2008-09-27 / Editorials & Letters

Storm forced Red Cross to focus on mass care services


With the remnants of Hurricane Ike striking Central Ohio on Sunday, September 14, your local American Red Cross Chapter has been extremely busy responding to the needs of the entire county. However, a recent development has prompted me to write this letter to clarify some misunderstanding that may persist in the general public.

First, I would like to personally thank Our Lady of Mt Carmel Church and the Buckeye Lake Fire Department for their tremendous support during these difficult times. Both organizations were outstanding in helping us serve the community.

During normal times, the American Red Cross Disaster Services respond to many local incidences, mainly house fires. For these localized incidences, our responsibility is to make sure that the victims of a disaster have immediate food, clothing and shelter for up to three days. This may include putting the victims into a motel.

However, during times of a large scale disaster like we recently experienced, our role changes. We are required to provide mass care services, such as food and shelter, but on a large scale. After the windstorm of September 14, the American Red Cross of Licking County opened a mass care shelter in Heath on September 15. This shelter remained open until September 18 and was open for any citizens that needed shelter. We also opened up five feeding centers around the county, including Buckeye Lake, in order to provide food to as many people and as efficiently as possible.

During large scale disaster responses, we do not provide individualized services to victims and have strict orders from FEMA to not place victims into motels. Instead, we open mass care shelters and feeding operations. We also provide referrals for victims to the appropriate agencies so that they can begin putting their lives back together.

As we are not a government agency and do not receive government funding for our local services, we rely on the generosity of the local community to support our efforts. Therefore, we have to be extremely careful in how we deliver our services in order to use the donor dollar as effectively as possible. We rely on dedicated volunteers and wonderful community partners, like the two organizations mentioned previously, to help us deliver our services in a cost efficient manner.

We welcome anyone interested in volunteering for the local Red Cross Chapter to contact us at 349-9442.

Rod Cook

Executive Director American Red Cross of Licking County

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