Red Cross update on Hurricane Irene relief efforts in Hartford

(Source: Bruce Pobanz)
(Source: Bruce Pobanz)
(Source: Bruce Pobanz)
(Source: Bruce Pobanz)
(Source: Bruce Pobanz)
(Source: Bruce Pobanz)

Report from Red Cross Volunteer Bruce Pobanz:

Greetings from Red Cross ERV #1106 in a shelter near Hartford, CT. The effects of Hurricane Irene first hit here 7 days. As of this morning report, over 50% of the State of CT still is without power. The hope is that the number may drop to 25% by the end of the weekend with all power restored by Sept 7. Or at least to those areas that power crews can get to.

Flood waters are still making many areas impassable. Some places are being accessed by military high water rescue vehicles. But some areas are so bad that even boats cannot safely get there so helicopters are being used to drop food and other supplies to those still trying to survive in these pockets of destruction.

As power is restored, my ERV crew gets diverted to different parts of the State. Yesterday we drove almost two hours one way and joined others that were helping in the Bridgeport area.

We stopped our feeding truck in front of one house in this area that had no power. As we were bringing this elderly couple a case of water and some food, their power came on. Their cheers of joy as their TV radio came back on were quickly echoed throughout this neighborhood as other homes felt the electricity surging back into their homes.

Then this elderly couple did something that brought tears to our eyes. They just went 5 days with no water and only what little food they had or what another Red Cross truck brought them yesterday. What they did was they asked us to take the water and food back that we gave them and they gave us what the got from others the days prior. They said we have power and they wanted us to give this to someone who still has no power. This brings a special feeling. To live through all this death and destruction and still they are thinking of others first.

During this disaster I have been called by some who survived this disaster "a ray of sunshine sent from God above." They said I was their Angel of Mercy. As a Volunteer and one who has survived these types of disasters first hand myself, I know where these people are coming from and it is a very humbling experience for me. As I write this report, the tears are flowing as I relive some of the experiences I had when the Red Cross helped me when hurricane Andrew hit my home, when my apartment building caught on fire and when an earthquake knocked me out of my bed.

After the power began to come back on in that Bridgeport area where we were, the local EOC informed us of a fixed distribution center the Fairfield, CT Police Department had set up. Here, anyone who needed it could drive up and get ice, water, snacks and other things. We had a supply of  heater meals on our truck. These are an updated version of the MRE's that the Military feeds our troops with while out in the field. These are a complete prepackaged meal that can be cooked in it's own pouch without any electricity or water.

In a couple hours we worked with the Police and handed out over 1,000 of these MRE's along with hundreds of snacks, cases of water, over a ton of ice, baby food, diapers, hand sanitizers, flashlights and other products.

Even after the power comes back on and those Red Cross ERV's you see on TV, depart from the area and head out to other disaster locations, the Red Cross crews will still be there with long term individual case workers.

Some ask me why do I do this. They say I have to be a bit crazy to leave my home, my job and my family; and travel to help others for no pay. As a Volunteer, I admit I get no financial compensation but in fact I get paid in other ways. That pay is the warm fuzzy feeling I get in my heart as I see first hand the good work the American Red Cross does. I have been a victim of more than one disaster myself. I know the hopelessness you feel when you are sitting in the middle of your home, and all you see are all your worldly possessions reduced to a pile of rubble. Where do you begin. Is there any hope. These are just two of the emotions that you feel after lived this. As some have told me on this trip, I must be an Angel of Mercy. That ray of sunshine sent from God above.

Report from Bruce Pobanz on Red Cross ERV #1106 out of Brunswick, GA working with ERV #1225 out of Savannah, GA Picture 1 and 2 are of the fixed distribution site we worked with the Fairfield, CT Police Officers.Picture 3 and 4 are of me handing out ice and food at this site.

Picture 5 is our outdoor warehouse set up in Middletown, CT where I, along with 18 other ERV's stock up in the morning, and then head out thoughout CT and RI.