By Gabriel Martinez, AmeriCorps Disaster Preparedness Coordinator
Nationwide, the Red Cross responds to a home fire every eight minutes. The Red Cross works with community partners to provide relief to families affected.
Interview with Amelia Iraheta, King County Disaster Programs Specialist
Q: What’s your title and what do you do?
A: I am the Disaster Program Specialist at the ARC serving King County. I supervise the Disaster Action Teams (DAT) —the teams that respond to emergent situations—and the client casework that follows that immediate response.
Q: How does the Red Cross find out about an emergency or natural disaster?
A: There are several ways we can learn about an event—the fire department, other emergency service personnel, property managers, the clients themselves. Sometimes government departments ask us to step in for larger incidents. It really varies.
Q: Can you explain what a DAT is and how it works? Why is it important?
A: A DAT is a Disaster Action Team. They are teams of volunteers who are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and they’re vital to assisting in crisis. They provide basic hygiene items, advice and support, have knowledge of community resources and help make sure the clients have a place to stay in the immediate aftermath.
Q: Please describe the Red Cross initial response process.
A: We get a call from one of the sources listed above. We then confirm the incident with the appropriate people—fire department, or whoever—and then contact the DAT with the information we’ve been provided with. Usually the information gathered on first contact is location, how many people affected, whether or not there are language or access needs, etc. The DAT gives us an estimated time of arrival for their response and informs the clients we’re on our way. When the DAT arrives we’ll gather as much information as possible by talking to people, sit down with the clients in a safe place and get a case started for them.
Q: What kind of partners or community resources does the Red Cross work with? Why is it important to work with community partners?
A: We have a lot of community partners! Our partners are places where clients can get access to food, furniture, clothing, social services, medical/dental and other resources that might be needed after experiencing a disaster. It’s incredibly important for us to have community partners. If we can’t do something for a client, we like to know the people who can!
Q: What’s one of the best parts of your job?
A: There is no way to not make this sound cheesy, so I’m just going to go for it: I was a volunteer for the Red Cross about 4 years before I got hired and that experience is a big part of what got me interested in this field. It’s really incredible to be able to wake up every morning to go to work for an organization with a mission I believe in, to do work that matters and serves the community, while being surrounded by the most fascinating and committed volunteers, as well as driven and lively staff. It doesn’t really get better than that, does it?