Frequently Asked Questions: Red Cross Sandy Response


Red Cross Response


Q  What is the Red Cross doing to help people devastated by Sandy?

The American Red Cross is in communities right now providing aid and comfort to thousands of people affected by Superstorm Sandy. Shelters are open in multiple states; we are driving down neighborhood streets with hot meals, toiletries and clean-up supplies in communities in Long Island, Manhattan, Staten Island, New Jersey and West Virginia; and we’re sending in blankets and other supplies in preparation for the cold temperatures forecast for much of the mid-Atlantic region. The Red Cross is there, and we’re building our response effort every single day, getting help to more and more people as fast as we can.

Over the past week (since Saturday, Oct 27) shelters have provided nearly 90,000 overnight stays; more than 53,000 in Red Cross shelters. The Red Cross has served more than a million meals and snacks and provided more than 17,000 health services and emotional support contacts to people affected by Sandy. The Red Cross has also deployed more than 5,300 disaster workers, 60 trailers of relief supplies, and every emergency response vehicle in the Red Cross fleet (323 vehicles). The Red Cross response is already very large and very costly and could be our biggest U.S. disaster response in the past five years.

Q Will my donation go to help people affected by Sandy?
A Right now, the funds that are coming in are being put to immediate use for the Hurricane Sandy response. Your support also helps the Red Cross prepare for and respond to disasters like Hurricane Sandy and the nearly 70,000 disasters that we respond to every year. With your help, we can provide services such as food, shelter and emotional support to those impacted by any disaster in the United States.

Q  How long will this disaster response take?

We expect that the Red Cross will be helping people for weeks to come as they begin to recover from the effects of Sandy. The exact length of the operation will depend on how long power outages persist, if there is additional damage from the Nor’easter and how many homes are affected. We know this will be an extended relief effort. We believe this is likely to be the biggest Red Cross response in the last five years.

Q  Does the Red Cross need blood donations?
More than 370 Red Cross blood drives have been cancelled due to the storm. As opportunities for blood collection return, the Red Cross asks people to make an appointment over the days and weeks ahead. All eligible donors are encouraged to call 1-800-RED CROSS or visit us online at http://www.redcrossblood.org today to schedule an appointment to give blood.

Q  Will the Red Cross be ready to respond if another storm threatens the United States?
Each year the Red Cross responds to about 70,000 disasters across the United States, so it’s not unusual for us to be responding to simultaneous operations. The Red Cross works year round to be ready to respond effectively to disasters of any size—that’s why it’s so critical for us to have the resources and support to maintain a network of more than 71,000 trained disaster workers and a nationwide warehousing network stocked with relief supplies across the country.

Q  Is the Red Cross working with partner organizations during the response to Superstorm Sandy?
Yes. The Red Cross is working with more than 50 national partner organizations and their local affiliates. More than 500 partner volunteers are working side-by-side with Red Crossers to support Superstorm Sandy relief efforts. For example, we are coordinating with Church of the Brethren Children’s Disaster Services, the National Baptist Convention USA, NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, Feeding America, HOPE worldwide, Points of Light and the Meals on Wheels Association of America.


Return Home Safely


Q Is there anything I should do as I return home?
A
Remember to follow the advice of your local authorities and return only when they say it is safe to do so. When returning home, bring a map, a government-issued photo ID like a driver’s license, proof of address and your first aid kit. In case your utilities are out, you should bring flashlights, batteries, bottled water and non-perishable foods.

Before going into your home, look outside for damaged power lines, gas lines, foundation cracks and other exterior damage. It may be too dangerous to enter the home. The American Red Cross Hurricane App has a section. “Recover from Sandy,” for people recovering and returning home. Topics include flooding, generator safety, indentifying unsafe food, getting rid of mold and more. The hurricane app can be found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross. There is also a Red Cross First Aid App which teaches people how to treat injuries in case help is delayed.

Q My power is out. What should I do?
A
Sandy may cause power outages that could last for days. If the power goes out:
• Use flashlights for light, not candles.
• Don’t use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning device inside a home, garage, basement, or any partially enclosed area. Locate the unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
• Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Check refrigerated food for spoilage and if in doubt, throw it out.
• Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment and any appliances, equipment or electronics to avoid damaging them when the power is restored.
• Avoid unnecessary travel as traffic lights will be out and roads congested.
• Watch animals and keep them under your direct control.

Q My power has been out. What should I do about my food?
A
Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40° F (4° C) for 2 hours or more or that has an unusual odor, color or texture. When in doubt, throw it out! Never taste food or rely on appearance or odor to determine its safety. Some foods may look and smell fine, but if they have been at room temperature too long, bacteria causing food borne illnesses can start growing quickly. Some types of bacteria produce toxins that cannot be destroyed by cooking. If food in the freezer is colder than 40° F and has ice crystals on it, you can refreeze it. If you are not sure food is cold enough, take its temperature with the food thermometer. Throw out any foods (meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) that have been exposed to temperatures higher than 40° F (4° C) for 2 hours or more, and any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture, or feels warm to touch.

Q My neighborhood is flooded. What should I do?
A
You should stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, turn around and go another way. Six inches of swiftly moving water can knock you off your feet. If you come upon a flooded road while driving, go another way. Return home only when officials have declared the area safe. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water. Stay out of the water and make sure children and pets don’t go in.

Q My family and I are experiencing a lot of stress. What should we do?
A
The stress of a disaster takes its toll on everyone who has felt the impact. Many have trouble sleeping afterwards. If this is the case, you might want to talk with your friends or family about what is going on for you. Check the document “Taking Care of Your Emotional Health” for other suggestions. Also remember, children are especially vulnerable to the stresses associated with a disaster, like a hurricane. The best strategy you can take is for you to remain calm. Children will take their cues from you—if you are upset, they will be, too. Do the best you can to take care of yourself and that will help your children as well. Also, do not be afraid to take a break if you need it.

Q I have a friend who lost everything in the storm. He/she seems so hopeless and dejected. What can I do?
A
If you are concerned about your friend’s safety or the safety of those around him, you need to seek help IMMEDIATELY. Call 911 if you believe he/she has plans to hurt himself/herself or others. If you are worried but there is not an immediate danger, you could look under CRISIS INTERVENTION or HOTLINES in your local yellow pages. Many areas have a 211 or 311 phone number that lists local resources. You could also call 1-800-273-TALK, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline to discuss your concerns.


Shelter Information


Q  How do I find a Red Cross shelter?
If you need the location of a shelter, you should go to www.redcross.org and check the shelter map, or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). You can also download our new Red Cross hurricane app for smart phones. The app can be found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross. You can also follow your local media to find out where local shelters are located.

Q  How do I let my family and friends know I am okay?
A
 The Red Cross can help you stay in touch with loved ones by either downloading our Hurricane App and using the “I’m Safe” button to post a message to their social media accounts, or registering on the Red Cross Safe and Well website.

  • The hurricane app can be found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross. It also provides important safety information and a toolkit with a flashlight, strobe light and alarm.
  • The Red Cross Safe and Well website is secure and people can register by visiting www.redcross.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). This site also connects with the Twitter and Facebook accounts of users.

Q  What do I need to bring to the shelter?
A
 The Red Cross encourages those who plan to stay in a Red Cross evacuation shelter to bring the following items for each member of their family:

  • Prescription and emergency medication
  • Extra clothing
  • Pillows and blankets
  • Hygiene supplies
  • Important documents
  • Other comfort items.

Additionally, special items for children and infants, such as diapers, formulas and toys, should be brought, along with other items for family members who are elderly or disabled.

Q  A local station is reporting that a shelter is open in my neighborhood but it is not showing up on redcross.org. Why not?
There are many reasons why a shelter may not appear on redcross.org or the Red Cross Hurricane app. The Red Cross only displays shelters operated by the Red Cross. Other community organizations, as well as local government, also open and operate shelters. In addition, shelter locations on www.redcross.org are updated every 30 minutes, so it may take a few minutes for new shelters to appear on the map.

Q  Can I bring my pet to a Red Cross shelter? If no, what resources are available to me?
A
 In general, Red Cross shelters do not take pets. However, in many cases, we are working with partner organizations to shelter pets in the same or nearby facilities so they can be easily accessible to our shelter residents. If that is not case, our shelter workers should be able to refer you to other facilities or services in your area. The Humane Society and ASPCA have been helping people find pet-friendly shelters and boarders who are accepting pets for free.


Services Provided


Q What kinds of emergency services are not provided by the Red Cross?
A
The Red Cross doesn’t have the expertise, equipment or resources to perform every disaster service. Services such as evacuation coordination, search and rescue, advanced medical care, pet sheltering and medical sheltering are best performed by government agencies or organizations that have the resources, trained workers and expertise to carry out those functions. We work closely with the groups involved in those services to ensure that we can meet the needs of people who come to us for help.

Q What if my home is extensively flood-damaged? Does the Red Cross provide anything to help me clean up my damaged home?
A
You can contact your local chapter, which may be able to provide clean-up kits and other supplies to assist with the clean-up efforts.

Q Will the Red Cross replace groceries or food lost because of a power outage?
A
No. Red Cross feeding services at shelters and through mobile feeding efforts, once conditions permit, are meant to ensure that no one goes hungry after a disaster. Power outages are often widespread and sometimes affect hundreds of thousands of people. It would be nearly impossible—both logistically and financially—for the Red Cross to replace groceries for that many people.

Q I have been trying to call 1-800-RED CROSS and cannot get through. Is there another number I can call to get help?
A
Like every other agency during a major disaster, Red Cross phone lines may be overwhelmed after the storm. If you are having difficulty getting through on 1-800-RED CROSS, first check your local news media and local authorities for information on where to find shelter and get help in your communities. You can also go to http://www.redcross.org for shelter locations and information on how to connect with loved ones.


Return Home Safely


Q Is there anything I should do as I return home?
A
Remember to follow the advice of your local authorities and return only when they say it is safe to do so. When returning home, bring a map, a government-issued photo ID like a driver’s license, proof of address and your first aid kit. In case your utilities are out, you should bring flashlights, batteries, bottled water and non-perishable foods.

Before going into your home, look outside for damaged power lines, gas lines, foundation cracks and other exterior damage. It may be too dangerous to enter the home. Visit www.redcross.org, or the “After: How to Recover” feature of our hurricane app for more information about returning home after a disaster. The hurricane app can be found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross. The app also provides important safety information and a toolkit with a flashlight, strobe light and alarm.

Q  My power is out. What should I do?
A
 Sandy may cause power outages that could last for days. If the power goes out:

  • Use flashlights for light, not candles.
  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Check refrigerated food for spoilage and if in doubt, throw it out.
  • Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment and any appliances, equipment or electronics to avoid damaging them when the power is restored.
  • Avoid unnecessary travel as traffic lights will be out and roads congested.
  • Watch animals and keep them under your direct control.
  • Don’t use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning device inside a home, garage, basement, or any partially enclosed area. Locate the unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.

Q  My power has been out. What should I do about my food?
A
  Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40° F (4° C) for 2 hours or more or that has an unusual odor, color or texture. When in doubt, throw it out! Never taste food or rely on appearance or odor to determine its safety. Some foods may look and smell fine, but if they have been at room temperature too long, bacteria causing food borne illnesses can start growing quickly. Some types of bacteria produce toxins that cannot be destroyed by cooking. If food in the freezer is colder than 40° F and has ice crystals on it, you can refreeze it. If you are not sure food is cold enough, take its temperature with the food thermometer. Throw out any foods (meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) that have been exposed to temperatures higher than 40° F (4° C) for 2 hours or more, and any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture, or feels warm to touch.

Q  My neighborhood is flooded. What should I do?
A
 You should stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, turn around and go another way. Six inches of swiftly moving water can knock you off your feet. If you come upon a flooded road while driving, go another way. Return home only when officials have declared the area safe. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water. Stay out of the water and make sure children and pets don’t go in.

Q  My family and I are experiencing a lot of stress. What should we do?
A  The stress of a disaster takes its toll on everyone who has felt the impact. Many have trouble sleeping afterwards. If this is the case, you might want to talk with your friends or family about what is going on for you. Check the document “Taking Care of Your Emotional Health” for other suggestions. Also remember, children are especially vulnerable to the stresses associated with a disaster, like a hurricane. The best strategy you can take is for you to remain calm. Children will take their cues from you—if you are upset, they will be, too. Do the best you can to take care of yourself and that will help your children as well. Also, do not be afraid to take a break if you need it.

Q  I have a friend who lost everything in the storm. He/she seems so hopeless and dejected. What can I do?
A
 If you are concerned about your friend’s safety or the safety of those around him, you need to seek help IMMEDIATELY. Call 911 if you believe he/she has plans to hurt himself/herself or others. If you are worried but there is not an immediate danger, you could look under CRISIS INTERVENTION or HOTLINES in your local yellow pages. Many areas have a 211 or 311 phone number that lists local resources. You could also call 1-800-273-TALK, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline to discuss your concerns.


Disaster Donations


Q  How can the American people help?
This will be a large, costly relief response across several states, and the Red Cross needs your help now. Please make a financial donation today by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. People can also send contributions to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

Q  How does the Red Cross pay for the services it provides?
A
  We rely on the donations of the American people to support our work. Financial contributions to American Red Cross Disaster Relief allow us to serve victims of approximately 70,000 disasters a year. Every day, the American Red Cross responds to nearly 200 disasters ranging from house fires to massive hurricanes – each one devastating to the people involved.

Q  Does my donation really help? What will it be used for?
A
  The donations we receive for Red Cross Disaster Relief are put to good use. It’s important to know that 91 cents of every dollar is used to support disaster victims. Any donation, large or small, will help. For example, $3 can provide a comfort kit containing personal hygiene items for someone in a disaster; $6 can cover the cost of a blanket; and $10 the cost of a hot meal. A $50 donation can cover the cost of food and shelter for a day, including three meals, blankets, comfort kits and the Red Cross expense of mobilizing them to the disaster area. For $150, someone’s donation can cover the cost of providing food and shelter to a family of four for a day they spend in a shelter.

Q  Will my donation go to help people affected by Sandy?
A
 Your support helps the Red Cross prepare for and respond to disasters like Hurricane Sandy and the nearly 70,000 disasters that we respond to every year. With your help, we can provide services such as food, shelter and emotional support to those impacted by any disaster in the United States.

Q  Why won’t the Red Cross take small quantities of donated goods?
After a disaster, financial donations are the quickest and best way to help people who need it most. The Red Cross isn’t equipped to handle a large influx of donations like household items, clothing or food that may or may not be useful to victims. It takes time and money to sort, process, transport and then distribute donated items — whereas financial donations can be accessed quickly and put to use right away.

Plus, financial donations allow us to be flexible in the help that we provide and ensures we can provide what people need most. As an added benefit, financial donations allow the Red Cross and disaster victims to purchase items locally, stimulating the economy of the disaster affected area. Even a small financial donation can go further than you might think. For instance, $2 can provide a snack to a child who just lost their home and $10 can provide a hot meal to that same child.

Q Where can I make a non-cash donation?
A
If you’d like to donate food items, the Red Cross recommends contacting your local food bank. To donate clothing or household items, we suggest visiting www.nvoad.org for a list of organizations that accept these types of donations.

Alternatively, consider selling your items on eBay Giving Works, or another site, and donate the proceeds to an established disaster relief organization, like the Red Cross, serving the affected area.

Q  How much does the Red Cross spend every year on disaster relief?
A  
Every year, the American Red Cross spends an average of more than $360 million preparing for and responding to disasters across the country and around the world. This includes the costs to feed, shelter, distribute supplies and provide other types of support to the victims of nearly 70,000 disasters each year. It also includes the costs of being ready to respond to any disaster in the United States by maintaining those things that help us get assistance to people in need. These readiness costs include our nationwide network of warehouses storing disaster relief supplies; disaster response vehicles that distribute food and clean-up supplies; paid staff that help to train, deploy and support our volunteer workforce; and computer systems that track client data. If we didn’t maintain these resources 24/7, we couldn’t get help to people in a timely fashion. It’s important to note that this average annual cost does not include extraordinary events like Hurricane Katrina or the Haiti Earthquake – which add even more to the total cost of our disaster response.

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