Morse said that although it was a great experience there were “definitely times when I did say, ‘What did I get myself into?’ ” Carla Werner, spokeswoman for the team in Reno, said the chapter decided to send the entire team of volunteers instead of a select few, in order for the team to gain enough experience to bring it back to northern Nevada and utilize their knowledge in the region in the future.
“For those who experienced it, it will help in their hometowns,” Werner said.
Once in Colorado, the volunteers were deployed to Colorado Springs to assist with evacuation shelters for the many residents displaced by the multiple wildfires burning in the state. Those volunteers included Morse, Sharon Gordon, Carol Parkhurst and Liz McFarland from Reno; Danel Lipparelli and Rebecca Tackett of Sparks; John Lusk and Nancy Barrett of Incline Village; and Darcy Schumacher of Elko.
The volunteers worked together as a team and performed all of the activities included in sheltering and caring for evacuees, including registering, feeding and referring residents to other service agencies when needed.
Surrounding Colorado Springs were several wildfires that displaced many residents, Morse said.
“Many areas were burning in the city and surrounding mountainside,” she said. “The fire burned out of control for three days.”
Once on the ground, the team from Nevada found there was such a need for their services they wound up managing an entire shelter themselves.
“It was a wonderful learning experience,” Morse said. “It was good to be at an event and have to do things right. We came away with a long list of things we really need to do. We went in to be able to learn from the best.”
One of the most challenging aspects of the mission, Morse said, became the importance of mental health and the need for chaplains.
“Some people came in specifically to see them,” she said. “The anxiety was terrible. Those people were incredibly important.”
At the disaster’s peak, Morse estimated that the shelter had 145 people sleeping overnight with no air conditioning. Fifty to 60 residents slept in cars outside merely because it was cooler to do so, Morse said.
One lesson Morse walked away with was that northern Nevada is fortunate to have “amazing” firefighters.
“It’s proven to us we have amazing firefighters here,” she said. “We’re really in good shape. We have great first responders.”
Lipparelli, a volunteer in the mental health services division, used her training and specialized skills to provide professional emotional support to help fire victims deal with displacement and loss of property or life from disasters.
Lusk was the staff support manager and was responsible for the care and support of the volunteers. Lusk ensured the northern Nevada volunteers’ safety, lodging and emotional needs were met so they could effectively do their jobs, Werner said.
The majority of the deployed volunteers were new to the American Red Cross and this was their first deployment.
“The experiences and skills learned will be valuable resources that will be needed during disasters in northern Nevada,” Werner said.
The chapter continually recruits for a variety of skill sets, such as registered nurses, social work specialists and licensed psychiatric professionals, in addition to warm and caring people interested in volunteering. Call 775-856-1000 or visit Nevada.redcross.org to learn more about the program.
The Northern Nevada American Red Cross chapter area covers 87,000 square miles with a population of more than 670,000 people. The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies more than 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a non-profit organization that depends on volunteers.