Last year was predicted to be an above-average season for hurricanes, but as 2007 came to an end, this prediction did not materialize. Even without an active hurricane season, the Red Cross remained hard at work, responding to local disasters that don’t often generate much media buzz.
Last year, at the helm of a list of the top five Red Cross disaster responses were home fires. The list also includes flooding and wildfires, which both saw an increase in response over the past two years. In fact, between the months of April and August, the Red Cross responded continuously to either floods or wildfires – 42 separate disaster relief operations in all.
Each year the American Red Cross responds to over 70,000 disasters nationwide, most of which do not make news headlines. Each disaster is equally important and whether it is a single family fire or a hurricane that affects thousands, the Red Cross provides the same basic services and provides the same compassionate care including food, shelter, emotional support and first aid.
| Home fires accounted for approximately 93 percent of all Red Cross disaster response in 2007. The Red Cross also experienced an increase in response to wildfires last year.
(Photo courtesy: Stock Photo/American Red Cross)
Few are aware that home fires – single-family and multiple family fires – make up the majority of disasters responded to by the Red Cross nationwide. In fact, they accounted for approximately 93 percent of all Red Cross disaster response in 2007.
When most people think of disasters, they think of hurricanes and tornadoes that garner national attention and produce widespread destruction. For the families affected by the trauma of losing their home and belongings, a home fire truly is a disaster, and their number is on the rise.
Unlike any other natural disasters, home fires can be prevented. There are simple steps everyone can take to protect their home and family members from fires and the Red Cross can help. Visit the Home Fires section on Redcross.org to learn more. Preparedness is the best defense against deadly home fires.
Southern California Wildfires
Possibly the most highly publicized disasters in 2007 were the wildfires that plagued Southern California at the end of October. From the very beginning the Red Cross was on the ground opening shelters and providing a safe haven for evacuees.
The roughly three dozen fires burned more than half a million acres of land, causing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to declare a state of emergency in the state. Firefighters worked tirelessly to contain the blazes and the Red Cross was there to provide supplies for them as well as those affected by the fires.
The level of response would not have been possible without the nearly 5,000 volunteers from all 50 states who gave their time to help those affected. The Red Cross opened 40 shelters in Southern California and welcomed nearly 31,000 guests.
Flooding in Texas and Parts of the Midwest
| Excessive rain caused widespread flooding in some portions of the country, changing the landscape of Red Cross disaster response in 2007.
(Photo courtesy: Stock Photo/American Red Cross)
Beginning in mid-June, residents of north central Texas were inundated with by torrential rains and subsequent flooding that lasted well into July. These storm systems continued through to Kansas and Oklahoma in the Midwest as well.
Even before the flood waters began to recede, the American Red Cross was there to assist rescuers and displaced families. Survivors pitched in by using boats, canoes and other watercraft to help rescue friends and neighbors.
The Red Cross also provided food, shelter, counseling and other assistance. Many emergency response vehicles (ERVs) were stocked and deployed throughout the region to assist with the distribution of meals and relief supplies in the affected areas.
New England Nor’easter
A powerful nor’easter slammed the mid-Atlantic and New England states in mid-April, leaving heavy snow, extensive flooding and widespread power outages. Many residents went to one of the 70 Red Cross shelters in the region to escape their cold, dark homes.
Trained disaster volunteers were deployed from chapters across the eastern United States to ramp up the response after additional rain, high winds, snow and flooding continued along the eastern seaboard. In addition to shelters, Red Cross volunteers provided more than 50,000 meals, beverages, physical and mental health care and family casework to help affected residents assess their needs in the wake of the disaster.
More torrential downpours plagued the Midwest and central United States at the end of August. These systems left residents of seven states underwater. The Red Cross coordinated its efforts with community organizations and the Southern Baptists to bring food, comfort and peace of mind to those affected.
Throughout the flooding, the Red Cross distributed nearly 15,000 clean up kits, which contained brooms, mops, bleach, work gloves and other items to assist residents after the flood waters had receded. More than 100,000 meals were also served to those were forced from their homes.
Even though small disasters may not make headlines, they still affect a large number of people and remind us to be prepared for all disasters across our nation, not just in hurricane prone areas.
Disaster can strike at any time and without warning. As we continue to ring in the New Year, make it your resolution to Be Red Cross Ready and get a kit, make a plan and stay informed. For more information, visit www.redcross.org/BeRedCrossReady or contact your local chapter for more information.
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 Midwest ice storms, 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.