How to help during hurricane season

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

June 1, 2020- The Atlantic hurricane season 2020 starts June 1 and continues through November 30. According to the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this year has a 60% chance of being worse than normal.

Predictions include 13 to 19 named storms, of which six to 10 could develop into hurricanes, and three to six of those could develop into major hurricanes, Category 3 to Category 5.

We’ve already seen the first two tropical storms: Arthur, which began on May 16, touching the coast of North Carolina, and Bertha, which gained tropical storm status for a few hours on May 27, making landfall in South Carolina.

Texas Tornadoes 2020

So how can you help?

While Northern Ohio is far from most hurricanes, our volunteers often are called on to provide assistance to areas impacted by violent winds and high floodwaters. And due to new precautions being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, volunteers are needed more than ever to help with responses to large hurricanes and wildfires.

“This year hurricane preparations will be the same—yet different,” said Tim O’Toole, regional disaster officer. “This is due in large measure to working within the COVID-19 environment.”

He said COVID-19 makes everything more complex. “While our preference is to utilize non-congregate sheltering, such as hotel rooms and dormitories, large events such as hurricanes will require us to open congregate shelters. The COVID environment will require us to increase spacing in shelters in order to comply with social distancing guidelines. This means we may need to open more shelters, but with fewer people in them to provide an adequate response.”

Texas Tornadoes 2020

Tim said such a response will require a larger volunteer disaster workforce.  And that more volunteer health workers will be needed, as residents seeking shelter will be required to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms.

“However, we are trying to reduce the number of workers needed on the ground, and are hoping much of the management and recovery teams can be virtual,” he said. “We have had success with this model in responding to recent tornadoes and flooding in the southern U.S, but hurricanes and wildfires will be the real test.”

Virtual volunteers don’t have to leave their homes. They can perform valuable services doing family reunification work or casework.

All it takes is some free training that the Red Cross will gladly provide. If you start now, you could be trained and ready to help before the next big storm hits. Start your volunteer experience here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

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