West, Texas, a small town about 20 miles north of Waco, was hit by a devastating explosion just before 8:00 last night, and the Central Texas Region of the American Red Cross immediately got to work to take care of the people affected by that disaster.
The Heart of Texas (HoT) Chapter, headquartered in Waco, has responsibility for the West area, so they were the first Red Cross responders on the scene. That Chapter is a member of the Central Texas Region of the American Red Cross, and the regional office has been working to support the HoT Chapter ever since the call came in. The regional office is located in Austin with the office of the Central Texas Chapter, the headquarters chapter for the region.
The fenced “cage” where the Central Texas Chapter keeps our emergency vehicles is looking pretty empty this morning. Our Emergency Response Vehicle (which we call ERV) has left to distribute food and water, both to the people affected by the disaster and to the first responders at the disaster site. All but one of our chapter’s trucks and vans have headed up to West, as well, carrying responders from Austin to help those from Waco.
Building ‘B’, which has the disaster response offices and classrooms in Austin, is also a lot emptier than usual – most of the people from there used those chapter-owned vehicles to drive to West. The only people left in Building B are client casework and volunteer services staff. (Client casework is involved with monitoring and accounting for the aid we give those affected by disasters, and volunteer services are the ones who’ll help you become a trained Red Cross volunteer.)
As always in situation like this, the generosity of the people of central Texas has been amazing. Here at regional headquarters, the phones have been ringing nearly continuously with calls from people who want to help. They are offering donations of all kinds – financial donations, in-kind donations, and even donations of blood.
If you’d like to make a financial donation to the Red Cross, then go to http://www.redcross.org/tx/austin/ways-to-donate on the Central Texas web site. If you want to help the people in West in some other way, then go to our web site, http://www.RedCross.org/tx/austin, and click on “Disaster FAQs” on the home page. You’ll be taken to a page where you can access a list of organizations that will be glad to accept whatever aid you can give in this disaster.
Another way to help our neighbors affected by disasters is to give your time – become a Red Cross volunteer. The Volunteer Services Manager told me that we’ve had over 100 people offering to volunteer, just today. We love our volunteers! – but we can’t accept “spontaneous” volunteers for disasters like this. We want to make sure volunteers are trained for the jobs they’ll do when they respond to a disaster. If you want to help in disasters like this in the future, though, then go to http://www.redcross.org/tx/austin/volunteer/application and fill out an application to become a Red Cross volunteer.
-by Tom Davis, Volunteer