LOUISVILLE (WHAS11) – The American Red Cross is always on the move with an emergency. Seven volunteers from Kentuckiana are already on the ground in Florida.
That team hopped on a red-eye flight Tuesday night to make it down to the Panhandle. The Red Cross said the seven members will focus on the initial response work, so they will help mostly with getting victims shelter and food.
“Every storm is different. Even if you can anticipate what you think is going to happen, something different will happen,” American Red Cross Regional CEO Jennifer Adrio said. “We can set up a $2 million operation in less than 12 hours. We’re one of the first to be called on. Our volunteers are always out there. We had 54 respond to Hurricane Florence. So, I expect a large portion of our volunteers will come from this area for this response, as well.”
Later rounds of volunteers usually focus more on casework and damage assessment. Once volunteers offer to deploy for disaster relief, they have to be ready to leave within 12 hours. They're required to stay for two weeks, but the Red Cross said it's not uncommon for them to stay longer and average around three weeks of service. There are already 500 volunteers from around the country deployed in the Panhandle, and the Red Cross expects that to grow tremendously in the coming days. It already has 70 evacuation shelters open throughout Florida and Georgia. They housed more than 4,000 people in need just last night, but those shelters can serve as many as 15,000 victims.
“We prepare. We respond. We help people recover. This is what our job and our duty is. This is what the American public expects us to do. This is what we’re funded to do. We’re not a government agency. We do this as our mission, and we need people to help us do it. The folks that are in those areas that are going to be hit, they look to us for hope. They look to us for help, and we’re able to do that,” Adrio said.
There’s also a church youth group from Kentuckiana in Destin right now. The group is from Lincoln Hills Christian Church, and they got to Florida on Sunday for a fall break trip. They're staying in a beach house in Destin and staying put because that area isn't part of the mandatory evacuation. WHAS11 talked to one of the teen's moms Wednesday. She said she's watching the storm closely and in constant communication with her daughter.
"I am thankful that they seem to be holding up well, but I think there's a part of me that thinks they've gotten very lucky in the situation,” Chelsea Coakley said.
The teens are supposed to stay until Friday. That plan is still on for now as their parents keep a close eye on the Gulf Coast.
"Nervous, I guess, with the storm intensifying even more,” Coakley said. "Where they are right now, I think they're stable and alright for the moment. I wouldn't expect them to leave right this second. It would be dangerous, but I am going to be excited to have them back."
If you'd like to be a part of these relief efforts, you can sign up online or call 1-800-REDCROSS.