Lisa Orth still remembers the biggest lesson from her Red Cross training as a mental health volunteer.
“They always say you have to be flexible,” she says. “You have to think outside the box.”
A pickup truck parts the waters in Vernonia, Oregon. Waters from the Nehalem River flooded the Northwest Oregon town on December 2.
(Photo: Ara Serorian)
On December 2, heavy rains caused the Nehalem River to flood Lisa’s hometown of Vernonia, Oregon, midway between Portland and the Oregon coast. She soon found herself taking charge of Red Cross shelter operations in the town.
As the waters rose, Lisa and her husband, Mike, and son, Brandon, established three shelter locations—one at a basketball camp and two at schools. Eventually, she consolidated them into a single shelter at the camp.
“I’ve got everything we need here,” she says. “We’ve got showers and bedding, and we can cook here, too.”
On the first night of flooding, the three shelters served 200 people. A week later, the single shelter at the camp is still averaging “40 to 60 people per night,” Lisa says.
Staying on Duty
Lisa took charge of organizing the shelters and distributing supplies. Her husband coordinated transportation and assumed the role of night watchman. Brandon, who is 14, shuttled meals from the kitchen to elderly clients in the camp’s cabins.
As situations arose, Lisa began using the flexibility she’d learned during training. For example, she set up places in the shelter to take care of family pets.
“How you should do it and how it happens are two different things,” she says. “It was 20 degrees this morning. People aren’t going to be able to stay in their homes because it’s so cold. If I don’t allow people to bring their animals to the shelter, they’re going to go back home and stay with them in unhealthy conditions.”
Invaluable as her Red Cross training has proved, it didn’t teach her how to stay on duty for seven consecutive 16-hour days. Necessity did.
“Stay standing,” she said Sunday. “That’s the key. If you sit down and get comfortable, that’s when it hits you.”
Get More Information
For detailed information on what to do in case of flooding and power outages, visit www.redcross.org. If you are in an affected area and need assistance, call your local Red Cross chapter or 1-800-RED-CROSS (800-733-2767).
The American Red Cross helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Last year, almost a million volunteers and 35,000 employees helped victims of almost 75,000 disasters; taught lifesaving skills to millions; and helped U.S. service members separated from their families stay connected. Almost 4 million people gave blood through the Red Cross, the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States. The American Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work.