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Red Cross connects victims to assistance
The American Red Cross helps people in emergencies every day, but that's just one facet of the organization.
It also helps members of the military contact their families, responds to disasters, trains people how to save lives through CPR and first aid, and offers emergency preparedness and recovery education.
According to Trudy Thompson, of Arizona's Grand Canyon Chapter, the organization is always in need of volunteers. She said whether it is through donating blood, volunteering time or making a financial contribution, it all allows the agency to continue the work it does.
“They are the backbone of the organization. They are hugely important. We are always in need of volunteers to assist us in our many community efforts. The more the better.”
In Yuma County alone, according to its disaster relief records, the agency responded to 30 house fires last year — 28 of which were single-family homes and two multi-family homes — assisting 40 families totaling 102 members.
The agency also provided 70 nights of emergency shelter at nearby hotels and motels for 67 people, giving an average of $601.50 in direct financial assistance to each family. Of that, 51 percent went for food, groceries and clothing; 47 percent for shelter and rent assistance; less than 1 percent for bedding/linens and household items; and 1.4 percent for replacement of health-related items.
A breakdown of those figures indicates that of the people it helped, 34 percent were under age 18 and the other 66 percent were adults. Breaking it down by gender, 48 percent were male and 52 percent female. With two military bases in Yuma, the agency also gets five requests a week for emergency messages.
Thompson explained that the Red Cross, which serves 10 of the state's 15 counties, takes the volunteers' skills and experiences into consideration and matches them up with a job that will best help them continue helping people. She said there is also no minimum requirement as to the number of hours that someone wants to volunteer — any amount of time helps.
Emergency services specialist Andretta Schellinger said the Yuma chapter has spent the past several months working with area first-responders on disaster preparation and recovery, both individually and as a community.
“People need to be prepared in case some type of emergency happens, but more times than not they aren't. It is important that individuals are prepared for about 24 to 72 hours, because that is how long it usually is before we can get to them. We can set up a shelter in six hours, but not everyone will know where it are or how to get to it.”
While most disasters in Arizona are mainly due to flooding and fires, Schellinger said much of the focus on that training has been about being prepared for other types of disaster responses, such as a major earthquake or some type of emergency in San Diego or San Luis, Mexico, that requires a mass evacuation of people.
“I have heard from many fire chiefs that they don't believe the community is not prepared in the event of a major disaster. The goal is to change that.”
Catrina Boppart, a community outreach coordinator, said one of the many ways the organization has come up with to help people be better prepared is through several free apps it has created for smartphones, including a shelter locator and a first aid app.
“In the event of some type of emergency, you can learn what to do just by picking up the phone.”
Boppart explained the first aid app provides the user simple step-by-step instructions for what do for everyday first aid situations, while the shelter app lets the user know, in real time, where shelters have been established. Schellinger added that people can also use its Safe and Well website through RedCross.org to let family and friends know about their welfare.
The American Red Cross also supplies about half of the nation's blood supply. However, Arizona is unfortunately a large importer of blood during the summer because it doesn't raise enough blood throughout the year to keep its hospitals supplied.
“So we have to have blood brought in from other parts of the country,” Thompson said. “The summer is a particularly difficult time because there is a higher need for blood and a decrease in the number of donors.”
To get involved with the Red Cross or to make a donation, visit www.arizonaredcross.org or call 1-602-336-6660.
James Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.
Members of Arizona's Grand Canyon Chapter of the Red Cross participate in a disaster drill in Yuma last year. In Yuma County alone, according to its disaster relief records, the agency responded to 30 house fires last year.