July 29, 2020

Red Cross Needs Volunteers To Help Prepare for Hurricane Season

By Anne Levin

The footage of Hurricane Hanna pounding parts of South Texas with 15 inches of rain last week was a grim reminder that hurricane season is officially here. And New Jersey could likely be in the eye of future storms to come.

With that in mind, the American Red Cross New Jersey Region is putting out a call for volunteers who can be trained and ready to help in the event of a disaster. At the same time, the municipality has recently launched a “Princeton Prepares” link on its website, advising residents to be ready for extreme weather events, especially with the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Should a large disaster occur, the coronavirus pandemic will make it challenging to deploy trained disaster volunteers from other parts of the country to help in our area,” said Rosie Taravella, CEO, American Red Cross New Jersey Region. “Readiness includes having boots on the ground in New Jersey and we have different ways to respond.”

There is a special need for volunteers to support sheltering efforts. “People can go to redcross.org/volunteer and get a bunch of information on how to shelter and feed people, plus a lot of the basics,” Taravella said. “We’re also encouraging people with a health service background — especially if they have a current license — to help. We have some agreements with universities and colleges and hotels, but in the event of a large shelter, we would need [licensed] people to check on folks.”

“If you are an RN, LPN, LVN, APRN, NP, EMT, paramedic, MD/DO, or PA with an active, current, and unencumbered license, the Red Cross needs your support,” reads a communication from the Red Cross. “Volunteers are needed in shelters to help assess people’s health. Daily observation and health screening for COVID-19-like illness among shelter residents may also be required. RNs supervise all clinical tasks.”

Roles are also available for certified nursing assistants, certified home health aides, student nurses, and medical students. In addition, the Red Cross is looking for organizations to support efforts in sheltering pets

The “Princeton Prepares” voluntary registry is designed to help emergency responders serve residents within the municipality who find it difficult to help themselves in the event of a major disaster or extreme weather events like a hurricane or heatwave. Overseen by the Office of Emergency Management, the registry is especially appropriate for those who live alone and will need assistance during an emergency, have a hearing or visual impairment or other physical or cognitive limitation, need mobility assistance, require a service animal or other assistance to get around, rely on supplemental oxygen or refrigerated medication, or have limited English skills that would require needing assistance during an emergency.

“The first line of defense against the effects of a disaster is personal preparedness,” reads the link. “During an emergency, the government and other agencies may not be able to meet your needs. It is important for all citizens to make their own emergency plans and prepare for their own care and safety in an emergency. Registering with Princeton Prepares is not a guarantee that emergency officials will be able to assist you.”

For the Red Cross, the pandemic is “a disaster within a disaster,” said Taravella. “We’ve already seen damage in Texas from the severe weather, and we’ve been treating COVID-19 as a disaster  all along. We had to worry not just about the people who need our help, but also that our workforce has the ability to stay safe. Because the show must go on, if you will.”

For information about volunteering locally should a disaster occur, visit www.redcross.org/volunteertoday or contact the organization’s volunteer recruitment specialists at JOINNJ@redcross.org. The Princeton Prepares link is on the website princetonnj.gov.