The American Red Cross has issued a report that examines the organization's response to hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in 2005 as well as recovery efforts targeting the hurricanes' victims.
The report, Bringing Help, Bringing Hope: The American Red Cross Response to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma (28 pages, PDF), found that the Red Cross provided 1.4 million families (4.5 million people) with emergency financial assistance in the wake of the hurricanes — a record for the the organization and significantly more than its previous record. In addition, the Red Cross received a total of $2.2 billion from individual donors to help people affected by the storms &38212; donations that enabled the agency to provide survivors in thirty-one states and the District of Columbia with shelter; hot meals and snacks; financial assistance to purchase groceries, clothing, diapers, and other basic needs; money to return home, make home repairs, and get back to work; physical and mental health services; and disaster preparedness training.
In responding to the hurricanes, the Red Cross also learned it needs to build partnerships with other organizations that can help in large disasters and increase its capacity to respond to those disasters. To that end, the Red Cross has established a nationwide warehouse system and pre-positioned more than twice the amount of disaster relief supplies used after Katrina. The organization also has enhanced its local, state, and national-level disaster planning efforts; created new partnerships with local, state, and national groups to help ensure that all segments of a community are served after a disaster; expanded the number of trained disaster volunteers from 25,000 to nearly 95,000, including nearly 50,000 who are available to travel to disasters around the country; and created tools for the public to use during a disaster, including an online national shelter system and a Web site designed to help families find each in the wake of a disaster.
"Five years ago, the American public responded to Katrina with unprecedented generosity," said Russ Paulsen, executive director of the organization's hurricane recovery program. "Looking back, I think they can be proud of what their contributions accomplished....Never before had the Red Cross served so many people after a disaster, and never before had so many people come forward to help. But we learned that there are some disasters that are so big that no agency — government or nonprofit — can do it all. We learned that everyone needs to play a part."