Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Red Cross is not in New Orleans

As long as three years ago I heard that the Red Cross had no plans to set up operations in New Orleans for the simple reason that it is too dangerous. The city is below sea level and the levee system is not built to protect the area from the largest known hurricanes.

This is on the Red Cross FAQ page...

Hurricane Katrina: Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans?

**Acess [sic] to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders.

**The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating andencourage others to come into the city.


**The Red Cross does not conduct search and rescue operations. We are an organization of civilian volunteers and cannot get relief aid into any location until the local authorities say it is safe and provide us with security and access.

The Red Cross may be in need of some updating as well. WILLisms bloghost has some interesting notes after volunteering with the Houston Red Cross.

...the information revolution has not yet reached the Red Cross. No volunteer has a computer. Few would even know what do with a computer if they had one. I brought my laptop and grabbed the WiFi network coming from a nearby building. Why did I need a computer, you ask?

Well, because most of the people calling the Houston Red Cross are seeking their relatives or friends. They just want to know where they are. This is a diaspora the likes our country has not seen in generations. And nobody knows where anyone else is. The Red Cross has this website, and there is, and, and so on. But few have internet access. Just the process of processing everyone and providing a unified database for family and friends to know people are safe is going to take many days. The next step will be to process people, get them longer-term shelter, and so on. America is opening its heart. And there are websites galore devoted to that. There's,, and Operation: Share Your Home.

The volunteering process, where I was, was interesting, because we were the information warriors. But the information with which people were fighting was lacking. Photocopied packets of shelters and phone numbers and such.

I can just imagine a 21st-century response center. Everything would be linked up. Everyone would have a computer. And information would flow back and forth, in and out, up and down... instantaneously. Updating lists and addresses and phone numbers and everything else, so everyone is on the same page.

1 comment:

Zsa Zsa said...

I just noticed that Ian Pittman at commented on how computer donations are coming into the Red Cross as we speak! Yay...