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Red Cross at the ready should call come
Shelters housed 11,000 on Monday
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
By BY SAM JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer
As the Northeast feels the effects of the most destructive storm to hit the region in decades, volunteers from local Red Cross chapters stand at the ready to help. For now, however, the call has yet to be received.
The Red Cross has deployed more than 1,300 disaster workers from all over the country to help those affected by the storm in the Northeast. As many as 160 emergency vehicles are ready to respond when it is safe to do so, and more than 230,000 ready-to-eat meals have been sent into the area, a press release stated.
In total, Amy Whittaker, regional public affairs director from the Red Cross’ Roanoke Valley Chapter, said 11,000 people spent Monday night in almost 260 Red Cross shelters nationwide.
Southside Virginia has felt less of an impact from the storm than other areas, Whittaker said.
As a result, the Roanoke Valley chapter has volunteers that could be sent from its 50-county region to help where needed.
“Now that we’ve seen that things haven’t been as bad as they might have been, we’ll be looking to send our volunteers up north and into West Virginia,” she said. “We’re prepared as soon as we know there’s a need.”
“It’s a large sheltering operation, and with that, it’s a large feeding operation,” she said. As such, volunteers will badly be needed.
Whittaker said the national Red Cross uses an electronic database through which volunteers register their availability and skills, and the system dispatches them to where they can be useful.
“In our region, we’ve got such great, well-trained volunteers, so we’re expecting 20-30 people that could be deployed over the next several days,” she said.
Another area of need will be blood, Whittaker said, as the storms have forced the cancellation of up to 300 blood drives around the country.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said. “Hopefully, those blood drives will be rescheduled.”
Either way, she said, the need for blood donations will be great, and the Red Cross is encouraging people to donate blood when and where they can.
“Patients will still need blood despite the weather,” said Dr. Richard Benjamin, chief medical officer of the Red Cross. “To ensure a sufficient national blood supply is available for those in need, both during and after the storm passes, it is critical that those in unaffected areas make an appointment to donate blood as soon as possible.”
To schedule a blood donation or get more information about giving blood, people can visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). To give blood, someone must be at least 17 years of age, meet weight and height requirements and be in general good health. Donors should bring their Red Cross blood donor card or other form of ID with them. Some states allow 16-year-olds to donate with parental consent.
People also can register on the Red Cross Safe and Well website, a secure online tool that helps families connect during emergencies. To register, visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767). This site also connects with the Twitter and Facebook accounts of users.
Financial donations help the Red Cross provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance to those affected by disasters like Hurricane Sandy. To donate, people can visit www.redcross.org, call 1-800-RED-CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
Contributions also may be sent to someone’s local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013.