The epic hurricane season of 2005 was a defining chapter in the American Red Cross history. Five years ago, Hurricane Katrina, Rita and Wilma changed the lives of millions of people across the United States, and prompted a response by the Red Cross that was unprecedented in size and scope.
Approximately 350,000 residences were destroyed or severely damaged from southwestern Texas across the Gulf of Mexico to the Florida Keys. The demand for help was enormous. Donors gave the Red Cross $2.2 billion for people affected by the storms, and with the help of 245,000 Red Cross disaster workers, many of them volunteers, Red Cross assisted millions of people by providing food, shelter and other basic needs.
The relief efforts for Hurricane were larger than anything the Red Cross has handled before. Since then the Red Cross has reset the bar on responses to large-scale disaster, improved the capacity for response, and increased the availability of resources.
The number of trained volunteers has increased from 25,000 to nearly 95,000, with 50,000 of them available to travel to help disasters around the country. Relief supplies are pre-positioned in areas of the country prone to disasters - enough resources to respond to devastation twice the size of Katrina. One of the biggest lessons learned five years ago - the government and the Red Cross will never be big enough to do it all in every disaster. Local and national partnerships are vital to the response.
We all need to plan on how to deal with disasters. Planning ahead is critical - families, businesses, schools and organizations need to make a plan to keep informed, during and after the disaster. Learn CPR and first aid. Contact the North Country Chapter at 561-7280 for more information.
Investments made in preparedness today can save lives and livelihoods tomorrow.
The Red Cross Corner is a monthly column provided by the North Country chapter of the American Red Cross. The chapter may be reached at 561-7280 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.