The American Red Cross is proactively readying its workers and resources in anticipation of Hurricane Patricia in order to be ready to respond quickly to the enormous storm.
Here in Northern California, trained Red Cross volunteers have been asked to update their availability to deploy should the need arise in Texas and the U.S. Gulf Coast. Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles and their drivers are on alert and experienced leadership staff are on standby should their expertise be needed to help run Red Cross disaster relief operations in affected areas.
As Mexico braces for Hurricane Patricia, more than 500 Mexican Red Cross volunteers are ready to support with first aid, logistics, relief distributions, shelter support and damage assessments. The Mexican Red Cross has pre-positioned 18 emergency response units—including ambulances—around Puerto Vallarta, have positioned 30 tons of relief supplies in advance of Hurricane Patricia making landfall, and are assisting with community evacuations.
The American Red Cross works closely with the Mexican Red Cross to provide humanitarian aid and assistance during large emergencies. Disaster specialists at the American Red Cross are monitoring the storm closely, remain in close contact with colleagues at the Mexican Red Cross, and are on standby to assist. As in all international disasters, the American Red Cross intervenes when the national society (in this case, the Mexican Red Cross) requests outside help.
“The western part of Mexico – including the state of Jalisco — happens to be from where the largest percentages of Mexicans and Mexican Americans in California come; so we know that many local residents are very concerned about their loved ones,” said Gary Strong, regional ceo, American Red Cross Gold Country Region. “We want to encourage residents to help their friends and loved ones in path of the storm to be prepared by sharing these tips.”
WHAT LOCAL RESIDENTS CAN DO NOW
Many people in our Region have friends and loved ones who live in areas that are in the path of the storm, and places like Puerto Vallarta are popular vacation destinations for people from our area.
· Download the free Red Cross Emergency App, which provides tips on how to stay safe before, during and after a hurricane and also provides emergency alerts and other tools. The app can be found at: http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/hurricane
· Encourage loved ones to find out where they will get information on when and where to evacuate, especially if they are visiting from out of town and aren’t familiar with evacuation routes and procedures.
· Set up your emergency communications plan with them NOW, while communications are still up. How will you get in touch with loved ones and know they're safe if phone lines and cell towers go down?
· If they are American citizens in Mexico, they should check with the U.S. Department of State for guidance: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings/hurricane-patricia-travel-alert.html
· Ensure they have an emergency kit with supplies for at least three days, including food, water, medications, important documents, clothing, a crank radio, back-up chargers for phones, etc. Find a full list here: http://www.redcross.org/prepare/location/home-family
In the past, the American Red Cross has provided aid to families impacted by heavy storms and flooding in Mexico, such as the distribution of kitchen items, household cleaning supplies, and personal hygiene kits in the wake of Hurricanes Manuel and Ingrid, which struck in September 2013.
In response to Hurricane Odile—which made landfall in September 2014—the American Red Cross made a financial donation to aid survivors and helped reconnect families of US citizens who were stranded in Mexico. Red Cross chapters supported the reception of flights with returning tourists in Texas and provided snacks, comfort items, mental health support and calls to reconnect families. Likewise, the Mexican Red Cross makes itself available to aid the American Red Cross during emergencies, which it did during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
HOW TO HELP
In the immediate aftermath of a large disaster, the best way to help is to make a financial contribution to the aid agencies responding. Once emergency response agencies have established their response structure, you can also reach out to find out what specific needs have arisen and the best way to help meet those needs. Do not drive into the affected area to deliver goods to volunteer unless you have already coordinated with an aid agency to confirm the need for your help and the ability to utilize it. (This article provides a deeper explanation of the best and worst ways to help: http://money.howstuffworks.com/10-worst-things-donate-after-disaster.htm)
Because of the size, complexity and cost of responding to large-scale disasters, the American and Mexican RedCross utilizes local Red Cross and community volunteers first, then deploys skilled, trained volunteers from their nationwide network of Red Cross chapters. If you are interested in becoming a American Red Cross volunteer, it is important to sign up now and complete training so that you are ready to help your community when the need arises. Visit www.redcross.org to fill out a volunteer application.