Bill Wilson has volunteered with the Red Cross for the last six years, and for five of those years, he has served as a driver of a Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles (ERV). Wilson gained ERV training almost immediately after he became a Red Cross volunteer, knowing that he wanted to be on the front lines of disasters, the first to help in an emergency situation. In the most recent fire disaster in San Bruno, Wilson did just that.
Just hours after the gas line explosion that sparked a fire in a San Bruno neighborhood, Wilson drove an ERV into the blast site to distribute snacks, water and blankets to those affected by the fire as well as first responders such as firefighters and police officers.
“The first responders appreciate our help as well as the people who have been affected by the disaster,” Wilson said. “They work long, hard days also, and they enjoy the refreshment as well as the company. I think it’s comforting for them to know that we are there.”
ERV drivers are often the first people on the scene after a disaster. In the case of the San Bruno fire, ERV drivers coordinated closely with disaster mental health workers, who provided emotional support to families as they returned to their homes, many of which had been destroyed by the fire.
“We were some of the first people into the blast site [in San Bruno] – where basically no one else was allowed to go – and we were really able to identify the people who were in sorrow, and connect them with our mental health volunteers as necessary,” Wilson said.
There will undoubtedly be more emergencies such as the catastrophic fire in San Bruno, and Wilson plans to volunteer for the Red Cross as an ERV driver for as long as he can, assisting in the immediate needs and comfort of those affected by disasters large and small.