Red Cross also responds to personal disasters

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By Kellie Parkin

When people think of Red Cross volunteers and disaster support, what usually comes to mind are hurricanes, tornados and earthquakes, said Ian Dyar, Emergency Services Director of the American Red Cross North Central Florida Chapter.

“But single family house fires are disasters, too,” he said.

The Red Cross takes individual disasters seriously and responds just as actively to them as it does to large scale disasters.

“The hardest part is getting the call,” Dyar said. The only way for a disaster victim to receive help from Red Cross is to call them directly. “They have to be the ones to call us,” he said. “And then we immediately send someone out to assess the situation so we can meet the immediate needs.”

Those needs vary by disaster and number of people involved. “It’s always case by case, and that’s why we send someone out right away to see first hand,” Dyar said. “A kitchen flair up is much different than a total fire devastation.”

Rosewood resident Shannon Random recently learned first hand what the Red Cross can do. Her home was destroyed by a Jan. 12 fire. The cold and rainy day was just one factor for the Red Cross workers to consider.

“When the weather’s bad, we want to find temporary shelter for (the victims) as fast as we can,” he said. “Then we look at other basic needs – food, clothing, etc.” Random was set up in the local Beach Front Motel for three nights and given a client assistance card to purchase food and clothing.

“We want to be the facilitator to get them back to normalcy in their lives,” Dyar said.

Red Cross volunteers help with immediate needs like food, clothing and shelter, and then take things a step further by putting people in touch with other charitable agencies. A Red Cross referral to such services like United Way can quickly expedite the process, helping people to find more permanent shelter and replace critical items lost in the disaster.

In addition to disaster assessment and client casework, Red Cross volunteers have a range of responsibilities from shelter operations to pre-planning education.

The North Central Florida Chapter is currently seeking volunteers in Cedar Key, as well as throughout Levy County. All Red Cross Training is done in house and is free to volunteers. For more information call Ian Dyar at (352) 376-4669 ext. 16, or visit the Web site at www.redcrossNCFC.org.