Red Cross seeks more volunteers in wake of recent disasters
Storm Arthur, Moncton shootings and spring flooding have been a wake-up call, organization says
The Canadian Red Cross is seeking more volunteers across New Brunswick, saying recent disasters and tragedies have been a wake-up call.
The organization currently has about 250 volunteers on-call in the province, but would like to have about 50 more to be better prepared for future emergencies, said Katie Elisio, who co-ordinates disaster response for the Red Cross in Fredericton.
"More and more now we're seeing bigger and larger disasters that just take up a lot of our time," said Elisio.
"And with ever-emerging new disasters, we kind of have to meet the demand and meet the resource."
Elisio says in situations like Arthur, when help is required in a wide geographic area and for long periods of time, it's difficult because volunteers are often also victims.
Many people went more than a week without electricity. Some people also lost their water supply.
Fredericton was one of the hardest hit communities. Volunteers helped operate the Grant-Harvey Centre and Willie O’Ree Place, giving area residents a place to shower, charge their electronic devices and get water.
Krista Stewart became a Red Cross volunteer just prior to the big storm and saw first-hand how resources were stretched, putting in 12 hours a day.
“It was kind of trial by fire. So I’ve learned some things,” she said.
In addition to such large-scale events, Red Cross disaster volunteers typically respond one or more times a week to smaller events, such as house or apartment fires, where residents are suddenly forced temporarily or permanently from their homes.
When they are not responding to emergencies, volunteers may be providing information sessions and workshops on personal and community disaster preparedness.
Charles Newman has been a volunteer for about 20 years, helping with local disasters and international tragedies, including being at Ground Zero after 9/11.
"It's indescribable, the feeling that there's so much death around you, going up in smoke," he said.
Red Cross volunteers typically receive about 40 hours of training, including leadership, personal disaster preparedness, first aid and CPR.
They must be at least 18 years old, with no criminal record, and agree to be on call on a rotational basis.