ELKINS - The American Red Cross is placing a full-time disaster program specialist in Elkins.
John Stormer accepted the position as disaster director based in the Elkins office, and will serve a multi-county area including Randolph, Upshur, Barbour, Lewis, Braxton and Webster countries.
Stormer, who will work out of the Randolph County Office of Emergency Management, said he is excited for the opportunity.
"I am learning as I go, but I can tell this will be interesting and a challenge," Stormer said. "I am focusing on disaster programs and developing relationships with county OEM directors."
Stormer, a retired Coast Guard master chief, said he previously volunteered for the American Red Cross during the 1991 firestorm in Oakland Hills in California.
"In this area, the most common disaster is a family being displaced by a house fire," Stormer said. "We do the case work - helping victims find bedding, a hotel and the things they need to get back on their feet."
Stormer said he will also be working to gather names of volunteers and recruit more volunteers. He said he also will establish partnerships with emergency shelters in each county.
Elkins resident Gary Clay, who serves as a board member for the American Red Cross North Central West Virginia Chapter, said he is pleased to have Stormer working fulltime in Elkins.
"The American Red Cross is committed to serving people who have experienced a disaster throughout West Virginia," Clay said. "The opportunity to place an individual in Elkins will allow for quicker response when disaster strikes our community."
Stormer said the local American Red Cross office has a small trailer with a shelter-ready kit that contains 50 cots, 100 blankets and supplies, and has a four-wheel drive vehicle.
"Down the line, we will have a larger emergency response vehicle suitable for bigger disasters," Stormer said. "We will also be offering disaster training."
Each year, the American Red Cross responds to nearly 70,000 disasters, including fires as well as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, wildfires, tornadoes, hazardous materials spills, transportation accidents, explosions and other natural and human-caused disasters. Last year in West Virginia, the Red Cross assisted almost 1,000 families, including 1,700 adults and 1,000 children who experienced a disaster.
March is Red Cross Month, and folks can help support disaster victims in West Virginia by visiting redcrosswv.org or texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
Additional information is available by calling 304-415-6944 or sending an email to John.Stormer@redcross.org. Additional information about the American Red Cross is available by calling 304-725-3606 or on-line at redcrosswv.org.