Ahead of Hurricane Ian, DC-area Red Cross sends disaster workers to Florida

Ian strengthened into a hurricane Monday morning as the storm approaches the coast of Florida. Members of the D.C.-area Red Cross are headed to the region to assist during the anticipated severe weather and its aftermath.

On Sunday, the American Red Cross of the National Capital & Greater Chesapeake Region announced that more than 300 of its disaster workers are mobilizing as part of a multistate effort to help Floridians.

As the storm continues to move toward Cuba and Florida, Ian strengthened into a hurricane in the Caribbean around 5 a.m. on Monday.

The National Hurricane Center reported “increasing confidence in multiple life-threatening hazards: storm surge, hurricane-force winds and rainfall flooding” as a result of Ian.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has already declared a state of emergency to prepare for the storm.

Among those leading the Red Cross effort will be its regional CEO Dale Kunce. Kunce has previous experience with natural disasters, including leading relief operations for the catastrophic wildfires that took place in Oregon.

Kunce told WTOP that, although they can’t be certain about the path of Ian, they are staging workers in Orlando and Tallahassee to make sure they will be ready, wherever the storm hits.

“We don’t know exactly where it’s going to come ashore, so we’re making sure that we have people where they need to go,” Kunce said. “We’ve got supplies on hand to shelter about 30,000 people should it be needed.”

Kunce, who left for Florida on Sunday, said the next couple of days is about evacuating those in dangerous areas and helping others make sure they’re prepared to hunker down.

“The first thing is to build a kit right now,” Kunce said. “So do you have water for a couple days? Do you have some batteries for a flashlight? Do you have a little bit of food to be able to get you through the next few days? If you are able to make a plan, what’s that plan gonna be?”

He also said that, in anticipation of the storm, it’s a good idea to check on loved ones and ask the right questions to make sure they are ready.

“Maybe a loved one is closer to the impact of where the storm will be,” Kunce said. “When are you going to check in on them? What’s their trigger for potential evacuation going to be? And [what about] communication after the storm hits?”

Since the path of the storm may be unpredictable, Kunce said it’s important to keep checking in with local radio and television about any changes.

He also suggested users in vulnerable areas download the Red Cross Emergency App, which lets you “customize 40 different weather alerts, so you can be ready when something is happening in your area. You can monitor five locations plus your current location,” according to the Red Cross website.

The app also provides guidance and “to-do lists” for when disasters hit your area.

The Red Cross won’t be the only emergency responders from the area to send its own down to Florida. Last week, in collaboration with FEMA, 45 members of Virginia Task Force 1, Fairfax County’s international urban-search-and-rescue team, were also deployed.

Joshua Barlow

Joshua Barlow is a writer, composer, and producer who has worked for CGTN, Atlantic Public Media, and National Public Radio. He lives in Northeast Washington, D.C., where he pays attention to developments in his neighborhood, economic issues, and social justice.

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