by Anita J. Foster, Chief Communications Officer, American Red Cross North Texas Region
For the past two weeks, American Red Cross workers have been providing assistance to thousands of families impacted by the deadly tornado outbreak that swept across the Metroplex the day after Christmas. During the first phase, the Emergency Phase, the Red Cross hands out clean-up items like shovels, rakes, tarps, work gloves, trash bags and more. Additional volunteers run emergency shelters to ensure that those displaced have a safe place to stay, daily meals, hygiene items and other essentials; while other volunteers drive trucks through all of the impacted communities making sure families have meals, bottled water and snacks. Once recovery centers start to open, our teams will be there too. When the Emergency Phase is complete, as it was here in North Texas on Sunday, it signifies a shift into the next phase of the operation, the Recovery Phase.
During the Recovery Phase, Red Cross trucks will start leaving the neighborhoods, shelters will close and supplies won’t be needed any longer as the salvaging efforts are complete. But that doesn’t mean that the job for the Red Cross is over. During this phase, the American Red Cross works with families in a one-on-one fashion to help them with financial assistance and provide the family with multiple referrals for other types of aid. That’s where we are in the relief effort today and so far, caseworkers have opened 883 cases. Over the next few weeks, Red Cross workers will follow-up with each of these families to ensure they’re making steps forward.
Once the Recovery Phase has been completed, we’ll be ready to take the final step that will deal with long-term recovery. We’re not quite there yet, but the Red Cross and other organizations are working hand-in-hand now to plan for this eventuality.
Disaster relief is a complicated business and with a disaster the scope and size of this one in North Texas, no one organization can act alone. We work in partnership with The Salvation Army every day. During this emergency, we divided our feeding routes in Garland/Rowlett so that everyone was fed without duplicating services. We partnered with the North Texas Food Bank who provided pallets of snacks items that we distributed near and far. In smaller communities with fewer partners, the Red Cross teamed up with local churches and municipalities to ensure our support was available around the clock.
As everyone moves into the final stage of the relief operation, partnerships will begin to develop there too because it only takes minutes to destroy a community, but it can take years to put it back together. The Red Cross will do our part to assist each step of the way.
Tornado survivors who have not met with a Red Cross caseworker are urged to call 1-800-REDCROSS immediately.