Imagine waking up suddenly in the middle of the night and realizing your home is nearly surrounded by flames and you and your loved ones have just minutes—maybe only seconds—to escape. It may seem like the stuff of nightmares, but for many residents of Southern California, it was a scenario that was all too real.
The recent wildfires in Southern California remind us how difficult it can be to stay in touch with loved ones during times of disaster. The Red Cross 'Safe and Well' website can help. (Photo Credit: American Red Cross)
With wildfires sweeping through streets and neighborhoods, many homeowners had to evacuate quickly and suddenly realized they needed to contact loved ones and let them know they were safe. This simple act can be especially difficult during a disaster, as phone and electrical services may be interrupted, but it is critical to the well-being of families and communities.
Register as Safe and Well
Immediately following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the American Red Cross created Katrinasafe.org, a database intended to help families reconnect after the storm. Evacuees were able to register online, by phone or through registries on other organizations’ Websites. The database proved successful and has since been renamed Safe and Well.
“During disasters, people outside the affected area become concerned about those within the affected area, and Safe and Well addresses those concerns,” said Katherine Galifianakis, manager of welfare information for the American Red Cross. “They start making phone calls—to chapters in the affected area, to law enforcement in the affected area—and that just contributes to congesting the communications system. That’s where Safe and Well comes into play.”
The Safe and Well Website is an effective tool to allow families to learn the status of their loved ones. The wildfires in Southern California alone prompted 1,505 new registrations, nearly 34,000 searches, and 402 successful matches on the site.
Safe and Well is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and is accessible in both English and Spanish. Promotion of the Website, including on-screen news tickers on CNN, have resulted in growing use of Safe and Well after many recent disasters.
When making your disaster communication plan, include Safe and Well in your advanced planning. Inform relatives, loved ones and friends about Safe and Well and how it works. Using it will provide peace of mind during the stress of a disaster.
All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help the victims of thousands of disasters across the country each year, disasters like the California wildfires, by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to victims of disaster. The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster please do so at the time of your donation. Call 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org.