Most people think of the American Red Cross when large-scale natural disasters like hurricane Sandy or the Red River flooding strike our country and cities. “Whenever people are displaced, we are usually the first people on the scene to determine what needs there are whether it be food, clothing or shelter and make sure all those people have a place to go and stay, at least in the short term,” said Brian Shawn, regional communications officer for the American Red Cross – Red River Valley Chapter
“What people may not recognize is that the Red Cross was actually founded as a military support organization,” said Shawn. “Right now, the biggest way we support military is through our communications in emergency situations.”
The Red Cross helps reach out to military members who are currently deployed during family emergencies. They have a direct way to get ahold of that person and find a way to get them home. So far in 2013, 204 families have been assisted with emergency communications.
Another lesser known program of the Red Cross is their international services. “People don’t necessarily realize that there are refugees in this area that have no way of getting in touch with their family,” said Shawn. “We try to reach out and connect those families again.” There are currently 41 international tracing cases open in the region.
The Red Cross also works hard to prepare people for disaster situations before they happen through resources like smartphone apps, survival kits and CPR and First Aid courses. “It is so critically important that you are prepared when disaster hits,” said Shawn. The state of North Dakota recently passed legislation that will fund classes for every student to learn first aid and CPR
“You don’t really appreciate what the Red Cross does until you are in a situation where you really need them," said Shawn.
Learn more about the local Red Cross chapter at www.redcross.org/nd/fargo.