Media Contact: Christine Welch
Red Cross responds to nearly twice as many large disasters in U.S. as a decade ago; Southern California at risk for wildfires, floods and earthquakes
SAN DIEGO, AUGUST 28, 2023 — During National Preparedness Month in September, the Red Cross Southern California Region, which serves San Diego, Imperial, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, urges everyone to prepare for worsening climate disasters affecting Southern California communities that have experienced extreme heat, storms, flooding, as well as increasingly longer wildfire seasons year over year.
Severe weather like this is part of a worsening national trend in which the American Red Cross has responded to nearly twice as many large disasters across the country as it did a decade ago.
As rapidly intensifying, weather-related events pose serious challenges to its humanitarian work and the people it serves, the Red Cross has announced an ambitious national plan to take urgent action. With more climate-driven disasters upending lives and devastating communities, the organization is racing to adapt its services and grow its disaster response capacity across the country, while also funding new international programs on climate response and preparedness, as well as minimizing its own environmental footprint.
Here in Southern California, this includes recruiting and training more volunteers to respond to disasters locally and across the country, preparing youth, partners and organizations on disaster readiness, and building Green Teams to advance sustainability efforts locally. The American Red Cross ranks the Southern California Region 23rd in overall disaster risk across the country due to the number of significant disaster response across the region.
“As the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events grow, more people need help more often,” said Debbie Leahy, Regional Disaster Officer, Red Cross Southern California Region. “Yet as fast as our volunteers are working to help, the needs are escalating faster. That’s why it’s critical to not only prepare yourself for risks like wildfires in our community, but to also help families in need — both locally and in other parts of the country. Join us by becoming a volunteer.”
For National Preparedness Month, take three lifesaving actions — get a kit, make a plan and be informed — to help protect yourself against local emergencies. Follow safety tips now at redcross.org/prepare. You can also deliver relief and care to families facing extreme weather events by becoming a Red Cross volunteer at redcross.org/VolunteerToday.
MOUNTING U.S. DISASTER RESPONSES
Today, the Red Cross is responding to nearly twice as many large disasters in the U.S. as it did a decade ago. Right now, the Red Cross is readying volunteers and supplies along the Gulf Coast in advance of Idalia, even as we remain on the ground helping communities recover from the deadliest wildfires of the last century in Hawaii, a powerful typhoon in the U.S. territory of Guam, and 1-in-100-year flooding in the Northeast, among other disasters.
In the first half of 2023 alone, the nation experienced a record 15 billion-dollar disasters, including catastrophic atmospheric rivers in California and deadly tornadoes in the South and Midwest — all on top of extreme heat, which made July the country’s hottest single month on record. What’s more, the U.S. is just now entering its typical peak time for wildfires and hurricanes.
ADAPTING TO THE CLIMATE CRISIS
As extreme weather disasters increase, more people need help from the Red Cross in the U.S. Nationwide, the organization is taking bold and thoughtful actions to adapt its services and grow its capacity by:
- Enhancing large-scale disaster response services by bolstering the aid provided in emergency shelters and extending casework support to help people with the most recovery needs.
- Expanding financial assistance to help more families with unmet needs and bridge the gap between immediate disaster relief and long-term recovery assistance.
- Strengthening local partner networks in targeted areas that face a high risk of extreme weather and existing societal inequities with a focus on increased access to health and mental health services, nutritious food and safe housing for local families.
- Growing its disaster workforce — comprised of 90% trained volunteers — to deepen its disaster readiness. This includes fortifying the critical infrastructure and technology that enables 24/7 response to disasters across the country.
SUPPORT OUR DISASTER RELIEF WORK
Help people affected by disasters big and small by making a gift to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters in the U.S. Visit redcross.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS.
CLIMATE AND WEATHER IMPACTS TO THE NATIONAL BLOOD SUPPLY
The Red Cross has seen a significant shortfall in blood and platelet donations over the last month, making it hard to keep pace with the need for blood products. Blood and platelet donations that go uncollected due to climate-related events, such as hurricanes, wildfires and extreme heat, can put further strain on the national blood supply. As extreme weather events are worsening, the Red Cross is seeing that translate into more blood drive cancellations. In 2022, over 1,300 blood drives were canceled due to weather — about 23% higher than the average of the prior nine years.
In thanks for helping ensure the nation’s blood supply is prepared for all emergencies, from disasters to medical emergencies, all who come to give blood, platelets or plasma Sept. 1-18 will receive a limited-edition Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last. Those who come to give throughout September will also receive a coupon for a free haircut by email, thanks to Sport Clips Haircuts. Details are available at rcblood.org/racetogive. Donors can schedule an appointment to donate using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, by visiting RedCrossBlood.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). If you are unable to give blood, you can volunteer to support blood collections. Visit redcross.org/volunteer to learn more.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or CruzRojaAmericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.
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