Michael Huynh found himself in the middle of a disaster recently. But luckily for him, it was just a drill.
Huynh joined about 100 volunteers recently at an annual American Red Cross shelter drill in Long Beach. The group sharpened their disaster relief skills by simulating what would happen at a shelter during a disaster.
Huynh played two roles: a 12-year-old whose mom had dropped him off at the shelter and a volunteer who registered clients in need.
“I learned a great deal playing both of these roles,” said Huynh, a Southern California Edison (SCE) manager in Local Public Affairs. For him, the biggest takeaway was that people from all walks of life and needs come to Red Cross shelters for help. “The Red Cross really works to accommodate those different needs.”
March is Red Cross Month and the nonprofit is recognizing its thousands of volunteers. Every year, the victims of nearly 70,000 disasters rely on the Red Cross for immediate help. And volunteers constitute about 90 percent of the American Red Cross workforce.
“The American Red Cross is a volunteer-driven organization. In our region, there are 55 volunteers for each employee,” said Margaret Arbini Madonna, executive director for the Greater Long Beach, Rio Hondo and South Bay Chapter, which serves more than 20 cities. “It simply could not be done without our volunteer leadership and amazing volunteer partners.”
This Long Beach drill was Gerardo Bulla’s third. An SCE senior engineer, Bulla first volunteered for the Red Cross’ Ready When the Time Comes program which trains corporate employees and mobilizes them as a community-based volunteer force when disaster strikes.
At the drill, Bulla was a dormitory manager whose responsibilities included setting up cots and assigning sleeping areas in the shelter.
“When I saw the invitation to participate, I knew this would be a good opportunity to get involved,” he said.
“I would highly encourage people to become a Red Cross volunteer,” added Huynh, “because you can really make an impact in your community and contribute to such a critical community organization.”
Edison International, SCE’s parent company, is the founding partner of the American Red Cross PrepareSoCal initiative, a three-year, $1.5-million partnership aimed at preparing Southern California residents for catastrophic disasters.
Last year, Edison International employees volunteered 192,427 hours to various community projects.
“Our employees have embraced this culture of giving and have contributed their time to a variety of nonprofit organizations, including the American Red Cross, and other causes important to them,” said Tammy Tumbling, director of Philanthropy and Community Investment at SCE.