American Red Cross shelter

WASILLA — A year after the infamous earthquake shook Alaska Nov. 30, 2018, the American Red Cross shared statewide response statistics and reflected on their efforts to aiding those across the Valley and surrounding state.

Red Cross staff and volunteers responded immediately following the earthquake and began attending to those in need, according to Cari Dighton, regional communications officer.

Dighton said that some of the first immediate steps included checking their workforce, responding to people in need and setting up an emergency operation center. She said that volunteers from across the state plus additional staff from the Lower 48 all banded together to help the public.

“We were really proud of our volunteers for stepping up. Some of our volunteers left their damaged homes to come help other people,” Dighton said. “It was really encouraging to see.”

Dighton said the first overnight shelter they set up was the Egan Center in Anchorage. After that, they opened set up shelters in Eagle River and the Valley.

Valley residents affected by the quake went to the Menard Sports Center. She said the Red Cross always collaborates with community partners like the Municipality of Anchorage, Matanuska-Susitna Borough and Salvation Army when they select local shelters and other services.

“I would say collaboration was key that day, checking on each other and making sure that we check on those that had damages on their homes as well,” Dighton said

The Menard shelter closed Dec. 1, 2018. Red Cross staff and volunteers supported those affected with amenities like food, water, clothes, shower and laundry services, and plenty of warm cots to sleep on.

The support was not limited to those who stayed in a shelter. The Red Cross offered a spectrum of support to hundreds of affected residents through case management, ranging from financial aid to boarding services. This was all in collaboration with various individuals and groups from the various communities.

“It was a very, very scary time for a lot of people… Alaskans are resilient in the first place… They saw the damage on TV, they saw that people needed help and they stepped forward,” Dighton said.

Dighton said the Red Cross quickly and effectively responded to the November 2018 earthquake and the aftermath has helped them better prepare for other disasters like the 2019 wildfires. As they prepare for the next big disaster, they’re reminding the public to also start preparing.

Dighton said that residents can prepare for the next disaster— be it an earthquake, wildfire or something else entirely— with simple but lifesaving steps like making a household emergency exit plan, preparing emergency kits and practicing protective procedures like “drop, cover and hold on.”

“It’s hard to believe the big earthquake was a year ago,” Alaska Red Cross Regional Disaster Officer Kelley McGuirk stated in a recent press release. “I’m proud of our swift response, and our team’s ability to get much needed assistance to residents with major damages to their homes so quickly. The earthquake was unprecedented and our team did a great job of following the training they have, but also being flexible to meet the needs of those affected.”

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.comRed Cross response statistics:

In the days, weeks and months following the Nov. 30 earthquake and ensuing aftershocks, the Red Cross:

Mobilized 144 Red Cross disaster workers from Alaska and the lower 48 to assist those affected

Provided 230 overnight stays in Red Cross shelters in Anchorage, Eagle River and Wasilla

Served more than 2,237 meals and snacks alongside nonprofit partners

Made nearly 350 individual care contacts to support residents’ first aid and mental health needs

Assessed damage in 680 homes affected by the earthquake using the Red Cross Collect app

Opened 161 cases and provided immediate financial assistance to more than 494 residents who suffered major earthquake damage through the Red Cross recovery casework process

Tips to prepare for the next earthquake:

The anniversary of the 7.1 earthquake also serves as a reminder of the importance of being ready when disaster strikes. Although this major earthquake is now nearly a year behind us, it is crucial that we be prepared for the next big one. According to the Alaska Earthquake Center and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), Alaska is the most seismically active state in the country, and three of the seven largest earthquakes in the 20th century have taken place here. The Red Cross offers some tips to ensure you and your family are prepared when the ground shakes beneath us again:

Talk about earthquakes with your family so that everyone knows what to do long before an earthquake strikes. Discussing ahead of time helps reduce fear, particularly for younger children.

Check your workplace and your children’s schools and day care centers to learn about their earthquake emergency plans.

Pick safe places in each room of your home, workplace and/or school. A safe place could be under a piece of furniture like a large table, or against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases or tall furniture that could fall on you.

Practice DROP, COVER and HOLD ON in each safe place.

Make sure you have access to local weather radio broadcasts and download the free Red Cross Emergency App from your mobile phone app store.

Prepare your family’s emergency kit and store it in an easy-to-carry container. Include items like a gallon of water per person, per day; non-perishable food; a flashlight and hand-crank or battery-powered radio; extra batteries; sanitation and personal hygiene items; copies of important documents; extra cash and any medical or baby supplies family members may need.

What You Can Do:

Donate: Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. You can visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Volunteer: Those interested in volunteering with the Red Cross can sign up online at redcross.org/volunteer and click on “Apply Now” to get started.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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