A Bittersweet Experience: My First Disaster Action Team Response

by Hannah Wolfe, National Preparedness and Response Corps (AmeriCorps) Member

“Where are you? Jeanne  is looking for you!”

On Oct. 7, I received this urgent text message from a fellow AmeriCorps member and knew immediately it was time to respond to my first Red Cross disaster.

Since joining the Red Cross in September, I completed an array of training courses. I felt prepared to respond to a disaster but had not yet been called by Disaster Program Specialist Jeanne Woo.

I went directly to the West L.A. headquarters and changed into my Disaster Action Team (DAT) clothes (long pants, Red Cross shirt, badge, and tennis shoes). Jeanne, three other AmeriCorps members  -Taylor Mobley, Kerra Strom, Vilma Escamilla Duran – and I hopped into a Red Cross vehicle and drove to the site of a home fire in South Los Angeles.

The fire had only affected one of the rooms in the house, so it was hard to tell from the exterior that anything had happened. We knocked on the door, introduced ourselves to the homeowner and conducted an interview.

We found out that the damage in the living room was caused by an electrical fire. The fire had destroyed two urns containing the homeowner’s parents’ ashes. We also learned that, unfortunately, the homeowner’s dog was hit by a car as a result of the confusion caused by the fire.

Throughout the interview, I was continuously inspired by the homeowner’s strength and optimism, despite the trauma she had just endured.

She told me she was happy to be alive and also happy that she was able to grab a t-shirt with a photo of her deceased daughter.

The homeowner and her partner had a place to stay, but since the home had no electricity, we were able to offer them a Red Cross debit card with money for food. We reassured them that there would be a Red Cross client caseworker calling her the next morning to check on them.

The ride home felt bittersweet. It was sad to see the trauma the fire had caused, but we were happy we could provide the family with our Red Cross services.

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