American Red Cross South Florida Region

Our volunteers continue to show dedication and constant commitment to providing assistance in the face of difficult times, but the response to each disaster varies. Over the past four years, volunteers have helped provide assistance in every storm in Florida and across the nation. This month, we commemorate the anniversary of the four devastating hurricanes that impacted different areas in the Bahamas and the United States, September.

To the victims of these disasters, the Red Cross sheltered, nourished, and provided emotional support during each of these catastrophic events, and maintained its commitment to prevent and alleviate human suffering when faced with an emergency.

In 2017, the impact of hurricanes was catastrophic. The United States and Puerto Rico experienced two Category 5 storms and one Category 4 storm, all of which resulted in extensive devastation. On September 10, 2017, Hurricane Irma hit as a Category 4 hurricane, affecting the United States Virgin Islands, Florida, and the southeastern states of the country. The Red Cross and a group of partners remained present in the region, providing continuous and substantial assistance by offering secure shelter, nourishment, and solace to those whose lives had been disrupted. After Irma, more than 1.6 million meals and snacks were provided.

Community resilience and health, drinkable water, and constant energy: key areas in which the Red Cross has been able to offer solutions since 2018, when the recovery of the projects began in the area that has been most affected by the most intense hurricane in more than 80 years, Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico as a Category 5 storm on September 20, 2017, shortly after.

6,300 homes were damaged and destroyed as a result of the devastating floods caused by the powerful Hurricane Florence, which hit the southeastern states, including North Carolina’s eastern parts. This hurricane made landfall along the southeast coast of North Carolina on September 14, 2018, causing significant flooding and massive destruction.

The powerful disaster, such as Hurricane Dorian, tragically hit the coasts of the Bahamas, causing extreme damage and flooding. It slowly dragged over the land, decimating parts of the country and leaving the islands in ruins. The Red Cross is providing financial aid to over 560,000 hot meals and 3,000 families affected by this devastating Category 5 storm, which made landfall on September 1st, less than a year ago.

As Floridians, we are familiar with the efforts of cleaning up after a storm, which are the stories behind the scenes that we don’t often hear about.

The Red Cross’s role is to provide graphic information to our team’s leadership so that they can make informed critical decisions for our Response Teams during and after storms. With a good amount of stories of hurricanes like Irma, Dorian, and Florence, the Support Team and Planning Leader, Phill Brodeur, has been deployed to Southern Florida’s Red Cross to provide assistance.

“According to Phill, his function helps make predictions that are crucial for providing better assistance to the public in preparing for a storm. We analyze the meteorological situation, where a storm or hurricane is approaching? What are the wind fields? What is the potential damage? Where could the storm surge be?”

In 2014, Phill started his involvement with the Red Cross by joining the Disaster Technology Service. Subsequently, he willingly took on the responsibility of being an elected liaison officer, a position that played a vital role in his response to both Hurricanes Florence and Irma.

He says, “Speaking is more important than thinking and listening. Even when they tell you something negative, listening is a skill that I consider number one. When it comes to providing support during a hurricane deployment, Phill talks about the necessary skills of knowledge and experience. I ask him about his contributions and his knowledge about those hurricanes.”

Phill was sent to Georgetown, South Carolina in September 2018 to assist with Hurricane Florence. His main concern was the amount of rain that was expected, which could potentially put the residents of Georgetown under 15 feet of water. With the storm approaching, Phill listened to the concerns of local officials, who had managed to open two shelters in less than a day and secure the necessary supplies and resources to ensure the safety of the people.

“Decir ‘Te las proporcionaré’ es la mejor opción si no tienes las respuestas, y si tienes las respuestas, no eres tú. ‘La gente solo necesita’, afirma él.”

Since 2005, regarded as the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the United States, Phill utilized this skill when he was sent to West Palm Beach and later to Fort Myers in 2017 to aid the victims of Hurricane Irma. Disasters also require assistance workers to have the ability to adapt.

The nearest gas station had incredibly long lines, and Phill realized that they didn’t have enough gas to get back home afterwards. Grateful recipients accepted those meals and the donation, finding another volunteer and Phill wasted the food that night because all the nearby shelters were already closed for emergencies when the food was entrusted to the vehicles responding to the disaster. As part of his routine task during disaster response, Phill was asked to deliver 4,000 sandwiches to nearby shelters while he was located on the west coast.

He improvisado que tuvo el, pero esta vez una. Zona la de amigo un a llamo Phill y fue informado de cercana temporal gasolinera una donde combustible de reabastecerse podían emergencia de vehículos los.

Phill, who arrived in West Palm Beach by boat, stayed in the United States to help approximately 60 people in a temporary shelter, but his deployment to the Islands for Hurricane Dorian was never sent, despite the need for many hats.

The Red Cross was able to provide temporary accommodation for the evacuees in partnership with Catholic Charities. Phill remembers, “I was trying to find out how the Red Cross could help and provide them with information about what was happening in the Bahamas, and they were trying to help them return to their homes and find work. Some people didn’t even have a passport. Their houses were destroyed, so they didn’t have a place to go, and they had very little money.”

Dealing with chaos is like dealing with a disaster, where everything changes plans and time is a disaster to deal with.

Phill says, “I am emotionally moved at times when I think about those I appreciate and feel gratitude towards, and I am blessed to have maintained a connection with the Red Cross.” Phill doesn’t take anything for granted in life.

Visit redcross.Org/SFLvolunteer today to become a volunteer. We express our gratitude to him and the numerous others who extend their support to aid those who are in distress for their exceptional contributions, such as Phill. The Red Cross would be unable to carry out our objective of preserving lives without the faultless efforts of our dedicated volunteers.