Frequently Asked Questions – Sandy Response

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

Superstorm Sandy was a massive storm that caused a tremendous amount of destruction. The American Red Cross has responded with what could be our biggest U.S. disaster response in the past five years. The Red Cross will be on the ground for weeks providing help, even during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

We are in communities right now providing aid and comfort to the many people still struggling even as power is restored and some communities begin to recover. Red Cross volunteers are driving through neighborhoods to deliver water, food and relief supplies. Our extensive feeding operation in partnership with the Southern Baptist Convention also continues, with kitchens and feeding sites spread across New York and New Jersey. Some people who are unable to return home remain in shelters although the numbers have declined.

To date, the Red Cross has served more than 6.7 million meals and snacks, and provided more than 78,000 health services and emotional support contacts to people affected by Sandy. The Red Cross has deployed more than 11,000 disaster workers from all 50 states; about 90 percent of these workers are volunteers. Right now, nearly 5,300 workers are on the ground providing help and comfort. The Red Cross has also distributed more than 4 million relief items, and activated more than 300 response vehicles. Since Sandy hit, response organizations have provided more than 149,000 shelter stays. The Red Cross has provided more than 77,000 of those stays.

Q  How long will this disaster response take?


We expect that the Red Cross will be helping people for many 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 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  How much will this disaster operation cost the Red Cross?

This was a massive storm and we will be providing people with food, supplies, shelter and emotional support for weeks to come. We now estimate our relief operations are going to cost well over $100 million and could go higher depending on the needs.

We’ve already spent an estimated $60 million and $70 million, and the costs rise every hour. People are still in need of help, and we will continue to provide it. We are going to honor the wishes of our donors, and after the emergency relief part of work, we will use any remaining donations for Sandy to meet the longer-term needs of the communities affected by this disaster.

Q  Will my donation go to help people affected by Sandy?
  The Red Cross honors donor intent and the funds that are coming in are being put to immediate use for the Hurricane Sandy response. Any funds we raise beyond what is needed for emergency relief will be put to use serving the long-term needs of communities affected by this disaster.

Q  How much money have you raised?

The public has been generous in supporting Red Cross efforts to help the millions of families affected by Superstorm Sandy. Our primary focus has been on providing service delivery and we are still processing incoming donations. As of Tuesday morning, November 20, we had raised $158 million in donations and pledges, and contributions continue to flow in.

Q  If the Red Cross raises more money than it plans to spend on its disaster response, how will the rest of the money raised be spent?
   We are going to honor the wishes of our donors, and after the emergency relief part of our work is complete, we will use any remaining donations for Sandy to meet the longer-term needs of the affected communities.

Q  Where do people go after they leave Red Cross shelters if they can’t return to their homes?

The Red Cross opens shelters during an emergency to help people who need a safe place to stay. Emergency shelters typically aren’t intended to stay open for long periods of time — that’s why organizations involved in relief efforts strive to help people find more suitable accommodations if their homes are left unlivable after a disaster.

Residents in New Jersey and New York who were staying in shelters and couldn’t return home due to storm damage are being helped through a transitional sheltering assistance program through FEMA. The program helps to relocate survivors to hotels or other temporary housing solutions. FEMA may also be able to provide grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover.

People affected by Sandy are encouraged to register with FEMA by calling 800-621-3362 or visiting Red Cross caseworkers are also meeting one-on-one with people who are in shelters to determine their needs and the next step for their individual recovery.

Q  How will the Red Cross support long-term recovery efforts in New Jersey and New York?

The Red Cross is still in the emergency part of our response to Sandy and continues to provide food, shelter, supplies and other help to survivors — and we expect that to continue for weeks. We are actively working with communities to determine unmet needs and how the Red Cross can meet those needs – and will continue this throughout the recovery process. The Red Cross will be working with community groups on local recovery initiatives throughout New York and New Jersey. This will include Red Cross workers helping people in the recovery process and acting as an advocate to connect people with the services and resources they need. We will provide additional information as it becomes available.

Q  How can the American people help?
The response to Sandy is likely to be the biggest Red Cross response in the U.S. in the past five years. To make a financial donation, visit, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text 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?
  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?
  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  Why won’t the Red Cross take small quantities of donated goods such as food or clothing?
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?
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 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  Does the Red Cross receive federal funding for its disaster relief efforts?

The Red Cross relies on the generosity of the American public to support nearly 100 percent of our disaster relief activities. The Red Cross does not receive a regular appropriation from Congress. On rare occasions, the Red Cross has asked for a one-time appropriation from Congress to cover some of the costs of a large disaster. This last occurred during the 2008 hurricane season when Congress granted the Red Cross funds for disaster relief services related to several extraordinary events. In addition, there may be limited circumstances where FEMA supports Red Cross activities in extraordinary situations.

Q  My power is out. What should I do?
 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?
  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 family and I are experiencing a lot of stress. What should we do?

A  People affected by such a devastating disaster like Sandy have seen their lives changed in an instant. Mental health experts advise there are steps people can take to deal with the emotional stresses of this disaster:

  • Limit exposure to the sights and sounds of the disaster
  • Focus on the positive
  • Reach out and accept help from others
  • Do things you enjoy with your family
  • Stay connected with your family and other support systems
  • Be patient
  • Get back to a daily routine
  • Children should be allowed to feel upset and be encouraged to express their feelings and thoughts. It will be helpful to children when they can return to a daily routine as much as possible.

Check the document “Taking Care of Your Emotional Health” for other suggestions.

Q  I have a friend who lost everything in the storm. He/she seems so hopeless and dejected. What can I do?
 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.

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.

What kinds of emergency services are not provided by the Red Cross?
  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  Will the Red Cross replace groceries or food lost because of a power outage?
  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.


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