Red Cross surviving in year of never-ending disaster

Residents along the battered Louisiana and Mississippi coastline spent Wednesday bracing for yet another hurricane. The area is still recovering from recent landfalls by Delta and Laura.

"To think you have to start all over, now it’s going to be a little rougher,” said a Lake Charles resident.

It’s also been tough on the volunteers from the American Red Cross

"2020 has been the most demanding season I can remember,” said Richard McAlister, who is based in Kerrville, and is a community volunteer leader with the Central Texas Red Cross, "So we haven't changed what we do, we just had to change how we do it."


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Change came fast and it started earlier this year in San Antonio. He was part of the team that cared for Americans who were evacuated to Texas from China as the pandemic broke out. But even then, McAlister said, they were looking ahead.

"Because we knew that was going to change the way we provide service, but we were committed that we were going to provide that service regardless of the pandemic,” said McAlister.

RELATED: Update on Travis County COVID-19 numbers as cases rise across U.S.

The fires and storms came as expected. For Red Cross volunteers, it's been what the organization calls a “year of never-ending disaster.” "So they are tired and it's been a very demanding year, but we've been able to retain them,” said McAlister.

Over the past several weeks, the group nationwide has:

  • Provided more than 1 million emergency lodgings
  • Served almost 3 million meals and snacks
  • Distributed about 300,000 relief items
  • Provided 10,000 households with emergency financial assistance

"We have 131 central Texans deployed to 11 different disaster response operations since the first of June,” said McAlister.

There are local Red Cross volunteers still deployed. "Currently we have 17 volunteers that are deployed supporting disaster relief operations, such as Hurricane Delta and even a few still working Hurricane Laura,” said McAlister.

RELATED: Hurricane Zeta surges inland, causing flooding, power outages along Gulf Coast

The Red Cross still needs volunteers and has the help wanted sign up. Getting them ready required changes in training.

"We've shifted training effort to online training, and we are able to deliver the type of content that is necessary to get our people trained up and we can take someone, from the moment they volunteer, we can have them trained up and out the door in 3 days,” said McAlister.

Since June 1, 280 new local volunteers have been trained, but the workload has shifted because of the pandemic.

RELATED: New Orleans braces for hurricane as Zeta swirls over Mexico

"For example, normally we would have about 70% of our people deployed to a disaster scene, and about 30% of them supporting virtually from a remote location, this year we had to be innovated and find ways to turn that around. So this year we have about 30% of our people deployed at the forward disaster location and 70% supporting remotely,” said McAlister.

While the Red Cross waits, a special group of first responders has been called. On Wednesday, Governor Greg Abbott announced he was deploying Texas Task Force One to Louisiana. Several Austin firefighters who are part of the Task Force specialize in working search and rescue in collapsed structures.