Red Cross Opening Shelters, Mobilizing Equipment

Hurricane Irene is headed toward the East Coast and the American Red Cross is mobilizing disaster workers and equipment along much of the eastern seaboard to help those in the path of this powerful storm. In Maryland, Red Cross workers are positioning volunteers, vehicles and supplies, getting ready for a response effort that spans nearly the entire East Coast.

Hurricane Irene is predicted to be the largest storm to hit the East Coast in more than 70 years, and could threaten several big population centers. A hurricane watch has been issued for the North Carolina coast and the Red Cross has opened shelters in the state as evacuation orders go into effect. In addition, more than 200 Red Cross mobile feeding vehicles are heading towards the coast to help people in the path of the storm.

Dozens of shelters are being prepared all along the East Coast. People can find open Red Cross shelters by viewing an interactive Google map at www.redcross.org or by downloading the free Red Cross shelter app for their iPhone from the iTunes store. A mobile-friendly version of the Hurricane Safety Checklist is now available for smart phone users to download at www.redcross.org/mobile.

It’s important that those affected by the storm stay in contact with loved ones and the Red Cross Safe and Well website can help them do that. Safe and Well is a secure, easy-to-use online tool to help families connect in an emergency. People can register by visiting the Red Cross web site or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

A hurricane watch means hurricane conditions could be a threat within 48 hours. An upgrade to a hurricane warning will mean hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours. Those in the affected area should finish their storm preparations and evacuate if authorities ask them to do so.

Hurricane Irene has caused significant damage in the southern Bahamas and the Bahamas Red Cross is managing shelters and helping people displaced by the storm. A regional disaster management expert is headed to the Bahamas today to assist with disaster assessment and response. In the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Red Cross is mobilizing volunteers as flooding, damage to homes and impassable roads are left in the storm’s wake. The United Nations is reporting hundreds of homes have been damaged and it is difficult to communicate with many localities.

In addition, Irene could affect blood collections along the East Coast at a time when the nation’s blood supply is already low. The Red Cross is urging those who are eligible to give blood prior to the storm’s arrival. Donating blood now, before the storm, will help ensure blood is available in the aftermath of Irene should conditions prohibit people from traveling to blood collections.

Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental permission in some states), meet height and weight requirements (110 pounds or more, depending on their height), and who are generally in good health may be eligible to donate blood. To schedule an appointment, please call 1-800-RED CROSS or visit us online at www.redcrossblood.org.

Red Cross Annual Disaster Giving Program (ADGP) members support Red Cross disaster efforts by pledging donations to the Red Cross in advance of major disasters to ensure an immediate response to help people affected. ADGP members responsible for these generous donations include 3M, Altria Group, Aon, Caterpillar, Cisco Foundation , ConAgra Foods , Costco Wholesale Corporation, Darden Restaurants, Inc., Dr Pepper Snapple Group , FedEx Corporation, GE Foundation, The Home Depot Foundation , John Deere Foundation, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Kraft Foods, Lowe's Companies, Inc., Merck, Morgan Stanley, Nationwide Insurance Foundation, Northrop Grumman, Optum, Ryder Charitable Foundation, Southwest Airlines, State Farm, State Street Foundation, Target, The TJX Companies, Inc., UnitedHealthcare, UPS and Walmart.

American Red Cross disaster preparedness starts long before a hurricane makes landfall, beginning with keeping supplies and equipment on stand-by all year to help people in need. On average, the Red Cross spends about $450 million on disaster relief every year. If someone would like to support Red Cross disaster efforts, they can make a donation to American Red Cross Disaster Relief by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS, texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation, or sending contributions to their local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

About the American Red Cross:

More than twice a day the American Red Cross provides basic needs to disaster victims such as emergency shelter, food, clothing and counseling to Central Maryland families after disasters thanks to major support from donors to the United Way campaigns in Maryland. Each day the Red Cross also provides lifesaving blood to area hospitals; teaches lifesaving skills; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its humanitarian mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org/cmd or Tweet us at www.twitter.com/RedCrossMD.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.