Three Years After Hurricane Sandy: Red Cross Successes and Progress

WASHINGTON, D.C. — (Thursday, October 29, 2015) — In the three years since Hurricane Sandy unleashed massive destruction along the Atlantic coast, the American Red Cross is still on the ground, having used $313 million in donations to help thousands of people recover and rebuild from the devastation of the storm.

“Hurricane Sandy was a major storm, affecting thousands of families, homes and businesses. Recovery from such a tremendous storm requires continued coordination, involvement, and commitment of many organizations. For the past three years, the Red Cross is proud to have worked alongside government and community-based partners to provide assistance to those who needed it most,” said Richard Reed, American Red Cross senior vice president, disaster cycle services.

“For so many of these people, the Red Cross has been part of the answer to helping them recover by providing financial assistance with housing-related expenses, recovery case management services, and grants to support services in the hardest hit areas.”

Hurricane Sandy Third Anniversary – Red Cross Facts:

1. Spending: The Red Cross has spent or made commitments to spend $313 million in support of our Sandy response efforts; an additional $1 million will be spent on Sandy programs in 2016. Details on how donations have been spent are available atredcross.org/sandy.

2. Emergency Relief: Before Sandy made landfall in October 2012, the Red Cross mobilized a massive emergency response effort that was ultimately supported by more than 17,000 workers from all over the country – 90 percent of them volunteers. Working with community partners, the Red Cross served more than 17.5 million meals and snacks and handed out more than 7 million relief items such as blankets, gloves, warm clothing, and home clean-up supplies. Red Crossers offered 113,000 health services and emotional support contacts and provided nearly half of the 163,000 overnight shelter stays for Sandy.

3. Recovery Support: The Red Cross has provided one-on-one assistance through casework to help thousands of families heal, rebuild and recover. The Move-In Assistance Program provided financial assistance to those whose primary homes were destroyed or made uninhabitable and who lacked the resources to relocate or make repairs. From 2012 through early 2015, this program provided more than $32.3 million to more than 5,100 households. The Red Cross has also worked closely with hundreds of partners and government agencies to make sure people have the support they need. For example, working with local residents and community organizations, the Red Cross helped start and support Long-Term Recovery Groups to address the disaster needs of storm-affected households. These groups continue to help people today in the hardest-hit areas.

4. Partnerships: The Red Cross awarded $95.2 million in funding to support critical recovery services in Sandy-devastated communities in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic. This funding has supported the repair and rebuilding of more than 7,500 homes; the training, housing and deployment of more than 230,000 volunteers; and casework, mental health and health services, financial assistance and financial and legal counseling to more than 120,000 households. This month, the Red Cross is awarding $750,000 to four organizations to help them continue to provide financial assistance to Sandy survivors; these organizations are based in New York City, Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut. A full list of grants is available at redcross.org/sandy.

“This robust recovery effort was made possible because of the generosity of people who were moved to help after seeing heartbreaking images of devastation on the news, or reading stories of Sandy survivors who lost everything,” added Reed. “We are grateful that Americans entrusted the Red Cross with their financial donations and we have stretched these dollars to provide meaningful and lasting support to thousands of families and individuals.”

Restoring Family Links Connecting US with People in Afghanistan and Pakistan after Earthquake

The Restoring Family Links website has been activated
in relation to the earthquake in Afghanistan and Pakistan – bit.ly/1ijHMXg 

A woman helds a tracing request.
A woman helds a tracing request.

Two days ago a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck Afghanistan/Pakistan with the epicenter in the Jerm district in the Afghan province of Badakhshan close to the border with Pakistan. Shockwaves were felt throughout the region.

AfganistanquakeThe Afghan Red Crescent deployed about 200 volunteers and staff to the affected areas to provide emergency relief, conduct assessments and assist with blood donation services. Emergency response teams are mobilized for search and rescue.

The Pakistan Red Crescent Society also immediately deployed to carry out relief activities. Emergency medical material to treat patients has been delivered to Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar and District Headquarters Hospital Swat.

Both emergency response teams are actively involved in tending to those wounded and providing basic assistance to the most affected people. It will take several days to have a clear picture of the extent of the damages as many areas are covered by snow and many roads are still blocked due to landslides.

The Family Linking website has been activated in response to this disaster.  The website is currently available in English, it will be followed by an Urdu then Pashto version.

earthquakeThis family links website offers people the possibility to:

  • Search through the list of missing persons and people who have responded that they are alive
  • Register names of persons with whom they have lost contact
  • Register names of persons who wish to inform others that they are alive

People can register in a form on the website, which is submitted to the Red Cross. Names will not automatically appear on the lists in the website. The names which people wish to make public will need to be processed by the Red Cross first, which is continuously updating the lists.

Inquiries will be accepted that meet the following criteria:

  • The sought person and inquirer must be family members
  • Inquiries must have the last known address information
  • Sought persons live in the affected area and had been in regular contact with their relatives

If anyone is unable to use the website contact the Restoring Family Links Unit at 202-303-5280 for further guidance.

Inquiries concerning U.S. citizens should be referred to the U.S. Department of State, Office of Overseas Citizens Services  at 1-888-407-4747.

Show Us How YOU are Ready for El Niño – CONTEST TIME!

ElNinoWebEl Niño Preparedness Contest

The saying goes… “There’s calm after the storm”… but in California… not so much.

We’ve been in serious drought for almost five years, had two of the most destructive wildfires in our state’s history last month, and el Niño 2015 is expected to rival the mighty 1997 event that led to severe flooding, tornadoes and other extreme weather across the U.S.  In fact, the 2015 event may be among the strongest on record.

The Red Cross is known to respond to disasters, but we also are in the business of preparedness. Now is an important time to gather and plan ahead… just follow our Be Red Cross Ready – Flood Safety Checklist.

To make this preparedness time even better! We’re creating a contest.

  • Share your ‘Family Preparedness Plan’with us!
    • Send us a 1-2 minute video that explains your family’s preparedness plan, show us your kit and explain your evacuation strategy.
      • If you are not into videos… not to worry! Send us an email and explain the above in a couple of sentences (don’t forget to attach a picture of your family with your kit!)
    • Upload the video on our Facebook page – Facebook.com/RCSierraDelta.
    • If you are the winner, you could win a Red Cross Backpack or a PetFirst Aid Kit!Prizes
  • Two winners will be selected by end of business thisFriday, October 30 by 5:00pm.

Winners will be selected based on the number of entries received… all names will be entered into a hat and two names will be pulled by a Red Cross staff or volunteer.

Good luck and happy preparedness time!

International Collaboration Key to Disaster Response

Written by Suzy DeFrancis, Chief Public Affairs Officer, American Red Cross

As I write this blog, our thoughts are with the people of Mexico and our partners at the Mexican Red Cross: Cruz Roja Mexicana.  Hurricane Patricia, the most powerful tropical cyclone ever measured in the Western Hemisphere, is forecast to make landfall in Mexico Friday evening as a catastrophic Category 5 storm, putting 400,000 people at risk.  In addition to unprecedented winds, the storm will bring flooding rainfall and a dangerous storm surge to the Mexican state of Jalisco which includes the popular coastal resort city of Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city. Moisture from Hurricane Patricia may also add to the heavy rainfall and flash flooding expected in Texas and neighboring states this weekend, and local Red Cross chapters are mobilizing volunteers, supplies and shelters in case they are needed.

CAMX1American Red Cross disaster specialists are monitoring Hurricane Patricia closely, remain in close contact with colleagues at the Mexican Red Cross, and are on standby to help if asked by our neighbors in Mexico.  Earlier this week, our senior leadership met in Canada with our Mexican and Canadian counterparts to discuss Cross Border Emergency Response.  These meetings, which have annually taken place for the past seven years, have led to a strong collaboration between our three Red Cross societies and strong friendships between the three Red Cross Presidents, Gail McGovern of the US, Fernando Suinaga of Mexico, and Conrad Sauvé of Canada, affectionately referred to as the “three amigos.”

Recent examples of how we have reached across borders to help each other in time of need include:

  • Due to major flooding in Hildago County, Texas and widespread damage in upwards of 50 counties throughout Texas, in June 2015 we called on our Mexican Red Cross counterparts for help. Within two days, they deployed a 10 member team from neighboring Reynosa, Mexico and stayed for nearly 2 weeks, helping with bulk distribution of relief supplies and serving as translators for caseworkers and providing much needed psycho social support for survivors.
  • The American Red Cross worked closely with the Mexican Red Cross in the aftermath of Hurricane Odile that struck Baja, Mexico on September 14, 2014. We contributed $43,000 to the Mexican Red Cross to assist in providing food kits to displaced people.  We also helped reconnect families of US citizens stranded in Mexico during the hurricane.
  • In 2014, when an influx of unaccompanied minors coming into the US were being processed by Customs and Border Patrol, the American Red Cross provided over 14,000 calls to enable these children to tell their loved ones that they were safe. This response was made possible by countless American Red Cross volunteers and collaboration with the Mexican Red Cross.
  • The Saskatchewan wildfires in Canada in July 2015 prompted the largest evacuation in Canadian history, and 26 American Red Cross workers deployed to support the Canadian Red Cross.
  • During the Alberta floods in Canada in July 2013, the American Red Cross put operations experts on the ground to help with bulk distribution of 574,000 relief items.
  • During the response to Hurricane Sandy in 2012, both the Mexican and Canadian Red Cross societies sent workers to New York and New Jersey to help.

We are grateful for this continuing strong collaboration between ourselves and both our Red Cross counterparts in Mexico and Canada and we look forward to deepening it in the coming year with cross-training and exercises to simulate a future disaster.  We are all stronger and better equipped to do our best when we work collectively.

CAMX2
L to R: Cruz Roja Mexicana National Director, Fernando Suinaga; American Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern; Canadian Red Cross President and Chief Executive Officer, Conrad Sauvé

Red Cross Observes National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Every day, Red Crossers around the country choose to embrace their duties to serve others in need amidst their own personal challenges or unique circumstances. These challenges are often attributed to a personal disability that might require additional accommodations or support to do their jobs as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Did you know that nearly 20% of the U.S. workforce is comprised of individuals with disabilities? (U.S. Department of Labor, 9/2015)2015PosterEnglish

Because October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the American Red Cross is demonstrating its support of all people with disabilities – including our own employees and volunteers – with the launch of its fourth team member resource group called the Ability Network which will serve as a platform to recognize the positive contributions of people with disabilities as well as those with access and functional needs.

The Red Cross has the pleasure of acknowledging (and ultimately celebrating) our employees and volunteers for literally who they are and what they bring to our organization each day in terms of their differences – from gender to ethnicity and sexual orientation – and we couldn’t be more pleased to now have another forum to address the important issues of our people with disabilities – a forum that is open to all employees and volunteers.

We encourage each of you to get engaged this October during National Disability Employment Awareness Month.  Start by joining the Ability Network Facebook page as a friend, and invite other employees or volunteers to join. Then, if you’re so inclined, demonstrate your support by becoming a member of The Ability Network.

American Red Cross and American Heart Association Jointly Announce Updated First Aid Guidelines

New Bleeding Updates Align with White House “Stop the Bleed” Initiative


Washington, DC (October 15, 2015)
The American Red Cross and American Heart Association today announced changes to guidelines for administering first aid. Among the most noteworthy revisions are new and updated recommendations for the treatment of bleeding; recognition of stroke; recovery position; anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction); treatment of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in diabetics; and use of aspirin with heart attacks.

Volunteer experts from 14 national and international organizations joined the Red Cross and the American Heart Association in reviewing 22 separate first aid questions. Experts analyzed the science behind each question and worked to reach consensus on related treatment recommendations with the goal of reducing morbidity and mortality due to emergency events. Last updated in 2010, these recommendations form the recognized scientific basis for most first aid training around the world.

“First aid can be initiated by anyone in any situation, and our responsibility as experts is to designate assessments and interventions that are medically sound and based on scientific evidence or expert consensus. Knowing the correct steps to take in those critical first moments of an emergency can mean the difference between life and death” said Eunice “Nici” Singletary, M.D., co-chair of the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation (ILCOR) First Aid Task Force and chair of the First Aid Guidelines writing group. Singletary also serves as chair of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council’s First Aid Subcouncil.

Bleeding updates: The revised guidelines stress the importance of stopping severe bleeding as a critical first aid skill. Almost all bleeding can be controlled by steady, direct, manual pressure, with or without a gauze or cloth dressing over the wound. The guidelines recommend pressing hard and holding steady pressure for at least five minutes without lifting dressings to see if the bleeding has stopped. While direct pressure is still the first line of defense, the guidelines acknowledge the important role tourniquets and hemostatic agents play in stopping life-threatening bleeding when standard measures fail or are not possible. Tools now available and recommended to first aid providers include tourniquets for severe bleeding on a leg or arm. For open wounds not on an extremity, the guidelines suggest use of a hemostatic dressing, which is coated with a special agent to enhance clotting and help stop bleeding when correctly applied and combined with direct pressure. Hemostatic dressings are readily available online and at pharmacies.

Hypoglycemia in diabetics: Early treatment of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) while the patient is still conscious and still able to follow instructions can prevent progression to more serious hypoglycemia that would require more advanced treatment. To avoid lay responders from giving too much or too little sugar, the new guidelines recommend use of glucose tablets purchased at a retail pharmacy. Glucose tablets have been shown to be more effective at resolving symptoms of hypoglycemia than dietary forms of sugar. If glucose tablets are not available, food sources such as sucrose candies, dried fruit, or orange juice can still be used.

Recovery position: If the person is unresponsive and breathing normally, without any suspected spine, hip or pelvis injury, turn the victim to a lateral side-lying position. Studies show some respiratory improvement in this position compared to a supine, or faceup, position. In addition to the change from the supine position, the modified HAINES position is no longer recommended due to lack of scientific evidence.

Anaphylaxis: Under the revised guidelines for treating anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction), if symptoms persist beyond the initial dose and arrival of advanced care will exceed 5-10 minutes, the first aid provider may give a second epinephrine injection from a prescribed auto-injector.

Recognition of stroke: Approximately 800,000 Americans have a stroke each year, leaving them at risk for long-term disability. Early recognition of stroke through the use of a stroke assessment system decreases the interval between the time that the incident occurs and the time it takes for that person to arrive at a hospital and receive specific treatment. This faster time to treatment may reduce the damage and disability from a stroke. This is the first time that the guidelines have examined the science behind inclusion of a stroke identification system into all first aid courses.

Use of aspirin with heart attacks: The updated guidelines clarify that aspirin should be used when helping someone suspected of having a heart attack, characterized by symptoms such as chest pain accompanied by nausea, sweating and pain in the arm and back. If the first aid provider is unclear on whether this is a heart attack or simply someone experiencing non-cardiac related chest pain or discomfort, then aspirin should not be given. Additionally, the updated guidelines emphasize that there is no need to distinguish between enteric versus non-enteric coated aspirin as long as the aspirin is chewed and swallowed.

While changes in treatment protocols occur every five year as new research emerges, the current training is valid and saves lives. Potential course takers should not delay training, as Red Cross programs and associated certifications will be recognized through the duration of the certification period.

 

30 Days Later – The California Wildfires Response

Immediate Collaboration

The ongoing drought across California has given way to another historic wildfire season. Beginning September 9, 2015, two of the most destructive wildfires in state history flared throughout northern California. The Valley Fire is now the third most destructive fire in state history and the Butte Fire the seventh most destructive blaze. Combined, these fires burned more than 150,000 square acres and destroyed more than 1,700 homes, displacing thousands of families.

As the fires destroyed buildings, neighbors instantly came together to help one another showing amazing generosity and resilience. Local Red Cross chapters, community organizations and government agencies sprang into action as well, mobilizing volunteers to offer shelter, food, water, basic health services, and mental health services for thousands of people in the path of the wildfires.

As evacuation orders were lifted, Red Cross volunteers worked alongside community members to distribute food, and relief supplies to impacted neighborhoods and support people as they returned to their properties with health and mental health services.

California Wildfires Response by the Numbers:

  • over 120,000 meals and snacks served by Salvation Army, Southern Baptist, community groups, local restaurants and the Red Cross
  • over 58,000 relief items water, snacks, hot meals, non-perishable meals, and clean-up items such as work gloves, buckets, trash bags, sifters, and dust masks
  • over 11,000 overnight stays in 12 community or Red Cross shelters
  • over 9,900 health and mental health contacts
  • over 1,500 cases opened by Red Cross caseworkers to provide individualized recovery support.

Disasters are often complex, with complex needs – and no single agency can meet every need on its own; it takes collaboration and partnership. The reality is that it takes the talents and resources of many agencies and organizations working together to provide necessary services after a major disaster.

The Red Cross is one of many agencies coming together to ensure that basic needs are met, to work on the long-term recovery of entire communities, and to help them be prepared for and more resilient in the face of future wildfires. During the California Wildfires response, the Red Cross collaborated with several partner agencies, including several Lions Clubs, several Sevenths Day Adventists communities, Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians, Twin Pine Casino, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, Salvation Army, Jackson Rancheria, Tzu Chi, St. Vincent de Paul, Catholic Charities, Children’s Disaster Services, Samaritan’s Purse, Team Rubicon, Rotary Clubs, Community Churches, Boy Scouts of America, Center of Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership, local and state Emergency Operation Centers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and many more.

It Takes the Whole Community to Make a Community Whole
To help all households in fire-impacted communities move forward, the Red Cross is working together with local Long-Term Recovery Groups in Lake and Calaveras Counties respectively, which are coalitions of community and grassroots organizations who will develop and execute long-term plans for a community’s recovery.

The Red Cross currently has highly trained caseworkers meeting one-on-one with each family affected by the wildfires to understand each unique situation and help them on the road to recovery with the information, assistance, and access to resources they need to put that plan into action. They are helping people with family reunification information, funeral assistance, emergency needs and recovery planning.

Caseworkers are also skilled in directing people to other agencies that provide specialized services not provided by the Red Cross.  Much of Red Cross recovery work focuses on assisting the most vulnerable people who need extra help getting back on their feet, are ineligible for government assistance, or don’t have anywhere else to turn for help.

The Red Cross also has trained disaster mental health professionals available to help adults and children cope with the emotional impact of a disaster and its aftermath.  It’s common for people to suffer from high stress, anxiety, depression and other trauma related illnesses during and after a disaster. Red Cross Disaster Mental Health workers assess clients’ needs, provide individual psychological triage, crisis intervention and condolence support, and make appropriate community referrals for longer term support.

Persons affected by the wildfires who are in need of assistance are encouraged to connect with a Red Cross caseworker by calling 855-255-2490.

Preparing for Secondary Impacts
The wildfires left vast expanses of terrain and hillsides bare and when heavy rains arrive this winter, experts predict that flooding and mudslides are not far behind.  Recognizing that these secondary impacts represent a serious threat, the Red Cross will be collaborating with local communities to increase personal preparedness and strengthening the existing volunteer corps to ensure the community is ready to respond if and when another disaster strikes.

The Red Cross provides potentially life-saving preparedness apps that are absolutely free. There are apps for first aid, tornadoes, hurricanes, flood, wildfire, and earthquake that can be programmed to give an audible warning should an event be imminent. They are filled with important information on what to do before, during, and after an event, and provide directions to Red Cross shelters. Recently, the Red Cross came out with an Emergency app that combines in one place many of the features of the individual apps described above. All of these apps are free of charge. They can be found and downloaded by going to your particular app store and searching “Red Cross” or from the Red Cross website at www.redcross.org.

No matter what the disaster is, the American Red Cross is hard at work at some phase of the Disaster Cycle and often on multiple phases at the same time. The Red Cross is here today to serve those who have lost so much, and it will be ready to serve when a future disaster strikes again.

A Picture Is Worth 1000 words – check out the images captured during the Butte Fire Response – Butte Fire Pictures