Story and captions by: Jay Bonafede, American Red Cross
Photo by: Stefanie Arcangelo, American Red Cross

On a typical Red Cross disaster relief operation, you see all sorts of vehicles: Emergency Response Vehicles, or ERVs, delivering food and water to disaster victims; box trucks full of relief supplies people need as they begin the long recovery process; cars full of volunteers ready to help. However, it’s not every day you pull up to a relief site and see a full Red Cross tractor trailer.

3.25.16 Kirbyville (49)
Red Cross workers distribute relief supplies outside the EmTRAC, in Kirbyville, Texas. The tractor trailer, donated by ConocoPhillips, also provides local families a private, air-conditioned space to meet with Red Cross caseworkers as they begin the long recovery process

“It’s a nice machine, like a mobile office,” said Wally Lamb, site director at the Multi-Agency Resource Center in Kirbyville, Texas, of the Emergency Training and Response Action Center, or EmTRAC. The vehicle was donated to the Red Cross by what is now known as ConocoPhillips, an energy company headquartered in nearby Houston, following the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. The EmTRAC is used to help bring relief into remote areas where it might be difficult for people to travel to nearby towns and cities to access services.

Equipped with private offices, a radio room, storage rooms, meeting spaces, computers, heating and air conditioning, the EmTRAC has been a part of several major relief operations, including Hurricane Katrina. Currently, it is helping ConocoPhillips’ Southeast Texas neighbors recover from devastating flooding.

3.25.16 Kirbyville (39)
Site director Wally Lamb works inside the EmTRAC private offices at a Multi-Agency Resource Center in Kirbyville, Texas.

“It’s the first time I’ve worked with it. It helps a lot,” Lamb said. “For one thing, it’s a big billboard. People see it and wonder what’s going on. Plus, it takes you out of the weather.”

The air-conditioned EmTRAC trailer was a welcome break from the Texas heat for 87-year-old Melvin Harris. Harris, who lives alone in nearby Bon Weir, was able to go inside and meet with Red Cross caseworkers in comfort as they discussed resources available to help him recover from the flooding, the likes of which he says he’s never seen before.

“I think it’s the most wonderful thing in the world,” Harris said of Red Cross workers using the EmTRAC to help him and his neighbors. “Great, great people, I know that.”