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American Red Cross Provides More than Food, Shelter to Storm-Affected Communities in Mississippi

HATTIESBURG, MS, SUNDAY, February 17, 2013 — Today marks the one-week anniversary of the tornadoes in South and Central Mississippi and the American Red Cross encourages those affected to pay attention to their emotional health as well as their physical health.

When disasters like tornadoes and flooding occur and people are forced out of their homes, they have obvious needs like food and shelter. But equally important is the fact that some people have emotional needs or medical conditions that need attention. Since the tornadoes struck and the flooding subsided Red Cross workers have provided health and emotional support contacts to people impacted by the storms.

“Be safe, get your routines like sleeping and eating back to normal as soon as possible, take a break from time to time and stay connected with friends and family,” said Dr. Bill Martin, Disaster Mental Health Chief, American Red Cross Mississippi Region. “A great question to ask yourself is 'What can I do right now, this minute, to make things a little better instead of a little worse?”

MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES The Red Cross recognizes that people impacted by the disaster may be anxious, some may be depressed or agitated at their situation. That is why the Red Cross disaster relief operation includes licensed mental health specialists to help people cope with their new reality. Disaster workers in Red Cross shelters are trained in psychological first aid, but Red Cross mental health teams go a step farther and monitor the emotional pulse of those in the shelter – residents and workers.

STEPS TO HELP COPE After a disaster, people may experience a variety of difficult feelings and thoughts. Fear concerning safety for themselves and their family – anger, confusion, shock, disbelief, sadness and grief – these are all normal feelings associated with the experience of the disaster.

Reactions like these may appear in different ways, not only in the way someone feels, but in the way they think and what they think about; their sleeping habits, how they go about daily living; and the way they interact and get along with others. Children and the elderly are especially at risk and require special attention. Here are a few tips to help cope for those affected by the storm:

  • Limit exposure to the sights and sounds of the disaster
  • Focus on the positive
  • Reach out and accept help from others
  • Do things you enjoy with your family
  • Stay connected with your family and other support systems
  • Be patient
  • Get back to a daily routine
  • For children: allow them to feel upset and encourage them to express their feelings and thoughts; and return to a daily routine as much as possible
  • HEALTH SERVICES Red Cross Health Services healthcare professionals have been helping people affected by the storms since the relief response began. They make calls to pharmacies and physicians to help people replace lost items like prescription medications, medical equipment and eyeglasses which are often left behind and destroyed.

    They also can help identify conditions that may develop as people focus on other issues, not their daily medical needs. Jeanne Spears is a registered nurse from Atlanta helping in Mississippi. “The Red Cross nurses and other healthcare professionals assigned to the shelters and other service delivery sites, help individuals identify symptoms and other medical conditions which need immediate medical attention,” she said. “It is very rewarding to identify and provide medical healthcare to those individuals impacted by disaster.”

    LOOKING FOR HELP: Red Cross has established service delivery sites where residents may receive health services, emotional support and disaster relief items. Hours of operations are 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. For a listing of locations, visit; subject to change daily. In addition to these sites, Red Cross emergency response vehicles deliver supplies throughout disaster-affected neighborhoods.

    Anyone seeking assistance with disaster-related needs, should contact their local Red Cross Office, search “Red Cross Mississippi” on Facebook or follow @RedCrossMiss on Twitter. For a list of Red Cross Offices and contact numbers, visit

    To find a Red Cross shelter, people can download the Red Cross Hurricane app (, visit or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). For a list of items to bring with you to the shelter, visit The following shelters are open.

  • Forrest County 361 Shelter on Sullivan Road off Hwy. 49 South in Hattiesburg, Forrest County
  • Lamar County Community Center at 99 Central Industrial Road in Purvis, Lamar County
  • HOW TO HELP: If someone would like to help people affected by emergencies like the recent Mississippi storms, they can visit, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Your gift enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance to those affected. Contributions may also be sent to your local Red Cross Office.

    You can also support your community by becoming a Red Cross volunteer. Visit and click “volunteer” or call the local chapter.

    PARTNERSHIPS: Red Cross continues to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and local emergency managers to identify what people need most to assist them on their road to recovery.

    The Southern Baptist Convention and The Salvation Army are partnering with Red Cross for mobile and shelter feeding, and are continuing to serve meals and distribute relief items. Red Cross emergency response vehicles are in affected communities delivering bulk distribution items and food.


    About the American Red Cross:

    The American Red Cross Mississippi Region shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters, supports the supply of about 40 percent of the nation’s blood, teaches skills that save lives, provides international humanitarian aid and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @RedCrossMiss.