GUEST COLUMN: Red Cross expresses thanks

Published 11:46 am Sunday, September 30, 2007

By Staff
Not knowing what we faced last Saturday night, we called for assistance from other trained volunteers close by when local Red Cross staff in Brewton received the call-out from EMA Director David Adams. Mrs. Sandy Zuiderhoek, disaster chair for the Alabama Gulf Coast Regional Chapter in Mobile, living in the Atmore area, was able to request the deployment of the ERV out of Baldwin County to come to Flomaton. She then contacted Joan Hackman, Atmore Red Cross director, and several volunteers to assist us in the response effort in Flomaton.
While local staff and volunteers were loading two personal vehicles with already-on-hand snacks— peanut butter, cups and water, ice, ice chests and more —to go to the shelter and the command post location, volunteers in Flomaton were opening the shelter site welcoming those families who were quickly evacuated to the Little Escambia Baptist Church on Highway 113 in Flomaton.
Two hours from the time the call came to chapter staff, those supplies arrived on site. Calls had gone out to evacuate using the 911 reverse call system (which worked great). The shelter opened around 10 p.m. and remained fully staffed until 2:30 am. Sunday morning when CSX representative Thomas Lyles came in to talk to the evacuees. He answered questions and explained what was happening in repair efforts. He then made arrangements for those who evacuated to the church shelter to relocate to rooms at the Brewton Motor Inn in Brewton.
Practice, like the May county-wide drill, is such a help to preparedness. In an unusual coincidence, the area used back in May for the county-wide drill was the site for the operation’s command post. Even though you know it isn’t the real event, you go through the steps getting ready “as if”. The real thing can make you walk and talk fast! While we had the day before to pack up for the drill, we packed supplies and were on site within two hours of the call on Saturday night. Shelter volunteers got to the shelter site within 30 minutes.
Red Cross response included but was not limited to: the shelter management and the canteen (more than 300 hot meals were organized, delivered and served as well as snacks and drinks) at the command post location. Meals and water were delivered to the road block areas.
Red mud and love-bugs aside, the almost 24-hour Red Cross operation went well with a great cooperative spirit between the volunteers representing three different Red Cross units. We came together truly as “One Red Cross” in our first community Red Cross effort. Working together, sharing the effort and encouragement made the collective 143 man-hours productive.
Great thanks and appreciation goes out to Atmore area volunteers, Fred and Sandy Zuiderhoek, Atmore Red Cross Manager Joan Hackman, volunteers Sandra Gray, Linda Stallworth, and Julia Stroud. (Ms. Stroud was able to work both Saturday night and all 13 hours on Sunday.) They came quickly and brought positive attitudes and willing hands.
From Baldwin County, ERV driver and worker, volunteers Roger and Wanda Reetz drove in, staying on site for 13 straight hours from midnight on Saturday until 1 p.m. on Sunday. They had just completed work in the Mobile-Baldwin County area with the Emergency Response Vehicle during the days before this event.
Local Red Cross staff and volunteer responders were Rogene Martin, chapter director; Chris Smith, disaster director; Rebekah Martin, volunteer, and two of the greatest volunteers ever — Mrs. Cora Brantley and Mrs. Irma Arrington. Ms. Brantley and Ms. Arrington were the Red Cross shelter mangers at Little Escambia Baptist Church. Their unfailing dedication is much appreciated. They are also East Escambia County American Red Cross Chapter Board members.
Thank you to those businesses who prepared larger than usual “to go” orders in very short periods of time: McDonalds’ and Church’s Chicken of Brewton and Pizza Hut of Flomaton. They all did so with graciousness and a spirit of helpfulness and concern for those involved in the operation.
We also appreciate the spirit of cooperation present with all the agencies and law enforcement personnel. The City of Flomaton police department personnel, Sheriff’s department personnel, Rescue Squad, and various volunteer fire department members present were all helpful and kind. With great cooperation such as displayed this weekend, we can face most anything together.
Last, but not least, please pass along your appreciation to the Little Escambia Baptist Church. The Rev. Hogg did not hesitate when called to open the church as a shelter.
It makes the Red Cross volunteers’ job so much easier to have such great cooperation from local churches and businesses when disasters occur. Without the permission of facility owners we would not have shelters when safe harbors are needed.
Agencies, such as those mentioned above and more who are not mentioned, are working hard to be prepared for the unexpected events that may occur.
Let me take this opportunity to ask that you, the reader, take the time to prepare. If you received the call to evacuate your home because of a gas leak, a fire or other disaster-type situation, would you be ready to leave at a moment’s notice? Would you know where copies of your important papers are kept? Insurance cards, birth certificates, mortgage papers etc are stored? A good place might be to have copies in a heavy plastic bag in the wheel well of your car. Ask us or come by if you need help or want to know what those preparations might be.
We have brochures; we would be delighted to receive an invitation to speak to your group, large or small. (867-3426 or e-mail
Please let us help, it is what we do and have done for the last 125 years! We are, after all, One Red Cross — Your American Red Cross.