By Robin Trimingham
The challenge of steering an organization that people turn to in crisis is that you are forever trying to anticipate what will happen next. Rather than hope that you won’t be needed, you train to be ready to serve regardless of when or how the threat emerges.
Diane Gordon, Disaster Manager for the Bermuda Red Cross, has devoted eight years to assisting the organization in building up its capacity to respond and assist during any community crisis. “Bermuda doesn’t really have disasters nationally but 2020 was a year like no other,” she explained, “and it tested everything we have been training for all this time.”
Not typically considered a first responder like the police or the fire department, the Bermuda Red Cross is now a major participant in the field of disaster preparedness and recovery. They have trained 42 responders to assist on a national and community level and have worked closely with the Ministry and Department of Health since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic in March 2020.
From the outset, the Bermuda Red Cross has assisted the Department of Health with the tracing and tracking of returning residents. “We placed 19,000 phone calls between March and July last year. We also processed paperwork and checked on individuals who were self-quarantining, as well as those who were placed in the government quarantine facility during the lockdown,” said Ms. Gordon.
“Thanks to an initial donation of 120,000 masks, and funding through The Bermuda Community Foundation, we were able to procure and distribute 261,000 masks island wide to rest home residents, essential services who ran low on PPE supplies, churches, seniors and Bermuda’s most vulnerable populations.”
In May, Bermuda Red Cross also began operating a help line which is manned by trained Psychosocial First Aid Responders (PSFA) who are available to assist any members of the community who are feeling overwhelmed or anxious. “People are being bombarded with information and often don’t know what to believe. Seniors in particular who don’t have a lot of family can benefit from having someone to chat with about what is going on,” she explained. “Our volunteers are also trained to refer individuals needing more comprehensive assistance to the appropriate agency.”
However, regular members of the community are not always comfortable reaching out to a helpline when they feel stressed. In an effort to help the general public (as well as the first responders themselves) gain access to information on dealing with stress, and coping with grief and loss, Ms. Gordon also made regular appearances on Miss Thang’s radio show on ZBM 95 FM this past summer with a variety of different speakers to let people know that the feelings they are experiencing are normal.
Heading into 2021 Ms. Gordon is optimistic but cautious as the efforts of the Bermuda Red Cross move from simply responding to the onset of the pandemic and social distancing measures, to looking at how to protect the mental, physical, and economic health of island residents and weary first responders alike on a sustained basis.
“We have learned much during the past year,” she explained. “I knew that our 42 responders would come to the aid of our community like never before during this challenging time, and they have exceeded my every expectation. Thanks to the outstanding performance of everyone on our team, the Bermuda Red Cross is now a key disaster and recovery co-operator with other agencies and government bodies across the island.”
Currently, the Bermuda Red Cross is discussing with Government the best way to assist with vaccination efforts. They have also embarked on a vaccine public education campaign to ensure that the elderly and members of the community “most at risk” receive printed copies of accurate information, and they are also looking at the feasibility of providing rides for seniors with appointments for vaccinations.
For more information on the services provided by the Bermuda Red Cross consult www.bermudaredcross.com