By Lois Kugler, American Red Cross

In March of 2002 Michael (Mike) Vincelli decided to resume teaching CPR, but when he went to sign-up as a volunteer with the Red Cross the director of emergency services convinced him he would find disaster relief more interesting. As a result, Mike has been working as a disaster volunteer for the last 15 years and has always been involved in local disasters – mostly fires.

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When those around Mike hear the “Looney Tunes” ringtone, they know it’s the Red Cross. In his work as a Disaster Action Team (DAT) member and Supervisor On-Call in the Fairfield County area, he is on-call at night and on weekends roughly 14 to 15 days a month. As a DAT Team Leader he meets other team members and goes to the scene of disasters to offer comfort and provide assistance for residents’ immediate needs. Generally, Mike assists victims of home fires, which usually means getting up in the middle of the night to help displaced victims. Mike says that he remains so involved with the Red Cross because people really need the help.

Thinking back on all the incidents he has responded to over the years, the Charles Street fire in Bridgeport on New Years Eve in 2015 sticks out in his mind. Mike recounts that 134 people were displaced after losing their homes in that fire and many Red Cross volunteers were out that day and into the evening helping victims.

When Mike began volunteering for the Red Cross, he worked in information technology for a large investment bank. In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, local municipalities began organizing emergency response efforts and Mike saw an opportunity.

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He took courses in emergency management and coupled that with his experience in disaster services to become qualified for a new career in emergency preparedness and response. Today Mike works in Emergency Management and Homeland Security during the day and volunteers at night and on weekends with the Red Cross. He is passionate about helping people and notes that with a little training you also can become a DAT Team Volunteer. For Mike, it has “just been about helping people.”

Mike will be with other Red Cross workers on March 7 in Norwalk as part of the Red Cross Install-A-Thon. He will visit homes with other volunteers to provide fire safety education and install free smoke alarms to families in Norwalk. To learn more about the Install-A-Thon and to make an appointment visit: http://www.redcross.org/news/event/local/connecticut/Red-Cross-Install-A-Thon. To join Mike as a volunteer for the day visit: https://volunteerconnection.redcross.org/?nd=vms_public_form&form_id=1078.

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