KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennesseans are on the ground in Florida prepared to help with the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, which made landfall Wednesday afternoon. By Thursday morning, it had been downgraded to a tropical storm.
Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) deployed a “type four” advanced team while the state is sending an ambulance strike team and 1,200 Tennessee National Guard troops. For more aid, about 60 volunteers and staff members from Tennessee Red Cross chapters are also in the Sunshine State.
“It’s heartbreaking to see these people,” Heather Carbajol said. “We have volunteers here who evacuated their home and went straight to the Red Cross headquarters to volunteer.”
Carbajol serves as the executive director for Red Cross Northeast Tennessee. Right now, she is in Orlando assisting in relief in efforts.
She said, “It’s devastating but it’s also so inspiring to be a part of this response and be one of the first people in this community who’s here to offer help, hope, and comfort to our neighbors in Florida.”
“It is a large-scale operation so Red Cross is always positioning itself to be prepared,” said Red Cross East Tennessee Executive Director Sharon Hudson.
Carbajol added, “We’re still figuring out what the impact is going to be. The needs are changing constantly.”
The Red Cross is ramping up volunteer recruiting efforts as Hurricane Ian moves through Florida. From desk jobs to fieldwork, a lot of opportunities are available no matter someone’s skill set.
“Looking at sheltering more than 60,000 people at this time, is what we’ve been prepared to do,” Hudson said. “And those number will probably increase as the storm continues.”
According to Hudson, potential volunteers have the choice of whether to be deployed to a disaster area or pitch in to help here at home.
She said, “Our whole job is from start to finish on what we can do to help clients. Volunteers say, ‘how can I help? What can I do?’ And those are usually the ones that once they get a taste of what it’s like to be at a disaster, to help families on their worst day, they’re usually hooked.”
The Red Cross offered fast-track shelter training for new volunteers to assist with the storm response. The training lasted four hours and covered all required courses needed to be a shelter worker.