Red Cross FAQ

  • Red Cross FAQ
How can the Red Cross help me?
The American Red Cross is committed to saving lives and easing suffering. Our diverse organization serves humanity by providing relief to victims of disasters – locally, nationally and globally. The Red Cross supplies about 40 percent of the country’s blood. It also offers health and safety training to the public, and it provides emergency social services to U.S. military members and their families.

How does the Red Cross support the Armed Forces?
In 1905, Congress granted a charter to the Red Cross requiring it to act “in accord with the military authorities as a medium of communication between the people of the United States and their armed forces.” Since then, the Red Cross has offered communications and other humanitarian services to assist U.S. military members and their families around the world. Living and working in the same, difficult situations and dangerous environments as U.S. troops, Red Cross staff has given comfort to soldiers thousands of miles from home by providing emergency messages, about deaths and births for example, as well as comfort kits for loved ones to send to troops.

What can I do to help?
Volunteer: There’s a place for you with the Greater Phoenix Chapter. For information on volunteering, click here.

Donate blood: Become a Red Cross blood donor. One donation can save as many as three lives! To schedule an appointment to donate blood, click here.

Donate money: Each year, the Red Cross responds to more than 70,000 disasters, including fires, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and tornados. Your dollar stretches a long way. To make a financial donation, click here.

Does the Red Cross conduct background checks on volunteers?
Yes. To maintain the trust of the American public and to provide the highest quality of service, Red Cross employees and volunteers (18 and older) must undergo background checks.

I’m under 18 years of age. Can I volunteer with the Red Cross?
Yes. The Red Cross values the contributions of youth and young adults. Permission is required from a parent or a guardian for a child to participate in the Greater Phoenix Chapter’s youth clubs.

I belong to a group that would like to volunteer. What should we do?
Group opportunities vary at the Greater Phoenix Chapter. Send an e-mail to or call 602-347-6512 to discuss what services your group is interested in providing.

I live in a small community, and there’s no Red Cross office near me. Can I still volunteer?
Absolutely! The Greater Phoenix Chapter covers 10 of the 15 counties in Arizona. Although there might not be a Red Cross office in your area, Greater Phoenix Chapter volunteers hold monthly meetings throughout the state. After completing the application process, you’ll be contacted by a Red Cross representative to discuss the opportunities that are available in your community.

I volunteered with a Red Cross chapter in another state and recently moved to Arizona. How do I become a volunteer with the Greater Phoenix Chapter?
If you’ve been an active volunteer with another chapter, send an e-mail to or call 602-347-6512 for assistance from the Greater Phoenix Chapter. A request to transfer your records from your former chapter will be initiated by the Greater Phoenix Chapter.

If I become a volunteer, am I eligible to participate in large disaster relief operations?
Eligibility for deployment to national disaster relief operations is handled through Volunteer Connection. There are more than 30 positions available. Depending on your skills, talents and interests, one or more of these jobs probably will be right for you.

Where can I give blood?
Individuals wishing to donate blood to the Red Cross should call 1-800-733-2767 or visit for a list of blood drives throughout Arizona.

Can I get a disease if I give or receive blood?
Giving blood: The procedure is very safe. Every donation is taken from a new, sterile needle that’s immediately disposed of after each use. When these procedures are followed, you cannot contract the virus that causes AIDS.

Receiving blood: It’s also safe to receive a blood transfusion. In fact, the risks of contracting a blood-borne disease through transfusion are far less than the risks of not receiving the transfusion at all. The nation’s blood supply is safer today than it has ever been, and it’s as reliable as modern science and medicine can make it. The chance of contracting the virus that causes AIDS through a blood transfusion is one in 1.5 million.

Is the Red Cross part of the U.S. government?
The Red Cross functions independently of the government, but it works closely with government agencies, most notably the Federal Emergency Management Agency, during times of major crises. It’s responsible for providing aid to U.S. military members and their families and to victims of disasters, both at home and abroad. The Red Cross accomplishes this through services consistent with its Congressional Charter and the fundamental principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, allowing the Red Cross to stay neutral and impartial. Race, religion, legal and economic status are irrelevant to receiving Red Cross assistance.

Why won’t the Red Cross accept small, individual donations of supplies or collections of items such as food and clothing?
The Red Cross doesn’t accept individual donations of material items – known as “in-kind” donations – because receipt of such items can hamper relief efforts. The financial and personnel cost of receiving, sorting and transporting goods and ensuring the quality and cleanliness of such items is very high. Plus, it doesn’t allow for individuals and families to receive what they uniquely need in their own size.

The Red Cross provides assistance to clients with a debit card that covers the individual’s immediate needs. The vouchers are redeemable at local stores and are paid for with donation dollars that enable victims to purchase what they need in desirable sizes. Making even these small decisions enables individuals to begin to take control of their lives and their recovery. In addition, this process helps channel money into the local economy, thus aiding the community in recovery from disaster. The Red Cross does accept large, corporate donations of food, bottled water and other items that are needed by disaster-affected communities.

Who’s the founder of the Red Cross?
The Red Cross idea was born in 1859. Henry Dunant, a young Swiss, witnessed a bloody battle in Solferino, Italy, between the armies of imperial Austria and the Franco-Sardinian Alliance. Some 40,000 men lay dead or dying on the battlefield, and the wounded were lacking medical attention. Dunant organized local people to bind the soldiers’ wounds and feed and comfort them. Upon his return, he called for the creation of national relief societies to assist those wounded in war, and he pointed the way to the future Geneva Conventions.

In October 1863, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement were created in Geneva, Switzerland, to provide nonpartisan care to the wounded and sick in times of war. The Red Cross emblem was adopted at this first conference as a symbol of neutrality and was to be used by national relief societies. In August 1864, the representatives of 12 governments signed the Geneva Convention Treaty.

The extraordinary efforts of Dunant led to the eventual establishment of the International Red Cross. Today, the Red Cross Movement incorporates the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, as well as national societies in 175 countries, including the American Red Cross.

Who founded the American Red Cross?
Clara Barton was the first person to establish a lasting Red Cross society in the U.S. She organized the American Association of the Red Cross in Washington on May 21, 1881. Created to serve the U.S. in peace and in war, during times of disaster and national calamity, Barton’s organization took its service beyond that of the International Red Cross Movement by adding disaster relief to battlefield assistance. She served as the organization’s volunteer president until 1904, eight years before her death.

Why are symbols other than a red cross used by other national societies within the movement?
Although the red cross is not a religious symbol, some societies view it as such. The symbol of the red crescent is used instead of the red cross by societies in most Islamic countries. More recently, a new, neutral symbol, the red crystal, was approved by the Geneva Conventions to accommodate the Magen David Adom that’s used in Israel.

What’s the worst disaster the Red Cross has ever dealt with?
The natural disaster with the highest death toll in U.S. history was a hurricane in Galveston, Texas, in 1900, in which an estimated 6,000 people were killed. Red Cross founder Clara Barton gathered a team and traveled by train from Washington to Galveston to provide relief.

Hurricane Katrina was the most expensive natural disaster in Red Cross history. The 2005 storm necessitated the largest mobilization of Red Cross workers for a single relief operation. And in the aftermath of the storm, two subsequent hurricanes, Rita and Wilma, struck the Gulf Coast states. More than 233,000 Red Cross workers were activated to provide food, water, shelter and other immediate necessities for millions of storm survivors – 95 percent of those workers were volunteers. As the response to Katrina, Rita and Wilma shifted from emergency relief to recovery assistance, cost estimates for the operation reached $2.1 billion.

What are the fundamental principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement?
Humanity: The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement were created from the desire to bring assistance without discrimination to the wounded on the battlefield. In its international and national capacity, it strives to prevent and alleviate human suffering wherever it may be found. Its purpose is to protect life and health and to ensure respect for the human being. It promotes mutual understanding, friendship, cooperation and lasting peace among all peoples.

Impartiality: The Red Cross makes no discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions. It endeavors to relieve the suffering of individuals, being guided solely by their needs, and to give priority to the most urgent cases of distress.

Neutrality: To continue to enjoy the confidence of all, the Red Cross may not take sides in hostilities or engage at any time in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature.

Independence: The movement is independent. The national societies, while auxiliaries in the humanitarian services of their governments and subject to the laws of their respective countries, must always maintain their autonomy so they may be able to act in accordance with the principles of the movement at all times.

Voluntary Service: It’s a voluntary relief movement not prompted in any manner by desire for gain.

Unity: There can be only one Red Cross or one Red Crescent Society per country. It must be open to all. It must carry on its humanitarian work throughout its territory.

Universality: The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, in which all societies have equal status and share equal responsibilities and duties in helping each other, is worldwide.