By Adrienne, Communications Intern
As a new intern for the American Red Cross Greater St. Louis Region, I recently had the opportunity to go on a fire call with the Disaster Action Team (DAT), based here at our headquarters. In the region, the Red Cross responds to an average of three house fires every day, and has a couple hundred volunteers who respond to the scene. A team is on-call 24 hours a day to provide immediate assistance to individuals and families affected by house fires or other emergencies. They also help emergency response workers on the scene by offering them snacks and drinks while they handle the situation at hand.
I met two incredible volunteers on my recent ride along: Steve Ding and Debapriya Sengupia. Steve has been a disaster volunteer for four-and-a-half years, as well as a mentor and team leader; Debapriya has been a volunteer for two years.
The first call came in: a vacant apartment fire downtown. While DAT doesn’t typically respond to vacant lot fires, they decided to go offer snacks and drinks (also called canteening) to the firemen and police officers working the scene on one of hottest and most humid summer days so far.
This was not a typical Red Cross fire response. Steve estimates that 95% of fires in the city affect people who have no insurance, or if they do have it, it’s a very limited plan that won’t cover many of the damages they face.
“You don’t just see a fire, you see poverty, and people without safety nets. Their life can be turned upside down from a house fire,” Steve said.
That’s where the Red Cross comes in – to provide immediate, emergency assistance for the next few days. The Red Cross routinely provides hotel stays for up to 3 nights, money for food and clothing, if they lost theirs in the fire. Case workers at Red Cross headquarters often help families find long term solutions and help them get back to a normal routine. “I always thought of the Red Cross in terms of blood services and response to large scale disasters like the Hurricane Katrinas. I didn’t realize how much we did locally every day.”
Red Cross disaster volunteers are always on standby to help that next person who, unfortunately, may be facing their worst day. To become a local disaster response volunteer, visit our website and apply today.