Salem disaster responders assist with Hurricane Matthew

He got the call on Tuesday, boarded a plane to Atlanta on Wednesday and drove 150 miles to finally end his journey and rest his head in a church-turned-shelter in Augusta, Georgia.

Patrick Hearn, former executive director of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, put his 40 years of public, law enforcement and EMT service to use just as Hurricane Matthew made its way to the East Coast of the United States.

Hearn, who used his retirement as an opportunity to take training courses through the Red Cross, jumped at the request to do volunteer work along with other Salem and Keizer Red Cross disaster responders.They were deployed to help the East Coast prepare for Hurricane Matthew as part of a multi-state response to the Category 4 storm.

"What inclines me to volunteer is wanting to help people who need help," Hearn said. "I saw media coverage of Hurricane Katrina back in 2005 and I decided to help work with Red Cross to help folks in situations like that."

Hearn joins 13 other disaster responders from Portland, Beaverton, Junction City, John Day, Blodgett, Roseburg, Bend, Salem, Keizer and Vancouver, Washington who are either on the ground or en route to South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

"We have some exceptional volunteers who are willing to drop anything and help strangers across the country," said Monique Dugaw, communications director of the American Red Cross Cascades Region.

Hearn is serving as a government liaison with Richmond County and the Red Cross to ensure people have food to eat as well as safe places to sleep and stay warm. He and other volunteers are preparing strategic shelter and warehouse locations, stocking food and setting up cots with blankets and other relief supplies in coordination with government and community partners.

He said there are buses of 700 people making the drive from Savannah to Augusta to escape the storm, but hurricane conditions are still expected to affect the Georgia coast.

The eye of the storm is expected to approach Georgia by early Saturday morning, following the state's coastline and cutting through the South Carolina coastline throughout the day, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Hearn said the weather in Augusta drastically changed during the afternoon and early evening Thursday, from 82 degree heat and sunny skies to 70 degrees and clouds.

The crew of 14 are joined by more than 500 Red Cross disaster workers and 90 response vehicles on stand-by in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Roughly 3,600 people spent Wednesday night in 84 Red Cross and community evacuation shelters in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, according to a press release from the American Red Cross Cascades Region.

Hearn is staying in a shelter at a local church in Augusta with 30 people, but said that number is expected to rapidly increase as people are searching for shelter.

More than 30 trailer loads of shelter supplies, ready-to-eat meals, clean-up kits and comfort kits were prepared by the Red Cross.

The Red Cross is seeking additional volunteers to help with Hurricane Matthew and other disasters.

Hearn said when accepting a national deployment in situations of national disasters, volunteers are expected to stay up to 14 days.

The organization is hosting volunteer and training sessions throughout Oregon next week.

Get involved

If you are interested in deploying with the Red Cross, you can attend one of the following sessions:

Monday, Oct. 10, noon to  6 p.m.
Red Cross Regional Headquarters, 3131 N. Vancouver Ave., Portland, OR 97227

Tuesday, Oct. 11, noon to 6 p.m.
Red Cross Salem Office, 675 Orchard Heights Road NW, Salem, OR 97304

Wednesday, Oct. 12, noon to 6 p.m.
Red Cross Eugene Office, 862 Bethel Drive, Eugene, OR 97402

Thursday, Oct. 13, noon to 6 p.m.
Red Cross Medford Office, 60 Hawthorne St., Medford, OR 97504

To make a donation to the Red Cross, visit redcross.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS. 


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