Wednesday August 8, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- When an emergency arises in Berkshire County, fire trucks, ambulances and police cars respond to the scene, but lately a new vehicle has been there as well -- the Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle, or ERV.

With a core group of about 45 volunteers, the Red Cross Berkshire County Disaster Action Team has responded in the ERV to eight emergencies since receiving the vehicle in May, and has been at the scene of three house fires in the last 10 days.

"It provides a private and safe environment for [victims] and allows the case worker to be one-on-one with the family in a private setting," said Tom Pfeiffer, the director of disaster services for the local Red Cross.

The vehicle also provides snacks and water for victims as well as firefighters and other first responders, he said.

Stocked with supplies that include everything from blankets to teddy bears (to comfort children), the vehicle is often called to the scene of fires or other disasters by local fire departments or police.

"We can take care of clients while the fire department takes care of what they need to," said Pfeiffer.

The vehicle, dedicated to Berkshire County, came from the Worcester chapter of the organization.

According to Pfeiffer, the American Red Cross has been pushing to "regionalize" and this vehicle is one benefit of that process.

"We are thrilled that the Red Cross has this vehicle," Pittsfield Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski said. "They are a real help at fires."

The chief called the Disaster Action Team a group of "dedicated volunteers" that are on call 24/7.

In the last 10 days, the team has provided help to victims of three different house fires, two in Pittsfield and a third in New Marlborough.

Pfeiffer said the Berkshire chapter of the American Red Cross has a "great group" of volunteers, but can always use more. To learn more, call (413) 442-1506.