One Disaster at a Time

By Ed Brake, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross North Texas Region

The American Red Cross represents many things to many different people; a source for much needed blood and blood components, emergency aid and communication for military families in time of need or tragedy as well as a source for community disaster relief.

What exactly is a disaster, you might ask? Wikipedia defines it thusly, “A disaster is a serious disruption occurring over a relatively short period of time that causes widespread human, material, economic or environmental loss which exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope on a timely basis using its own resources.” Whew, that’s a long one; as homefolks might more succinctly say, “A disaster is when you done been hammered. You ain’t got much left and you need some help, real quick like.” That real quick help is where the Red Cross Disaster Action Team comes into play. Texarkana resident Deanna O’Malley is a Red Cross volunteer who serves as a member of the North Texas Disaster Action Team.

The Disaster Action Team is a group of Red Cross volunteers who are the first to respond on behalf of the Red Cross following a home fire or other disaster. These Everyday Heroes provide emotional support, financial assistance, and information to help families begin the process of recovery.

O’Malley is a mother of four, including a Marine and a soon-to-be USAF airman, and a grand-mother of a three-year-old and another grandbaby is on the way.

When asked why she volunteers with the Red Cross O’Malley said, “I enjoy volunteering with the American Red Cross because I have the freedom to help where I want, and if I wish to train for another area, that opportunity is there but I am never forced to do more than I am comfortable doing.”

O’Malley has cross trained in some areas of CPR and is employed on a part-time basis as a 911 dispatcher. As if that weren’t enough, she and her husband of 17 years run a small diner, the “Chillee Bean.”

Like most of us, O’Malley finds herself extremely busy, however she still finds time to volunteer and help those in need. It is a known phenomenon that busy

people are often able to more easily add additional activities to their already full schedules than the proverbial couch potato can take on. Busy people who can manage their time are in big demand. Busy people are efficient people.

Of the approximately 62,000 disasters annually to which the American Red Cross responds to nationally, 90 percent are home fires. The goal of the Red Cross Disaster Action Team on which O’Malley serves is to contact the displaced person(s) within two hours of the home fire disaster.

The American Red Cross employs 23,000 and utilizes approximately 330,000 volunteers just like O’Malley. Of the thousands of Disaster Action Team members who respond to scenes and provide relief, more than 90 percent are volunteers.

So be inspired when you see a Red Cross vest or cap, and remember they are likely being worn by a volunteer who is doing his or her part to help neighbors in need.

To learn how you can join this team of Everyday Heroes, visit

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