CEHC Students, Staff Offer Emergency Assistance in Response to Ida

Nancy Kreis, Mike Clahane and Erin Golden stand in front of the ETEC building in America Red Cross vests.
From left: Nancy Kreis, Mike Clahane and Erin Golden (Photo by Patrick Dodson)

ALBANY, N.Y. (Sept. 21, 2021) – Three members of the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (CEHC) community answered the call for help earlier this month when the remnants of Hurricane Ida battered the Northeast.

That call came on Thursday evening, Sept. 2, from the American Red Cross of Eastern New York. The day after Ida hit the East Coast. More volunteers were needed to support an emergency shelter at a gymnasium in Paterson, N.J., a region that experienced record-breaking rain and flash flooding, leaving many residents without power and some displaced from their homes.

The Red Cross requested volunteers – filled by CEHC juniors Erin Golden, Mike Clahane, and Nancy Kreis, the college’s training coordinator and a 2019 alumna.

Kreis first alerted the group on Friday morning that they might be deployed. They learned at 8 p.m. that evening they would in fact deploy, and left Albany three hours later, beginning to work at the shelter as soon as they arrived around 1:15 a.m. on Saturday morning.

The group completed three night shifts over the next four days, from midnight to 9 a.m., leading shelter operations on the ground and serving the needs of the community members as best as possible.

“It was very unexpected, but we were proud to answer the call,” said Golden, who wants to work in emergency operations for FEMA or the NYS Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services. “We’ve been offered online training opportunities at CEHC throughout most of the pandemic, which has been great. But it’s not the same as in-person. This was our first opportunity to get in there and respond right after a real disaster.”

“It all happened so fast. I was excited but also a little bit nervous,” added Clahane, who also wants to work in emergency services at the local level. “Being able to meet with displaced families; help run operations at a real emergency shelter. These are things that Erin and I want to do for the rest of our lives. It was a unique opportunity.”

The Disaster Readiness and Response Program

CEHC’s Ida deployment was the first of what Kreis hopes to continue through a new partnership called the “Disaster Readiness and Response Program” (DRRP).

Nearly two years in the making, DRRP is an exclusive partnership between CEHC and the America Red Cross of Eastern New York that aims to train and offer experiential learning experiences to a select cadre of students in the college’s Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (EHC) major in three key areas of volunteer-based non-profit disaster response:

  • Community preparedness programming and outreach
  • Responding to local fire calls and other small-scale emergencies
  • Supporting shelter operations after large-scale disasters such as hurricanes, wildfires, etc.

The partnership has been facilitated, in large part, through the generous time and expertise of Jim Savitt, a Red Cross volunteer and active member of the disaster response, volunteer and emergency services communities, and Rich Hajeris, a Red Cross regional disaster program officer.

Golden and Clahane were among a small group of CEHC students that were selected for the DRRP program this semester. They attended their first program meeting just two days prior to responding to Ida.

“Our undergraduate students are required to complete 100 hours of training before graduation. We want to be able to offer them more hands-on learning opportunities, like this one,” Kreis said. “One of the key mottoes at CEHC is to make a difference and help people. The Ida deployment was extremely rewarding for all of us. I am proud to have been a part of it.”

The American Red Cross of Eastern New York Region helps people in emergencies every day and needs more volunteers. Here are just a few of the ways you can make an impact.