Wednesday, December 16, 1998
When a certain red-and-white vehicle makes its first run in Fayette County, it will be loaded with help for disaster victims.
"Our community partnerships, when we have fires or other disaster situations," says Jack Krakeel, "are not always visible. This vehicle is going to be a very visible sign of partnership between emergency personnel and the Red Cross." Krakeel is chief of the Fayette County Department of Fire and Emergency Services.
Fayette is one of four counties handled from the South Metro Service Center of the Red Cross in Clayton County. County Commissioner Glenn Gosa says that in 1996 Carl Rutherford was the first to "spot" a low-mileage 1988 Ford custom van, available on a U.S. government surplus vehicle list, as a potential response vehicle
From there, getting the vehicle was a matter of "countless hours of paperwork over the last two years," said Gosa. The only money involved was a $500 transfer fee, Krakeel said. Brian's Paint and Body Shop in Fayetteville painted and spruced up the van for the cost of materials only, receiving a plaque for service to the Red Cross last Friday at the formal ceremony to put the vehicle into service.
The van will carry water, the means to provide firefighters or victims with coffee or refreshments at a disaster scene, blankets, and other quick-fixes for disaster victims. But its most important cargo will be the volunteers on board, said Krakeel.
"When we have the Red Cross at the scene," he added, "it frees us to handle the technical aspects of putting out fires or whatever we're doing. We know the people need help, but we are not the experts at that. Red Cross can see that they have what they need, immediately, whether it's clothing, food, temporary shelters, transitional lodging."
Krakeel says that "disaster is indiscriminate," and that people who have "lost everything" are not going to be able to walk into a hotel and get a room by saying, "well, we lost our credit cards in a fire."
Red Cross service center director Ruben Brown agrees: "Who's going to let you cash a check, or how can you use an ATM without a card, if your purse or your wallet was in the fire? Everybody will need some kind of help after events like that. This vehicle will help us provide that."