The Red Cross: Bringing Mobility into the New Millennium

Los Angeles - New ERV
“This is an incredible opportunity for our community to be a part of shaping the future of our services and the iconic Red Cross response vehicle.” - Paul Schulz, CEO, American Red Cross Los Angeles Region

For Red Cross volunteers and workers getting to the scene of a disaster, big or small, in the fastest and most efficient way, is the first step in helping people in need. Getting there has always been a priority. And, the Red Cross has a long history of providing help and comfort from mobile vehicles.

In 1898, Clara Barton used a wagon as an ambulance for her work on the battlefield. During World War II, the Red Cross used clubmobiles to support U.S. servicemen. In 1984, the Red Cross began to standardize the organization's disaster response vehicles around an ambulance design. Prior to the 1984 initiative, the Red Cross used converted bread trucks, station wagons and pickup trucks to deliver meals and snacks after disasters.

Currently, the Red Cross has more than 320 emergency response vehicles in 49 states that are used after disasters, such as home fires, tornadoes and floods to serve meals, snacks and beverages to families and distribute relief supplies. Four ERVs were dispatched from Los Angeles to augment recovery from Hurricane Sandy.

And now, the Red Cross mobilizes for the future.

The Greater Los Angeles Chapter is one of two dozen Red Cross chapters across the country involved in the testing and assessment program for the next generation of ERV – Emergency Response Vehicles. The newly designed prototype ERV was introduced on Friday, March 15, 2013 at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. In the coming months, trained responders from Southern California will test the vehicles in diverse situations, including both urban and rural environments that experience a wide range of disasters.

The Art Center is one of the top design schools in the country, graduating students who contribute to the design and manufacture of vehicles. Many of the ideas adding to the modernization of the next generation of ERVs originated with the Center’s students and faculty.

The new ERVs are the result of a five-year process engaging Red Cross volunteers, staff, partners and the design community to create a vehicle that is more cost efficient and provides a better experience for both Red Crossers and people in need.

“Over the next decade, the Red Cross expects to replace our current fleet of response vehicles while saving millions-of-dollars by switching to a more effective platform with reduced maintenance costs,” said Charley Shimanski, senior vice president, Red Cross Disaster Services. “With the help of communities such as Los Angeles, we’ll be able to make sure that the new design meets the needs of the people who turn to us for help after disasters.”

The next generation emergency response vehicles will be less expensive to buy, have reduced maintenance costs, have a longer life span and be more fuel efficient. The new design is also more ergonomic for workers, easier to drive, has ample storage room for supplies and meals, and can be adjusted to the needs of disasters large and small. For example, modular features allow the vehicle to be quickly transformed, so that volunteers can either serve thousands of meals a day after a big hurricane or meet one-on-one with a family displaced by a home fire. The vehicles will also have external dynamic messaging, providing the opportunity for drivers to share real-time information and situational awareness.

Almost half of the response vehicles in The Red Cross fleet are older than 10 years, requiring extensive maintenance and making it difficult to find replacement parts.

“This is an incredible opportunity for our community to be a part of shaping the future of our services and the iconic Red Cross response vehicle,” said Paul Schulz, CEO of the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region. “Our community will help ensure that this redesigned vehicle will effectively provide help, hope and comfort to people in need after disasters across the country.”