MUKILTEO, Washington (STPNS) -- Hurricane Sandy has reminded us all again of the important work the Red Cross does during emergencies, but we don’t always hear of the work the Red Cross does locally.

The Red Cross not only works large disasters but local incidents where people are displaced or in need of assistance.

And they are very busy this year.

Local Red Cross officials said that, since July 1, the Snohomish County Red Cross has responded to 37 local incidents, including 24 single family fires, 12 multi-family fires and one pipe burst flooding incident.



That’s up more than 190 percent over the first six months of 2011.

The Red Cross reports that 10 of those responses have been in the South County, including four multi-family fires.

Their typical response includes:

•    Financial assistance, as needed, for food, clothing, rent, bedding, lost medical prescriptions, and other emergent needs;

•    Health care provided by volunteer RNs;

•    Damage assessment (for insurance purposes);

•    Grief counseling (volunteer licensed therapists).



All disaster response is done by volunteers, allowing the Red Cross to provide more direct financial assistance as needed.

“We see the Red Cross in action on a regular basis when they respond at all hours of the day and night to help families who have just suffered the devastating loss of a fire,” FD1 Fire Chief Edward C. Widdis said.

“Beyond supplying the basics of shelter, food and clothing, Red Cross volunteers provide comfort and emotional support to help fire victims get back on their feet again.”

Widdis gave as an example the service Red Cross volunteers provided just a few weeks ago at the Edmonds Highlands Apartments where a fire claimed the life of a 52-year-old man and caused more than $450,000 damage.

“The first Red Cross volunteers started arriving while we were still fighting the fire. Soon, a whole Red Cross disaster response was in place at the fire scene,” he said.

“They made sure 35 residents had a place to stay the night

of the fire.”

The next day, after the building’s electrical system was put

back in service, most of the residents were able to return to their apartments, but 11 residents from five apartments were permanently displaced and lost many, if not all, of their possessions in the fire. None had renter’s insurance.

“Red Cross volunteers offered them help with food, clothing and housing,” Widdis said. “Red Cross nurses helped replace prescription medications and eyeglasses lost in the fire.

“A Red Cross mental health professional also responded to assist grieving residents as they learned of their neighbor’s death.”

Incidents such as these happen county-wide, sometimes on a daily basis.  Recently, the hardest hit areas have been Everett, Edmonds and Lynnwood.

Volunteers with the Snohomish County Red Cross have been busy, and just got even busier. They’ve already sent a number of volunteers to help with Hurricane Sandy Relief.

“We sent 10 volunteers and one staff person,“ said Chuck Morrison, regional executive with the American Red Cross, NW Washington.

“And the deployments continue.  Our Emergency Response Vehicle is leaving as soon as we find one more driver, so that means at least two more volunteers leaving soon.”

Those volunteers won’t be the end of Snohomish County Red Cross support for Sandy.

“There’ll no doubt be a second wave of volunteers needed about two weeks from now, as the current volunteers finish their assignments, which is typically three weeks,” Morrison said.

With all this activity, the Red Cross may be finding themselves short of funds soon.

“Funds are not running low yet,” Morrison said. “But they will as gifts now are generally intended for Hurricane Sandy response.”

Nationally, in the first 48 hours pre- and post-Hurricane Sandy, American Red Cross sheltered nearly 11,000 people in more than 250 Red Cross emergency shelters, served more than 25,000 meals and snacks, and mobilized more than 1,700 trained disaster responders to support relief efforts in affected areas across 16 states.