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Red Cross Responded to 176 Large U.S. Disasters in 2015

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At home and around the world, the Red Cross reached out to help those in need.

In an unusually busy year, the American Red Cross helped hundreds of thousands of people impacted by disasters in 2015, both here at home and around the globe. Red Cross disaster workers responded to 176 large U.S. disasters – more than each of the past three years. 

The cost of just the four largest of these disasters is more than $30 million – this includes flooding in Texas and South Carolina, wildfires in California and Typhoon Soudelor, which battered the island of Saipan in August; (Saipan is part of the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific).

Here in the Hawaii, hundreds of Red Cross Volunteers were on stand-by to respond as the Central Pacific faced a record-breaking 2015 hurricane season with 15, potentially threatening tropical systems.

“Even though the storms did not directly impact the islands, everyone from shelter, mental health, health, damage assessment, case workers and logistics volunteers were prepared and ready to respond,” said Coralie Chun Matayoshi, CEO of the Hawaii Red Cross.

Across the country, the Red Cross provided more than 34,000 overnight shelter stays to people forced from their homes because of disasters, served more than 1.1 million meals and snacks and distributed more than 800,000 relief items this year (as of December 8). Red Cross caseworkers provided recovery support to more than 19,000 households, and health and mental health workers provided more than 65,000 consultations after disasters. 

“Whether a disaster affects just one family or thousands of families, the Red Cross is committed to helping people get back on their feet as quickly as possible,” said Matayoshi.  “But we need your support now to continue providing help to families affected by disasters.” 

As part of the world’s largest humanitarian network, the American Red Cross also worked alongside other Red Cross and Red Crescent societies to support families in Nepal after the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake there in April. Across the world, the Red Cross continues  to address the needs of displaced families from Burundi, people facing food insecurity in Senegal, and is assisting with the ongoing migration crisis in Europe.

Typhoon Soudelor

In August, the worst typhoon in 30 years struck the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, causing catastrophic damage to hundreds of homes and island infrastructure.  The American Red Cross responded with a massive relief operations that called on volunteers throughout the region and around the nation.  The Red Cross’ Northern Mariana Island Chapter volunteers, with support from mainland disaster specialists, provided immediate relief by distributing water, tarps, cleaning supplies as well as 37,000 meals and snacks to those in emergency shelters.  Over 1,100 homes in Saipan were destroyed or had major damage and another 1,600 had smaller losses including fallen trees and debris impacting their homes.  The Red Cross met with more than 3,000 families and provided assistance based on damage and need.  Financial support as well as food, clothing, mosquito netting, water jugs, coolers, totes, cleaning and hygiene supplies, were distributed to assist as families took their initial steps toward recovery.  

Flooding, Wildfires Devastated Communities Across U.S.

In May and June, the Red Cross responded across multiple states to help people impacted by flooding and wildfires. Residents of Texas, Alaska, California, Arizona, Indiana, Ohio, Oklahoma and Illinois turned to the Red Cross for help. In July and August, the Red Cross responded as raging wildfires burned out of control in Washington and California. In September, Red Cross workers helped after several massive fires in California destroyed hundreds of homes, forcing thousands of people to evacuate. As the Red Cross continued to assist people in California, catastrophic flooding hit South Carolina in early October and again, hundreds of Red Cross disaster workers responded. Then in early November, Texas was hit by a second round of relentless storms and floods just months after flash flooding wreaked havoc on much of the state in May. The Red Cross opened numerous shelters, provided food, health and mental health services and helped people plan their next steps. 

Home Fires Continued to be Largest U.S. Disaster Threat

Amidst all of these devastating events, home fires continued to be the largest disaster threat in the United States. During 2015, the Red Cross provided casework assistance to help 214,000 people whose lives were affected by a home fire. The Red Cross also helped prevent home fires and related injuries and deaths by working with thousands of local partners across the country to install 195,000 smoke alarms and teach 268,000 youth about fire safety. 

Here in the Hawaii State Chapter, the Red Cross responded to 75 local home fires, installed over 800 smoke alarms with the help of community partners, and taught disaster preparedness to over 1,000 keiki. 

Nepal Earthquake and Migration Crisis

In late April, a devastating earthquake hit Nepal, causing significant destruction and loss of life. Working with Red Cross and Red Crescent societies from 33 countries, the American Red Cross helped provide 4.6 million liters of clean water and 70,000 cash grants to support 350,000 people. Cash grants empower families to buy the items they deem most urgent in their time of greatest need.

Currently, families are searching for safety across the Middle East and Europe and the global Red Cross network is providing vital humanitarian assistance to those in need. More than 49,000 Red Cross volunteers are helping tens of thousands of migrants and refugees in 28 countries throughout Europe, providing help such as food, water, healthcare, hygiene kits, baby supplies, clothing and first aid kits.. The American Red Cross deployed eight disaster specialists to support the effort, along with 10,000 cots to help families in Germany.

HOW YOU CAN HELP The Red Cross is a non-profit humanitarian organization which provides assistance to meet the immediate emergency needs of those affected by disasters. All Red Cross assistance to disaster victims is free. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it depends on public contributions to help others. Your gift supports the lifesaving mission of the American Red Cross in your community, across the country and around the world.  To send a contribution, mail your check to American Red Cross, 4155 Diamond Head Road, Honolulu, Hawaii  96816 or make a secure online donation at or call (808) 739-8109.