The American Red Cross extends its record of incompetence
Sarah Smith reports in ProPublica:
Three months after record floods swept through Louisiana in March, the government officials in charge of disaster response set up a post-mortem with area Red Cross staffers.
The meeting’s purpose: Airing officials’ many complaints with the charity’s performance.
“Basically, during the Miss. River flooding and the recent severe weather events, most of the Parishes who reached out to the American Red Cross were not happy with the assistance they received or did not get some or any assistance that was requested from them,” a parish emergency manager wrote in an email eliciting the specifics of local officials’ experiences.
He compiled their responses into a page of talking points for the June 28 meeting. Among the most common gripes: That there had been so much turnover at the Red Cross that government emergency managers didn’t know who to call for assistance; that Red Cross staffers didn’t call emergency managers back; and that the Red Cross didn’t provide enough shelter support.
“American Red Cross was a HUGE disappointment,” Dawn Williams, the emergency manager for Richland Parish, said in a May 24 email responding to the call-out. “They made commitments that they didn’t keep and then chastised us for rejecting them. Nothing was resolved from our numerous sit-down meetings we had with [the American Red Cross] and their representatives.”
The Red Cross, which was chartered by Congress in 1900, is supposed to provide disaster support alongside government agencies as part of its mission. But the problems during the Red Cross’ Louisiana response are similar to the ones state officials complained of inMississippi at the same time, and follow a pattern of failures since the charity’sreorganization since 2008, when it cut back both local chapters and staffing.
The Red Cross’ Louisiana stumble came during a record-breaking flood in early March, when four days of nonstop rain damaged 5,000 homes. The White House issued disaster declarations for 37 out of the state’s 64 parishes.
Williams wrote that the Red Cross had stopped providing Richland Parish with food after six days, apparently because it erroneously concluded the parish’s shelter was closing. The Red Cross did eventually bring supplies to the northern parish—but only after the shelter had closed, Williams said.
One Red Cross staffer told Williams, according to her email, that “they do not do well with these types of disasters. They are more of a house fire type disaster relief agency.”
In response to a list of questions from ProPublica, the Red Cross sent a statement. . .