In May of 2013, a deadly tornado tore through Oklahoma, destroying more than 1,100 homes in the town of Moore and causing as much as $2 billion in damages. The American Red Cross conducted an extensive relief effort in Moore and other tornado-affected communities in 2013. When tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma last week, the Red Cross was again there to help people recover.
During the deadly 2013 storm, 24 people lost their lives. Among the victims were seven members of a Guatemalan family who drowned after they took shelter from the storm inside a culvert. Many Spanish-speaking families did not understand the warning systems or know what they should do during a tornado.
When tornadoes hit Oklahoma again last week, residents who speak Spanish were better prepared because the Red Cross has been working extensively with the community to teach them how to stay safe during tornado season.
In November, Red Cross workers reached out to the Hispanic community in south Oklahoma City as part of the Home Fire Campaign, a Red Cross initiative that aims to reduce deaths and injuries caused by home fires across the country by 25% in the next five years. The all-day effort included installation of smoke alarms in homes that needed them, as well as a preparedness fair where about 175 families learned about being ready for disasters. Fair attendees also received a free hand crank weather radio. You can watch this video from a similar fair, held in March 2013, for more information.
During last week’s tornado, families used social media to let the Red Cross know they were using their weather radios. They posted how grateful they were to the Red Cross for giving them this tool.
“I take pride and joy in knowing that with the help of our amazing bilingual volunteers, we are taking baby steps to ensure our Spanish speaking families have a plan and know what to do during a disaster,” said Mario Medrano, who serves as a Community Recovery and Resilience Lead Specialist in Oklahoma.
The Red Cross is still helping in Oklahoma after last week’s storm. A shelter in Sand Springs remains open for residents who can’t yet return home, and volunteers have served nearly 4,000 meals and snacks from Red Cross trucks that are visiting storm-affected neighborhoods several times a day.
The Red Cross has also distributed more than 2,000 relief items to people like Ron Jedele of Moore. “They found my carport several blocks away,” he said. “I know because it had a camera.” Red Cross workers provided him with a tarp, buckets and gloves to help him with cleaning up after the tornado. It meant a lot to Jedele who said, “I would have had to either go buy the supplies or go without.”
HOW TO HELP You can help people affected by disasters like tornadoes and countless other crises by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.