Red Cross seeks volunteers in area

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Regional - posted Tue., Mar. 19, 2013
Red Cross volunteer Eldon Griffiths talks with Susan LaRose of Pomfret. Photos by D. Coffey.
Red Cross volunteer Eldon Griffiths talks with Susan LaRose of Pomfret. Photos by D. Coffey.

A Red Cross Disaster Action Team training session was held at the Northeastern Connecticut Department of Health on March 14. It drew almost 20 area residents who were interested in learning more about how they could help the volunteer organization. According to Senior Director of Emergency Services Susan Rochester-Bolen, of the 200 Red Cross volunteers in northeastern Connecticut, only seven are active DAT members. She'd like to see that number grow so the organization can better serve the community in time of need.

DAT members respond to disaster events throughout the chapter's statewide jurisdiction on a 24-hour-a-day/seven-days-a-week basis. Northeastern Connecticut falls under region four, which encompasses 44 towns in eastern Connecticut. That division follows the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Program and is based on population, according to Rochester-Bolen. While southeastern Connecticut is staffed with a healthy number of DAT volunteers, the Quiet Corner is not.

Disasters can include tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and storms, as well as human-caused disasters such as building collapses, domestic acts of terrorism and residential fires. Most of the disasters DAT members respond to are fires in single-family homes. “They may not make the news,” Rochester-Bolen said, “but they are disasters to those families who are affected.” Two or more trained DAT members respond to situations when they are directed. They provide identifiable Red Cross emergency services to those affected.

They might provide a comfort kit, a small bag filled with toiletries for anyone displaced by a disaster. They can provide more, depending on the severity of need and their level of training. DAT volunteers can provide an on-scene assessment to determine if additional resources are needed. If identification, credit cards, cash, keys and purses have been destroyed in a fire or left behind in an evacuation, DAT members can take care of more immediate needs. They can provide client assistant cards good for food, clothing, hotel stays and health care needs.

They are also trained to help guide victims through the situation. “There are things people don't think about in the heat of the moment,” Rochester-Bolen said. The electricity might be turned off. The post office might stop delivering mail. Automatic oil deliveries could need to be canceled. Replacement pharmaceuticals or medical equipment might be necessary. Volunteers help victims review their options. They provide consistent service across the state and around the country.

Several recent fires in the area have required DAT members to travel longer than average distances to offer help. “Volunteering requires commitment, but it won't impact all the other things you do,” said Rochester-Bolen. Initial training includes a DAT-1 course, and courses on client services, assistance cards, disaster assessment basics and the Red Cross incident command system. Higher level training includes shelter operations, shelter simulation, first aid, CPR, and AED.

DAT teams are only one of the disaster services provided by the Red Cross. Volunteers also provide large disaster response, planning and community education. Other services range from customer service and HR management to mental health assessment and bulk distribution. There are opportunities to use whatever skills you have, said Rochester-Bolen.

“Everyone needs a little help sometimes,” Rochester-Bolen said. “The Red Cross gives everyone the same treatment, regardless of income. You could live in a fancy home, but if the fire department says you can't stay there, what do you do?”

“When you show up at the scene of a fire, and you're able to help, it feels great,” said volunteer Frederick Bolen. “It's an amazing adventure.”

For more information, contact Sue Rochester-Bolen at or 860-625-0825.

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