Red Cross Volunteer Gail Mcgaugh on “Why I Help”

By Sharon J. Alfred, Red Cross Senior Journalist Volunteer

There are many reasons people choose to become Red Cross volunteers. According to Gail Mcgaugh, a volunteer for the American Red Cross of Central California, participating in a Red Cross Home Fire Campaign was an ideal way to learn fire safety tips and to get to know members of her community.

Red Cross volunteers in Fresno install smoke alarms in their community

Mcgaugh has volunteered for years as a member of the Central Valley chapter in her hometown of Fresno, California. Visiting homes to install smoke alarms as part of the home fire campaign gives her the opportunity to connect with her neighbors, as she explains the importance of fire safety and how to prepare.

She has met many memorable people as a home fire campaign volunteer, including:

  • A revered elder of a Native American tribal nation
  • A hearing-impaired man establishing a lifelong bond with his new service dog
  • A colorful artist and publisher, and her gorgeous pet cat
  • A retired Marine who found a second calling as a Red Cross volunteer

“The random of act of knocking on a stranger’s door to give them the tools they need to survive a home fire,” Mcgaugh says, inspires her again and again. And people aren’t shy about expressing their gratitude. “When I am on a home fire campaign, I get thanked and hugged by everyone.”

But Mcgaugh doesn’t just install smoke alarms and teach home fire preparedness. She is involved in many other Red Cross projects as well. For example, she leads the Madera, Merced, and Mariposa County region’s Pillowcase Project, a program that teaches elementary school children how to build their own emergency preparedness kits.

“I truly enjoy meeting community partners and building lasting relationships and goodwill towards the Red Cross within our communities,” says Mcgaugh.

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Keeping Pets and Owners Together in Wake of the Ferguson Fire

Red Cross and CCADT shelter over 500 pets of wildfire evacuees

[Photo Credit: American Red Cross]

Fleeing from wildfires can be traumatic and having pets close has been proven to reduce stress and comfort owners driven from their homes by fire. This inspired Katrina Poitras, Central Valley Red Cross Disaster Program Manager, working with Naomi Slam at the Central California Animal Disaster Team (CCADT), to provide emergency pet shelter at select Red Cross shelters.

Evacuees won’t have to shelter separate from their pets, as the Red Cross tests out the new shelter model with pet shelters serving Madera, Mariposa, and Merced counties. Housing evacuees with their pets has been shown to lower stress level of humans and animals alike.

Pet owners staying at the shelter are responsible for the care and feeding of the pets cohabitating with them. CCADT CEO Naomi Slam recommends owners bring a few key items with them to the shelter: “Bring your pet’s carrier, ensure they’re up to date with vaccinations, and bring their preferred food… so there aren’t any upset tummies.”

The practice of cohabitating pets and owners in shelters was implemented at the Ferguson Fire’s New Life Christian Fellowship shelter and expanded upon moving to the Mariposa Elementary School shelter due to the increase in both shelter evacuee and pet populations.

Interviews with shelter residents confirmed the effectiveness of the new shelter plan and the calming effect of having personal pets in the same shelter with them.

The presence of pets also increased bonding among shelter residents and volunteers, and kept children occupied through playing with and learning about the various animals.

Learn more about general pet first aid during emergencies, plus how to plan for your pet before disaster strikes. Download the Red Cross Pet First Aid app for more tips.