Monday, October 7, 2013

Special Vehicle Helps Those Who Are Helping

Story by Allan Mayfield, photos by Sherri Odell

Red Cross volunteer Robert Faye from
Arkansas stands inside his MERV - mechanical
emergency response vehicle - and talks about
how he keeps the emergency response vehicles,
or ERVs, operating during disaster response
In a disaster, it’s common to see American Red Cross emergency response vehicles, or ERVs, driving through hard hit areas bringing food, cleaning supplies and hope to those in need.

But when an ERV breaks down, who is there to help the helpers?

That‘s where Red Cross volunteers Robert Faye and Junior Flora step in. They are a team from Arkansas that drives a MERV – mechanical emergency response vehicle. Whether it’s a bent latch, broken rear view mirror or dead battery, Robert and Junior do their best to get the ERV up and running.

They are in Colorado to support the more than two dozen ERVS dispatched from around the country to help with the recent flooding. From the outside, the vehicle looks like any of the red-and-white ERVs. However, when the rear double doors swing open, it’s a different world inside one of the four such vehicles the Red Cross has in the country.

Instead of being rigged for carrying containers filled with food and assorted supplies, there are two walls of mechanics cases and drawers, along with several solid work surfaces. A MERV carries the full complement of basic mechanic's hand and power tools, along with hundreds of different replacement parts.  Less common parts can be ordered and on hand the next day, often getting the disabled ERV up and running before noon.

Filling out paperwork is Red Cross volunteer Junior
Flora of Arkansas, who is a member of the team
which keeps the emergency response vehicles, or
ERVs, repaired and running.
There are some regular issues that a MERV mechanic faces.  For example, an ERV based in the south may not be ready for the cold, harsh winters of New York and New Jersey while an ERV from New England might find the hot summer of the southern states less than inviting. For longer deployments, the MERV team works with Red Cross Fleet Services and local vendors to provide whatever service an ERV may need to return home safely and efficiently.

With some two dozen deployments under his belt during his eight years as a volunteer, Robert has done a variety of activities, including client case work and financial services. When asked what he likes about being a Red Cross volunteer, Robert said, "It gives me great satisfaction to support someone in the bleakest of situations during a disaster and provide a little help."

Junior agrees: "Putting a smile on someone's face during their hard times makes the weeks on a Red Cross disaster response more than worthwhile. Clients can't thank us enough for helping; we might be the only people they have seen since disaster struck. I just love to help,” he said.

1 comment:

  1. Robert Foye, not Faye. He's my dad!