Virginia Red Cross preparing supplies for Gulf Coast as Ida approaches
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Virginia Red Cross is sending volunteers down to the gulf as the category 4 hurricane approaches.
Currently, four central Virginia volunteers including Janice Shearin-Smith who boarded a plane at the Richmond International Airport at 5 am Saturday are on the ground in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to assist with sheltering less than 24 hours before Hurricane Ida is expected to make landfall.
“This reminds me of preparing for Hurricane Katrina, so I know that there is a great need for individuals to be in place,” Janice Shearin-Smith. “I hope that I can be an individual that actually makes life better for as many people as possible.”
Red Cross Communications Director Jonathan McNamara says there are as many as 500 volunteers from the Red Cross system in place with many more to follow once it’s safer to do so.
“Many are on standby that will go into those impacted areas once it is safe and the storm has passed,” McNamara said.
In the meantime, McNamara is part of a team making sure that critical supplies are in place after the storm hits.
The warehouse located at Red Cross’s Virginia Regional Office is just one of the dozens up and down the east coast stocked with everything from food, cots, toiletries, and more ready to ship out on their disaster relief vehicles at a moment’s notice.
“That’s just part of the Red Cross’s response to be able to work with partners to make sure that we have supplies materials and a safe place to go for people who are going to need to seek shelter from what could be a very devastating storm,” McNamara said.
Many of those supplies won’t ship out until after Ida runs its course and the Red Cross can concentrate them where they are needed most. McNamara says these warehouses are able to stay sufficiently stocked in large part from the donation they receive from the community
Part of the Red Cross’s response will include delivering meals to impacted communities, supporting shelters, providing psychological first aid, and working with Partners like FEMA, local organizations, and other nonprofits to assist communities that may be devastated.
“Once we have an understanding of what damage occurred and where that damage occurred we’ll have red coss volunteers not only from Virginia but across the red cross-system that will flood into those areas and be a part of the response,” McNamara said.
McNamara says 2021 has been a particularly hectic year for natural disasters. In recent weeks the organization volunteers have been spread thin with devastating natural disasters including deadly flooding in Tennessee and record-breaking forest fires in California. As Ida nears toward the gulf, he says the need for volunteers has never been greater.
We need people here in our community that can train and is able to not only to deploy to events like this but also respond to the many events that we still see in Virginia,” McNamara said. “We need volunteers on the ground here to make sure we’re ready and prepared to experience a hurricane”
Providing relief from national natural disasters has also disrupted other critical operations the Red Cross relies on including Blood drives which will likely be canceled in the impacted areas. McNamara says blood donation will be especially critical as they respond to the damage Ida will cause.
“You can donate blood to the red cross now to not only make sure that Virginia has the blood supply that we need, but we will need to send blood back to these impacted areas to make sure that the hospitals that are already under tremendous stress have the blood supply,” Mcnamara said. “At the end of the day, all of our Red Crossers are a symbol of hope to these communities that have been impacted.”
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