CINCINNATI -- As Hurricane Matthew barrels along the coast of Florida, volunteers from the local organizations have been heading south to help wherever they can.
More than a dozen trained Red Cross volunteers have already departed for Florida and the Carolinas to assist in providing shelter, food and even cleaning supplies to those in need, according to Trish Smitson, CEO of the Greater Cincinnati/Dayton Region Red Cross.
"The priority is to get ready to shelter people. We already have shelters set up all over Florida and all over the Carolinas and our volunteers are in those areas," Smitson said. "At this point, we’re getting ready to see what is the devastation and where do we need to go next."
Smitson said Cincinnati's Red Cross has a list of trained volunteers who know the special needs of populations devastated by situations like hurricanes and can leap into action when needed.
Duke Energy trucks filled with crews rolled out Friday morning to assist with those whose power has gone out. Nearly 1,000 Duke volunteers nationwide will head south, spending five to eight days on the ground there.
Red Cross volunteers and two disaster relief truck have been on standby since Tuesday in Evanston, prepared for the worst. Although many residents of hurricane-affected states have already evacuated, many others have not been able to do so -- and will be forced to take shelter in areas that could still be affected by the storm.
The Red Cross volunteers who stayed up Tuesday night were packing an emergency response vehicle especially for delivering bulk disaster relief supplies like meals and bottles of water.
"Initially, in the first part of a disaster like this, our focus is on mass care, with the sheltering of folks and feeding them," said Red Cross region disaster officer John Bernard.
Hurricane Matthew’s impact in the United States can be measured by the devastation it caused Tuesday in Haiti, where 23 staff members of Matthew 25 Ministries are already prepared to provide relief to people affected by the disaster.
“Cincinnati is always very generous whenever there is any type of disaster," said CEO Tim Mettey. "Whether it’s Louisiana flooding or tornadoes that hit Texas, you know, Cincinnati comes and helps."
The floodwaters in Haiti were too high Tuesday for Matthew 25 Ministries staffers to safely venture outside, but Mettey said they would hit the ground running and distribute emergency supplies, including clean water, personal hygiene products and food, as soon as the water receded to an acceptable level.