Most recently, those disasters include the devastating fires in Hawaii and across the West, along with billion-dollar storms and floods.
September is National Preparedness Month. Of course, it’s important to be prepared for a disaster at any time, but even the Red Cross is having a hard time keeping up with the need.
Trevor Riggen, the president of the Red Cross, said in the first eight months of 2023, the Red Cross has seen 23 different disasters that resulted in more than a billion dollars in uninsured loss. That is a new record in the United States.
In Colorado, Riggen said there were more than 1,400 severe weather alerts this year, that’s up from 500 the previous year.
Disasters are striking everywhere across the country, and they say it’s created a humanitarian crisis driven by climate emergencies. This is a strain on resources, including staff and funding.
The Red Cross is mobilizing people to prepare for Hurricane Lee on the East Coast on top of already having more than 2,000 responders in Hawaii, Florida and South Carolina.
“All responding to disasters that are coming at us at a pace we’ve never seen before. So, the Red Cross is working quickly to both grow our capacity to make sure we can maintain the capacity and presence in communities to deal with the burnout and other risks that we may face. But we’re also adapting our mission to make sure the services are meeting the needs of communities that are not getting hit once, but getting hit multiple times,” said Riggen.
They expect to spend at least $1 billion over the next several years boosting their capacity to respond while also still responding to ongoing disasters.
Community Adaptation Program
On top of a record number of natural disasters, the Red Cross said these communities are facing two challenges.
The first is the climate crisis that is causing repetitive disasters and more intense events.
The second is ongoing issues on the local level like a large homeless population and the lack of affordable housing.
Red Cross is making it their goal to work with local organizations that are already doing good work every single day, like food pantries, health clinics, and housing resources to help support communities and get them stronger before disaster hits.
They’re calling it the Community Adaptation Program.
“[We’re seeing] chronic social issues around health, hunger and housing. When these two issues intersect, when those communities that are facing chronic issues every single day are also impacted by natural disasters, the results can be devastating. So, we are working very quickly standing up programs in these local communities to make sure we’re building readiness and capacity, both in the short term but also with a plan towards long-term recovery,” Riggen said.
They plan to deploy into 40 communities in the next several years. Riggen said the places and numbers keep shifting because the disasters keep shifting.
It’s a data-driven model based on where they see high social vulnerability, but also high climate risk. They said it’s likely Colorado could be in the mix in the future.
They need volunteers and donations to make sure they can keep up, contact the Red Cross to help.