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American Red Cross Releases Five Year Report on Response to Hurricane Katrina


While the nation is better prepared for a major disaster than in 2005, more needs to be done

WASHINGTON - Five years after a hurricane season that wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast, the American Red Cross today released “Bringing Help, Bringing Hope,” a report that details the Red Cross response to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma and the ensuing years of recovery for the survivors.

“Five years ago, the American public responded to Katrina with unprecedented generosity,” said Russ Paulsen, executive director of the Hurricane Recovery Program at the Red Cross. “Looking back, I think they can be proud of what their contributions accomplished.”

The Red Cross gave 1.4 million families—approximately 4.5 million people—emergency financial assistance in response to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, which was 19 times more than the previous record. Donors gave the organization a total of $2.2 billion for people affected by the storms, which helped the Red Cross provide:

* Shelter for survivors across 31 states and the District of Columbia
* Hot meals and snacks
* Financial assistance for survivors to purchase groceries, clothing, diapers and other basic needs; and money for people to return home, make home repairs and get back to work
* Physical and mental health services to help them cope with stress and ease the trauma
* Tools to help survivors chart a path to recovery
* Disaster preparedness training so people know the steps to take to protect themselves and their families

“Never before had the Red Cross served so many people after a disaster, and never before had so many people come forward to help,” said Paulsen. “But we learned that there are some disasters that are so big that no agency—government or nonprofit—can do it all. We learned that everyone needs to play a part.”

One critical lesson was that the Red Cross needed to increase its capacity to respond and build partnerships with other organizations that can help in large events. As a result, the Red Cross established a nationwide warehouse system and pre-positioned more than two Katrinas’ worth of disaster relief supplies in warehouses—enough to support 350,000 shelter residents. It also enhanced local, state and national-level planning efforts to plan for how it would respond to large-scale disasters and created new partnerships with national, state and local groups to help ensure that all segments of the community are served after a disaster.

In the past five years, the Red Cross expanded the number of trained disaster volunteers from 25,000 to nearly 95,000, including nearly 50,000 available to travel to disasters around the country. The organization also created tools for the public to use during a disaster, including a National Shelter System accessible online, and a “Safe and Well” website to reconnect families during disasters, including through social media.

“The hurricanes of 2005 tested us all,” said Paulsen. “Although we’re on better footing than we were five years ago, every individual and community has to be on board in order for our country to be more disaster-ready. There is much more that we as a nation can do. Everyone—government, businesses, non-profits and the faith community—needs to work together to have better prepared communities,” said Paulsen.

The report, “Bringing Help, Bringing Hope: The American Red Cross Response to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma,” is available at

You can help people affected by disasters like floods, fires, tornadoes and hurricanes, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters. Visit or call 1-800-RED-CROSS. 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.

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 or join our blog at


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