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7 Top Questions About Louisiana Flood Relief

Updated 8/24/2016

So many of us have been touched by the recent floods that have devastated Louisiana—whether directly as residents or indirectly as concerned citizens with big hearts. At this crucial hour, timely and accurate information is critical. Here are the top questions we’ve gathered from social media, as well as answers that we hope will be helpful.

1. I need to stay in a shelter. What about my pet(s)?

We love our pets – they are members of our families. Keeping pets in shelters can sometimes pose health and safety issues, though, since we can’t always guarantee that our companion animals will get along or that fellow residents won’t have serious allergies. So the Red Cross, a proud member of the National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition (NARSC), works with animal rescue groups to ensure that shelter residents have a place to house their pets. To learn what’s available at your shelter, please ask to speak with the shelter manager.

2. My home has been destroyed by floods. What should I do first?

We’re so sorry to hear this. Please register as soon as possible for federal disaster assistance with FEMA. You can apply for aid at disasterassistance.gov, call 1-800-621-3362 or visit a Disaster Recovery Center.

3. I am in need of supplies – from cleanup kits to diapers.

Please give the American Red Cross Disaster Hotline a call at 855-224-2490. They can help direct you to where supplies are available in your area. Take care and please hang in there!

4. I want to volunteer to help Louisiana.

You are awesome! You can learn all about joining our volunteer team at www.redcross.org/louisiana.

5. I would like to donate clothing/supplies/food.

Please know that while we value these donations, we simply don’t have the capacity to sort and distribute donated clothing or inspect donated food to ensure they meet the safety guidelines required for the meals we provide in our shelters. Unfortunately, there have been instances in previous disasters where people became sick because these items were not inspected. At this time, we recommend you call our partner agency at 211.

6. Is it true that the Red Cross doesn’t allow people to pray in shelters?

The assertion that the Red Cross discourages prayer in our shelters is simply not
true: those in our shelters are always welcome to pray and gather among
themselves. However, our priority is also to provide comfort to all that reside
at our shelters, and we recognize and are sensitive that hundreds of people from different backgrounds are often sharing a large space with limited privacy. In managing our shelters, we are committed to respect people’s individual needs, backgrounds and beliefs in accordance with our Fundamental Principles, which state that we offer assistance without discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinion. We also have policies in place on who can enter shelters to ensure that people have a private, secure place in which to reside.

7. I’ve heard rumors that the Red Cross threw away:

  • Donuts. Nope, a donation of donuts was not thrown away. Here’s the story: 320 dozen donuts were generously donated to the National Guard at the state run, River Center Shelter. The Department of Children and Family Services reports that they were repackaged, three to a plastic bag, to help ensure food safety. In the spirit of share and share alike, the National Guard shared these with all. A few donuts that were not immediately gobbled up were thrown away afterwards.
  • Medication. Medications were only thrown out when they were mislabeled or improperly handled. Our biggest priority is keeping families safe in accordance to the Louisiana Department of Public Health.

We appreciate that this is a challenging and difficult time for the residents of Louisiana, and the American Red Cross is committed to do all that it can to support those affected.

7 Heartwarming Photos of Humans Being Awesome

August 19 is World Humanitarian Day — a time to honor those who alleviate suffering and a call to action.

No matter how much time I spend in disaster zones around the world, there’s no getting used to the suffering. Every home lost, every school crumbled…let’s just say, I’ve yet to go on a trip where I don’t shed a tear.

And while I’ve met a lot of humanitarians who are much tougher than I, they’re still only human. Are they sweating in those protective Ebola suits in West Africa? Yes. Are they exhausted after delivering aid packages 30 days in a row? Yes. Are some of them scared in conflict zones? You bet.

But they do it. Humanitarians make a conscious decision every single day to get up, tough it out, and make their neighborhoods and this earth a better place. In honor of World Humanitarian Day, here are seven photos that celebrate the people behind the word. Humans, one and all.


Delivery of food for children in the Eastern part of Aleppo
 Red Crescent volunteers deliver food for children in the eastern part of Aleppo, Syria in 2015. Humanitarians risk their lives to deliver aid in besieged areas. The global Red Cross Red Crescent network is now reaching around 4.5 million people in Syria every month. Abdul Kader Fayad/Syrian Arab Red Crescent


Indian Ocean Tsunami 10 Years Later 
Ten years after a massive tsunami struck, Zatin Abdullah plants mangrove saplings in Aceh Jaya, Indonesia. Mangroves not only slow storm surges and erosion, but they also absorb three times as much carbon dioxide as other trees, dissolve heavy metals like mercury from the soil and water, and provide a habitat for shrimp and oysters. Jenelle Eli/American Red Cross 


Anton Chilufya is a volunteer from the Zambia Red Cross. In 2003, he was among the first in his country to involve himself in the fight for the elimination of measles at the community level. His work involved visiting families in his neighborhood on a monthly basis, checking that everyone was healthy, especially young children. One of his objectives was to persuade parents to have their sons and daughters immunized against measles. Then he would take the children on his bicycle to the closest vaccination center, which can be some distance away. Help was crucial for parents as most of them needed to look after their land and their other children so they could not afford to leave home for any length of time. Marko Kokic/IFRC


20160421_Tanzania_Nurse_Main3 2 
Children make up a good portion of the refugees who have fled electoral violence in Burundi. They live in camps in Tanzania where 60 percent of the population suffers from malaria. Dorothy Muchaki, a nurse in the refugee camp is there for them. “For me, humanitarian work is a calling. It’s a passion. Nobody wants to go out and do these things. But I can do it. There are people who are suffering and I want to alleviate their suffering, even it is something small,” she says. Niki Clark/American Red Cross


On the shores of Lesvos, Greece, a Red Cross rescue team helps migrants out of their lifeboat in 2015. All over the world, Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers are delivering shelter, food, medical care, and other vital support to people displaced from their homes. Charlotte Hyest/Belgian Red Cross
Louisiana Floods 2016 
Sharon Butler-Walker is a new American Red Cross volunteer, who is inspired to help others because “she loves helping” and she says there’s a great need for volunteers. She brought Glenda Hill to her temporary lodging at the Red Cross shelter in Gonzales, Louisiana after devastating floods left thousands of people displaced. Marko Kokic/American Red Cross


Liberia, Monrovia, 2014 
Two members of the Liberian Red Cross hold hands in Monrovia, March 2014. “I captured this photo of two burial team members as they walked to pray for someone who had died during the Ebola outbreak,” says photographer Victor Lacken. “At a time when people were not allowed to touch, this was the safest way to do so.” Victor Lacken/IFRC 


So here’s to celebrating some beautiful humans who make our world a better place. They walk four hours to deliver meals; enter conflict zones to provide medicine; wade into the ocean to help the displaced; and bring hope to people who are often experiencing the worst day of their lives.

These photos not only bring a quick smile to my face, but also remind me that as long as humanitarians are around—and as long as they continue to help people regardless of race, religion, gender, and political affiliation?—?the world is going to be okay.

Read more about how the Red Cross helps communities around the world.

From the Front Lines: Mobilizing Red Crossers for Louisiana Floods

It’s been a busy week at the Red Cross, and we’re not even close to wrapping up our effort to serve the people of Louisiana.

Haven’t heard what’s going on? No worries, we’ll fill you in: Devastating flooding in Louisiana has forced thousands of people from their homes in the largest natural disaster to hit the United States since Superstorm Sandy. Right now, the name of the game is food, shelter and relief supplies.

We’re mobilizing a workforce to assist both in Louisiana and remotely from across the country. Here’s a quick look at some folks on the front lines of our Louisiana flood response.

Mobilizing Across the Country

Several hundred Red Crossers are on the ground in Louisiana now. We did the math, and next to Louisiana, the top states sending workers are Florida, Texas, South Carolina and Pennsylvania.

But here’s the crazy thing: By Friday there will be more than 1,000 workers from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Whoa! Of course, hundreds more local volunteers are continuing to support relief efforts.

Here’s what the support operation looks like, visualized:

LA volunteer deployment_red plus stacked title

Reporting Live…From Twitter

Red Crossers and their local chapters aren’t shy about sharing their journey, once they get the call to go.

Taelor flew in from Texas…

Janice is from Pennsylvania….

And Al and Stewart are telling everyone in Tennessee about their journey.

On Location: Volunteer Spotlight

Meet Sharon. She is a new Red Cross volunteer, who is inspired to help others because “she loves helping” and she says there’s a great need for volunteers.

red cross volunteer louisiana flood

We are especially in awe of our folks on the ground in Louisiana, some of which were affected by the floods and are still putting on their Red Cross gear and helping their neighbors.

Our thoughts are always with those affected by disasters, and we are privileged to provide our hands to help as well.

(P.S. Want to help the Louisiana relief efforts? You can donate directly, or create an online fundraiser to rally your family and friends for support!)

Are You the Missing Type? Mind Your As, Os and Bs

People may rarely think about their blood type, but the reality is, every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. Here at the Red Cross, we rely on donors of all types to give blood and platelets to meet the demand. But what if your ‘type’ were to go missing?

Throughout this week, the letters A, O, and B (the main blood types) will disappear from signage, brands, publications, and social media posts. With support from 21 countries, the Missing Type campaign seeks to raise awareness of the need for all blood types during the challenging summer season. We believe that together, we can be a powerful force to raise awareness for blood donations across the world.
Jim Cantore      Gail - blood bag 1

Check out The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore and our own President & CEO Gail McGovern showing their support! Other U.S. participants include: Fandango, Morgan Stanley, the Denver Broncos, Chicago Blackhawks, Cincinnati Reds, Minnesota Twins, and the New York Stock Exchange. Keep an eye on the hashtag #MissingType for additional supporters.

Missing Type Campaign: The Backstory

Last year, the National Health Service in the U.K. created the Missing Type campaign for their National Blood Week. Take a closer look at what they did:

 How You Can Help: Calling all Blood and Platelet Donors

13659208_10153789506465949_3349248968882237749_nWe rely on our blood and platelet donors to ensure we have all blood types in supply to help treat critically ill patients, whether they have been in an accident, had complications during surgery, or need blood replacement therapy for various cancers and diseases. Patients like 6-year-old Emma, who is spending her summer swimming and playing, thanks to Red Cross donors. She was born with a rare condition which prevented her body from processing protein. A few months ago, she had a liver transplant. Donated blood was needed to make Emma’s surgery possible.

You can help provide life-saving blood to patients in need. Make an appointment now to give blood or platelets to help ensure that your type never goes missing.

Extra Credit

Clara Barton

Want to spread the word to your friends and family? Take a picture with our selfie sign (grab it here), write your name with any As, Os and Bs removed (for example, our founder’s sign would say Cl_r_   _ _rt_n) and post to your social media accounts with the hashtag #MissingType.


Helping People Cope With the Worst Day of Their Lives

Imagine losing your home in a matter of minutes. What would you feel? How would you react? And how could you begin to recover? Listen to Christie Rodgers, senior associate for disaster mental health with the Red Cross, describe how the Red Cross helped after an explosion and fire in Silver Spring, Maryland, forced hundreds of people from their homes in the middle of the night. Read more on redcross.org.

Listen here as an alternative:

How to Deal With the Dog Days of Summer

Drink more water than usual.

“Done.” -Pippa


Avoid too much direct sunshine.

Pippa demos how you might feel, should you not follow this tip.

pippa sun

Take frequent breaks if you must work outdoors and use a buddy system.

Rolo, Churro and Penny working hard to guard their territory, with an exemplary showcase of the buddy system.

rollo and crew outside

Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible.

“Eeeeeeeyeah. I got this covered.” -Hazel

hazel window

Check on your animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering stress from the heat.

Churro going above and beyond to ensure he is cool as a cucumber. No stress here!

puppy tux and pipe

Slow down. Avoid strenuous activity. Reduce, eliminate, or reschedule strenuous activities to cooler parts of the day.

Meet Rolo, our resident expert at avoiding strenuous activity.

rolo sunlight dog puppy bored eyes closed

Postpone outdoor games and activities.

Don’t worry, Hazel is adventuring in appropriate temperatures.

hazel on a mountain

To find more tips to deal with summer heat, plus all sorts of other first aid and emergency information, download the Red Cross Emergency App.

Ryan Yamane: Telling the Stories of Wildfire Survivors

Post written by Red Cross mental health worker Ryan Yamane. Ryan also currently represents the 37th State House District in the Hawaii House of Representatives.

On June 27, I turned on the local news showing the devastation of the California wildfires. Twenty-four hours later, I was on a flight to help those families imwildfire 2pacted by the Erskine Fire which destroyed 285 homes and killed three people. As I arrived at headquarters, I was excited to serve in my role as a Red Cross disaster mental health worker to help victims of the fires and various volunteers deal with the loss of life and property.

Later that night, I sat on a cot in a staff shelter gym with 80 other Red Cross volunteers. As I looked around, I was amazed to see so many volunteers from all across the United States who left the comfort of their homes and the company of their families to help people they had never met before.

When I asked one of the volunteers why he came to help, he said, “I came to help because I have a home and family to go back to once I am done here. Many of the people we help do not have homes, so a little bit of sacrifice to help others is well worth it.”

Comforting Families Who Lost It All

Over the next seven days, I was part of an outreach team that drove throughout the devastation looking for people who were impacted by the wildfires. I was amazed how the fire melted refrigerators and twisted steel beams, how it destroyed neighborhoods but spared some homes, how the fire melted the windshield of cars and made puddles of aluminum metal. As I talked with survivors, their stories where very similar. All of them mentioned the terror they felt and how fast the wildfire spread.

One woman said that she and her husband ran out of their home with their two dogs in their arms, and had no time to gather any personal items. As they got into the car, their two dogs jumped from their grasps and ran back into their home. Her husband tried to re-enter the home, but it was engulfed in flames and they barely got away while the fire chased them down the street. The woman cried on my shoulder as she recalled how she felt and how scared her two dogs must have been to run into a burning home.

wildfireLater that same day, I came across a man and his sister sifting through debris and ash. I approached them and asked if they wanted ice cold water and if there was anything I could do to assist. After some brief introductions I noticed that the man walked off to the side and stood alone with his head down. I asked him if I could join him, gave him a cold bottle of water and stood with him silently with our heads down. A few moments later he began to talk about his home and family of pets that he lost. As he talked, I noticed six small mounds of dirt on the ground in front of us. He then described a horrifying ordeal in which his neighbor pounded on his door yelling that he had to get out right away. When he exited his home to see what the commotion was, he saw the flames spreading over the mountain side at speeds up to 60 mph. He tried to grab his two frightened dogs, but they ran under the house and refused to come out. He ran into his home which was ablaze and grabbed two of his cats, but had to leave the other five cats still inside. As he described what had happened, he cried and said that he found all of pets except for one cat. We stood there silently for a few moments. He said “thank you,” and that he would leave the area once he found his last pet family member.

Proud to be a Red Cross Volunteer

On that day, I talked with various victims who lost more than just their items, but their pets and memories. However, as I left each family, I witnessed the human resolve and the spirit of giving. Each family stated that they would rebuild, that they would eventually recover, and that they would build new lasting memories from the ashes. It was uplifting to see hundreds of volunteers willing to help these victims with the first steps of rebounding from this terrible disaster. That night I was exhausted, but proud to be a Red Cross volunteer.

As the days passed, I had the privilege to work side by side volunteers from across our great country with the single motivation to help others. Members of the community took the time to express their words of appreciation and we did our best to reach everyone we could while we were there. As my disaster deployment came to an end, I looked forward to returning home to our beautiful islands, spending time with my wife and kids, and sleeping in a real bed, but I would also cherish the opportunity to help others during this devastating disaster. When I hugged my kids, I told them I missed them, but was also gratified that I was able to help.

To all the volunteers and staff of the American Red Cross, thank you for your service to others. To our community, please know that we, the Red Cross, will be here when disaster strikes.

How Social Media, Tech Influences Vaccination Campaigns in Kenya


Kids in Nairobi, Kenya, proudly display their marked pinkies, a sign they’ve received a measles and rubella vaccination.


As part of the Measles and Rubella Initiative, we are committed to vaccinating kids in countries across the world. We recently supported our friends at the Kenya Red Cross, as they participated in a country-wide campaign to vaccinate kids, through community outreach. We were struck by the Kenya Red Cross’ use of social media and SMS text messages to get the word out for this immunization campaign. We chatted with their social media officer Munir Ahmed to learn a little bit more about how they’re using tech to reach more Kenyan families.

Munir Ahmed, Social Media Officer, Kenya Red Cross

1) What led you to join the Kenya Red Cross social media team? 

Passion for information. When you work as a social media officer for the Kenya Red Cross Society, you are at a central position to receive information of all activities carried out by the organization. Being in this position keeps me fully informed of disaster response activities, health, water, sanitation and hygiene and much more.


2) Tell us a little bit about Kenya Red Cross’ participation in the recent measles vaccination campaign. 

The Kenya Red Cross  was largely involved in social mobilization. We have a large pool of volunteers whom we engaged to conduct household visits to provide critical information on the Measles & Rubella Initiative campaign. Basically, they’re convincing parents to get their kids immunized.

SMS (text message) broadcasting and social media were also used to reach out to the public and raise awareness.


3) How did you use social media to promote the campaign? How did this differ from years past?

We have a fairly large following of over half a million followers. We used all our social media platforms to reach out to the public and raise awareness through measles and rubella facts and short key messages provided to us by Kenya’s ministry of health. Together with other key partners, we responded to queries posed by the public to help them understand the importance of getting their kids immunized.

This year’s social media campaign was much better than past years. Key partners, such as Kenya’s Ministry of Health, American Red Cross, GAVI Alliance and UNICEF Kenya used their social media outlets to share measles messages which gave the campaign a major boost.


4) What role did text messaging/SMS play in promoting this campaign?

The text messages were very crucial to the campaign as we targeted the whole country through the two largest mobile networks in Kenya. A majority of the population received the information and acted accordingly. A select few clearly stated their wish to be opted out of the messages, but that was our only negative feedback.


5) What were you most surprised by when using social media and text to promote this campaign?

Resistance. In almost all health campaigns, there is always a small group that is against immunization, yet such campaigns are purely carried to ensure the well-being of every child.


6) How do you see social media’s role evolving at the Kenya Red Cross in the future?

Aside from the Kenya Red Cross, social media itself is evolving as many people are starting to see its importance. I believe as it keeps evolving, we will take full advantage to ensure that humanitarian activities get the attention they need.


7) If you weren’t doing social media for the Red Cross, what would you be doing?

Playing football [soccer, for those in the U.S.]. I have always wanted to play professional football. As soon as I kick a soccer ball, I forget about everything and just enjoy the game. Pure fun.


Launched in 2001 by the American Red Cross, United Nations Foundation, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and World Health Organization, the Measles & Rubella Initiative first aimed to make a difference in Africa. Since then the American Red Cross and its Measles & Rubella Initiative partners have helped to vaccinate one billion children in more than 80 developing countries, immunizing more than 2 billion children and making significant gains in the global effort to stop the disease.

How I Avoid Accidentally Leaving My Baby in a Hot Car

car seat

It’s 95 degrees in Washington at the time of writing. I myself don’t want to step outside, let alone tote my 7-month-old baby around. My wiggly little guy absolutely hates his car seat. Until we start driving, upon which he promptly falls asleep. (Isn’t he the cutest?)

baby car seat tip summer
Falling asleep is awesome when he needs some extra shut-eye, but terrifying when you are in go-mode and there’s a tiny, silent baby in your backseat.

Reading stories of kids left in hot cars breaks my heart in a million pieces, and prompts my family to implement a system to support each other and avoid a hot car mishap.

For us, it’s all about barriers and checks.

First Line of Baby Hot Car Defense: Visual Reminders

This is a commonly suggested tip that works really well for our family. Our personal items (my purse, my husband’s work bag) and even shopping bags all go in the back seat. When we aren’t both in the car, my son’s bag (diaper bag or food for the nanny share) goes in the front seat. I’ve heard some people put a stuffed animal in the front seat as a reminder as well.

Think of this as the “function barrier.” You can’t function at work without your laptop. You can’t buy anything at the store without your wallet. You can’t get back in your house without your keys. Whatever you need to function after you exit the car, store that thing with your kid.

baby car seat tip summer

Second Line of Baby Hot Car Defense: Text Checks

The “it can happen to anyone” mentality adds a drop of humility to the process, prompting us to institute a text message check.

I text my husband around the time he should be getting to work after dropping off our kid. A simple “How did drop-off go this morning?” works. I don’t care if he only responds “ok,” because I’m not really looking for a conversation. I want my husband to take 30 seconds out of his morning at work to visualize the drop-off and ensure he has specific memories from the drop-off process. Sometimes I just get a smiley emoji in response, which works too!

Curious Kids and Unlocked Cars

Growing kids require a constantly changing safety strategy. Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council member Jim Judge shared some insight from his research: “Thirty percent of deaths result in kids climbing in unlocked cars. They may lock the car or the safety locks are engaged, and they can’t get out.”

Jim recommends families keep vehicles locked at all times and keep car keys and remote openers out of a child’s reach.

Baby Car Seat Routine and Future Technology

Most families keep kids safe with tried and true steps – a solid routine goes a long way to help make things run smoothly. But even if your routine includes checks like the ones above, things can go awry. A kid needs an emergency run to the pediatrician, and you’re rushing to get back to the office. You make a run to the grocery store at an odd time and focus on getting the bags upstairs.

We can normally count on our nanny to check in if the baby doesn’t arrive at a reasonable time, so working out a deal with whoever should be caring for your child (daycare, nanny, even a play date’s parents) can be a failsafe.

Any tips from other parents out there – especially with multiple kiddos – on how you put safety checks in place, in particular when a routine is interrupted?

I also love hearing technology ideas coming down the pike to help even the most careful parent stay safe. I’ve seen solutions from every corner –  from car companies to dads on a mission to save more lives – and look forward to adding third, fourth, and even fifth lines of defense to make sure my baby gets home safe every day. It takes a village, truly.


Please Note: If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved and call 9-1-1 immediately. Jim Judge also shared with us that in his home state of Florida, a law was recently passed making it legal to break into a locked car to rescue pets or vulnerable people believed to be in imminent danger. Thanks so much to Jim for weighing in to help keep our kiddos safe!

What Kind of Volunteer Are You?

Looking for a unique way to give back? Explore a few options you might not have known about at the Red Cross. Share your result in the comments!