Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Retiree makes a career in volunteer disaster response

Disaster Action Team Volunteer Joe Baird
When I met with Joe Baird late last year, he had just returned to the chapter from assisting families affected by an apartment fire. As a Disaster Action Team (DAT) member, Joe is a Red Cross first responder for disasters such as floods, tornadoes and winter storms. But the disasters he sees most are home fires.

“No one is prepared for disaster,” Joe said. “People seem to forget—it’s not if a disaster happens, it’s when.”

He recalled his first DAT run in 2011 which involved an apartment fire and affected multiple families. Upset and in shock, the residents aired their frustrations to him. Using the skills he learned in Red Cross Psychological First Aid, Joe listened and let the residents know it was OK to let out their feelings.

“Being a DAT member is challenging, but very, very rewarding,” Joe said. “You get there and you’re overwhelmed, but they are too. You let them know life doesn’t end today. It will get better.”

In seven months, Joe attended all disaster response courses offered in the Louisville Area and became a certified course instructor. In addition to volunteering with the disaster department anywhere from 2-7 times a week, he has made time to serve on five major disaster operations including the response to Hurricane Isaac. On his next disaster deployment, he hopes to get practice in a supervisor role.

“It’s addictive,” Joe said of responding to disasters. “It makes your heart feel tremendous knowing that you’ve been able to help somebody. It makes you feel good about yourself.”

During the winter, Joe and other DAT members see a rise in the number of home fires oftentimes caused by the use of alternate heating sources—space heaters, candles or ovens. The chapter, now more than ever, is looking for volunteers to serve on the Disaster Action Team.

If you are interested in becoming a Red Cross DAT volunteer, please call (502) 561-3601.