Red Cross President Goes to Alabama and Mississippi Following Deadly Tornadoes

Sunday, May 01, 2011 —

Jamiyah Lawson, age 4, receives a donated meal from Red Cross volunteer Carole Bird of Panama City, FL, during the aftermath of the tornado in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Gail McGovern, the president and CEO of the Red Cross, today is traveling to tornado-ravaged parts of Alabama and Mississippi today with several Cabinet leaders, including Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

McGovern and the group of federal government leaders, which also includes FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, are expected to visit damaged sections of Birmingham, Alabama and Smithville, Mississippi.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross, government and other non-profit partners are continuing to respond to the devastation in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and a number of other states where people need assistance. Some areas are taking time to get to because of the destruction and impassible roads.

Thousands of people from Missouri to North Carolina are returning to their homes to start the recovery process after a series of devastating tornadoes over the past two weeks.  The damage left behind will require a long-term disaster operation across a large region of the country. The American Red Cross is present in 12 states providing shelter, food and emotional support.  

“The damage caused by the storms is unbelievable,” said Charley Shimanski, senior vice president of Red Cross Disaster Services, who has visited Tuscaloosa, Ala. and witnessed the devastation first hand. “This is a regional disaster and the Red Cross is delivering services based on the needs of each specific area.”

In addition to working with local and federal agencies, the Red Cross has also partnered with community organizations such as the Salvation Army, the Southern Baptist Convention and the NAACP to support people in the affected areas.  “With a disaster of this scope and magnitude, the demands are great, and it’s important that we all work together to meet these demands,” Shimansk added.

In the month of April, the Red Cross provided food and a safe place to stay to thousands of people, serving more than 300,000 meals and snacks and opening 94 shelters across the country.

The Red Cross urges residents to exercise extreme caution as they return to their neighborhoods.  People should follow these steps to help ensure they remain safe:

  • Avoid downed power lines and smell for gas when entering your home or office.  Wear protective clothing like rubber gloves and boots when cleaning your home. 
  • Dispose of food, beverages and medicine exposed to floodwaters and mud, including canned goods, capped bottles and sealed containers.  Water may not be safe to drink, clean with, or bathe in after an emergency such as a flood.  Use only bottled, boiled, or treated water until your water supply is tested and found safe. 
  • Stay out of damaged buildings.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • Clean up spilled medications, bleaches, gasoline or other flammable liquids that could become a fire hazard.

If you would like to help, there are several ways that people can make a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief: Visit to donate online, call 1-800-REDCROSS, or by texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

Additional information is available on

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