The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.
The year was 2000. Memphis firefighter Kenneth Brown was exiting a scalding-hot burning building. “It was an icy-cold night, as we came out of the super-heated building steam poured from our overheated bodies,” Brown recalls. Across the street sat a boxy, red and white truck: one of the emergency response vehicles (ERVs) from the Mid-South Chapter of the American Red Cross. They had cold water, coffee, hot chocolate, snacks, and encouraging words that they doled out generously and without charge to firefighters and police officers on the scene.
After several such experiences, Brown decided that he needed to be part of this organization that showed up to offer a helping hand. At first, he directed that all of his United Way contributions taken from his paycheck be donated to the Red Cross. But before long he was down at the Mid-South Red Cross headquarters building on his days off taking disaster preparedness courses.
Brown began driving an ERV to emergency sites, spending many of his days off offering assistance to his fire-department colleagues, and other workers and persons affected by emergency situations. He became a member of a Disaster Action Team (DAT), which responds to assist people who have been displaced from their homes when disaster strikes. Soon he was tapped to be a DAT Captain, a role that he still fills. Brown is also a disaster assessment specialist, a function that is essential after a disaster strikes to determine exactly where and how much assistance is required from the Red Cross.
In addition to his work in the local community, Brown also deploys with the Red Cross to assist with national emergencies. His recent stint to help with the Superstorm Sandy recovery was his twelfth deployment since 2005, including deployments to assist with Hurricane Gustav and Katrina recovery efforts.
When not busy with the Red Cross, Brown serves as a Chaplin for the Memphis Fire Department. He is also a member of Tennessee Task Force One, an emergency response agency sponsored by the Memphis/Shelby County Emergency Management Agency and co-coordinated through the Memphis Fire Department, and teaches Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) courses.
Brown is from Greenville, Mississippi. He came to Memphis to attend Memphis State University in order to pursue a degree in chemical engineering. He has been with the Memphis Fire Department since 1998 and with the Mid-South Red Cross since 2000.
Profile May 14, 2013
Story and Photo Credit: Robert W. Wallace/American Red Cross