Red Cross responds to criticism of disaster response

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

Oct. 9, 2017 at 9:30 p.m.
Updated Oct. 10, 2017 at 3:15 p.m.

Victoria residents are loaded onto buses by Red Cross volunteers and the Texas State Guard outside the St. Joseph High School FEMA dome Aug. 20. The evacuees were being transported from Victoria to Austin after Hurricane Harvey passed through the area.

Victoria residents are loaded onto buses by Red Cross volunteers and the Texas State Guard outside the St. Joseph High School FEMA dome Aug. 20. The evacuees were being transported from Victoria to Austin after Hurricane Harvey passed through the area.   NICOLAS GALINDO/NGALINDO@VICAD.COM for The Victoria Advocate

The American Red Cross is not focused on how downsizing has affected its response to Hurricane Harvey.

"Right now, the Red Cross is focused on responding to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate. We're not going to speculate on what may happen in the future," spokeswoman Barbara Behling wrote via email Saturday night.

Behling sent answers to questions from the Victoria Advocate via email after the paper went to press Saturday night.

In 2015, the Red Cross chapter that served the Crossroads was one of many that merged throughout the country.

Since then, Red Cross’ response to natural disasters has been widely criticized.

Behling also clarified what was said during a Sept. 25 meeting between Red Cross and DeWitt County officials.

She said Red Cross said it would need to recruit more volunteers to reduce its two-hour response time to house fires. Behling said DeWitt County Emergency Management Coordinator Cyndi Smith had expressed concern about that response time.

“It’s important to note that a response time of two hours is well within the Red Cross standard,” Behling wrote.

Red Cross also addressed Monday the state of a shelter in Bloomington, where feces, blood and cots were reportedly throughout the shelter.

Behling said Red Cross will do a walk-through of that shelter Tuesday, “and we can assure you that the facility will be cleaned and turned back over in its original condition.”

The Red Cross opened six shelters in the Crossroads for Harvey victims and gave supplies to a community-run shelter in Jackson County, she wrote.

Statewide, almost 9,000 Red Cross volunteers and staff have responded to the Category 4 hurricane.


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