Thursday, March 29, 2012

Riding with a Responder by Amanda Grzymala

by Amanda  Grzymala

Red Cross Responder Katrina Hill
As a returning Communications Intern for the Red Cross Greater New York Region, I have had two opportunities to ride along to the scene of a fire or vacate with Red Cross disaster responders. Each response gave me a glimpse of how essential our response team is to local disasters. When I was asked to ride along again on March 23, I jumped at the chance.

Katrina Hill, the responder I was going to accompany that day, and I were immediately called to a fire. I started to remember the images of the past fires I’d responded to: of fire fighters battling blazes, punched-out windows and residents in need of Red Cross help. No two fires are ever alike, but having been to a couple, I thought I might know the general chain of events.

Katrina and I headed out to the southern part of Brooklyn in a Red Cross van. During the ride, we discussed the Red Cross disaster response. Katrina is a response team staff member, one of five in total, and has worked at the Red Cross for over a year. Prior to that, she spent almost two years as one of over 300 committed New York volunteer responders.

Katrina now trains new disaster responders, a task she enjoys. To become a volunteer, Katrina says, is an extremely organized and comprehensive process. Though a series of modules and trainings, new responders learn everything necessary to compassionately and efficiently help their fellow New Yorkers.

As I was doing that day, trainees base the bulk of their learning on hands-on experience responding to everyday disasters with seasoned relief workers. Volunteers are able to choose the amount of time they dedicate to the Red Cross, ranging from a couple of days month to a few days a week. As Katrina discussed the process, I could imagine how rewarding it would be to become a responder, and have the chance to help people when they need it most.

We reached the street of the fire and the scene was different from my past experiences. The blaze was beaten, and the damage appeared minor. As we approached the residents of the home, they seemed glad to see us, but politely declined our help, as they would be able to stay with family a few blocks away. The situation was a bit anti-climatic, but in a good way. The fire did not damage the two-story home too badly, and thankfully, no one had been home when the fire started.

As Katrina and I headed back to the Red Cross van, she explained that even though these residents declined assistance, most do not. There is never certainty what the situation will be when dealing with a fire. It is the responders’ job to be there, even if just to let residents know the Red Cross is available to help.

I would like to thank all the responders, volunteer and staff, that dedicate their time and effort to the Red Cross. Responding to everyday emergencies makes the Red Cross what it is today – humanitarian support that people can rely upon to always be there.

For more information about volunteering at Red Cross Greater New York Region, please click here.

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