One Lathrop couple, Frank and Ailleen Pasillas, were among some 40 Red Cross volunteers updating their emergency response skills and knowledge in last weekend’s two-day seminar in the new City of Manteca Emergency Operations Center upstairs in the 200 block of North Cherry Avenue.
The volunteers studied shelter fundamentals along with dealing with active shooter situations.
Eric Goossens, disaster program manager for the Gold Country Region that includes South San Joaquin County, said there are over 1,000 volunteers spread out over the area from Sacramento to Stanislaus to Tuolumne and San Joaquin counties. All 24 counties in the north state make up the Gold Country Region.
Goossens said the most recent call for volunteer help in the South County was prompted by the recent heavy rains and the flooding in the rural areas south of Manteca where a levee break caused some area flooding and evacuations.
The Red Cross has also responded to forest fires in the Sierra, earthquakes like the Loma Prieta quake in the Bay Area 18 years ago and the recent Hurricane Patricia that hit Mexico’s state of Guadalajara with a vengeance.
“With forest fires you have a little bit of warning; earthquakes you have no warning,” Gossens said. “We coordinate with FEMA or the area fire departments.”
Frank Pasillas worked as a firefighter and EMT for the Lathrop-Manteca Fire Department back in 1989. The couple later went on a mission trip with their church to Mexico that changed his life and that of his wife Ailleen – through their humanitarian work. She now serves as a manager for a 300-unit apartment complex. He currently monitors the water levels in the San Joaquin River awaiting a new Red Cross assignment. He also drove for A-1 Ambulance in Stockton while working for the fire department.
They have both been volunteers for the Red Cross for the past eight years.
Ailleen said she was at her husband’s side – becoming the best of friends – as he worked at building houses south of the border and putting together an ambulance system while they lived in Mexico. They were receiving used ambulances and fire trucks from the Chicago Fire Department. The ambulances were just shells and they had to be outfitted with emergency medical supplies as he was also busy with communicating with the outside world, she said.
The donated fire engines were a blessing but they could only depend on the water tanks within those trucks because there were no fire hydrants.
Ailleen said her husband has one serious problem in that “he doesn’t know his limits – always says yes to any plea for help and doesn’t know how to say no.”
The couple noted they were also learning about the implementation of social media in the roles of disaster responders and learning how all government agencies, including FEMA, want to implement the use of social media to reach the public in times of disaster.
“We also learned about fake news and how to control it,” Pasillas said. “People are initiating rumors and it’s necessary to filter them and find out what is not true.”
They stayed in the Valley of Paradise region and everyone kept asking why they were there, they recalled. Helping to build a Kingdom Hall for their church was part of their passion for being with those in need in Mexico.
The couple has also been involved in the refugee crisis through the International Red Cross Red Crescent Society that focuses on vaccinations and preventive help and working to get those ill and out of the states back home.
Goossen said the Red Cross now needs more volunteers from San Joaquin County – 18 and older – including nurses and retired nurses and any medical service volunteers. Those experienced in disaster care and mental health are difficult to find, he said.
He lauded the “Pillow Case Program” that is taught in elementary schools where the children are given pillow cases where they can create their own art on the cloth. They are taught to keep their emergency needs in the pillow cases for times of emergency where they might have to leave their homes during the night collecting extra clothes and tooth brushes and tooth paste to name a few of the necessities.
To contact Glenn Kahl, email email@example.com.