Disaster assistance team faces rush of incidents

The personal disaster assistance team of Red Cross volunteers in Red Deer have had their hands full these last two months.

The personal disaster assistance team of Red Cross volunteers in Red Deer have had their hands full these last two months.

The team has responded to 11 personal disasters so far in 2014, an upsurge compared to this time last year when there had been only one incident.

“There has been an unusually large amount of responses this year,” said Garry Jacobs, a local disaster management volunteer for the past 22 years.

A number of fires, a house flood, and one frozen home water system are among the emergencies on the personal disaster list for Red Deer since the onset of the new year.

The Red Cross has so far supported almost 30 individuals with emergency food, clothing and accommodations for 72 hours after each disaster. By March 2013, they had assisted only two.

Jacobs has responded to three of the 11 incidents, the most recent being a fire early Saturday morning in Red Deer on 47th Avenue. His wife Sandy, a fellow volunteer, has also responded to a number.

An on-call cellphone rotates among the 14-person first-responder team, Jacobs said. Responders call for more backup if need be.

The Red Cross cites one of the reasons for the increased number of responses to a concentrated effort to increase awareness about Red Cross services in Red Deer.

“Our staff and volunteers have done significant outreach to local communities, promoting our programs and raising the profile of the assistance we can provide,” said Matt Sawatsky, disaster management co-ordinator for the Canadian Red Cross.

The Red Cross is recruiting volunteers in Red Deer for a spring training session. For more information, call 403-346-1241 or visit www.redcross.ca/volunteer/who-is-needed.

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