Red Cross remaking local presence known

Vern Marschall (second from right) and other Red Cross volunteers at a safety and training event at Kingman Home Depot in April.

Courtesy/American Red Cross

Vern Marschall (second from right) and other Red Cross volunteers at a safety and training event at Kingman Home Depot in April.

KINGMAN – Kingman might not require the intervention of the American Red Cross often, but that doesn’t mean they’re not available.

When the Watahomigie family was displaced after fire damage left their home uninhabitable last week, numerous donors contacted the Daily Miner asking how they could assist. Thanks to efforts of the Kingman Fire Department and Kingman Regional Medical Center, the family got help. Numerous attempts to call the Red Cross were made – that was until Vern Marschall, lead Red Cross volunteer for Mohave County, contacted The Daily Miner himself.

Marschall, a Kingman resident, has been with the organization for more than a year. He’s tasked with volunteer recruitment, training and planning educational events.

“An important part of our program is information,” he said.

Red Cross presence in Mohave County is small. There was an office in Lake Havasu City but was closed about a year ago. Marschall hopes there will be offices in Kingman, Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City (again) by the middle of 2017. Big cities have the resources to keep offices open, but smaller cities need the volunteer resources of people, offices and storage space.

Red Cross spokesman Colin Williams said areas across Arizona are being evaluated and Kingman is identified as a place needing a physical presence. That includes anything from an empty office, storefront or complex – something that could be a base of operations and meeting place.

“Just a place where we can have a Red Cross presence,” he said.

Red Cross volunteers used the Kingman High School gymnasium to assist evacuees of the Zuni Village RV Park in July during an investigation into homemade explosives. They’ve also pitched in on wildfire relief throughout the county. They could use all the help they can get.

“We’re always in search of volunteers,” Marschall said. “We currently have about 22 residents that are active volunteers. A year ago we only had about seven.”

Red Cross programs include assistance, training and education.

The Home Fire Campaign

Volunteers can inspect and install smoke alarms in homes for anybody needing one, for free. They have to be installed by the Red Cross or one of their partners, such as KFD. They don’t just hand them out and leave either.

“We put them in place and activate them,” he said. “That way, we know they’re going to work.”

Part of the smoke alarm inspection includes looking for dead batteries. If the detector is more than 10 years old, the Red Cross will replace the smoke alarm.

“We don’t just give them a smoke detector, we educate them, including escape routes and other safety tips,” he said.

Volunteer teams inspect homes for fire hazards. The big three areas inspected are kitchens (cooking sources and how the kitchen is laid out), heating sources (furnace and fireplaces), and laundry facilities – mainly the dryer.

“The dryer vents and lint near the heating elements could spark and set a fire,” said Marschall.

The Pillowcase Project

Kids ages 3 – 5 are specifically taught how to prepare for an emergency. The project was inspired by victims of Hurricane Katrina carrying their belongings in pillowcases – things like medicine, toiletries and extra clothes.

“They’ll have it (ready) if they do have an emergency,” Marschall said.

Service to the Armed Forces

The Red Cross links members of the U.S. Armed Forces with their families during a crisis. Twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, the Red Cross quickly sends emergency communications to deployed service members on behalf of their family. They also work with homeless vets and direct them to the right sources for assistance.

“Of course were always known for blood donations,” Marschall said.

Wildfires are the most common emergency Mohave County volunteers prepare for. They also keep emergencies (such as snowstorms) along the I-40 corridor in the back of their minds. Marschall said Red Cross would work in tandem with Mohave County Emergency Management to set up and operate shelters if need be.

He’s been on nine volunteer deployments in the last year, including Hurricane Matthew and floods on the east coast. He also said the amount of destructive events across the U.S. has helped increase volunteer efforts.

“It’s been a busy year,” he said. “The more people we can get out, the more experience they get.”

There are very few requirements to volunteer, but since going into people’s homes is part of the job, background checks are mandatory. There’s also training in first aid, handling various emergency situations and communication.

Kingman residents needing assistance can call the Northern Arizona Red Cross chapter at 928-779-5494. Depending on the situation, they’ll be routed and dispatched out of that area in necessary.

For more information, especially to volunteer, go online to www.redcross.org.

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