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Companies Getting into Business of Disaster Relief
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Stuart Hales
 
January 7, 2008

When disasters strike, they affect not just residents of the devastated area but also local businesses. For example, the wildfires that burned more than half a million acres of land in Southern California last fall damaged or destroyed hundreds of businesses and forced thousands more to close or cut back operations because their employees had evacuated their homes and sought shelter.

Volunteers from Grainger and the Red Cross work together at the May 5, 2019 press conference in St. Louis announcing the implementation of Ready When the Time Comes.
Volunteers from Grainger and the Red Cross work together at the May 5, 2019 press conference in St. Louis announcing the implementation of Ready When the Time Comes.
(Photo credit: Josh Monken)

Thanks to a Red Cross initiative, businesses can help ensure their communities are prepared for emergencies and able to rebuild quickly after disasters strike. The initiative, Ready When the Time Comes (RWTC), recruits volunteer teams from local businesses and trains them in emergency response.

Through RWTC, businesses partner with the Red Cross, thereby enabling their employees to receive free training in disaster relief functions. In return, corporate partners commit to making their trained employees available for disaster service.

Thus far, eight Red Cross chapters have launched pilot RWTC programs, training more than 2,500 new disaster response volunteers from 80-plus partner organizations, including W.W. Grainger, Inc., the national founding sponsor. The chapter in New York will launch its pilot program on January 28; launches at seven other chapters are scheduled for later this year.

“Communities thrive when local businesses and citizens pledge their time and resources in an emergency,” says Laura Brown, vice president of marketing for Grainger. “To combat devastation, it’s important to be prepared ahead of time. That’s what Ready When the Time Comes is all about.” 

Chapters Launch Local RWTC Programs

The Orange County (Calif.) Chapter launched its RWTC pilot at the chapter’s annual donor recognition event in March. Approximately 30 corporations and businesses were represented as well as individual donors and guests from local educational institutions, community organizations, emergency response agencies and county and city governments. At the event, Standard Pacific Homes was recognized as Orange County’s local lead sponsor.

In St. Louis, representatives from several local businesses, including Grainger and Anheuser-Busch, the local lead sponsor, participated in a full-scale shelter drill last May at St. Raphael the Archangel School, one of 600 local facilities designated as a potential Red Cross shelter during times of disaster. More than 100 people participated in the simulation, which focused on registration procedures, cot set-up and distribution of bedding, food preparation and delivery, and administration of physical and mental health services.

In Central Maryland, Black & Decker is the local lead partner in this important initiative. Volunteers at the RWTC launch event in Baltimore had the opportunity to learn firsthand what it takes to operate a Red Cross emergency shelter, including distributing food, providing mental health counseling, and setting up cots and bedding.

“Giving back to the community is a core value at Black & Decker, and at no time is this more evident than during a disaster,” says Bud Schreiber, vice president of sales and service at Black & Decker. “Our employees know this and are only too eager to assist with this important project.  By preparing for such emergencies in advance, our employees know they will be prepared to offer crucial support when Baltimore needs it most.”

To learn more about how your company can partner with the American Red Cross, click here.

Doug Lent (Central Maryland Chapter), Brooke Ray (St. Louis Area Chapter), and Shelly Parsons (American Red Cross of OrangeCounty) contributed to this article.

The American Red Cross helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Last year, almost a million volunteers and 35,000 employees helped victims of almost 75,000 disasters; taught lifesaving skills to millions; and helped U.S. service members separated from their families stay connected. Almost 4 million people gave blood through the Red Cross, the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States. The American Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work.


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