The Red Cross office in downtown Hattiesburg, Miss., wasn’t spared from the EF-4 tornado that ripped through the city on Sunday. The tornado, which damaged multiple homes and other structures, destroyed the Red Cross office and tossed a vehicle onto an employee’s desk.
Fortunately, no staff were injured in this disaster. One employee even had the resolve to crawl into his office afterwards in order to retrieve the kits necessary to begin opening shelters.
Since the Red Cross has multiple offices and facilities throughout the state, the disaster response didn’t skip a beat. That evening, the Red Cross worked with local emergency management agencies in Lamar and Forrest Counties and sheltered nearly 40 people.
The next day, Red Cross workers began assessing damages and partnering with the Salvation Army to provide mobile feeding in areas hit by the storm. Statewide, it is reported that more than 500 homes were destroyed or majorly damaged, and as of Tuesday night, three Red Cross shelters remained open for those affected by the tornado.
"Although the Hattiesburg office is inoperable, we have pulled resources from our other locations and are continuing to meet the needs of those in the affected communities," said Sandra Hodge, Red Cross Mississippi Region CEO.
As one might expect, the Red Cross is prepared for situations such as this. Like many businesses and organizations, the Mississippi Red Cross has a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) in case an incident renders their normal office location unsafe.
After realizing their building was destroyed, the Red Cross staff moved to temporary offices in another part of the city.
Along with working with other Red Cross locations in Mississippi to respond to the tornado, the Hattiesburg office is also getting some help from the Dallas-Fort Worth Red Cross. The teams from Texas traveled to the Red Cross warehouse in Mississippi on Tuesday, where they began loading up supplies ahead of their relief assignments.
Together, these Red Cross workers will help shelter, feed and give comfort to those recovering from the storm.