Friday, July 27, 2012

Mother Nature's Angry Return

Photo courtesy
After a summer full of sun and heat, some severe weather returned to the area yesterday. While many of us here in the Buffalo area simply received some much needed rain, other places weren't so lucky. The Southern Tier was hit with severe thunderstorms, and a possible tornado wreaked havoc just over the state border in Pennsylvania. Another possible tornado touched down a little further to our east in Elmira, NY, where the local Red Cross chapter has opened a shelter at the Elmira Free Academy. Volunteers were housing and providing food for as many as 50 residents this morning, and the damage was so severe Gov. Cuomo has declared a state of emergency in Chemung County.

While our thoughts are with everyone dealing with the devastation this wild weather caused, this also serves as a reminder of the importance of emergency preparedness. It's easy to become complacent when the weather is as beautiful as ours has been this summer. But disaster can strike anytime, anywhere, often without warning. If these storms had been just a few miles further north, would you and your family have known where to go to stay safe, or had time to gather needed items like food, water and necessary medications if forced to evacuate?

The time to prepare for an emergency isn't when the severe weather warnings are posted. There are three steps everyone can take that can help make a difference: Get a Kit, Make a Plan, and Be Informed. Take a few minutes now to review these tornado and thunderstorm safety checklists, and consider scheduling a free disaster preparedness education program at your school, business or other organization.

When a disaster does hit, you can find Red Cross shelter locations online, and you can download the shelter finder app on your iphone. You can also register as Safe & Well, which is a great way to let your loved ones know that you are okay. Make sure that when Mother Nature decides to make her next visit, you are Red Cross Ready!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Responding to Tragedy in Wilson

UPDATE: The latest information on how the Red Cross continues to assist the family through this tragic situation is available on our Chapter website. In addition, Communications Coordinator Jay Bonafede discussed the support the Red Cross is providing on WBFO radio, and Sr. Director of Emergency Services Ken Turner was interviewed by WGRZ-Channel 2 Thursday afternoon. Again, our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this tragedy, and we will continue to provide for the immediate emergency and emotional needs of the family.

Many of us woke up this morning to the news of a massive house explosion that leveled a home in the Niagara County community of Wilson. Throughout the morning, the news unfortunately got worse, as it was later reported that a young girl lost her life in the blast, and four other family members needed to be hospitalized. Two other children were apparently not at home at the time.

Our thoughts and condolences go out to the family and everyone affected by this morning's tragedy, and the Red Cross stands ready to provide for the family's immediate emergency needs. Earlier today, staff members Mark Dashner and Lisa Taibi went to the scene to talk to Emergency Management officials, while Sr. Director of Emergency Services Ken Turner, State Disaster Mental Health Advisor Tara Hughes and I went to ECMC, where the survivors are being treated for their injuries. We were not able to meet directly with the family, but were heartened to see they had a support network including friends and community members on hand. Ken and Tara were able to speak to the family's Pastor to make sure everyone was aware of the services the Red Cross has available, and we will meet directly with the family as soon possible.

As the family heals from their physical injuries and leave the hospital, the American Red Cross is ready to provide temporary housing, food and clothing as needed. Tara and her team will also be offering mental health counseling to the surviving family members.

As is often the case following a tragic situation, the community steps up to help, and the Red Cross relies on the generosity of the public to perform our mission. If you would like to assist not only those affected by today's tragedy in Wilson, but also help us be ready the next time disaster strikes, please consider making a donation to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund by clicking here, calling 1-800-REDCROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.