Wednesday, January 10, 2018
Santa Barbara's Red Cross chapter has had a singular quantity of experience with tragedy, and its response network snaps into action like a reflex. People have been calling in equal measure to locate shelter and to locate their family and friends, said Jan Harrington, a recent volunteer working her first day on the phones.
The Red Cross shelter, set up at Santa Barbara City College, has been encouraging mud-flow refugees to register themselves at its "Safe and Well" program to let friends and family know they are okay. Online, the resource is at redcross.org, under first the Get Help and then the Contact & Locate Loved Ones buttons (after that, scroll down to After a Disaster). People can also call (805) 681-5542 either to list themselves as safe and well or to find someone who many have registered already. The same information can be texted to (805) 699-0165.
The shelter at the college's gymnasium is providing hot meals and warm clothing and showers to evacuees. Equally important, Red Cross workers can provide advice on next steps for those who've lost their homes, such as how to contact insurers or quickly access to basic needs like housing and fresh clothing. About 50 people are currently at the college shelter.
The nonprofit also offers mental wellness help for those affected by the Thomas Fire's unrelenting chain of tragedies. A list of therapists offering free counseling is available by calling the Red Cross at (805) 987-1514.
A financial donation is the most effective way for the public to offer its help, according to Red Cross spokespeople. Cash allows the aid organization to “purchase exactly what our clients will need,” a spokesperson said. Physical items should be donated to the Salvation Army or Goodwill. Those wishing to volunteer can also sign up online. Over the phone, Harrington said her father-in-law, Roy Harrington, had been a longtime volunteer before his death. She felt she was stepping into his shoes.
A Family Assistance Center meant for those directly impacted by the mudslides is operating out of the First Presbyterian Church in Santa Barbara at 21 East Constance Street. People escaping the mud can seek psychological or spiritual support. The county is also coordinating lists of survivors and those being searched for through the Sheriff's Office at the assistance center. Other members of the public and the media, however, are asked to respect the privacy of the people seeking assistance, said a county Behavioral Wellness spokesperson. The center will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and can be reached by phone at (805) 364-1822.
The county's information lines, (805) 681-5542, can keep those outside the mud zone apprised of evacuation orders and other storm-related information. A text line of (805) 699-0165 is also available, as well as the 2-1-1 information line and the countyofsb.org website.
Those still in Montecito are having a tough time of it. Electricity is spotty, as is cell phone coverage. The gas has been turned off for repairs and is likely to stay off for several days, the county reports.
First responders implored people to stay out of the mud zone as strenuous efforts are ongoing to find and rescue survivors. To keep interlopers from interfering with rescue efforts, they could be charged with misdemeanors, Sheriff Bill Brown said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. The off-limit zone runs west of Sheffield Road and along East Valley Road to Ladera Lane and up to Los Padres National Forest. On the other side, the border is Olive Mill and Hot Springs roads from the ocean to the National Forest