Already Stretched Thin From Harvey, Area Red Cross Teams Deployed To Help With Irma’s Aftermath

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The American Red Cross is launching a massive response to assist in recovery efforts in areas ravaged by the catastrophic Hurricane Irma.

The organization says teams will be sent to the U.S. Virgin Islands through Florida, all the way to the mid-Atlantic region as needed. 

As WCBS 880’s Mike Sugerman reported, the Red Cross has been overwhelmed by the number of volunteers wanting to help the victims. So the organization will hold a special training session Tuesday.

“The Red Cross is putting together what we’re calling a ‘deployment boot camp,’” Desiree Ramos Reiner said. “We’re doing this because there’s such a large need for help, and so many people have answered the call and they really want to go.”

The four and a half hour session will be crammed with information about what to expect when you arrive in an emergency area, how to deal with people in pain and what is expected of you.

MORE: Tri-State Rescue Teams Arrive In Florida To Aid In Hurricane Irma Response

Jason Lyons is from the Virgin Islands, and said he looks forward to helping out his former home.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity,” he told 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern. “I am so happy I am able to say I’m going back to contribute where I just came from.”

Lyons told CBS2’s Dave Carlin it’s a bittersweet homecoming.

“I’m feeling emotional about it. I’m going to go see the shops I used to visit, the bars I used to go to and the parks that are now destroyed,” he said.

“You’re going to be more effective than someone who doesn’t know the landscape,” he added.

Lyons formerly worked a technician for a cable company. In 2009, he changed careers to respond to disasters full time.

It can mean putting on emotional armor and staying strong to get the job done, Carlin reported. But that’s not always possible.

“You can tear up and cry sometimes. Everybody is human, everybody has emotions,” he said. 

Lyons will fly to St. Croix along with two members of the FDNY’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) — Doug Bainton and Daniel Longhi, who used their vacation time to answer the call and help.

“You learn a lot about each other and the strengths and weaknesses, and we play off each other’s strengths,” Bainton told Carlin.

“It’s a closeness that allows us to do this,” Longhi added.

“I feel like crying one day, he might give me a hug,” Lyons said.

“The situations are so dynamic that you really don’t know what you’re going to do every single day you wake up,” Bainton also told 1010 WINS.

The team will be in the Caribbean for three weeks, away from their families, providing shelter and food, with the expectation that there won’t be electricity or running water.

“We expect these shelters will be open a long time. We’re thinking in Texas, for example, some of those shelters will be open through Thanksgiving,” said Josh Lockwood, CEO of the American Red Cross for the New York Region. “We need to continue to train shelter workers.”

Red Cross leaders said shelter supplies and ready-to-eat meals for more than 100,000 people were being shipped to various impact zones, including areas in Florida and the Caribbean. 

But between Hurricane Harvey and now Irma, the Red Cross said it’s all hands on deck.

“We’ve never had an experience where we’ve had two epic storms at the same time,” New York Region Red Cross CEO Josh Lockwood told WCBS 880’s Mike Sugerman.

Lockwood said he may even end up in a shelter helping those affected by storms.

“Virtually every member of our staff and volunteer base in greater New York will deploy for some stint or another,” he said.

They need volunteers, and they need money. The national Red Cross has raised almost a quarter of a billion dollars over the last two weeks.

Former NBA great Tim Duncan has also asked for help for the Virgin Islands, and says he will match donations up to the first $1 million.

Duncan wrote on The Players’ Tribune that he is donating $250,000 immediately to storm relief efforts after there was extensive damage from Hurricane Irma, and noting that Hurricane Jose has developed behind.

The retired San Antonio Spurs star was born and grew up on the Virgin Islands, and writes that many of his old friends are suffering. He says that “no one knows what the place will look like when the rain stops.”

Duncan was raised in St. Croix, which was crippled by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 when he was 13.

Duncan also says he will charter a plane to ship supplies from San Antonio to St. Croix when the weather allows, and put together a team to help manage the relief efforts.

If you’d like to help, visit the Red Cross’s website.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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