Shaler warming center offers 'peace of mind'
By Bethany Hofstetter
Published: Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
A special team created in Shaler Township provides a quick response in emergency situations such as the sub-zero temperatures seen earlier this month.
The American Red Cross Community Shelter Team in Shaler Township, established in 2009, is a local volunteer group that organizes and staffs emergency shelters during community disasters and mobilized Jan. 6 through 8 to provide a warming center in Shaler Area Middle School.
“We didn't have any takers … (but) the warming center is just somewhere for people to come,” said Shaler police Sgt. Sean Frank, emergency-management coordinator.
The warming center was set up and staffed by volunteers on the shelter team when temperatures plunged below 0 degrees with wind chills making the temperature feel as low as minus 40 degrees.
During the daytime hours, the warming center moved from the middle school to the Shaler North Hills Library, which is next door.
Sharon McRae, library director and a shelter-team member, said the decision to have the warming center in the library during the day was a new arrangement but one that made sense.
“Anything that we can do to help,” McRae said. “It's a township facility, and we're open any way. We're happy to do what we can.”
The library staff kept hot chocolate, coffee and tea available for patrons on the first floor during operating hours when the building doubled as a warming center.
“I think it's a tribute to a community that steps up,” McRae said. “You don't know what is going to happen if your furnace goes and you can't get a hold of a neighbor or relative. It's a peace of mind, too, that (you) do have a place to go.”
The shelter team was called to action for the first time in February 2010, when back-to-back snowstorms dumped close to 2 feet of snow on the Pittsburgh area and knocked out power in parts of the region.
Similarly, earlier this month, power outages shut down home furnaces, and water-pipe breaks or frozen pipes left residents without water. When the shelter team decided to open its warming center, it was supported by the American Red Cross.
The Shaler team has access to an American Red Cross disaster-services supply trailer, which is housed in Shaler and equipped with 100 cots and personal-care kits. The Red Cross purchased the trailer and supplies through an $80,000 grant U.S. Steel provided in 2009 to help fund the shelter equipment and shelter-team program.
“The shelter teams, they are in the right location to support their community quickly,” said Lauren Ashley, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross, about the importance of the teams.
“If we were to mobilize volunteers from our office (in Downtown Pittsburgh), it would take longer to get volunteers and supplies organized. The supplies are already in place and positioned, and a shelter can be opened directly by community members quickly.”
Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Vincentian Academy looks at expansion plans
- Pine-Richland officials look to improve curriculum consistency
- All that Jazz Shaler North Hills Library hosting concert
- Hampton woman, Aspinwall man team to help small businesses succeed
- Pine taking steps to alleviate traffic at busy intersection
- Absenteeism of North Hills School Board member causes concern