Red Cross seeks volunteers

MIAMI COUNTY — The American Red Cross is actively recruiting volunteers to be ready to respond when disaster strikes.

According to Lynne Gump, executive director of the Miami Valley Ohio Chapter, as hurricane season progresses, the goal is to ensure the Red Cross has a volunteer workforce, not only trained to provide comfort and support to those affected by disaster, but to do so by following new protocols to help keep everyone safe while being mindful of COVID-19.

Anyone interesting in helping to meet the essential service needs of the public during a disaster should review the CDC guidance for people who are at higher risk for severe illness, consult your health care provider, and follow local guidance.

“The number one priority of the American Red Cross is the health and safety of our employees, volunteers, blood donors and recipients, and the people we serve,” Gump states.

There is a special need for volunteers to support sheltering efforts, Gump said. Because of COVID-19, the Red Cross is placing those needing a safe place to stay in hotel lodging when possible. If hotel stays aren’t possible, then the Red Cross will open traditional shelters. To help keep people safe, additional precautions have been put in place and special training for the Red Cross workforce has been developed.

These precautions include many of the same guidelines followed by businesses and organizations across the county, including the use of masks and social distancing. Gump said the construction of more shelters will also be imperative when helping a community during a disaster.

“We’ll need far more shelters, along with smaller shelters, than we would normally run during hurricane season in order to accommodate the social distancing,” she said. “The last thing we want to do is make the problem worse.”

With more shelters, comes the need for more volunteers. Gump also noted that some people who regularly volunteer each year may not be able to do so this year due to risk from the coronavirus, prompting a need for increased recruiting.

“We need volunteers to help staff shelter reception, registration, feeding, dormitory, information collection and other vital tasks to help those we serve,” Gump said. “We have both associate and supervisory level opportunities available.”

Gump said it is essential for the Red Cross to have volunteers trained and ready prior to the occurrence of a natural disaster, adding that training classes have been altered to

“Completing the training before a disaster strikes enables you to be able to immediately respond when people need the help most,” Gump said. “A lot of the training is already online, and other training that is normally taught face-to-face has been developed into an online class via Team, Zoom or Webex, so the training can be done within the comfort of your home.”

Health services support is also needed, Gump said. Those who are trained as RN, LPN, LVN, APRN, NP, EMT, paramedic, MD/DO or PA with an active, current and unencumbered license are encouraged to volunteer.

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. Volunteers who can provide care as delegated by a licensed nurse in shelters are need, as well. This could include assisting with activities of daily living, personal assistance services, providing health education and helping to replace medications, durable medical equipment or consumable medical supplies.

As for how to navigate a full-time job with the job of a volunteer, Gump said many companies are willing to be flexible.

“There are some companies that will allow people to participate in this as a community service, so they can still earn their paycheck,” Gump said. “That’s, of course, something that can be negotiated with their company. Also, a lot of folks do it on their vacation, which, ‘How cool is that?’”

Those who are interested in helping should a disaster occur are encouraged to visit redcross.org/volunteertoday. The release emphasizes that the Red Cross is looking for a commitment of at least a 14-day block between now and Dec. 1.