The voice on the other line: Meet a Red Cross volunteer who helps people living through disasters get help

It’s 3 a.m. and Parnian Hosseini’s phone is ringing insistently. Not yet sure whether this is still part of a dream she fights off sleep and answers: "Red Cross, Parnian speaking. How can I help you?"
Parnian is responding to a call on the Red Cross 24/7 emergency assistance line. Operating throughout the country, this service helps to provide immediate emergency assistance to people who have been affected by a personal disaster like a house fire or flood.
“When it’s a call at 2 or 3 a.m., you know that it’s probably an [emergency] call,” Parnian said. “It’s someone that’s right there on the scene of a fire, the scene of a flood. It’s someone who doesn’t have anywhere to go at that moment. You’re starting to give them that help, to at least get settled for the night.
Parnian discusses work with a colleagueParnian’s role requires her to be highly-skilled and well-trained, being a duty officer and the first line of contact for someone affected by a personal disaster is a big responsibility.
“I think that’s part of the reason I wanted to get into it [being a duty officer] ,” she  explained. “It’s something where you can have a lot of responsibility, where you can actually feel like you’re contributing while you’re still living your day-to-day life. You still have that really high level of involvement of actually doing something that’s changing this one person’s life right now.”
Parnian is well prepared for this new role. She and her fellow duty officer volunteers participated in a two-day training course practicing and learning how best to deal with the worst-case scenario. But more important was the mentorship of her local coordinator.
“I went on one or two personal disaster calls in Vancouver and the coordinator, Mandana, just kind of pulled me in from there. She really helped me and was always there when I had a question and needed help going through casework,” Hosseini said. “Mandana was always really responsive, encouraging me to do more and take on more responsibility and making sure I’m ready to do it. So that made me really feel like it’s an organization where I can grow and where there is actually the possibility of taking on more as a volunteer.”
Parnian at workOver the summer Parniani has been able to volunteer her time, but in the fall, she starts medical school. She thinks the experience of dealing with people who have been through a disaster will help her be better prepared to work with patients in a clinical setting.
“I think the most important thing in any role in an emergency situation is just being able to interact with the people who are affected, calm them down, and get them to a place where they can start thinking and seeing what their needs are,” Parnian opined. “That can really apply to anyone; a firefighter, paramedic, physician, social workers, anyone who’s dealing with it needs those skills. It’s really applicable anywhere else.”
If you’re interested in becoming a Red Cross volunteer, visit our website here to learn more. We’re also always looking to expand our team of volunteers answering the emergency assistance line in British Columbia. If you’re a current Emergency Management volunteer with experience in responding to personal disasters and are looking to take on more responsibility don’t hesitate to reach out to your supervisor for more information.
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