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Baltimore-area Red Cross prepares to assist in hurricane relief in Maryland and beyond

Red Cross prepared for whatever hurricane brings
Posted: 6:03 PM, Sep 12, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-12 18:11:29-04

The American Red Cross Chesapeake Region is already stocked up with supplies, but even if the worst of the storm bypasses Maryland, teams of volunteers will be ready to go wherever they might be needed to help provide disaster relief.

Hurricane Florence currently has the Red Cross in Maryland on standby.

American Red Cross volunteer leader Larry Swerdlin said: "you never can tell with mother nature and if we get lucky here in Maryland and the storm does miss us, that only means it’s going to hit someplace else." 

American Red Cross, Central Maryland board of directors chairman David Slaughter said "the groups share resources. So, the Maryland group, if we’re not hit directly from a storm, can help the people in the Carolinas, and we’ll send people, resources, equipment down there to help."

Emergency vehicles are filled with everything from bottled water to cots and blankets, but those aren't the only supplies needed during a disaster. 

"What happens when there’s storms, people can’t get to blood donating facilities, so it’s important to give blood. Anything that people might be able to donate, like water, shelter items, but usually money is what we can purchase the goods that are needed the most," Slaughter said.

"Historically, people have been very generous in times of need, so we need time from people, volunteers, if they can give it, resources like money, goods that you see here, and then the Red Cross really is the conduit to get those resources to the people that have been affected by these disasters," Slaughter added.

Besides a truckload of supplies, there is one donation on that list that the Red Cross can't do without.

"I don’t want to not make a big deal about the time that people give because the Red Cross is about 90 percent volunteers, so none of this happens without volunteers," Slaughter said.

Swerdlin was going through a career change when he was inspired to volunteer following Hurricane Katrina.  Now, he has five years experience with the Red Cross.

"I went on the Red Cross website. It said you could give money, I had no money, you could give blood, I had been doing that every 56 days since I was in college, or you can give time. It's just been life-changing and transformative for me," Swerdlin said.

Whatever Hurricane Florence may bring to Maryland, it still serves as a reminder to be prepared for the worst.

"You want to have an emergency kit so you can last your family for three days, you want to have a plan so that you can take care of your pets, take care of older people, keep an eye on neighbors that cant take care of themselves," Slaughter said.

While communities await the arrival of Hurricane Florence, the staff of the Red Cross also is bracing itself for the storm.

"We have a 120-hour countdown, 120-hour pre-landfall schedule of activities that we go through in each discipline whether it’s feeding, whether it’s mass care, distribution of emergency supplies, sheltering," Swerdlin said.  

"I was working in New Orleans during Katrina and had several operations, and we thought that we were prepared, we were not nearly prepared for what happened," Slaughter said.

The American Red Cross offers many ways to help:

  • Find opportunities to donate blood by calling 800-733-2767
  • Donate money by texting the word FLORENCE to 90999 to make a $10 donation
  • Download the Red Cross Emergency App or visit visit redcross.org