Local Red Cross volunteers leave to help in Earl aftermath

By Stefano DiPietrantonio – bio |email|Facebook

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Red Cross volunteers from our area have taken off, heading toward the northeast coastline, with supplies stocked and ready.

FOX19 was there as a crew left to help out in the aftermath of Hurricane Earl. The Red Cross has 700 chapters all over the US. And like the Cincinnati chapter, each one will be sending emergency response vehicles to the coast, bracing for Earl's wrath.

The Red Cross is "always there". And we caught up with one man who's "been there - done that", over the course of 18 years.

And unlike the weakening Hurricane Earl, he shows no signs of slowing down.

Ron Bonhaus has been volunteering with the Red Cross nearly 18 years.

"Originally started out with the floods in 1993 in the Midwest," Bonhaus said. "Every disaster has its own personality."

"You never know what to expect when you get there and obviously," he said. "Some are more severe than others."

Bonhaus is retired now and in the eyes of the Red Cross, an "ideal" volunteer, with plenty of time to spare. But for others still working full-time, the local director praised the volunteer's employers.

"That our employers out there, letting these volunteers go, letting them go to help their neighbors, help their fellow Americans, we think is an amazing act," said Ron Hakes, Director of Emergency Services for the Cincinnati region.

The typical deployment for relief workers is anywhere from 2 to 3 weeks, depending on the size of the disaster.

"They're all a surprise and sometimes when we don't have the casualties or mass confusion," Bonhaus said. "Those are pleasant surprises."

Ben Gifford is also going on the mission with Bonhaus. He's been volunteering since 2005, which a record-setting year with the most hurricanes in one season, where names like Katrina, Wilma and Rita will never be forgotten.

"We're ready to go," Hakes said. "We're ready to respond to these disasters."

Hakes said this year looks ominously similar.

"You see storm after storm lining-up," Hakes said. "I think this ocean is very, very warm, so we're kind ripe for these storms."

Hakes said the Red Cross will stage about a hundred emergency response vehicles in Massachusetts.

"I think we have 10 E.R.V.S. that'll be going from the State of Ohio."

Crews go out with skeleton supplies.

"They're called "cambers", they're for both drink and for feeding," Hakes said of the containers aboard the local response vehicle. "They go out empty, as soon as they arrive they're sterilized and this becomes part of the mobile kitchen operation."

People's homes may remain intact after the storm hits, but the infrastructure may not hold-up.

"They won't have power," Hakes said. "They won't have a lot of resources."

There are eight emergency response vehicles heading to the northeast from Indiana as well.

Peggy Stahr with the Red Cross in Dearborn and Ohio counties said their emergency response vehicle has not been called out yet, but it could be, depending what happens over the next few days.

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