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Iowa Red Cross Disaster Worker to Deploy to Texas to Help with Disaster Relief

OKC family speaks with Red Cross volunteer

Iowa based American Red Cross volunteers are answering the call for help on Wednesday and will travel to Texas to help with tornado and flood relief. 

Rich and Carolyn Newkirk of Ankeny and Stewart Coulson of Charles City will leave for Texas around noon on Wednesday. All three are Red Cross disaster mental health volunteers. Red Cross Mental Health disaster workers are licensed psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, social workers, school counselors and marriage and family therapists. They volunteer to be trained in specialized disaster counseling skills and then travel to disasters to help victims and relief workers deal with the trauma and stresses of disaster.

Texas was hit with multiple tornadoes, including one that caused heavy damage in the community of Van. Heavy rain has also caused flooding and forced people to leave their homes. Red Cross workers have shelters open and are distributing food and relief supplies as well as providing health services.

More rain and severe weather are expected this week, and the Red Cross is busy preparing for more while also continuing to provide the many families impacted across the state along the long journey toward recovery. 

HOW TO HELP: To help people affected by these storms and other disasters big and small, donate at RedCross.org, call 1-800-REDCROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999. 

PREPARE NOW FOR SEVERE WEATHER:  The Red Cross is helping people in eight Midwest states after as many as 135 possible tornadoes moved through the region over the last several days, including Iowa. The free Red Cross Emergency App makes it easy to prepare for severe weather by providing instant access to weather and emergency alerts, life-saving information and ways to contact family and friends in case an event occurs. The app covers 14 different types of disasters including tornadoes and flooding and lets users customize more than 35 emergency alerts for themselves and where loved ones live. The app contains preloaded content so users can access guidance from Red Cross experts even without mobile connectivity, and allows users to easily toggle between Spanish and English.

“Family Safe” is a unique feature that allows the app user to notify loved ones who are in an area affected by an emergency or disaster and find out if they are safe. The recipient can instantly see the alert details as well as specific “what to do now” steps, and then respond with either “I’m safe” or “I’m not safe.” This feature works even if the recipient has not downloaded the Emergency App. 

Whenever severe weather warnings are issued people should move to an underground shelter, basement or safe room. If that’s not possible, a small windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is an alternative.

If the power goes out, people should:

  • Use flashlights instead of candles;
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible; and
  • Make sure generators are placed outside the home and away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.

Additional safety tips on what to do before, during and after a variety of disasters and emergencies are located at redcross.org/prepare. People can also take Red Cross First Aid and CPR/AED courses so they’ll know what to do in case help is delayed. They can get information and register at redcross.org/TakeAClass The app is available in app stores by searching for the Red Cross Emergency or by going to redcross.org/apps.