FAQs –Oklahoma Tornadoes

ERV at tornado scene
You can help people affected by disasters like tornadoes, floods and other crises by making a donation to Red Cross Disaster Relief by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Q How is the Red Cross spending the donations given for the Oklahoma tornadoes?

A More than a month after the deadly tornadoes hit Oklahoma, the Red Cross is still providing help and comfort with health services, emotional support and recovery planning — and we will be there for people in these communities in the months ahead.

We are helping people every day get back on their feet with recovery planning, health services and emotional support. Trained Red Cross caseworkers are meeting one-on-one with people who need extra help with unmet emergency needs and creating recovery plans.

A Multi-Agency Resource Center remains open in Moore where people from throughout the affected areas can obtain help. Outreach teams with caseworkers are also going door-to-door in some areas to make sure people know Red Cross help is available. People who need assistance can call (405) 228-9500. Over the next few weeks, the Red Cross will be establishing new long-term recovery offices in El Reno, Shawnee and Moore where people can go for help with their recovery needs.

This is a large response spanning multiple communities. Over the past month, more than 1,800 Red Cross workers have been part of our response, and nearly 600 workers are assigned there now. The work of the Red Cross has included:

• Serving nearly 460,000 meals and snacks.

• Distributing nearly 400,000 relief items like sunscreen, ice chests, buckets, gloves, dust masks, flashlights, tarps, shovels and rakes.

• Providing more than 22,000 health services and mental health contacts.

• Providing 6,300 overnight stays in disaster shelters.

• Opened more than 5,500 cases and provided services to more than 5,000 families through the Multi-Agency Resource Centers.

Donations to the Red Cross are being used to provide immediate help to people in need right now. Working together with local, state and federal partners, the Red Cross is drawing up additional plans on how it will continue to support Oklahoma communities. While needs may change, the Red Cross at present is prepared to support funding in five areas:

• Emergency Response: The Red Cross has already spent or committed $8 million for its emergency response and initial assistance to families, and we estimate this will grow to as much as $9 million. Our focus right now is on meeting the immediate needs of people in these communities and making sure they have the resources they need.

• Case Management: Red Cross plans to allocate another $3-5 million to provide assistance for families who need extra help from trained caseworkers with unmet emergency needs and recovery planning. This could include assistance with transportation needs, home repairs, security deposits for new housing, storage of belongings, etc.

• The remainder of the donations to the Red Cross will be used to support the long term needs of the affected communities, including:

o Individual and Community Resilience such as support for building safe rooms in homes, schools and communities

o School Preparedness programs that include disaster drills, storm-ready programs and First Aid kits

o Community Rebuild projects such as repairs to buildings and infrastructure.

Q The Red Cross is one of many agencies working in Oklahoma. How is all of this work being coordinated?

A The Red Cross, government agencies and dozens of other non-profits are working together to get people the help they need. Together, we’ve set up Multi-Agency Resource Centers that are one-stop locations for people to go to. These centers have already helped several thousand families to get assistance.

A Multi-Agency Resource Center remains open in Moore where people from throughout the affected areas can obtain help. Outreach teams with caseworkers are also going door-to-door in some areas to make sure people know Red Cross help is available. People who need assistance can call (405) 228-9500. Over the next few weeks, the Red Cross will be establishing new long-term recovery offices in El Reno, Shawnee and Moore where people can go for help with their recovery needs.

Q What is the Red Cross doing to help affected communities in Oklahoma to recover?

A Trained Red Cross caseworkers are meeting one-on-one with people who need extra help with unmet emergency needs and recovery planning. The casework process will help connect people to a variety of recovery resources including support available through the Red Cross and other community groups.

Red Cross assistance could include a number of things, such as assistance with transportation, minor home repairs, security deposits for new housing, storage of salvaged belongings, connecting people with social service programs, helping them fill out paperwork for assistance or insurance claims, getting them counseling or identifying child care resources.

The Red Cross continues to work in close coordination with federal, state and local officials, businesses and the non-profit community around recovery and preparedness activities. Government agencies such as FEMA and other community groups are also providing assistance to people and the Red Cross is encouraging people to apply with those organizations.

Q How long will this disaster response take?

A The Red Cross will be on the ground helping people for weeks and months to come as they get back on their feet – and we will be there to help them and the community recover.

FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE

Q Is the Red Cross giving financial support to tornado victims in Oklahoma?

A Trained Red Cross caseworkers are working one-on-one with people who need some extra help with unmet emergency needs across the affected areas of Oklahoma. .

Recovery can seem overwhelming to those who have been impacted by a disaster of this magnitude and experienced Red Cross workers can help survivors get in touch with the people and programs vital to their individual recovery. Red Cross assistance could include a number of things, such as assistance with transportation, minor home repairs, security deposits for new housing, storage of salvaged belongings, connecting people with social service programs, helping them fill out paperwork for assistance or insurance claims, getting them counseling or identifying child care resources. This work is underway.

While the Red Cross does not have the scale of resources of government, we are using the donations entrusted to us to the greatest extent possible to meet remaining needs and help ensure people don’t fall through the cracks. Government agencies such as FEMA and other community groups are also providing financial assistance to people and the Red Cross is encouraging people to apply with those organizations.

FUNDRAISING

Q How much has the Red Cross raised for the Oklahoma tornadoes response?

A People from around the country have been generous in supporting Red Cross efforts to help people affected by these storms. The money is still coming in, and we estimate that as of June 25, we have approximately $28.4 million in donations and pledges for our response to the Oklahoma tornadoes.

Q How much has the American Red Cross raised through text donations?

A We have about $4.4 million in pledges for text donations for the Oklahoma response.

Q Will text donations to the Red Cross go to the response for the Oklahoma tornadoes?

A Text donations to the Red Cross between May 20 and June 13 will be used for our response to the Oklahoma storms. Starting June 14, text donations to the Red Cross will be used for our response to the Colorado wildfires. We believe this is consistent with the wishes of text donors who were motivated to contribute by the devastation and damage caused by the tornadoes in Oklahoma, while text donors now are acting in response to the wildfires. There was a significant decline in the number of text donations several weeks after the Oklahoma tornadoes, and the increase in text donations last week coincided with the media coverage of the Colorado wildfires.

We have text “REDCROSS to 90999” available at all times so that it can be used immediately when people want to support our response to disasters, whether at a local, national or international level. While we use the general designation Disaster Relief, our typical practice is that funds from the $10 text donations go to specific events like the Oklahoma tornadoes. In this way, the Red Cross directs the funds raised from text donations to specific disaster relief efforts, rather than go through the time-consuming process of trying to create a different disaster-specific short key word for a text donation every time.

Q How long will the Red Cross apply all text donations to the Oklahoma tornado response?

A Text donations to the American Red Cross between May 20 and June 13 will be used for our response to the Oklahoma storms.

Q Why did phone donations and online donations go only to Disaster Relief?

A We make it clear online that those donations are going for tornadoes, wildfires, floods and other disasters because we are responding to multiple disasters around the country every day. But certainly the Oklahoma tornadoes and Colorado wildfires are the major disasters we are responding to now, and that is where we are spending Disaster Relief money now. It’s important to know that when disasters strike, Disaster Relief money is used to open shelters and provide food, relief items and health and mental health support. This is what happened in Oklahoma after the tornadoes and is happening now in Colorado with wildfires.

Q The Red Cross talks about honoring donor intent. How will you honor my intent for my donation to help people in Oklahoma after this horrible tornado?

A We honor donor intent, and people who want to donate to a specific disaster such as the Oklahoma tornadoes or Colorado wildfires can write that designation into the memo line of their check -- and the money will be used for our efforts there.

People who make a donation online have the choice of disaster relief, where the need is greatest or their local chapter. We make it clear online that those donations to Disaster Relief are going for tornadoes, wildfires, floods and other disasters because we are responding to multiple disasters around the country every day - and those people need our help too. But certainly the Oklahoma tornadoes and Colorado wildfires are the major disasters we are responding to now, and that is where we're spending money from Disaster Relief now.

It’s important to know that when disasters strike, Disaster Relief money is used to open shelters and provide food, relief items and health and mental health support. This is what happened in Oklahoma after the tornadoes and is happening now in Colorado with wildfires.

Q How can I donate online to help the survivors of the Oklahoma tornadoes?

A People who donate online at redcross.org can donate to disaster relief, to where the need is greatest, or to their local chapter. Donations to American Red Cross Disaster Relief help people affected by disasters like tornadoes, floods and other crises, providing food, shelter and emotional support. If you want to donate specifically to Oklahoma or Colorado, you can send a check and note that in memo line.

Q You’ve always said that money donated for Sandy response will be put to use specifically for that response and recovery effort. Why aren’t you doing the same thing for the Oklahoma and Colorado responses?

A We honor donor intent, and people who want to donate to a specific disaster such as the Oklahoma tornadoes or Colorado wildfires can write that designation into the memo line of their check -- and the money will be used for our efforts there. Sandy and these recent disasters are tragic, but their circumstances are very different. Hurricane Sandy affected a large geography – 900 square miles – along with tens of thousands of homes and millions of people across the eastern seaboard – and recovery there will take years. The needs are also great in Oklahoma and Colorado, but there is a smaller population and geography involved. We will spend what it takes to help the community, but we believe we can meet those needs with our initial fundraising efforts.

SERVICES

Q What services does Red Cross Disaster Relief cover?

A Disaster victims need the essentials right away, such as food, water, shelter, first aid and emotional support – those are just some of the things that a donation to Red Cross Disaster Relief buys. But it costs more than what you might think to run a disaster operation. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes costs such as warehouses, vehicle maintenance, volunteer training, travel costs and IT expenses. All of those items ensure we can get help to disaster victims as quickly as possible and the donations to support Disaster Relief pay for those, too.

Q Does my donation really help? What will it be used for?

A The donations we receive for Red Cross Disaster Relief are put to good use. It’s important to know that an average of 91 cents of every dollar the American Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. Any donation, large or small, will help. For example, $3 can provide a comfort kit containing personal hygiene items for someone in a disaster; $6 can cover the cost of a blanket; and $10 the cost of a hot meal. A $50 donation can cover the cost of food and shelter for a day, including three meals, blankets, comfort kits and the Red Cross expense of mobilizing them to the disaster area. For $150, someone’s donation can cover the cost of providing food and shelter to a family of four for a day they spend in a shelter.

Q How much of my donation goes to helping disaster victims and how much goes to overhead?

A An average of 91 cents of every dollar the American Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. Donations are used to provide food, shelter, emotional support and other assistance, as well as the vehicles, warehouses and people that make that relief possible. We only use a small slice of every dollar to support general operations to keep the Red Cross running, such as information technology, fundraising, finance, HR and communications.

In this area the Red Cross compares favorably with other nonprofits, is accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and has a 3-star rating with Charity Navigator. One of the BBB’s standards for accountability is that a charity should spend at least 65 percent of total expenses on program activities. The Red Cross vastly outperforms on this measure. We encourage donors to review our rankings with watchdog organizations and view our audited financial reports on redcross.org.