Red Cross Preparing for Hurricane Earl from North Carolina to New England

The American Red Cross is ready to respond to Hurricane Earl from North Carolina to New England, preparing to open shelters and feed those affected by the Category 3 storm that is bearing down on the United States, bringing heavy rains and sustained winds blowing at 125 mph.

“We are making preparations for Earl’s landfall, and we urge everyone who may be in the path of the storm to also get prepared and follow the instructions of local authorities about evacuating,” said Joe Becker, senior vice president, Red Cross Disaster Services. “Indications are that the storm will affect those who are miles inland from the coast. Being ready is your best protection against a storm like this.”

All along the eastern seaboard, the Red Cross is working with various state, county and local government officials to determine what their areas will need. Emergency planning is taking place in North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.  

In North Carolina, evacuation orders have been issued for some of the barrier islands.  Earl could arrive in the state by late Thursday or early Friday, and the Red Cross has 14 shelters ready to open with more than 80 additional shelter sites identified if needed.  Updated shelter location information is readily available on the Red Cross website by clicking “Find a Shelter.”

People who are evacuating can register on the Red Cross Safe and Well Website, accessible at www.redcross.org, so that friends and relatives can find out how they are. For those who don’t have internet access, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to register yourself and your family. Follow the prompts for disaster information. 

The Red Cross has trained disaster workers from across the country on alert to help respond to Hurricane Earl. Nearly 40 Red Cross mobile response vehicles will arrive in North Carolina today, part of more than 150 of these response vehicles put on alert to  travel to the East Coast from as far away from the coast as Michigan and Wisconsin. 

The Red Cross has four warehouses stocked with relief supplies are on stand-by, and two trailers of relief supplies are en route to North Carolina, carrying clean-up kits, tarps, work gloves, comfort kits, and trash bags.

The National Hurricane Center has issued a Hurricane Warning for the East Coast from Bogue Inlet, North Carolina to southern Virginia.  A Hurricane Watch has been extended northward from the North Carolina-Virginia border to Cape Henlopen, Delaware.  Residents all along the coast all the way to New England are cautioned to pay attention to the storm. Other areas of North Carolina are under a Tropical Storm Watch. 

A Hurricane Warning means hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours and anyone in the warning area should complete their storm preparations and leave the area if told to do so by authorities.  A Hurricane Watch means hurricane conditions are a threat within the next 48 hours and people should be ready to act if a Hurricane Warning is issued.

If someone’s community is under a Hurricane Warning or Watch, they should listen for critical information from the National Weather Service.  Other steps they should take include:

  • Check disaster supplies and restock as needed.
  • Bring in anything that can be picked up by the wind.
  • Close windows, doors and hurricane shutters.  If hurricane shutters aren’t available, board up all windows and doors with plywood.
  • Fill the car’s gas tank.
  • Turn the refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting and keep them closed as much as possible so food will last longer if the power goes out.
  • Turn off propane tanks and unplug small appliances.
  • Make plans for any pets.
  • Evacuate if authorities advise to do so.

More information about what people can do if they are in the projected path of the storm can be found at www.redcross.org

The storms in the Atlantic Ocean are causing powerful rip currents.  The Red Cross advises anyone visiting the shore areas to swim only on lifeguard protected beaches and within designated swimming areas.

To make a financial donation to the Red Cross to help people affected by this storm and other disasters here in the United States and around the world, people can click, call or text – visit www.redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.  The storm may also impact blood collections in the affected areas. To find out how you can be a blood donor, visit www.redcrossblood.org

 About the American Red Cross: The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation’s blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.

American Red Cross Unveils New, Improved Technology to Help the Public During Disasters

In preparation for the height of what could be a very active hurricane season, the American Red Cross has unveiled new and updated technology to help families stay safe and reconnect during a disaster.

“Every day, millions of people use the web to connect with friends and family, and the Red Cross is using the same technology to help people prepare for, stay safe and connect with loved ones during an emergency,” said Joe Becker, senior vice president for Red Cross Disaster Services. “And we’re very excited to have both an improved Safe and Well site and a real-time way to find shelter locations this hurricane season.”

Safe and Well is a secure and easy-to-use online tool that allows people inside a disaster-affected area to list themselves as “safe and well” and for loved ones to search for these messages. Launched in 2006, the redesigned site now allows people to customize messages for loved ones and update their Facebook and Twitter statuses right from the site. In addition, a new mobile version of the site will make it easy for people to register or search from a smart phone.

Linking Safe and Well to Facebook and Twitter is an important step for the site and those who use it. In a recent Red Cross online survey, nearly half of all respondents said they would use social media sites to let their loved ones know they are safe in an emergency. Facebook was the most popular choice, named by 86 percent of those who would use social media to reassure their loved ones. Now, the Red Cross makes it easy to register on Safe and Well, and at the same time, participate in social media.

There are several ways to register on or search the Safe and Well site. From a computer, visit http://www.redcross.org and click on the “List Yourself or Search Registrants” link under “How to Get Help.” From a smart phone, visit http://www.redcross.org/safeandwell and click on the “List Yourself as Safe and Well” or “Search for friends and family” link. From any phone, call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767) and one of our operators can help you register.

The Red Cross “Find Shelter” tool pulls information from the National Shelter System and allows people to view a Google map of open Red Cross shelter locations and search for shelters closest to their location.

To access shelter information, visit http://www.redcross.org and click on the “Find Shelter” link. Shelters that are currently open will be displayed on the map or in the search results. The National Shelter System is owned and operated by the Red Cross and used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), state and local governments, and other community agencies to track and report shelter information.

Both Safe and Well and the National Shelter System are two important tools the Red Cross uses year round to help the public during emergencies. In an average year, the Red Cross spends $450 million responding to and preparing for more than 70,000 disasters around the nation.

*Online Survey of 1,058 respondents representative of the US population aged 18 and older. Survey conducted by Infogroup | ORC

Video: What We’re Doing In TN

Joe Becker, Senior Vice President of Disaster Services, talks about what the Red Cross is doing right now in Tennessee and how flood recovery will proceed in the days to come.

Red Cross: Facebook, Twitter becoming popular tools during disasters

By Jennifer Swift – 04/19/10 05:06 – THE HILL’S Technology Blog

While social media isn’t the only technological tool in a time of disaster, it’s become one of the more effective options, according to Joe Becker.

Becker, Senior Vice President of Disaster Services for the American Red Cross, says our use of social media has drastically changed the way in which we respond to and prepare for disasters.

In past decades, Becker said, the U.S. has responded to disasters with a “closed system,” including technologies used by first responders such as police, fire and medical teams.

But over the past year we’ve morphed into an “open system” when handling disasters, with tools like Facebook and Twitter serving as an open line of communication between families, neighbors, bystanders and volunteers. These Web-based technologies even inform people of how to help.

“It’s not about the proprietary systems, the big IT spends, the big IT investments that we tend to make in government and sometimes in the nonprofits—-it’s how we leverage the technology that people use in their daily lives to become part of the response.”

“The systems people use in their daily lives become the disaster systems, or become part of the disaster system technology solutions,” Becker said at a Brookings Institute panel on Monday.

According to Becker, the most effective way to help is to “communicate with people the way that they already do,” such as through text messaging or utilizing pre-existing social media sites instead of creating your own.

He said the American Red Cross has sent out 30-35 million text messages telling families where to find help or what they themselves can do to help. And although the American Red Cross has had a system in place to help families find others in times of a disaster, the connections they were able to make were “dwarfed” by those made on Facebook.

“These are the normal systems that people have, and I think a lot of the social media tie-ins are changing how we do business,” he said.

During disaster situations, social media allows organizations to tell people how to do so. As an example, Becker cited the Dupont Snowball Fight of 2010, which was mainly organized on Facebook.  In a similar way, Becker stressed that organizations could use tools like Facebook to organize ways for people to help out in a disaster.

While a “tweet” doesn’t replace a fire engine, it gives people an easy, effective and quick way to reach out for help or offer it.

Simply putting a Twitter or Facebook feed on a county’s web page, “it empowers people to become part of the disaster solution in ways that weren’t possible a very short time ago.”

But putting yourself out there on these social medias, you are also making a promise to your residents, says Becker.

“The good news is we can learn and be in dialogue with the effected people very quickly on an incredible scale,” he said. “The bad news is that creates incredible expectations of a finite police force, of a finite medical response, of a finite fire response in those earliest hours.”