Earlier on Thursday, Sept. 27, I had the opportunity to chat with Brad Kieserman, who is vice president of disaster operations and logistics for the American Red Cross (ARC). He has been the senior ARC official leading the Hurricane Florence response.
My primary question was about shelter operations for Hurricane Florence and if the tension that existed three to five years ago between FEMA and the ARC over mass care and sheltering has been resolved..
Brad believes that any issues are now settled and in the past. Note that he came over to the ARC from FEMA, so he has some history with both organizations.
I asked about the numbers of shelters and percentages being run by the ARC. He got back to me with these figures for Monday, Sept. 24, "On Monday in North Carolina there were three independent shelters with a population of 69 [people] and 25 ARC network shelters with a population of 2,217." Thus 97 percent of the people being sheltered were in ARC shelters — at that point.
He noted that early in a disaster, the best place to get shelter head-counts is in the respective state Emergency Operations Centers (EOC). There are initially many more locally operated shelters being established by churches, schools, community groups. Getting an accurate count on those operations is difficult. Once the ARC is operational, they have standard procedures in place and a more solid number can be established.
In our conversation, I shared with him that here on the West Coast, with a large homeless population, including those with mental health and addiction problems, they can expect to have a difficult time post-earthquake, as those populations mix with mothers, fathers and children being displaced from their homes. He noted that the opioid epidemic has already revealed itself in the shelters that the ARC operates in response to disasters. He also stated that they recognize that as families transition out of the short-term shelter to long-term housing solutions, the ARC will be left with what is in essence a homeless shelter — in some situations.
Last item — for this blog post (not discussed with Brad), I noted today that NPR and others continue to ask questions about the disposition of financial donations to disasters and what is happening with Hurricane Florence. See NPR Grills Red Cross Official Over Hurricane Harvey Donations. If there was ever a topic that they need to be as transparent as possible on, it is money donations.