Personal Loss Leads to Service for Others

“My heart aches to see my community suffering after such a devastating tragedy.”

When the call went out for American Red Cross volunteers to help, Cullen Dorais quickly stepped up, just like he has done in the past 11 years. But this time the call was very different, since the call for help was for his very own community, where he lives and also works in.

Cullen Dorais helps set up cots in the Red Cross shelter at Santa Barbara City College. Photo: Cindy Huge, American Red Cross

Dorais, a warehouse manager, has been unable to report to work due to the inaccessibility of the roads since the mudslides hit his community a little over a week ago.  He has been in touch with is boss but he is not certain if the business survived the horrific landslide.  While waiting to see if he can return to work, Dorais decided he needed to do something.

“I need to help, this is my own community. I can’t just do nothing,” he said. So, Dorais volunteered to help the Red Cross as part of the shelter team: setting up cots, blankets and comfort kits to welcome those who have been displaced by this tragedy.  In doing so, he has been assisting with caring for the dozens of residents who now are calling the Red Cross shelter home.

“It strengthens my resolve to serve my community the best I can and to help those who are going through similar losses,” stated Dorias.

For Dorais, the losses have been very personal. Longtime family friends and neighbors did not survive the mudslide and many others he knows are still missing. Emotionally this has been hard for himself and his family.

Cullen helps move shelter supplies at Santa Barbara City College. Photo: Cindy Huge, American Red Cross

Helping serve warm meals or just sitting quietly next to a shelter resident is where you will likely find Dorais today. He often walks out of the shelter to comfort a resident who is sitting alone and may be in need of a listening, supportive, understanding ear.

Volunteers such as Dorais are essential in helping to care for those who have been affected by a disaster. Red Cross volunteers from across the nations have left family and friends to help provide emotional and spiritual care for this community during this disaster operation.

As the days move on, the support of the Red Cross will be essential in helping the community of Montecito move forward in their recovery and healing. For Dorais, just the act of helping and serving others has put him on his own path of recovery and healing.

Photo: Ryan Cullom, American Red Cross

How You Can Help
The quickest and best way to support Red Cross Disaster Relief is through a financial donation. Thanks to the generosity of donors like Tina and Rick Caruso, the Red Cross is able to provide critical relief services such as sheltering, health services, emotional support, distribution of clean up supplies, and much more during a disaster. The Caruso’s are encouraging the community to support the local Red Cross through a donation online at

Photo and Story by Cindy Huge and Michelle Maki, American Red Cross Volunteers

Wildfire Burn Areas Bring Threat of Landslides

Recent wildfires may be contained, but the threat of new natural disasters linger in impacted communities. Wildfire burn scars are more vulnerable to landslides, meaning that many neighborhoods recently evacuated due to fires are once again seeing their homes threatened.

December 2014 – The local Red Cross responded to a landslide in Camarillo Springs, opening an emergency shelter and providing relief to evacuated residents.

With rainfall impacting most of our Central California Region next week, the Red Cross is offering the following safety tips:


Landslides generally happen in areas where they have occurred in the past. Learn about your area’s landslide risk.

Learn about local emergency response and evacuation plans.

Create and practice an evacuation plan for your family or business.

Assemble and maintain an emergency preparedness kit.

Watch the patterns of storm water drainage on slopes near your home, especially where runoff water converges.

Beware that at typical homeowner’s policy does not include landslide or mud flow coverage. Talk to your insurance agent today for more information.

Make sure your emergency kit has a three day supply of food and water (one gallon per person, per day). Also include a flashlight, radio, extra batteries, first aid kit, medications, hygiene items and more. Visit for a full emergency kit list.


During severe storms, stay alert and awake.

If you suspect imminent danger, evacuate immediately. Inform affected neighbors if you can, and contact your public works, fire, or police department.

Listen for unusual sounds that might indicate moving debris, such as trees cracking or boulders knocking together.

If you are near a stream or channel, be alert for any sudden increase or decrease in water flow and notice whether water changes from clear to muddy.

Consider evacuations of larger or numerous animals.


Stay away from the slide area until officials say it is safe to enter.

Watch for flooding, which sometimes follows landslides.

Check for injured and trapped persons or animals near the slide without entering the slide area.

Help people who require special assistance.

Look for and report broken utility lines to appropriate authorities.

Check your home’s foundation, chimney and surrounding land for damage.

Replant damaged ground as soon as possible because erosion caused by loss of ground cover can lead to flash flooding.

California Wildfires 2017
Red Cross volunteers reunite missing loved ones at a recent Thomas Fire shelter.

Ready When the Time Comes

Your local Red Cross is on alert and working closely with government officials in order to respond quickly in the event of a landslide in our community. Volunteers are ready to open emergency shelters, providing relief and comfort to anyone affected by potential disasters.

Make sure your family is prepared for disasters big and small. Get preparedness information and find emergency shelter locations at your fingertips by downloading the Red Cross Emergency App, free for smartphones and tablets. Search for it in your app store, or text “GETEMERGENCY” to 90999.