Bob Fitzgerald, (center, white hair) with other Red Cross volunteers at the Hurricane Sandy deployment in New Jersey.
When disasters happen, Rouses Point’s Bob Fitzgerald is likely to get the call.
Fitzgerald is a member of the Red Cross’s Disaster Action Team, and responds to emergencies for anything from a local fire displacing a family, to a national tragedy like a hurricane. Since he started with the Red Cross in 2005, Fitzgerald has deployed as part of the response to Hurricanes Katrina, Irene and Sandy, as well as the recent Lake Champlain flooding locally.
Now he’s being deployed to Washington D.C., to assist with the recovery from the recent shooting rampage at the Washington naval yard.
“It does kind of shake your life up a little bit,” says Fitzgerald of a rapid deployment. “But I really believe in the Red Cross mission.”
Fitzgerald, a registered nurse working for the Department of Corrections at Clinton Prison, is a supervisor for the Red Cross in health services and disaster mental health. He joined the Red Cross as a volunteer in 2005, when he was watching the devastation of Hurricane Katrina on CNN, and decided he would see if he could help.
“I went down to make myself available, and within a week I was in Mississippi,” he said.
With all he’s seen and done in national deployments, it’s the local tragedies, like a family displaced by a fire, that are the hardest for him to deal with.
He will be flying out of Clinton County Airport Wednesday morning, Sept. 25, and anticipated being deployed for up to two weeks.
According to Red Cross regional Communications Director Jaime Watson, the Red Cross is always looking for volunteers, but the process leading up to deploying to a disaster is long and rigorous.
“If they’re interested in deploying, the first step is to go to your local Red Cross chapter,” said Watson. “There’s quite a lengthy and involved training. We want to be sure that you are mentally and physically prepared for what you’ll be dealing with in those situations.”
There is no one skill-set that the Red Cross is looking for in a volunteer. Rather the Red Cross will find out what a person is good at, and place them with a particular deployment that matches their strength.
The North Country Chapter of the American Red Cross can be reached through their regional office at 33 Everett Road in Albany, or by phone at 458-8111.