Thursday, August 1, 2013

Preparing For The Winds and Rain: Hurricane Training in Dallas

by Tonya Solis-Mosby, volunteer contributor
The nearest ocean is about 300 miles away, but that doesn't stop the annual summer training of a group of American Red Cross volunteers.  The Public Affairs team met recently to discuss the Red Cross emergency plan associated with a hurricane if the need arises.

Anita Foster, North Texas Region chief communications officer, said the majority of deaths associated with hurricanes are not from the winds. “Eighty-two percent of fatalities happen inland and are caused by flooding,” she said.

It is because of statistics like that and because of the influx of people to the North Texas Region when a storm hits the Texas coast that North Texas Red Cross teams must stay prepared.

While the storm is still about 72-hours away from landfall, Red Cross volunteers across the region, district and in other areas are already springing into action. By that time, plans for distributing items to victims and those who will work in shelters are being activated.  Shelter plans are put in motion and in some cases, shelters begin to open.  Plans for feeding people and plans for other services such as health services are also reviewed to prepare for activation. It’s the time when the public affairs team is placed on alert and messages to assist the general public begin to go out through a variety of media outlets.

Within 48 hours of a storm making landfall, shelters for potential victims are in operation and all the operations begin to surge forward.  In the North Texas Region, Dallas in particular, plans for the only shelter hub headquarters across the country are put in place.  Once people arrive in the area from the South Texas coast, they are directed to a central location from where they receive shelter assignments.  This system was developed to stop shelter overcrowding and the possibility of people arriving at a shelter only to find there is no room for them.

Public Affairs volunteers learn about how
the Red Cross in the DFW area respond to hurricanes.
As the discussion about this hub system goes on in the training meeting, it receives approving nods from veteran volunteers, especially those who served during previous hurricanes.  The veterans share the importance of this plan being in place because within 24-hours the city could be overrun with people fleeing a dangerous storm.

While the Public Affairs team is the eyes and ears to the outside world for the American Red Cross, there are many other teams who are also preparing to leap into action when disaster strikes.

You can help with disaster relief, too.  All you need to do is click –; text – REDCROSS to 90999; or call 1-800-REDCROSS to become a volunteer or to make a donation.

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