Bringing Normalcy and Stability in Times of Chaos

sbinstMaryWayneMary Hartberg is one of many answering the call to get involved after a string of disasters has left her community reeling.

Her goal in doing so is to demonstrate the gratitude she has for coming through wildfires and the mudslide unharmed and to “bring normalcy and stability in times of chaos”

The January 9 Montecito mudslide is one of the biggest disasters in Santa Barbara County history and followed several wildfires last month.

Mary is one of hundreds of new Red Cross volunteers who have come forward to help. Along with about 100 others, she attended a Disaster Worker Institute hosted by the American Red Cross Pacific Coast chapter.


The weekend training, held January 19-21 at the Santa Barbara Community Church, featured a variety of classes for new Red Cross workers and those looking to hone their skills. sbinstClasssked

“Recent wildfires and the mudslide have impacted so much of our community and we remain vulnerable to landslides and flooding,” said Executive Director Kimberly Coley. “We continue to stay on alert after the December wildfires created instability in the landscape of the region.”

Volunteers from Santa Barbara and surrounding areas learned about  shelter operations, logistics, casework, disaster assessment, psychological first aid and more.

“What you are doing is awesome,” said Jim Caesar, campus emergency manager for the University of California Santa Barbara, in a short address to the volunteers. “The power of a hug, the power of friendship, the work you’re doing for our community is really appreciated. You are plugged into a great organization that works with a lot of great partners. To do the mission of the Red Cross, we need you to be here. ”

Mary lives in an area that was under mandatory evacuation during the Thomas Fire, the largest in California history. During the Montecito mudslide, her area was under voluntary evacuation.

“The fire was scary but with the mud we were so exhausted from the previous evacuation that we decided not to evacuate,” she said.

Mary assured us that she and her home are all right and that she feels a sense of gratitude.

“I’m fine, and I want to do what I can to help the community and that’s why I’m here.”

For more information on volunteer opportunities, contact

Story and Photos by Carmela Burke (Los Angeles) and Renee Felton (Dallas-Fort Worth)



“You Won’t Find a Bigger Fan of the Red Cross Than Me.”

SBJenniferPhotoBlogHannah Troy of Montecito has stayed in two Red Cross shelters during two separate natural disasters that struck over a five-week period. She was evacuated twice during the Thomas Fire, the largest in California’s history. During her first mandatory evacuation she spent two days at the Red Cross shelter on the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) campus, and later stayed with a friend for 12 days over the holidays. 

Her return home proved to be brief when she woke up to the sound of heavy rain and a mudslide evacuation alert on her phone at 3:30 a.m. on Tuesday, January 9. She ran out to where her minivan had been parked, but it was no longer there. Her brother-in-law’s car was also swept away. The road clearly wasn’t safe to drive, so she went back inside her home and waited with her sister and brother-in-law, with whom she lives.

When they had learned the day before that their home was in a voluntary evacuation area, Hannah had packed her car with a bag with clothes and supplies for a few days in case they needed to evacuate again. Those belongings were gone in a wave of mud.

After being rescued from her home, Hannah was relieved to see the Red Cross shelter open at Santa Barbara City College (SBCC). Having trudged through thick mud with her family and dogs, she was glad to have a hot shower and fresh clothes because she couldn’t carry many belongings with her through the mud.

You won’t find a bigger fan of the Red Cross than me,” she said.

The Red Cross has been providing shelter and other services for people impacted by the mudslides.

The area of mandatory evacuation expanded to clear the area for recovery efforts and more than 29,000 people were ordered to leave for what might be another week. People who arrived at the shelter were offered food, a place to sleep, mental health services, help reaching loved ones and access to hot showers and clean clothes.

Hannah stayed at the SBCC Red Cross Shelter with her dogs Lulu and Gabriel for a week, while she planned her next steps for a long-term recovery. She praised the Red Cross volunteers as giving her a sense of security after going through two natural disasters.

“There are all these amazing people and I feel safe,” said Hannah with her arms extended pointing toward Red Cross volunteers. “I just feel like this is the smartest place for me to be right now.”

Earlier this week, Hannah decided to stay with her aunt, but she promised to keep in touch with people she had gotten to know at the shelter.

If you’re interested in volunteering with the Red Cross, visit You can also donate to the Red Cross at the same website, by calling 1-800-REDCROSS or texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Byline: Jennifer Haake, American Red Cross Pacific Coast Chapter

1/18/18: American Red Cross Update



Santa Barbara, Calif., January 18, 2017 — In partnership with local relief organizations and government agencies, the American Red Cross of the Pacific Coast transitioned the San Marcos High School shelter to standby at 6:00 a.m. Thursday morning. Red Cross caseworkers met with each shelter resident to offer them a recovery plan and additional recovery resources.

The Red Cross and its partner agencies are committed to making sure that everyone impacted by this disaster is offered a safe place to go. For those whose home address has been verified by CAL FIRE as in the impacted area, a short-term lodging solution has been made available by community partners as part of their larger community recovery plan.

Red Cross emergency shelters are designed to meet the immediate, short-term needs of impacted residents until long-term efforts can get underway. As the Santa Barbara community begins to recover from this disaster, the Red Cross is meeting one-on-one with any affected residents and providing an individualized recovery plan.

Caseworkers from the Red Cross are available to meet with the public at the Local Assistance Center at Calvary Chapel of Santa Barbara, 1 N. Calle Cesar Chavez, Santa Barbara, CA 93103. Additionally, Red Cross crisis counselors are available to meet the emotional, mental, and spiritual needs of those feeling the impacts of this disaster. Red Cross Emergency Vehicles and volunteers also continue to distribute relief supplies such as clean drinking water and snacks at the US Post Office, 2245 Lillie Ave., Summerland, CA 93067.

 About the American Red Cross Central California Region

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. The American Red Cross Central California Region provides services to the ten counties across Central California that is home to more than 4 million people. For more information, please visit


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.

Additional Thomas Fire Services Available

California Wildfires 2017

Since evacuation orders first began to lift for the Thomas Fire, the Red Cross has been there, helping families on the road to recovery. The local Red Cross is now expanding its recovery service centers for those affected by the fire:

Ventura County Credit Union, 6026 Telephone Rd., Ventura, CA 93003
Saturday and Sunday, December 30 and 31, 2017 – 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Tuesday, January 2, 2018 through Friday, January 5, 2018 – 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Saturday, January 6, 2018 through Sunday, January 7, 2018 – 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
NEW: Monday, January 8, 2018 through Friday, January 12, 2018 – 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Red Cross chapter office, 2707 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Sunday, December 31, 2017 – 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Ojai Public Library, 111 E. Ojai Ave., Ojai, CA 93023
Saturday, January 6 through Sunday, January 7, 2018 – 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The Tzu Chi Foundation will be on site in Ventura on December 30 to provide additional financial assistance.

A public hotline has been set up for anyone who may have additional questions about what services are available. Please call the hotline at (512) 745-2920 or contact the local Red Cross chapter at (805) 987-1514 to learn more.

Recovering from a disaster can be a confusing, emotionally draining and complicated process. Red Cross caseworkers are trained to help people create recovery plans and connect people with the services and resources they need.

Red Cross caseworkers will connect one-on-one with people to create individualized recovery plans, navigate paperwork, and locate help from other agencies. In some situations, the Red Cross may provide direct financial support. The assistance can be used for such needs as an apartment deposit, to buy clothes or food, or to cover immediate transportation expenses. Red Cross clean up kits (sifters, cleaning supplies, shovels, etc.) will also be provided at each service center location.

The Red Cross delivers help to whoever needs it regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or citizenship status. The Red Cross is a charity, not a government agency, and people who have disaster-caused needs do not need to be American citizens to access Red Cross services.

See our previous list of Red Cross Service Centers, here.

Note: This post was updated on 1/7/18 to reflect additional service center dates.