By Joan Irish

In the wake of the March 13 storm, there has been much conversation and press regarding what happened, what didn't and what should have happened. Noticeably missing from these articles and logs of events is the role your community's Red Cross played during the week of the storm. The Red Cross plays an important role during local emergencies and disasters. They were working tirelessly behind the scenes, helping those most severely affected by the storm.

Red Cross Director of Disaster and Emergency Services Tim Wall attended all of the town's Emergency Operation Center meetings at Town Hall to collaborate services with the town. An Emergency Operations Center at the Red Cross was manned for seven days around the clock to ensure aid and assistance could be provided for those in need. Volunteer Director of Disaster and Emergency Services Holly Izant-McSharry oversaw the disaster response efforts throughout the week, sending volunteers out on their assignments.

In response to this storm, 47 Disaster Action Team members opened and manned an emergency shelter and warming center for eight days at the Western Civic Center. The Red Cross opened the shelter at the request of First Selectman Peter Tesei. The shelter opened on Sunday, March 13 and remained open until the following Sunday, March 21. Food, drink, warm blankets and cots were ready and available for those who had no place to turn. It was not heavily used but 26 individuals utilized it and especially appreciated it since all the local hotels were booked for miles around.

Over the course of the week the Red Cross served 905 snacks and 432 meals. Some of these hot meals were driven to specific streets that were cut off in the Banksville area. Meals were handed to firefighters and police officers, who were the only ones allowed to carry the meals through the downed wires and trees to those cut off homes. The Red Cross also brought food and snacks to some of the storm's front line workers who were working round the clock.

The Red Cross processed an extra 160 informational calls through it's offices that week, whether to tell folks where they could get a shower or to take a report about someone's elderly relative who needed to be checked on. The Red Cross responded to the town's request to make social service visits to high-risk, frail and elderly residents. Red Cross Social Service teams personally knocked on the doors in our town's senior living complexes, checking on the welfare of these elderly residents, seeing if they needed to be moved to a shelter. Several of these residents were scheduled to be moved to Greenwich Hospital due to these visits. Several of the social service cases required further follow up by Red Cross volunteers throughout the week.

Red Cross Disaster Assessment teams, all volunteers, drove the streets of Greenwich recording the location of downed power lines, trees blocking roads and homes that were damaged. These reports were made of every street in Greenwich and were fed to the state and town for mapping and use by recovery teams. The Red Cross has an emergency generator that powers the 99 Indian Field Road Chapter House and kept it open through out the week. On Monday the Red Cross welcomed TAG to operate out of the building due to their power outage. TAG is a not-for-profit town transportation organization, which transports the frail and elderly.

This is the story that you did not read about in the paper. This is the story of how your Red Cross responds during a disaster. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that operates according to its mission: to be a humanitarian organization led by volunteers and guided by its Congressional Charter and the Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross Movement, it will provide relief to victims of disasters and help people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. The Red Cross is able to provide its services due to its many volunteers and due to its many generous donors. It does not receive any government funds. Local support enabled the Red Cross to provide its services during the March storm. Thank you!

Joan Irish is CEO of the American Red Cross-Greenwich Chapter.