For the online course Medical Disaster Management, I wanted to complete a creative project for my spring 2016 Honors by Contract in order to apply everything I learned on a computer in the real world. For my project, I registered as a volunteer with the American Red Cross in order to practice the skills and information taught through the course. Through this project I wanted to apply the course modules in real-life situations in order to further my understanding of the concepts and put my weekly essay responses into action. In order to apply each of the concepts, I planned on deploying regionally to provide assistance after a large-scale disaster, but after the tornadoes hit locally in February, I had the opportunity to respond in my own community.
After the series of tornadoes struck Escambia County, I spent two weeks volunteering with the American Red Cross in Century and the Pensacola area. After a natural disaster hits, the Red Cross is involved in the immediate response by surveying the areas affected and opening cases to assist those affected by the disaster. I serve on the Disaster Action Team (DAT) for the Red Cross, these responders usually respond to fires in Escambia County, as this is our main disaster, but are called to action after any type of disaster. After the tornado, DAT members were contacted to help during the tornado relief. My first disaster response in Century moved me and confirmed that I want to be disaster relief nurse. I worked cases with the Red Cross in order to provide support to families affected and leant my shoulder to those who needed to cry. Working in Century provided me with my first hands-on experience in this field and began to prepare me for the emotional ride that comes with nursing.
After the tornado in Pensacola, I continued to work cases and support those affected. I had the opportunity to volunteer in the shelter by setting up cots, checking in people, assisting in the clothing drive at the nearby church, and entertaining the young children staying in the shelter. Those weeks of volunteering were physically and emotionally draining, but also brought me great happiness. With ambitions of becoming a disaster relief nurse, this volunteer experience prepared me with necessary coping and people skills that will be necessary to be a successful nurse. I volunteered over 50 hours in a span of 5 days and this intense schedule challenged me in many areas of my life. By the end of my volunteering, I mastered the skill of not crying in front of clients, could fill out forms without a single mistake, and knew what words to say to each person in one of the most difficult times in their lives.
The American Red Cross Northwest Florida Chapter is always looking for more volunteers. While responding to these disasters, we have been searching for volunteers to assist us in casework and other necessary actions. Joining the Red Cross as a volunteer is extremely easy and there are many opportunities available for those who volunteer. To apply to become a volunteer, visit http://www.redcross.org/fl/pensacola/volunteer and submit an application to the Northwest Chapter. You will be able to choose from volunteer options that require daily, weekly, or monthly dedication. Becoming a volunteer
allows you to be trained in order to respond to local and national level disasters at any time. During the immediate stage, the first weeks after a disaster, only first responders and Red Cross volunteers are capable of assisting those in need. The long-term relief takes place later and involves cleanup and other aspects of disaster relief. In order to provide immediate relief after a disaster, becoming a Red Cross volunteer allows you to get out into the community and start helping people who need it most. Not only will you be changing the lives of those affected, but your life will be completely transformed through compassion.
Written by: Meg Hossler, second-year student, pre-nursing major & Social Committee Chair