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Red Cross in the Valley: Visible and Vibrant

November 18, 2010
With the physical office in the Valley closed, the Mt. Washington Valley chapter joined the Granite Chapter in order to streamline operations and leverage resources in 2009. The Granite Chapter has its brick and mortar presence on Maitland Street in Concord, but Rebecca Field, regional communications director of the American Red Cross (Concord), and Ian Dyar, regional emergency services director (Concord), both say the Red Cross is able to provide an immediate need to the residents of Mt. Washington Valley. Whether the need be for disaster or emergency assistance, disaster preparedness, health and safety classes, support for military families, clothing, food and lodging assistance and blood donations through blood drives*, the Red Cross is here.

"We take care of anyone who needs help. The services are free to anyone who suffers a disaster, no questions asked," says Field. Even though Congress chartered the American Red Cross in 1905 to respond to disasters, the organization is not funded by federal funds, she explains. "The agency is publicly funded by donations, grants and other revenues streams collected by modest fees," adds Field.

What's happening locally

"The Red Cross has an amazing disaster action team. We have a great Mt. Washington Valley disaster action team of well-trained volunteers who live in the area and are ready to respond to the needs of local individuals and families whenever disaster strikes: 24/7," says Field.

Ninety percent of disasters nationwide are residential, says Field. "Now that we are looking at the holiday season, we see many house fires caused by candles, fat dripping from turkeys, and space heater cords under rugs," she adds.

If a disaster should happen, the main office is contacted to dispatch a local team and usually contacts the local fire department. "The local head person here [Concord] can't drive four hours to Pittsburgh; they have a local team in place," she adds. The team can help displaced families with housing, clothing and food needs.

Just this past summer, Dyar was contacted about several fires in the Valley. "There was one fire right after another and we thought there might be a fire bug going around," says Dyar. "We were able to provide an immediate need for one client," he adds. Dyar says they reached out to the other client, but they didn't need assistance as they were staying with family. "You can't force assistance, sometimes people just say, 'No thanks,'" he says.

Local volunteers meet on a regular basis at Granite State College in Conway. Though volunteers are spread throughout the state, they connect through conference calls and e-mails. The volunteer activity depends on the disaster activity, says Dyar.

The North Country is self-sustainable. Dyar talks about how in the ice storm of 2008, the southern part of the state was impacted more — it is a more populous area, closer to the headquarters, has a higher power grid and less homes use wood stoves. "I appreciate how they [North Country] knows it takes more time to get there," he says. The residents seem to take care of themselves. "People in small communities are not waiting for FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] to come in. The locals have a sense to do it on their own — it's the principle of independence," says Dyar.

Red Cross offers classes, too

The Red Cross offers support services for locals to be able to be on their own, too.

Take, for example, babysitting classes. Young people can be prepared for babysitting, taking care of infants and making babies safe. Parents will like that and hopefully the babysitting training can help babysitters get a job, says Field.

Other educational classes offered by the Red Cross help people prepare for emergencies by learning first aid, CPR and automated external defibrillator (AED). Classes are scheduled for this fall in the Valley. Field suggests that those interested call or check the Web address (included at the end of the article).

Field says in addition to educational classes, the local Red Cross chapter offers disaster education and preparedness. "We have a speaker bureau and have speakers come to local schools," she says. They can come to local businesses, too.

Local towns work with the Red Cross on emergency planning. Dyar says Bartlett and Glen are working with fire rescue on an emergency plan and talk about the "what ifs?", discuss hazard analysis and chemical spills. "Planning isn't the sexy thing to do," says Dyar.

But planning is needed and so are volunteers. Field points to all the good work the Red Cross does and asks: "Look at this good work! Don't you want to be a part of it? It is a way of giving back to the community."

For more information on volunteering, services and classes, visit www.nhredcross.org, or call the Red Cross at 1-800-464-6692.

Martin Lord Osman
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