WATERLOO -- The local Red Cross is getting new wheels to respond to disasters big and small.
ERV, a recently commissioned Mercedes Sprinter van, is responsible for giving shelter to area families displaced by fires while volunteers line up accommodations, feeding rescue workers at the scene and traveling coast to coast to provide relief in hurricanes and wildfires.
“It serves wherever we need it, wherever there’s a need,” said Rod Hamer, a Red Cross volunteer. “The main role is feeding, which includes canteening here in town if there’s a fire … we can turn it into a little office, it can also be used for hauling emergency supplies around.”
On Thursday, ERV -- short for emergency response vehicle -- was parked in front of the Ansborough Avenue HyVee handing out free donuts and coffee to shoppers as part of a Red Cross public awareness call.
The American Red Cross South and Eastern Iowa Chapter has had an emergency response vehicle for years, but the relief agency just received the new van to replace its old ambulance-style vehicle, which had racked up more than 120,000 miles on the odometer and saw service from coast to coast.
“It’s been on many, many trips … We’ve been in Virginia, Texas three times, New Orleans a couple times. It’s been in California. Wherever there’s been a major disaster,” said Hamer, who has been on about 25 ERV deployments.
Old ERV went to New York for two months for Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and came back to Iowa on a train. Iowa duties have included dozens of floods and tornadoes and the 2018 search for Jake Wilson in LaPorte City.
New ERV’s $150,000 price tag includes the vehicle and the build-out to response vehicle specs, as well as provisions, fuel and maintenance. Black Hawk County Gaming Association contributed $61,000, the largest share of the bill, with further backing from the Hall-Perrine Foundation of Cedar Rapids and other donors.
“It does a lot of good things in the community. We are excited to have a new vehicle that will work and we can count on,” said Joe Vich, a gaming association member who is also volunteer Red Cross ERV driver.
Servepro, a private company that provides cleanup services following fires and other disasters, is quartering the vehicle at its Waterloo warehouse so it is always warm and charged and ready to go when the Red Cross needs it.