In a new report released on the eve of Hurricane Katrina’s 5th anniversary, the Red Cross details some lessons and improvements that the agency has made in Louisiana and nationally on disaster response since 2005.
The study, “Bringing Help, Bringing Hope,” says the Red Cross has improved response capacity in large part by developing more extensive partnerships with non-profit community groups as well as government; added more pre-positioned supplies; trained many more volunteers; and added technology tools to assist the relief effort.
According to a news release from the Southeast Louisiana Red Cross chapter:
One critical lesson was that the Red Cross needed to increase its capacity to respond and build partnerships with other organizations that can help in large events. As a result, the Red Cross established a nationwide warehouse system and pre-positioned more than two Katrinas’ worth of disaster relief supplies in warehouses—enough to support 350,000 shelter residents. It also enhanced local, state and national-level planning efforts to plan for how it would respond to large-scale disasters and created new partnerships with national, state and local groups to help ensure that all segments of the community are served after a disaster.
In the past five years, the Red Cross expanded the number of trained disaster volunteers from 25,000 to nearly 95,000, including nearly 50,000 available to travel to disasters around the country. The organization also created tools for the public to use during a disaster, including a National Shelter System accessible online, and a “Safe and Well” website to reconnect families during disasters, including through social media.
“The hurricanes of 2005 tested us all,” said [Russ] Paulsen, [executive director of the Hurricane Recovery Program at the American National Red Cross] “Although we’re on better footing than we were five years ago, every individual and community has to be on board in order for our country to be more disaster-ready. There is much more that we as a nation can do. Everyone—government, businesses, non-profits and the faith community—needs to work together to have better prepared communities,” said Paulsen.
The growth of partnerships with non-profit community groups is a topic that I learned a lot about when I had the opportunity to moderate a Red Cross “Town Hall” on the subject in Washington, which included Kay Wilkins, CEO of the Southeast Louisiana chapter.
The full report can be found here.