Red Cross Operates in Tandem with a Multitude of Agencies During Disasters

During a disaster such as a hurricane, the American Red Cross works with a multitude of agencies to provide a safe haven from the storm for individuals and families. To know just how the Red Cross handles such a mammoth task the following is a time table of action steps:

How a Red Cross Emergency Shelter Gets into Action

  • 24 to 48 hours before a hurricane is likely hit the area, the Red Cross begins making calls to shelter volunteers to assess volunteer availability.
  • Based on weather updates from the National Hurricane Watch Center in Florida, the local Emergency Management Agency (EMA) alerts the Red Cross and other county agencies about the imminent need to open emergency shelters. The EMA works with the Red Cross to decide which shelters to open, and when they will be opened.
  • The Red Cross works in tandem with the county public schools, law enforcement, human resources and other agencies to assign volunteers for specific duties in each shelter. Every Red Cross shelter is required to have an on-site nurse and security personnel. All shelter management and assistance is provided by volunteers only.
  • When the EMA issues the order to open one or more shelters, the Red Cross immediately calls in its available volunteers for a wide variety of duties to be performed before, during, and after the hurricane, which include:
    • shelter management
    • transportation of shelter supplies
    • unloading and dispersing shelter supplies
    • answering phones and providing information to the public
    • providing clerical support for departmental functions
    • disaster welfare inquiries (finding lost family members)
    • damage assessment after the hurricane
    • emergency assistance to hurricane victims
    • mass feeding to relief workers and communities in need
  • Within hours of being notified by the local EMA, the Red Cross will open its designated shelters. Shelter residents are asked to bring their own bedding, flashlights, prescription medicines, and other personal care items. However, the Red Cross always provides cots, blankets and other supplies for the frail elderly and those with special needs. The Red Cross does not provide shelter accommodations for individuals with special medical needs, such as respirators. Individuals with special medical needs are encouraged to contact their health care providers to make special arrangements during a disaster.
  • Red Cross shelter volunteers operate non-stop for the duration of the disaster. If post-disaster damage warrants opening long-term shelters, a new set of volunteers is assigned specific shifts. Red Cross long-term shelters are usually located at camps or other similar facilities.
  • After a disaster, Red Cross volunteers take responsibility for closing the shelter locations. This includes cleaning up debris, packing up Red Cross supplies, and transporting supplies back to Red Cross headquarters. Many volunteers work long hours to complete the shelter opening, management and closing phases before they even get a chance to back to their own homes and families.
  • The next step is to send teams of trained volunteers into affected communities to assess damage caused by the disaster. Following that procedure service centers will either be opened convenient to the community affected or family service outreach teams will visit the families needing Red Cross assistance. Depending on need the Red Cross will issue vouchers to replace disaster caused needs that will help get the victims back on their feet as soon as possible so they may begin their own recovery process. Items to replace may include medications, clothes, bedding, dishes and cook wear, food, etc. Mental Health workers are also on stand by to provide counseling for those devastated by the storm.

Other Points:

  • One disaster can involve not only hundreds of local Red Cross volunteers, but hundreds more Red Cross volunteers from all over the state and/or all over the country. Red Cross volunteers in the Central Savannah River Area have been called upon to provide disaster assistance in throughout the U.S., from wildfires, floods, earthquakes to tornadoes, hurricanes to plane crashes.
  • All Red Cross volunteers may receive special disaster training that will qualify them for more complex disaster assistance services, locally and abroad.
  • Red Cross shelters offer the benefits of Red Cross resources, locally and nationally. Bigger disasters that require additional help can rely on Red Cross resources from across the state, or if necessary, from all over the country. The Red Cross also offers the benefits of nearly limitless communication capabilities, allowing our organization to help individuals find members of their families in a crisis.
  • Red Cross disaster relief is provided at no cost to victims, provided by donations by the American people.
  • The Red Cross is ready to respond to disasters 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days per year.