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Red Cross Calls For Volunteers As Disaster Season Looms And COVID Persists

California Wildfires 2021
Scott Dalton
American Red Cross
Red Cross volunteer Dave Wagner looks out damage from the Dixie Fire on the outskirts of Greenville, CA, a small town that was devastated by the fire earlier this week, on Saturday, August 7, 2021. Many of the evacuated residents found shelter with the Red Cross in nearby Quincy and Susanville, CA.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and the country experiences an increasing number of natural disasters, the local Red Cross is putting out the call for help.

Wildfire season is already underway and experts at NOAA are predicting a busy hurricane season, too. Regional Communications Director Marita Salkowski says there are two reasons more volunteers are needed.

"One is the prevalence of a great many disasters. We had more billion-dollar disasters last year than any time before and we expect that that trend is going to continue into this year," says Salkowski. "On top of that is COVID-19."

While some new people signed on as volunteers last year, the pandemic meant some previous volunteers weren't comfortable continuing. It also meant more volunteers were needed since, for example, the Red Cross couldn't operate large scale shelters, instead putting people up in individual hotel rooms which requires more volunteer assistance to coordinate.

"We're looking for as many (volunteers) as we can get," she says. "Last year we had over 200 people locally that responded to national disasters, but they responded to over 455 national disasters. So what that meant was there were people that were going to more than one national disaster response because those numbers were low."

She adds the Central and Southern Ohio region "provided immediate emergency assistance to 2,178 families after 1,398 home fires and other local disasters."

People are needed for everything from responding to local house fire victims, to staffing disaster shelters or distributing food.

"The Red Cross will provide the training that is needed for you to execute your Red Cross job," says Salkowski.

Health professionals such as nurses, doctors, physicians assistants and EMTs are also in demand.

Information on how to become a volunteer can be found on the American Red Cross website.

Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Prior to joining Cincinnati Public Radio, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She enjoys snow skiing, soccer and dogs.