ASHLAND — American Red Cross volunteers Charlene and Michael Qualls said during times of emergency, they’ve had to load up their own cars with water, food, cots and other supplies.
This made relief efforts in Eastern Kentucky more difficult, they said, because coolers can only prevent food from spoiling for a short amount of time. Bottled water is difficult to keep ice cold, and there’s barely any room to haul supplies.
That all changed Wednesday as the Quallses witnessed the unveiling of a brandnew, $150,000 emergency response vehicle at the Ashland Fire Department. The vehicle was a donation from the American Electric Power Foundation to the Red Cross’ Eastern Kentucky chapter.
The new vehicle features more storage space with insulated coolers designed specifically for long-distance food. The coolers can be removed, leaving room for cleaning supplies and cots. It’s the first vehicle of its kind in Eastern Kentucky.
“There is a lot of stuff we could do out of this vehicle that we could not do before,” Charlene Qualls said.
The truck made its debut Wednesday as the
the Quallscs drove to Carter County, Kentucky, to aid first responders looking for a missing man with dementia. They would provide search crews with plenty of bottled water and meals, Charlcnc Quails said. The couple has been married for 29 years and began volunteering with the Red Cross four years ago as a way to give back to the community.
Convincing the American Electric Power Foundation to give a grant for the vehicle was “highly competitive,” but needed little convincing thanks to people like the Quallses, said Matt Satterwhite, Kentucky Power president.
There were 33 states vying for the foundation’s money, but members recalled its good relationship with the American Red Cross.
Red Cross volunteers were instrumental in helping the community and Kentucky Power employees during a devastating derecho storm in June 2012. The storm knocked out power for thousands of people in the middle of a heat wave.
Power crews worked 16-hour shifts to repair the electric infrastructure, while wearing full-body gear in more than 110-degree heat, Satterwhite said. Volunteers from the Red Cross were on hand to make sure his crews were hydrated and well fed, he said.
Satterwhite said he looks forward to seeing all the good things the emergency response vehicle could accomplish.
During a meeting over breakfast Wednesday, members of the American Red Cross presented Satterwhite with a personalized disaster vest. The honor is reserved for donors going above and beyond a small financial contribution, said Debbie Ranier, executive director of the Red Cross’ Eastern Kentucky chapter.
It was the first such vest given to someone in Eastern Kentucky. It’s a fitting match for the area’s first emergency response vehicle, Ranier said.