Thursday, October 3, 2013

How a Psychologist and an EMT Are Helping Flood Survivors in Lyons

American Red Cross volunteer Connie Tooley is a retired psychologist who came to Colorado to help those recovering from the flooding.

Soon after arriving from Bargersville, Ind., Connie joined the team at a  Red Cross Emergency Aid Station in Lyons. She talked to residents about what they had been through in the town and noted a common theme among the people of looking ahead.

 "Almost everyone, no matter how bad their situation, ends up talking about the future, about moving forward, about recovery. It is wonderful to experience the incredible resiliency of the human spirit,” she said.

Typically, an Emergency Aid Station is set up in an area  with at least one mental health care volunteer and a health services person such as a nurse or paramedic.

Also in Lyons with Connie was Michael Dixon, of Camarillo, Calif., an AmeriCorps volunteer and EMT. It’s a standard part of AmeriCorps training for an individual to work with a partner organization, such as the Red Cross, on a national disaster response.

In California, Michael's primary AmeriCorps job is to identify and contract with sites that could be used for sheltering, feeding or storage in a disaster. But in Lyons, his work was in health care and his EMT training came into play.

He provided advice to residents on how to stay safe and healthy as they return to clean up their homes and community. He also provided basic first aid to those working in their homes, including one resident who injured her ankle and another with a cut finger.

Floodwaters often carry disease bacteria from sewage, chemicals from flooded barns, businesses and homes and even snakes seeking dry ground. There’s also the problem of mold in homes that were flooded.

“It is important to wear protective gloves, boots and clothing; wash one's hands before eating; and be careful where one steps,” he said. “We recommend that everyone wear a proper face mask to avoid breathing the mold spores."

Asked how he liked his work with the Red Cross, Michael said, “In the future, I will definitely volunteer directly with the Red Cross. The Red Cross provides a great opportunity for working directly with people impacted by a disaster."

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