The Niagara Falls Chapter of the American Red Cross on Wednesday unveiled an Emergency Response Vehicle, the first such vehicle to be used in Niagara or Erie counties.
The vehicle is used to assist volunteers at both local and national disasters.
"It really is a gift to the community. We will use it at a fire in the middle of the night to allow people to come in out of the cold and start the process of getting the things they need [from Red Cross]," said Clifford Abray, volunteer chairman of emergency services.
Donna Kolarich, director of communications for the Niagara Falls chapter, said these vehicles are a very visible and welcome signal that help has arrived.
"It's like having a moving office. In the past, volunteers often take their own cars and have had to use flashlights to fill out paperwork," Kolarich said.
Abray said the vehicle is owned by the national organization, but Niagara Falls is now a custodial chapter.
He said the vehicle will be called upon nationally to be used in emergencies such as in the case of a hurricane where it would be used to feed people and move supplies.
"It will always say 'Niagara Falls' on the side and will be a nice symbol of the community," Abray said.
Currently nine volunteer drivers are trained to drive the vehicle and can volunteer to travel with the van in cases of emergency.
Kolarich said a limited amount of Emergency Response Vehicles are in use and Niagara Falls was selected based upon its proximity to the border and homeland security concerns. She said the next closest vehicle is in Jamestown.