American Red Cross shares how disaster response has changed during pandemic

Published: Jun. 12, 2020 at 7:41 AM EDT
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When disaster strikes a community or even just an individual family, the American Red Cross is there to lend a hand. But under COVID-19 restrictions, the Red Cross has had to change the way they offer help.

"Emergencies don't take a break," Jackie Grant, the executive director of the southwest Virginia Red Cross chapter, said.

She spoke to WDBJ7 about the challenges Red Cross volunteers have had to overcome in this COVID-19 world.

"Since the governor's orders in March, in our viewing area, there's been over 100 natural disasters that still occurred," she said. "Those were mostly single family home fires, but as you remember back in May, late May, we had flooding so people were out of their homes."

Because of social distancing restrictions, they couldn't just open up a shelter to help the nearly hundred people who were temporarily displaced.

"We actually put people up in hotels," Grant explained. "We had about 30 people who, through Memorial Day weekend, were delivering three meals a day to these hotels where these folks were in."

With hurricane season already upon us, they're prepared to respond to widespread disaster across our hometowns, though they may need to open more shelters to safely spread out the people who need them.

"This isn't our first rodeo so we've really allowed these last three months to work on planning and make sure that we're protecting everybody, our workforce and the clients that need our help," Grant explained.

As Grant mentioned, Red Cross volunteers frequently respond to house fires,

. Fortunately for Malka Clay, her family made it out of the house safely and her dog was rescued by firefighters.

"Even though she's an animal, she's still my baby," Clay said.

Earlier this week Grant explained that the way in which volunteers respond to these types of house fires has changed.

"So normally our volunteers would go out to a home fire, they would assess the damage along with the homeowner to make sure they're eligible for benefits," she said. "We would often hug those victims, those clients and we can't do that now."

Instead they do a lot of virtual response, phone calls and FaceTime. However, Jackie Grant said their core mission always remains the same.

"The Red Cross is always there," she said. "So we're going to respond but we're also going to protect the folks that are working with us. And if that involves more social distancing, masks, a different way of getting stuff to them, we're going to continue to provide our humanitarian mission even in these difficult times."

She also said that regardless of the circumstances, the Red Cross is always in need of more time, money and blood from donors.

WDBJ7 does not know if or how the Red Cross is helping the family of four that was displaced from their home Friday morning.

Copyright 2020 WDBJ7. All rights reserved.

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