'Condolences': Local woman heads to NYC

The first of what could be several local Red Cross workers to be called to aid in relief efforts in the wake of the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., departed for New York Friday morning.

Susan Hoffman of Mosier, a nurse and long-time volunteer with the Hood River Chapter of the American Red Cross, flew out of Portland Friday morning with 21 other Red Cross workers from around the state bound for New York. Hoffman and the others were to join Red Cross workers from the greater New York area and others beginning to stream in from around the country to help in the aftermath of the attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan.

"We never know until we get there what our assignments are going to be," Hoffman said Thursday afternoon. She said she could be assigned to help at a shelter but, due to her experience, was more likely to be part of either a "condolences" team or an "integrated care" team. The Red Cross condolences teams accompany family members of disaster victims when they go to identify bodies and help them to make funeral arrangements. Integrated care teams visit victims in the hospital and help them with financial and other arrangements.

Hoffman said disaster response assignments usually last three weeks but given the nature of the situation in New York, she could be there longer.

Hoffman has been involved in more than 20 Red Cross disaster relief operations since 1994. Most recently she was assigned to relief efforts in Baton Rouge, La., in July after Tropical Storm Allison wreaked havoc there.

This will be the first time Hoffman has responded to a non-natural disaster. "The best I can liken it to is an earthquake, where people have no warning," Hoffman said. Like earthquake victims, the victims of Tuesday's attacks "have had their foundation taken out from under them," she said.

Hoffman doesn't know where she will be staying in New York, or many other details about her assignment. "They're calling it a hardship case," she said. "Housing is limited, there could be long commutes." Although Hoffman works with the Red Cross in a physical health services function, she said that all Red Cross volunteers wind up serving in a mental health capacity as well.

"A lot of it is letting people talk and tell their stories," she said.

Two more Hood River Chapter members, Nick Denton and Charlotte Valdivia, have been asked for their availability by the American Red Cross and may be called on as early as next week to aid in relief efforts.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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