To The Rescue

When a disaster strikes, volunteers from the Red Cross travel from around the country to assist in many different capacities.

Due to recent flooding in central New York, volunteers from the Southwestern New York chapter were deployed, along with an emergency response vehicle. Two local volunteers, who wish to remain anonymous, left Sunday morning and drove out to the Utica area to help with the relief efforts.

“We have here an emergency response vehicle here that is part of the national fleet of over 300 vehicles,” said Bill Tucker, American Red Cross of Southwestern New York executive director. “It’s maintained here for immediate use if it’s needed locally, but the vehicle is also available at the regional, state or national level.”

This is the third emergency response vehicle from the Western New York and Finger Lakes Regions to deploy to the Utica area to assist in this response, according to the American Red Cross website. The vehicles will be used to deliver food, water, clean-up kits and other supplies directly into some of the hardest-hit areas.

According to Tucker, the vehicle has been put to use in other locations recently, as well. The American Red Cross sent almost all of its 300 vehicle fleet to the New York City and New Jersey area following Hurricane Sandy.

“Our vehicle was in the area for almost five months in order to help respond to that operation,” said Tucker. “We got it back, did some maintenance on it and got it ready to go. When the rain and flooding hit last week, there was a need for it in central New York, so we sent it out again.”

The emergency response vehicle is manned by Red Cross volunteers, with approximately 90 percent of service delivery in the aftermath of disasters also being done by volunteers.

“A big part of those services that we deliver come from our emergency response vehicle,” said Tucker. “All of our volunteers are trained disaster responders. They take special courses on driving and maintaining the vehicle, food handling, emergency aid – all of the things that they’ll be called upon to do.”

The length of deployment for the vehicle, along with volunteers, depends heavily on the specifics of each situation. Generally, the volunteers are deployed in order to provide food and comfort items to those who are affected by disaster. They also serve an important role in communicating to other members of the Red Cross. According to Tucker, the volunteers play a vital role in helping a neighborhood recover from a disaster.

Typically, volunteers deploy for a 10-14 day period, but some volunteers will also deploy multiple times for a single disaster event.

“It all depends on how long it all lasts,” said Tucker. “It’s not unheard of for us to have a volunteer return two or three times. Folks in this area have a phenomenal record for responding to this type of thing. We’ve always had a tremendous response from our volunteers.”