In late July, a tropical disturbance traveled up from the Atlantic Basin through the Caribbean Sea, threatening the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. A large but disorganized storm, it became Tropical Storm Isaias, then Hurricane Isaias, alternating in strength throughout its journey. On August 2, Isaias crept up Florida’s East Coast as a tropical storm before regaining hurricane speed and making landfall as a Category 1 in North Carolina.
Although the storm strengthened and weakened several times throughout its lifecycle, the Central Florida Red Cross remained alert and prepared for the worst. More than 150 Central FL disaster workers were assigned or on standby to support an active operation.
“Hurricane season doesn’t pause for the pandemic, so our team was very focused on planning ahead and working with our partners to ensure we could respond safely,” said Linzy Wilson, Central Florida district director for the Red Cross disaster relief operation. “Even in this environment, our volunteer workforce was willing to step up to help both virtually and on-the-ground if necessary.”
Trained disaster workers were prepared to open evacuation centers and disaster shelters at the request of emergency management. All Red Cross managed shelters will follow new protocols, based on FEMA guidance, including health screenings, face coverings and PPE and extra space per person for social distancing.
“Ensuring people have a safe place to stay during a disaster is a critical part of our mission,” said Kathy MacDonald, district sheltering coordinator, who was serving on her seventeenth disaster relief operation. “Our shelter strike teams, who were trained and prepared to work in a COVID environment, were ready to activate in a moment’s notice.”
Though no Red Cross shelters were needed, logistics volunteers braved the outer bands of the storm to deliver pallets of water, snacks and shelf stable meals to support feeding at County-operated centers in Brevard and Volusia. Additional relief supplies and Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs) were pre-positioned near the East Coast. Given the pandemic environment, personal protective equipment (PPE) and disinfecting supplies were staged at several Chapter office for quick access. A team of disaster assessment volunteers were also at the ready to survey any reports of damage.
Fortunately, this threat of Isaias has past, and we are constantly learning to adapt -- because each disaster is different. Looking forward, we will continue to work closely with community partners and emergency management officials to plan in advance to meet the most critical needs for the next storm.
The Red Cross works 24/7 to be ready for disasters like storms and countless other crises. Powered by generous support from our donors, the Red Cross is always there, working alongside our government partners to help our communities prepare, respond and recover. To help by making a financial gift, visit redcross.org, call 800-RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.