Valuable Red Cross Hurricane Response Information You May Have Wondered About

Q.  What is the Red Cross doing to help people in Sandy’s path?

A.  The Red Cross is providing help and comfort to people in communities across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast who are coping with damaging winds, flooding and power outages from Hurricane Sandy. Our relief effort stretches across several states includes food, shelter, relief supplies and comfort for people dealing with this storm. The Red Cross has opened more than one hundred shelters across several states on Sunday night, and more will open as the storm moves closer. The Red Cross also has deployed more than 1,300 disaster workers to the region to help those affected. We have sent in as many as 160 emergency response vehicles, shipped hundreds of thousands of meals and will be providing people with other relief supplies in the days to come.


Q.  How long will this disaster response take?

A.  We expect that the Red Cross will be helping people for weeks to come as they begin to recover from the effects of Sandy.

Q  Does the Red Cross need blood donations?
Sandy has already forced the cancellation of nearly a hundred blood drives throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Additional blood collections will likely be cancelled, causing a shortfall of blood in the affected areas. All eligible donors in parts of the country unaffected by Sandy are encouraged to call 1-800-RED CROSS or visit us online at today to schedule an appointment to give blood

Q.  Will the Red Cross be ready to respond if another storm threatens the United States? 
A.  Each year the Red Cross responds to about 70,000 disasters across the United States. So it’s not unusual for us to be responding to simultaneous operations. The Red Cross works year round to be ready to respond effectively to disasters of any size—that’s why it’s so critical for us to have the resources and support to maintain a network of more than 60,000 trained disaster workers, 322 mobiles feeding vehicles and a nationwide warehousing network stocked with relief supplies across the country.

Q.  How does the Red Cross communicate with diverse communities during a disaster?
  It is important for disaster clients to understand how to access our services, no matter what language they speak. We have spokespeople trained in several languages who often provide media interviews. In addition, we work with many partners who provide services to non-English speaking communities. We provide them with information and printed materials to distribute to their clients. Red Cross disaster preparedness and safety information is available in Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese and a variety of other languages.

Shelter Information
Q  How do I find a Red Cross shelter? 
A  If you need the location of a shelter, you should go to and check the shelter map, or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). You can also download our new Red Cross hurricane app for smart phones. The app can be found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross. You can also follow your local media to find out where local shelters are located.

Q  How do I let my family and friends know I am okay? 
 The Red Cross can help you stay in touch with loved ones by either downloading our Hurricane App and using the “I’m Safe” button to post a message to their social media accounts, or registering on the Red Cross Safe and Well website.

  • The hurricane app can be found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross. It also provides important safety information and a toolkit with a flashlight, strobe light and alarm.
  • The Red Cross Safe and Well website is secure and people can register by visiting or calling 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767). This site also connects with the Twitter and Facebook accounts of users.

Q  What do I need to bring to the shelter? 
 The Red Cross encourages those who plan to stay in a Red Cross evacuation shelter to bring the following items for each member of their family:

  • Prescription and emergency medication
  • Extra clothing
  • Pillows and blankets
  • Hygiene supplies
  • Important documents
  • Other comfort items.

Additionally, special items for children and infants, such as diapers, formulas and toys, should be brought, along with other items for family members who are elderly or disabled.

Q  A local station is reporting that a shelter is open in my neighborhood but it is not showing up on Why not? 
There are many reasons why a shelter may not appear on or the Red Cross Hurricane app. The Red Cross only displays Red Cross shelters, and other community organizations as well as local government also open and operate shelters. In addition, shelter locations on are updated every 30 minutes, so it may take a few minutes for new shelters to appear on the map.

Q  Can I bring my pet to a Red Cross shelter? If no, what resources are available to me?
 Although Red Cross shelters do not take pets, the shelters should be able to refer you to other facilities or services in your area. The Humane Society and ASPCA have been helping people find pet-friendly shelters and boarders who are accepting pets for free.

Q  Why doesn’t the Red Cross open shelters in New York City?
A  The Red Cross works closely with emergency management officials to develop plans before events like Sandy; and during an emergency we have staff working in the city emergency operations center to coordinate. Before and during landfall of tropical storms, the emergency plan for New York calls for the city government to open and operate shelters. The Red Cross helps post-landfall with supporting sheltering in Manhattan. Before and during landfall of tropical storms, the city government opens and operates shelters. It’s also important to know, that the Red Cross responds to an average of seven disasters every day in New York City.

Services Provided
Q  What kind of disaster relief services does the Red Cross provide?
  The Red Cross helps provide for the urgent needs of disaster victims. We focus on providing safe shelter, feeding victims and emergency workers, providing mental health and emotional support services, providing basic first aid and health services and distributing clean-up supplies and comfort items. Red Cross casework is also an important part of our relief services. Our caseworkers can meet one-on-one with clients to help them plan for long-term recovery.

Q  What kinds of emergency services are not provided by the Red Cross?
  The Red Cross doesn’t have the expertise, equipment or resources to perform every disaster service. Services such as evacuation coordination, search and rescue, advanced medical care, pet sheltering and medical sheltering are best performed by government agencies or organizations that have the resources, trained workers and expertise to carry out those functions. We work closely with the groups involved in those services to ensure that we can meet the needs of people who come to us for help.

Q  What if my home is extensively flood-damaged? Does the Red Cross provide anything to help me clean up my damaged home?
  You can contact your local chapter, which may be able to provide clean-up kits and other supplies to assist with the clean-up efforts.

Q  Will the Red Cross replace groceries or food lost because of a power outage?
  No. Red Cross feeding services at shelters and through mobile feeding efforts, once conditions permit, are meant to ensure that no one goes hungry after a disaster. Power outages are often widespread and sometimes affect hundreds of thousands of people. It would be nearly impossible—both logistically and financially—for the Red Cross to replace groceries for that many people.

Q  I have been trying to call 1-800-RED CROSS and cannot get through. Is there another number I can call to get help?
  Like every other agency during a major disaster, Red Cross phone lines may be overwhelmed after the storm. If you are having difficulty getting through on 1-800-RED CROSS, first check your local news media and local authorities for information on where to find shelter and get help in your communities.  You can also go to for shelter locations and information on how to connect with loved ones.

Disaster Donations
Q  How can the American people help?
This will be a large, costly relief response across several states, and the Red Cross needs your help now. Please make a financial donation today by visiting , calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. People can also send contributions may also be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

Q  How much is this going to cost?
  This is a large and powerful storm system, and the full extent of damage is not yet known as Sandy bears down on the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Our first priority in any disaster is to get people the help they need. It may be days, or even weeks, before we have a cost estimate for this disaster. What we do know is that the Red Cross response to Sandy will be costly due to the widespread region this storm will impact. We need your help now. To donate, people can visit, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Q  How does the Red Cross pay for the services it provides?
  We rely on the donations of the American people to support our work. Financial contributions to American Red Cross Disaster Relief allow us to serve victims of approximately 70,000 disasters a year. Every day, the American Red Cross responds to nearly 200 disasters ranging from house fires to massive hurricanes – each one devastating to the people involved.

Q  Does my donation really help? What will it be used for?
  The donations we receive for Red Cross Disaster Relief are put to good use. It’s important to know that 91 cents of every dollar is used to support disaster victims. Any donation, large or small, will help. For example, $3 can provide a comfort kit containing personal hygiene items for someone in a disaster; $6 can cover the cost of a blanket; and $10 the cost of a hot meal. A $50 donation can cover the cost of food and shelter for a day, including three meals, blankets, comfort kits and the Red Cross expense of mobilizing them to the disaster area. For $150, someone’s donation can cover the cost of providing food and shelter to a family of four for a day they spend in a shelter.

Q  Is the Red Cross stretched too thin to respond effectively to Hurricane Sandy?
The Red Cross works year round to be ready to respond effectively to disasters of any size—that’s why it’s so critical for us to have the resources and support to maintain a network of more than 71,000 trained disaster workers, about 320 mobiles feeding vehicles and a nationwide warehousing network stocked with relief supplies across the country. It’s not unusual for us to be responding to simultaneous disasters or mobilizing a large portion of our response network to help people.

Q  Can I share my home with a disaster victim?
  We appreciate your kind offer to share your home with a disaster survivor. The Red Cross is unable to provide referrals to someone’s private home, though we do appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Q  Why won’t the Red Cross take small quantities of donated goods?
After a disaster, financial donations are the quickest and best way to help people who need it most. The Red Cross isn’t equipped to handle a large influx of donations like household items, clothing or food that may or may not be useful to victims. It takes time and money to sort, process, transport and then distribute donated items — whereas financial donations can be accessed quickly and put to use right away.

Plus, financial donations allow us to be flexible in the help that we provide and ensures we can provide what people need most. As an added benefit, financial donations allow the Red Cross and disaster victims to purchase items locally, stimulating the economy of the disaster affected area. Even a small financial donation can go further than you might think. For instance, $2 can provide a snack to a child who just lost their home and $10 can provide a hot meal to that same child.

Q Where can I make a non-cash donation?
If you’d like to donate food items, the Red Cross recommends contacting your local food bank. To donate clothing or household items, we suggest visiting for a list of organizations that accept these types of donations.

Alternatively, consider selling your items on eBay Giving Works, or another site, and donate the proceeds to an established disaster relief organization, like the Red Cross, serving the affected area.

Q  Our company has supplies and we want to donate for disaster relief, where can we drop them off?
  We appreciate your kind offer to donate bulk items to the Red Cross. Please review the attachment, which provides information about making an “In Kind” donation to Red Cross. Please fill out this form: If you need further assistance after filling out the form, you may call 1-800-7INKIND. Thank you.

Q  Does the Red Cross receive federal funding for its disaster relief efforts?
  The Red Cross does not receive a regular appropriation from Congress. On rare occasions, the Red Cross has asked for a one-time appropriation from Congress to cover the cost of a large disaster. This last occurred during the busy 2008 hurricane season when Congress granted the Red Cross $100 million for disaster relief services.

Q  Is the Red Cross a federal agency?
  No. While the Red Cross is chartered by Congress to provide disaster relief and other services, we are not a federal agency. We often work closely with federal agencies during disasters, leading some to be confused, but we are an independent non-profit organization separate from the government.

Q How much does the Red Cross spend every year on disaster relief?
Every year, the American Red Cross spends an average of more than $360 million preparing for and responding to disasters across the country and around the world. This includes the costs to feed, shelter, distribute supplies and provide other types of support to the victims of nearly 70,000 disasters each year. It also includes the costs of being ready to respond to any disaster in the United States by maintaining those things that help us get assistance to people in need. These readiness costs include our nationwide network of warehouses storing disaster relief supplies; disaster response vehicles that distribute food and clean-up supplies; paid staff that help to train, deploy and support our volunteer workforce; and computer systems that track client data. If we didn’t maintain these resources 24/7, we couldn’t get help to people in a timely fashion. It’s important to note that this average annual cost, does not include extraordinary events like Hurricane Katrina or the Haiti Earthquake – which add even more to the total cost of our disaster response.

Safety at Home
Q Is there anything I should do as I return home?
 Remember to follow the advice of your local authorities and return only when they say it is safe to do so. When returning home, bring a map, a government-issued photo ID like a driver’s license, proof of address, and your first aid kit. In case your utilities are out, you should bring flashlights, batteries, bottled water and non-perishable foods.

Before going into your home, look outside for damaged power lines, gas lines, foundation cracks and other exterior damage. It may be too dangerous to enter the home. Visit, or our hurricane app for more information about returning home after a disaster.

Q  My power is out. What should I do?
 Sandy may cause power outages that could last for days. If the power goes out:

  • Use flashlights for light, not candles.
  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Check refrigerated food for spoilage and if in doubt, throw it out.
  • Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment and any appliances, equipment or electronics to avoid damaging them when the power is restored.
  • Avoid unnecessary travel as traffic lights will be out and roads congested.
  • Watch animals and keep them under your direct control.
  • Don’t use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-­burning device inside a home, garage, basement, or any partially enclosed area. Locate the unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.

Q  I have no power. Is there anything I should do if I’m using a generator?
  Make sure you set the generator up outside, not in your house, basement or garage. Place the unit away from doors, windows and vents. You don’t want the carbon monoxide to come indoors. When using a portable generator, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not connect a portable generator to your home’s electrical system.

Q  My power has been out. What should I do about my food?
  Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40° F (4° C) for 2 hours or more or that has an unusual odor, color or texture. When in doubt, throw it out! Never taste food or rely on appearance or odor to determine its safety. Some foods may look and smell fine, but if they have been at room temperature too long, bacteria causing food borne illnesses can start growing quickly. Some types of bacteria produce toxins that cannot be destroyed by cooking. If food in the freezer is colder than 40° F and has ice crystals on it, you can refreeze it. If you are not sure food is cold enough, take its temperature with the food thermometer. Throw out any foods (meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) that have been exposed to temperatures higher than 40° F (4° C) for 2 hours or more, and any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture, or feels warm to touch.

Q  My neighborhood is flooded. What should I do?
 You should stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, turn around and go another way. Six inches of swiftly moving water can knock you off your feet. If you come upon a flooded road while driving, go another way. Return home only when officials have declared the area safe. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water. Stay out of the water and make sure children and pets don’t go in.

Q  My family and I are experiencing a lot of stress. What should we do?
A  The stress of a disaster takes its toll on everyone who has felt the impact. Many have trouble sleeping afterwards. If this is the case, you might want to talk with your friends or family about what is going on for you. Check the document “Taking Care of Your Emotional Health” for other suggestions. Also remember, children are especially vulnerable to the stresses associated with a disaster, like a hurricane. The best strategy you can take is for you to remain calm. Children will take their cues from you- if you are upset, they will be, too. Do the best you can to take care of yourself and that will help your children as well. Also, do not be afraid to take a break if you need it.

Q  I have a friend who lost everything in the storm. He/she seems so hopeless and dejected. What can I do? 
 If you are concerned about your friend’s safety or the safety of those around him, you need to seek help IMMEDIATELY. Call 911 if you believe he/she has plans to hurt himself/herself or others. If you are worried but there is not an immediate danger, you could look under CRISIS INTERVENTION or HOTLINES in your local yellow pages. Many areas have a 211 or 311 phone number that lists local resources. You could also call 1-800-273-TALK, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline to discuss your concerns.

About American Red Cross of Southern Nevada

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