Fires and Floods Lead the List of Largest Red Cross Responses

Dec. 20, 2007
A year heavy with home fires, wildfires and flooding kept the Red Cross busy, helping people whose lives were changed by disasters. Excessive rain in some portions of the country, severe drought in other areas and a lack of major hurricanes changed the traditional disaster response landscape for the American Red Cross in a year that called for more than 230 large scale disaster responses.

While the California wildfires and major flooding captured public attention, the majority of disaster relief operations were coordinated by Red Cross chapters responding locally to more than 70,000 community disasters, most of which were home fires. In fact, home fires account for approximately 93 percent of all Red Cross disaster responses in 2007, and that category leads the compilation of the five largest disasters. The top five American Red Cross disaster responses for 2007 are:

  • Home fires – single family, multiple-family fires (continually)
  • Southern California wildfires (October 2007)
  • North Texas and Midwest floods (Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma – June 2007)
  • New England Nor'easter (New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, April 2007)
  • Midwest floods (Ohio, Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, August 2007)

This ranking was calculated based on the number of families served by the Red Cross, the aggregate amount of services provided (including food and shelter) and the cost to the Red Cross.

"While the hurricane season proved to be less eventful than normal, this year showed that disasters can strike anywhere around the nation, not just coastal communities," said Joe Becker, senior vice president, disaster response. "That's why it's important for families and individuals to have a disaster plan, no matter where you live and even if you think you are not vulnerable to a disaster."

Red Cross disaster relief services are delivered through the efforts of more than 700 local Red Cross chapters and often include providing disaster survivors with food, shelter, emotional support, basic first aid and clean up supplies.

While the top five disasters were the largest and most costly for the Red Cross, disaster workers also were on the scene at other notable events this year. Mental health workers provided comfort during the tragedy at Virginia Tech. Disaster workers were in place during tornadoes in Lady Lake, Fla., Enterprise, Ala. and Greensburg, Kansas. Since January, the American Red Cross also has responded to 25 international disasters, including the Bangladesh cyclone Sidr, the Peru earthquake, Mexico floods, hurricanes Dean and Felix and severe flooding in Africa.

Last year, victims of a record 72,883 disasters, most of them fires, turned to the nearly 1 million volunteers and 35,000 employees of the Red Cross for help. Through more than 700 locally supported chapters, more than 15 million people each year gain the skills they need to prepare for and respond to emergencies.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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