Severe Weather Awareness Week

Role of Red Cross before and after storm hits

CREATED Apr 18, 2013

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MILWAUKEE - The role of the Red Cross is twofold, according to Communications Officer Barbara Behling. 

"We attempt to educate people on what to do before a storm, but we're also a safety net for communities after a storm."
The organization's preparation starts long before a storm even hits.
"We have mutual aid partners who are ready to respond.  We have a team of trained responders ourselves who are ready to leap into action," said Behling. 
So when a disaster strikes, all the Red Cross has to do is activate because all its systems and processes are in place; and responders are always ready.  
"There are hundreds [of volunteers] who respond locally and thousands across the nation."
During small disasters, the Red Cross utilizes local volunteers, but in the event of a very large storm, volunteers are pulled in from across the country.
"That's what happened in the case of Hurricane Sandy, where the storm was so large, that it exceeded the capabilities of the local chapter," said Behling.
About 175 responders from eastern Wisconsin were deployed to help out on the East Coast.
"And that's exactly what would happen if Wisconsin were hit by a huge storm.  People would literally roll into the state to support us."
Volunteers provide everything storm victims might need.
"We take care of people's sheltering needs.  We want a warm, safe place for them to sleep.  We know that they need food to eat.  We also know if they don't have shoes or clothes on their backs, that's something the Red Cross can assist with," said Behling.
Responders are also licensed and trained professionals for mental health care.
"Because behind every disaster headline, there's an emotional toll."
The Red Cross is in the business of providing help, but Behling points out, they need help too.
"All of our resources are complimentary to the people in need.  And we can only do that because of the generosity of the American people."