as volunteers, because we know that the person or family isn’t going to go through their situation alone,” said Hall.
The Red Cross assists those suffering by providing physical, emotional and informational services, and experiences like a common fire proves how important all phases of relief are to the people we serve.