Power outages, coupled with damaged cell towers, severely limited phone services and communications amid last summer’s wildfire disaster. Infrastructure was crippled and left communities across large swathes of Central, Northern and Eastern Washington in a state of confusion as residents were surrounded by fierce firestorms that moved quickly across the landscape.
The Red Cross responded with key communications assistance, shelter and immediate emergency relief for hundreds of people facing a terrifying crisis. How did the Red Cross do it? With the support of partners who donated to the Employees Community Fund of Boeing Puget Sound and provided the Red Cross with a critical resource: a disaster telecommunications emergency vehicle.
With this vehicle, the Red Cross is able to overcome considerable logistical challenges on the ground, said Sharon Andrews. “The Communications trailer was an invaluable solution when cell service in the area failed.”
The communications trailer was a critical tool in relaying evacuation and power outage information to hundreds of people. It was also essential to coordinate a large-scale mobile feeding operation. Red Cross mass care, logistical and technical support personnel worked together, with the communications trailer as a hub, to cook up hot lunch and dinner to fire-impacted communities. All told, they delivered 1,000 meals a day across the region to families and residents who had been displaced or impacted by the blazes.
“We started at 4 a.m. to roll out the first round of hot meals for delivery by 10 a.m.,” said Dan Cenis, a long-time Red Cross volunteer who led the mobile feeding effort. “We are fortunate to have the tools and partners we need to get the job done. There is a lot of ground to cover, both on the logistics side, as well as out in the field, where we are reaching people who need help.”
The challenge was daunting yet the need was great. It was a relief to Sharon Andrews and her fellow Red Cross volunteers to know that they had the means to communicate with people in need of help or at risk. “Everything we do requires considerable human resources and technical support,” s
he added. “On behalf of myself and the many Red Cross disaster workers who are serving here from all over the country, the generosity of Boeing employees has given us a vital tool to help clients during at an important time.”