Story: “It takes a village” to Manage a Disaster

This story was written by Red Cross worker Dick McGee.

Sandy Relief in NY

While the approach of Superstorm Sandy was being monitored by the National Weather Service, the American Red Cross was already swinging into action ahead of evacuation advisories in order to have shelters in place for the thousands of people who would need a warm, dry, and safe place to evacuate to. In Suffolk County, Long Island, NY, local school officials made several high schools available to house the Red Cross Mass Care operations. Walt Whitman High School in Huntington, NY was one of the locations that served Red Cross evacuees for nearly a week.

But as the storm passed and recovery efforts proceeded, it came time for the students to return to the classroom and get on with their lives. A relocation of the shelter was mandatory, and then is when the spirit of the Huntington community came out in full force. Jeff O’Neal, Red Cross Shelter Manager, also wears the hat of a volunteer EMT with the Huntington Community First Aid Squad, so he reached out to his associates for assistance. The Huntington YMCA offered to open its doors and assume the housing function, and the Huntington Area Rapid Transit authority sent buses to transport thirty-five residents and fourteen Red Cross staff volunteers to the new location.

First Aid Squad Chief David Mohr and Captain Karen Martin removed the gurney and much of the emergency medical equipment from one of the squad’s six ambulances, and used it to transport all the cots, blankets, and other equipment necessary to maintain the operations of a shelter. They started early in the morning on Wednesday, November 7th and had the new dormitory all set up and ready for use when the HART buses arrived with the residents. “We’ve been exceedingly busy responding to calls during and after the hurricane,” Chief Mohr reported. “Over a year’s time, we average maybe 15 calls per day, but during the storm and immediately afterward it was running thirty to forty a day.” Captain Martin is a school nurse when she is not serving as an EMT on the First Aid Squad. “I’m tremendously impressed with the things I see these Red Cross nurses doing for the residents here,” she volunteered. “It’s great to see them getting such good care.”

The real spirit that drives the entire Disaster Relief effort was voiced by Eileen Knauer, Executive Director of the Huntington YMCA. “The Y is all about community, and it gives us a lot of pleasure to partner with the Red Cross to create this shelter. In times like this when we all come together, we accomplish things that none of us could do alone,” she said.

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