Red Cross in search of Ohio Valley disaster volunteers

WHEELING — House fires, floods, hurricanes and other disasters in this country have prompted the American Red Cross to issue an appeal for more disaster response volunteers.

Sharon Kesselring, executive director for the Red Cross of Northwest West Virginia, said the number of house fires alone in the Ohio Valley in recent weeks has upped the need for disaster volunteers. Even people who are employed full-time may be able to contribute in some way when disasters strike, she said.

In an effort to educate the public about the disaster volunteer program, the Red Cross is making available three opportunities locally for people to visit with seasoned volunteers to learn more about what is required of them. The public is urged to stop and chat with Red Cross folks who will answer questions at the following times and locations:

• From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday at Buffalo Wild Wings, Moundsville;

• From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Riesbeck’s food store, Elm Grove;

• From noon-6 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at the Red Cross office, 193 29th St., Wheeling.

“These events will give people a chance to learn what it takes to be a disaster volunteer,” Kesselring said. “The seasoned volunteers can share their stories.”

Anyone visiting the Red Cross office next week can register to be a volunteer and obtain some basic training at that time, Kesselring said. Or, registration is available online at redcrosswv.org.

She said much of the Red Cross training is completed online. Volunteers also undergo background checks, and once approved, work with current disaster volunteers to complete training.

“Jesse Hott serves as our disaster program specialist for the local region,” Kesselring said. “He works with the volunteers.”

Each disaster action team has a captain. When a captain and a disaster caseworker respond to house fires, floods or other disaster events, each has specific duties. The captain works with the fire chief or emergency management agency officials while the caseworker addresses the immediate needs of victims.

Other trained volunteers do disaster assessment reports. Major event case workers are assigned to shelters and feeding duties there.

“The hurricane season is upon us … here it really starts in August and September,” Kesselring said. “We would like to have more disaster volunteers trained and in place soon.”

If volunteers are trained, Kesselring said they, too, can be deployed across the country when the need arises, but only if they want to make such a trip.

Disaster volunteers can be asked to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week every four to six weeks.

Kesselring said a disaster volunteer on call may not receive any calls during that time, but it’s important to have workers on standby just in case.

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