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American Red Cross Expands Capacity to Handle Disasters


Organization increases stockpiles of supplies; plans to build partnerships with community groups

WASHINGTON, Tuesday, April 11, 2006 — Orlando, Fla. – The American Red Cross detailed plans today to expand its capacity in disasters, dramatically increasing pre-positioned supplies to assist communities across the country through the earliest days of a disaster. The Red Cross also said it plans to form partnerships with community-based organizations to speed assistance to disaster victims and bring help closer to where they live.

Most elements of the initiative will be completed or underway by July 1, according to Joseph C. Becker, the Red Cross’s Senior Vice President of Preparedness and Response. Becker described the Red Cross’s plans at the National Hurricane Conference, where leading forecasters and first-responders are meeting this week to map strategies for hurricane readiness.

“We are significantly expanding our operating capacity to enable us to respond more effectively in the event of a worst-case scenario, such as the one we experienced last year,” Becker said. “And even if we are not tested as we were then, we will be ready for the challenge.”

The initiatives include:

Stockpiling of Supplies

* Dramatically increasing the stockpiling of supplies (food, cots, blankets, comfort kits, etc.) in key risk states, which will enable the Red Cross to serve one million meals and shelter 500,000 people per day in the initial days after a disaster strikes. This represents an additional investment of about $80 million for supplies and nearly tripling of warehouse space around the country.
* Pre-stocking one million debit cards for families displaced by catastrophic events.
* Pre-positioning redundant communications equipment - satellite phones, cell phones and radios - in 21 cities in nine coastal states.

Strengthening the Infrastructure

* Upgrading the Red Cross’s IT infrastructure to allow it to speed financial assistance to one million affected families within a ten-day period and two million over a longer term. During Katrina, that system strained after it exceeded 100,000 cases, though the Red Cross ended up serving more than 1.2 million families across the Gulf Coast through a variety of means.
* Creating, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a nationwide database that will help officials track the location of shelters - as well as the number of people in them - during a major disaster.
* Dedicating Red Cross staff to coordinate closely with state emergency management agencies in 13 high-risk areas.

“We know that in time of very large disasters, many new organizations step forward and join the response effort,” Becker said. “We plan to forge partnerships ahead of time so we can make coordination easier and give good partners what they need to better serve their community.”

The Red Cross will ask local chapters to form partnerships with faith-based and community groups, providing them with training, funding and technical assistance, and setting out clear protocols for effective and accountable operation.

In the wake of Katrina, the largest disaster response in American Red Cross history, countless churches, community groups and others opened their facilities and provided volunteers to house and feed victims. But after several days, as volunteers fatigued and resources dwindled, many of these organizations needed help themselves.

“Americans share an unyielding and selfless spirit, especially in times of disaster,” said Becker. “We are committed to working more closely with the right partners in each community to make sure that we serve all those in need in the best possible way.”

The American Red Cross is where people mobilize to help their neighbors—across the street, across the country and across the world—in emergencies. Each year, in communities large and small, victims of some 70,000 disasters turn to neighbors familiar and new—the nearly 1 million volunteers and 35,000 employees of the Red Cross. Through more than 800 locally-supported chapters, more than 15 million people gain the skills they need to prepare for and respond to emergencies in their homes, communities and world. Some 4 million people give blood—the gift of life—through the Red Cross, making it the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States. The Red Cross helps thousands of U.S. service members separated from their families by military duty stay connected. As part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, a global network of more than 180 national societies, the Red Cross helps restore hope and dignity to the world’s most vulnerable people. 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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