Amid Questions of Responsiveness, American Red Cross Mobilizes in Louisiana

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Louisiana-floods

high-water truck in Robert, La., March 13, 2016. (U.S. Army National Guard photo) / The National Guard

August 15, 2016; CNN

Just 10 days after ProPublica published an article on the criticisms of the American Red Cross’s disaster response to the floods in Louisiana in March, thirty parishes have now been declared flood disaster areas—nearly half the state. At least five people are dead and 20,000 have needed to be rescued. The Louisiana National Guard and military police have been called out, and so has the Red Cross, so, for now, we must wait to find out whether the ARC had the necessary capacity to meet the challenges of this historic event.

They do have the volunteers, apparently. Chapters in Texas, Florida, Georgia, and Wisconsin have mobilized volunteers and resources in response to the chapter in Baton Rouge reaching out, but these must be well deployed to be effective.

Coordination, communications, and accurate deployment are absolutely critical during a disaster response, but the complaints that surfaced in Louisiana in March are similar to those heard from local disaster response officials in West Virginia regarding the ARC back in January. A national consolidation of ARC chapters that has reduced their numbers by two-thirds has, in the opinion of some, left a presence too disconnected to respond quickly to calls for help in some areas. Among the concerns recently expressed about Louisiana is that the Red Cross had undergone so much turnover that local government emergency managers didn’t know whom to call, and when the calls were made, they were not consistently returned.—Ruth McCambridge