Today, the two mile wide tornado that touched down for 45 minutes in the suburb of Moore, just south of Oklahoma City, is on everyone’s mind. Here, at the Southeastern, Pennsylvania offices of the Red Cross (SEPA), the phones will ring all day with questions about our response to this horrific event.
Here’s what the American Red Cross is doing:
Employees and volunteers are being deployed to the area from chapters all over the country to help with the relief efforts. Some employees, my supervisor Sara Smith included, will go to the American Red Cross National headquarters in DC to assist with the enormous task of disseminating information about relief efforts through traditional and social media outlets. SEPA expects requests for people with expertise in mental health and other health services. We may also get a request for equipment.
On the ground, emergency responders are working hard to assess the needs of the Moore, Oklahoma community. While crews continue to search for survivors, decisions are being made about the number of shelters to open and the needs of the people in the path of the storm.
Here’s what will happen next:
The American Red Cross will assist in opening the necessary shelters. This will allow us to shelter homeless individuals, serve tens of thousands of meals, distribute thousands of personal care comfort kits, and provide hundreds of thousands of materials needed for cleanup efforts such as tarps, ice chests, rakes and cleaning supplies.
We will provide basic first aid and mental health support services to thousands of people injured by the storm.
We will stay for as long as necessary, even if it takes a year or more for the community to get back on its feet.
This is what we do. We are experts at the following:
- Mass Care – Services are offered to communities or groups of people including sheltering, mass feeding and direct distribution of relief supplies.
- Family Services – Red Cross caseworkers provide free disaster assistance to individuals and families on a case-by-case basis such as debit cards, used for purchasing clothing, groceries, medication, and other needs.
- Disaster Health Services –Trained nurses and paraprofessional personnel provide emergency and preventative health services to disaster victims and workers.
- Disaster Mental Health Services – Trained and licensed workers provide emotional and mental health assessment, supportive counseling, and referrals to those affected by disaster.
- Welfare Inquiries – The Red Cross acts as a liaison to connect those affected by a disaster with their family members both in and out of the affected area.
- Spiritual Care –To help heal emotional wounds, trained counselors and clergy are available to meet with victims at disaster scenes and throughout the recovery process.
I know I speak for all Red Cross workers when I say we feel enormously fortunate to be able to help. All our services are free of charge and made possible by the generosity of our donors. Our hearts go out to people of Moore, Oklahoma and all other communities affected by extreme weather this month. We will do everything possible to ease their burden.
- By Sarah Peterson, volunteer