The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting above-normal storm activity with as many as six major Atlantic hurricanes this year with winds of 111 mph or higher. Likewise, the National Interagency Fire Center is forecasting above normal wildfire risk across multiple States this summer and fall.
The American Red Cross is ready to respond to these storms and wildfires. This includes new procedures and resources to ensure the safety of our workforce and those we serve, especially in emergency shelters.
SAFE SHELTER The safety of our workforce and those we serve continues to be the Red Cross’ priority. We have established standard and procedures based on guidance from FEMA and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). We are also working closely with State, local, territorial, and tribal health officials to provide safe shelter during a disaster.
When the size and scale of evacuations and disasters permit, we will continue prioritizing individual hotel rooms or dormitory style rooms to make sure people have a safe place to stay—these situations include home fires, apartment fires, and events where fewer than 2500 households are evacuated. Since April 16, the Red Cross has already provided more than 40,000 hotel stays across the country. For larger scale disasters and evacuations, the Red Cross is prepared to open emergency shelters and we have additional precautions in place to ensure safety remains our top priority.
To ensure our emergency shelters are safe, we have additional precautions in place.
- Setting up a health screening process for everyone coming into the shelter.
- Planning for setting up an isolation care area in the shelter.
- Requiring an appropriate face covering for everyone in a Red Cross-managed shelter
- Providing surgical masks, tissues and plastic bags throughout the shelter.
- Following social distancing practices as outlined by the CDC and FEMA, as much as possible, by staggering meal times and adding extra spacing between cots, chairs, tables, etc.
- Providing additional handwashing stations, in addition to normal restroom facilities.
- Increasing wellness checks to identify potential illness, including self-monitoring and checking temperatures of both shelter residents and staff
- Enhancing both cleaning and disinfecting practices throughout the shelter
The Red Cross currently has identified and surveyed more than 57,000 potential shelter locations in facilities like churches and local schools. During COVID-19, we are continuing to review these facilities to determine which ones will be the best to use in this new pandemic environment, while adhering to new social distancing guidelines.
Responding to disasters is a team effort and no single organization can do it alone – particularly in this new environment. The Red Cross will continue to work collaboratively with our partners at the federal, state and county levels to be prepared to support communities after disaster strikes.