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Red Cross is preparing for emergency along Lake Ontario; calls for more volunteers

The flooding along Lake Ontario has stressed more than just homes and businesses along the shoreline.

The American Red Cross, which responds to natural disasters across the U.S. is in desperate need for volunteers in Wayne County.

Executive leadership of the local Red Cross chapter is looking at ways to mobilize more teams and deploy more resources to areas experiencing disasters. The flooding along the lake has officials from the community, as well as the Red Cross concerned.

Not just about dealing with the aftermath of a flood, but responding to an active flooding situation.

According to Mary Ann Tozer, Volunteer Services Specialist, the Red Cross workforce is made up of 90 percent volunteers. In order to provide adequate services to those impacted by disasters, or potential disasters like the one that has been unfolding over the last several weeks along the Lake Ontario shoreline — more are needed.

Tozer says the Finger Lakes Chapter has established a goal of tripling their core volunteer workforce in the next several days.

The Finger Lakes Chapter services Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Seneca, Wayne, and Yates counties. The need for help in Wayne County is what prompted the emergency move to grow the volunteer force.

“We have an urgent need for Volunteers in Wayne County,” Tozer added. “Because of the potential flooding in Wayne County, it is vital that the Red Cross is prepared and ready to assist our neighbors.”

Brian McConnell, Executive Director of the Finger Lakes Chapter said that upcoming training sessions would help accomplish and realize disaster response goals, which have been beefed up since flood concerns were raised along Lake Ontario.

“The Disaster Action Team has been working tirelessly throughout the winter, responding to single- and multi-unit home fires,” he said. “To say they’ve been working hard doesn’t even really do it justice — they are incredible.”

He says that while the response is typically to those localized disasters — like a residential house fire — many at the Red Cross saw the flood risk coming.

“We’ve been in contact with local officials for the last several weeks, and even months,” McConnell said of the ongoing flood situation in Sodus Point and other coastal communities in Wayne County. “We have been in contact with mayors, supervisors, and other officials due to what looked like an increased flood, and coastal flooding risk this summer along Lake Ontario.”

At this point, McConnell says the goal is to support local officials and communities — as is always the goal for their organization.

Several training sessions are going to be held in the coming days, to bring on new relief staff, which will help throughout the Finger Lakes region.

Across the six county chapter there are 500 volunteers. Officials say that the first-level of response is always a hyper-local one — with community and county volunteers helping out in their own communities.

However, the opportunity exists for individuals to volunteer at larger-scale disasters as necessary in the region, and even throughout the U.S. — if that’s something they’re interested in doing.

The training sessions cover a broad scope of ways volunteers help including, staffing, personal care, distribution, bulk distribution at disaster sites, and much more.

“When engaged during a ‘flood situation’ the Red Cross will distribute kits that are designed to help people recover and prevent mold from developing inside of homes,” explained McConnell. “We’ve started conversations with local officials about potential shelter locations, as well, should that become necessary.”

Upcoming training sessions, which will be happening in Rochester are dated as the following:

Friday, May 12th: 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm (Bulk Distribution)
Friday, May 12th: 6:30 pm to 10:30 pm (DAT orientation)
Saturday, May 13th: 8:00 am to 12:00 pm (Shelter)
Saturday, May 13th: 12:00 pm to 6:30 pm (Shelter Operations) Exercise Sunday, May 14, 2017: (Mass Care Overview)

Anyone looking to help should contact Mary Ann Tozer at maryann.tozer2@redcross.org

Also on FingerLakes1.com