More than 7,750 people have assisted the American Red Cross in the North Texas area this year in nearly 1,800 disasters through mid-December, officials said.
While the number of disasters compares to the number the organization assisted in its last fiscal year, 2021 has been unique due to the number of severe weather events in Texas and across the country, said Krystal Smith, Porte -speaking of the group North Region of Texas.
âThis year has actually marked one of the country’s busiest years for severe weather events, making the problems worse,â particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, Smith said.
The North Texas Red Cross region covers 121 counties, ranging from the panhandle to the upper third of the state. But many major events have occurred in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The Red Cross response in Dallas-Fort Worth began with winter storms in February, which brought down several inches of snow in the area. Thousands of people in North Texas and across the state have faced power outages, broken pipes and boil water advisories.
More than 200 deaths have been attributed to the storms statewide, and more than 50 of those deaths have been in North Texas.
âWe worked closely with our government and our community partners to help provide some support to the warm centers they had opened,â Smith said. âHouse fires also continued throughout this time and throughout the year, sometimes due to people trying to heat their homes, other times just to cook for emergencies or other things that popped up. . “
In mid-April, the Red Cross assisted residents displaced after a fire at apartments at Cortland Addison Circle in Addison. In late September, the organization came to the aid of more than 150 people displaced by an explosion at the Highland Hills Apartments in southeast Oak Cliff, which injured seven people, including four firefighters.
The Red Cross also played an important role following the shooting at Timberview High School in Arlington in early October.
âWe were in the parent reunion area, handing out water and snacks, and we had our mental health and spiritual disaster care teams on hold,â Smith said. “Fortunately, the school and the city already had a lot of counselors on site, but our people were ready to offer that extra support if needed.”
Later that month, severe storms mostly near the Wichita County line also prompted the Red Cross to respond, Smith said.
Red Cross responders usually focus on a person’s immediate needs, such as putting people in contact with housing, but assistance can vary. After larger disasters, the Red Cross can be in contact with people for months, while in smaller disasters assistance typically lasts for days or weeks, Smith said.
âWe are working with families to see what those needs are,â Smith said. âHe tries to coordinate to find them a place to stay, food, water. If they have any medical supplies or prescriptions, help them get in touch with the right people and get them refilled. If they need health, mental health, or spiritual care, connect them with people who can help them.
Nationally, the Red Cross has launched a major new relief effort every 11 days. Displaced families spent an average of around 30 days in an emergency shelter supported by the Red Cross.
The fact that more families are staying in shelters longer is in part indicative of the hardships made worse by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. And just like other organizations, the Red Cross has continued to face challenges as it navigates how to operate while preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
âWhen we have shelters, we maintain social distancing and force people to wear masks,â Smith said. âWhenever possible, we use telephones orâ¦ some sort of videoconference to communicate with those affected.
âThe pandemic is not over, unfortunately. And so we want to continue to be there to support people the same way we’ve always done while making sure our workforce in the community is doing it safely. “
Over the next few weeks, Red Cross officials hope people will continue to sign up for blood donations – the organization has the lowest blood supply before the holiday season in more than a decade – and encourage people to cool off on home heating safety before the coldest part of winter.
âOur priority is to make sure people know how to prepare for winter, know the safety precautions for heating their homes and encourage people if they are feeling well and are able to go out and donate blood in order to that together we can keep north Texas. safer, âSmith said.