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Regional Red Cross volunteers head south to aid evacuees displaced by Hurricane Florence

Avery Schneider

Eleven Red Cross volunteers from Western and Central New York have already headed south to provide aid for Hurricane Florence victims. 

In addition, 2 emergency response vehicles have been sent with food, water, blankets, and comfort kits. The immediate focus for volunteers will be setting up shelters, but Western and Central New York Red Cross Chief Communications Officer Jay Bonafede said their first priority is to make sure volunteers are safe.

“At the same time you want to have as many materials, both personal and material resources in place so we can respond as quickly as possible,” said Bonafede. “As part of keeping them safe, there may be a hold until the storm passes now that it’s scheduled for I believe tomorrow.”

Disaster Health Services volunteer and retired nurse Charlene Hanson is one of 11 volunteers from the region who is helping prepare shelters for evacuees. She said some communities in the Carolinas don’t have a lot of medical supplies.

“I bring a small suitcase of first-aid supplies. Blood pressure cuffs, stethoscope, that type of thing,” said Hanson, “so that if I do get to a shelter location and things haven’t quite arrived, at least I have enough to get going, to help people.”

Hanson said the first thing she does when someone walks in to a shelter is a quick assessment.

“Did they walk in? Are they smiling? Do they look stressed? Did they lose their glasses? Did they lose their dentures? What happened to their walker? Did they come in in a wheelchair? So there’s all kinds of health needs that are available and I’m not doing it in isolation. There’s a whole team of health people,” she said.

Hanson has helped provide aid during several disasters including 9/11 and Hurricane Harvey. She said no two disasters are the same.

Credit Avery Schneider / WBFO

“Each is unique. And the community you go in to, how they work together and how a community prepares, that’s a little different for each,” she said.

Bonafede said it’s like setting up a multi-million dollar corporation within 22 hours.

“We have someone going down to do staff services, which is basically human resources in a corporation,” said Bonafede. “As the situation goes on among the over 700 Red Cross workers that have been deployed already from across the country, people will be doing public relations, they’ll be doing logistics, they’ll be doing information technology, setting up computers.”

Current forecasts call for Hurricane Florence to be at least a Category 3 storm when it arrives and it’s expected to produce 20 to 30 inches of rainfall across the Carolinas.

While today isn’t a day Western New Yorkers have to worry about snowstorms, Hanson thinks it is a good time to make sure you are prepared.

“Do I have a kit ready, so that if something happened where I had to leave my house, I could grab that kit? Do I have something ready for my pets? Where will they go? Do my relatives have a plan? What are they going to do? If I have to leave my house and they’re looking for me, where will they find me?”

Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.
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