By Mary Ann Mace, Red Cross Volunteer
Where were you when the Northridge quake hit? Indelible memories live with us from that day, and for some time, the earthquake served as a wake-up call in the lesson of emergency preparedness. However, it shouldn’t take a life-changing incident to get us to act, because emergency preparedness isn’t just about taking care of ourselves and our loved ones, it can also mean helping our community.
Such is the story with Craig Renetzky, a long-time Red Cross volunteer. His commitment to emergency preparedness didn’t just mean his family’s well-being was ensured at the time of the memorable earthquake, it meant he could serve his community.
“You can’t help others until you’re prepared yourself,” Craig said.
Serving his community is a family tradition for Craig, beginning with his mother, a Red Cross nurse. From her, Craig, as a young teen, saw the impact the Red Cross can make for people.
This started his lifelong commitment to the Red Cross; Craig has experienced a breadth of volunteerism that is impressive. Starting as part of the youth disaster teen, Craig progressed into leadership development as a young adult and continued volunteering with the Disaster Action Team.
Craig said he figures he’s participated in some of the biggest disasters to hit the Los Angeles area, and now, as part of operations management with the Red Cross, his experience is invaluable.
Craig’s commitment is motivating as he represents someone who “walks the talk.” He doesn’t just talk about emergency preparedness, Craig lives it. In fact, he credits his preparedness for the Northridge quake as rationale for his availability amid a city-wide crisis.
“The Northridge earthquake shattered so many lives; it’s a day I will never forget,” Craig said.
On the day of the quake, Craig had everything his family would need to self-sustain in an emergency. They could focus on sustaining through the next few days. So, once he checked his family was safe, Craig joined other Red Crossers and community partners in setting up an emergency operations center to serve as base camp to help Angelenos survive through the aftermath.
However, after all he has been through, Craig wants to stress that people shouldn’t limit their concept of emergency preparedness to earthquakes and fires. At the break of COVID-19 in Los Angeles and our city-wide lockdown, Craig saw the situation as an emergency requiring similar preparedness. He also saw his Red Cross training as being well–suited to handling the pandemic.
“It never hurts to be prepared for a period of time on your own,” Craig said. As we now have learned, COVID-19 is one of those times, and hopefully, our Los Angeles community learns from it. “The need has not disappeared. It’s great to be giving back to the community.”
He said he recognizes that his skills can help save a family or a neighbor. And now, it’s not just his skills benefitting our community; Craig’s daughters are following in the family tradition of service and carving out their own paths with the Red Cross. We should be so fortunate. Thank you, Craig!