After hurricanes and tornadoes affected her, Anne Soeder became an American Red Cross disaster volunteer with the Triangle Area Chapter in Raleigh, NC.
Anne Soeder drives the American Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle to deliver food in a local neighborhood.
Because of her experiences, Anne is sympathetic to those dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. That's why she volunteers with the Red Cross today. "I was involved with a couple disasters myself as a victim and you sit and you watch the TV and you just want to do something to help."
Anne has served in several different volunteer capacities over the last five years. On this disaster operation, Anne drives an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) into affected neighborhoods handing out food, water and clean-up supplies. Her voice comes over the loudspeakers with the reassuring message, "This is the American Red Cross. We're here to help."Neighborhood residents follow her voice, seeking assistance.
There is a process before deployment that Anne and many of her fellow volunteers have implemented."Before they [volunteers] even deploy, most Red Cross people are watching the news and the weather, and we know its coming," she says, "The first thing I do is get my family ready at home because I have two young kids. I start getting food in the house and that kind of thing." Disaster volunteers are generally deployed for three weeks at a time, which is a large commitment on behalf of the volunteer and their families back at home. Anne packs for every possible scenario including potentially having no electricity, no running water or other daily amenities. Anne also makes an effort to get familiar with the area, which is especially important when driving an ERV.
She admires the coordinated effort between Red Cross and its partner organizations like the Salvation Army, Southern Baptist Kitchen and FEMA. "You feel really like a team, everybody's got the same goal in mind," she said.
When speaking of her own personal preparedness to a disaster she feels 80-100% prepared and recommends that people keep their disaster kits together and check them regularly to see if anything is out of date. During a disaster she advises, "Stay calm and check on your friends and family, things don't matter."
From her vast experience with disasters as a victim and as a volunteer, she offers this last piece of advice, "I just know that everyday it gets a little easier. At the end of the day write down three things that you're grateful for - that seems to get you through the tough times. If someone offers you help, accept it. Don't be too proud to take help because someday you'll be able to give them help."
Just like Anne has done.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation's blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization – not a government agency – and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its humanitarian mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at www.redcrosschat.org.