Skip to content

Responding to local disasters with help from the community

It was early on a Sunday morning in January last winter when the message began to sound over the loudspeakers of a 17-storey apartment building on Rebecca Street in Hamilton, Ontario. Due to flooding, tenants were being asked to evacuate. A large pipe had burst somewhere on the sixth floor, causing significant damage to the apartments below.

The Canadian Red Cross was contacted by the municipality to help establish an emergency shelter at a nearby recreation centre for those affected. Long-time Hamilton Red Cross volunteer Jim DePass was initially called to provide extra support to the Red Cross response team, and soon found himself heading up the team at the shelter.

“We set up 75 cots very quickly and served as the point of contact between residents and building management,” he said, pictured left. The building, home to approximately 600 people, had water flowing through corridors and down the walls on the six floors that were affected. For safety, power to the entire building had to be turned off.

With no knowledge of when the power would be restored or when they’d be able to return to their homes, some residents opted to stay with friends and family while others went to the Red Cross shelter.

“The local organizations worked together,” explained Jim. While Red Cross volunteers setup the emergency shelter and began registering displaced people, groups like the Salvation Army prepared food.

Following a disaster, teams of trained Red Cross volunteers provide support to affected individuals for up to 72 hours, ensuring that they have a safe place to stay, food to eat and clothes to wear as well as access to psycho-social support. While Red Cross volunteers may be called upon with more regularity following smaller disasters, such as house fires, larger events, like the one at Rebecca Street, are not uncommon.

Each year, Walmart stores across Canada dedicate several weeks to raising funds in support of the Red Cross Disaster Management program. Since 2003, Walmart Canada has raised and donated nearly $37 million to the Canadian Red Cross. These funds are used helping Canadians prepare for, as well as recover from, disasters, both big and small.

In all, the Red Cross provided support to 80 people following the response on Rebecca Street. “We kept the emergency shelter open for a day and a half,” recalled Jim. “It’s not just in Fort McMurray that these kinds of things happen. It’s right here, at home, too.”

Walmart Canada is raising funds for the Canadian Red Cross in stores throughout the country until March 24, 2017. Visit a store near you to donate to help families when a disaster strikes.
comments powered by Disqus