Red Cross teams with partners in New Madrid Earthquake exercise

By Dana Fields
American Red Cross

Whenever a disaster strikes, the American Red Cross is ready to respond swiftly to meet individuals’ immediate needs, such as a place to stay after a home fire.

But what if the individuals numbered in the tens of thousands, displaced by a catastrophe of historic size _ perhaps a 7.7 magnitude earthquake along southeast Missouri’s New Madrid Fault?

American Red Cross earthquake exercise
American Red Cross volunteers get final instructions before starting their role playing of helping evacuees arriving from a New Madrid earthquake disaster as part of the National Mass Care Exercise in which the Red Cross participated along with its partner groups. (Photo by Jack Rosenfield/American Red Cross)

No one knows when such a disaster might occur, but the Red Cross and its partners in the private and government sectors now have a better idea of how they would join forces to serve people evacuated in huge numbers toward western Missouri.

The nation’s fifth annual National Mass Care Exercise, two years in the planning by FEMA and Missouri’s State Emergency Management Agency, took place the week of Aug. 22, giving the Red Cross and more than four dozen public and private groups the chance to test their plans for moving, sheltering and feeding thousands fleeing the disaster and streaming toward western Missouri.

The exercise assumed that numerous eastern Missouri counties would be rendered “unlivable” for months, and that residents would evacuate to western Missouri because of wreckage to bridges over the Mississippi River. Busloads of evacuees would head to the Kansas City area or to Springfield via U.S. 50 and U.S. 60.

Red Cross staff and volunteers were in place as citizens of all ages – playing the role of evacuees – arrived at reception centers set up at Diggins Apostolic Church in southwest Missouri’s Webster County and at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena in Independence.

Once the evacuees were checked in by other agencies, they proceeded to tables where Red Cross personnel talked to them and assigned them to either of two shelters set up in Independence for the exercise_ including one that would take pets as well as people.

Although evacuees were screened for injuries and other health issues in southeast Missouri before they began their trek, some had signs of cuts and bruises when they reached Independence. Medical professionals were on hand to help those people.

“Let’s take a look at that cut before we do anything else,” Red Cross volunteer Mary Biniki suggested to an evacuee whose face was daubed with blood-like makeup. Assured that the man was fine, she then helped decide which shelter suited him best.

Still another agency then arranged transportation for the evacuees, their pets, and their belongings to shelters.

At one shelter, in a multiple-purpose building at Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Independence, the multi-agency aspect of the exercise was on full display: Volunteers from Missouri Adventist Community Services Disaster Response guided evacuees to desks for registration by the Red Cross, which also ran the sleeping area; Independence Health Department personnel assessed medical and mental health needs; the Operation BBQ Disaster Response Team provided food; the Salvation Army rushed cases of bottled water to the church.

American Red Cross earthquake exercise
An American Red Cross volunteer interviews a person playing the role of an evacuee from a New Madrid earthquake. It was part of the National Mass Care Exercise that involved government agencies, the Red Cross and many of its partner relief organizations. (Photo by Jack Rosenfield/American Red Cross)

Although she’s a longtime Red Cross volunteer with wide experience, Mary found the exercise instructive _ largely because the “evacuees” were well-prepared to pose as people who had just survived a traumatic disaster. Some arrived with canes, crutches or wheel chairs.

“We had to look at how many we could process in a certain amount of time,” she said. “They may have a story they want to tell. We’re very compassionate in how we respond, but we had to keep them moving.”

For the Red Cross, the exercise also yielded new partnerships and potential resources as staff and volunteers spent part of the time calling possible shelter sites as well as large food vendors not already partnered with the organization.

Red Cross workers also were at the Multi Agency Coordination Center set up at the Kansas City Emergency Operations Center. It included area emergency managers working together to support the evacuees.

The Greater Kansas City and Southern Missouri chapters of the Red Cross may never have to process and help shelter more than 100,000 evacuees from a devastated earthquake zone.

But the lessons learned and the partnerships gained will help the organization in its ongoing mission to respond every day to disasters of all sizes.


Red Cross couple drives ERV to Louisiana flooding to help

When the Louisiana flooding started, Allan and Cindy Slavin watched as the horrific events unfold on TV and they knew they had to do more than sit in the comfort of their home.

On Friday, the couple from the American Red Cross’ Northwest Missouri Chapter in St. Joseph left in a Red Cross emergency response vehicle to head to the flooded area to do what they can to bring relief.

American Red Cross of Greater Kansas City
Allan Slavin and his wife Cindy from the American Red Cross Northwest Missouri Chapter in St. Joseph talk to reporters in Kansas City on Friday as they prepare to leave with an Emergency Response Vehicle to help out in the Louisiana flooding response. (Photo by Duane Hallock/American Red Cross)

Allan took time off from Whiteman Air Force Base at Knob Noster where he’s a lieutenant colonel commanding the 442nd Logistics Readiness Squadron. Cindy took two weeks vacation from Mosaic Life Care in St. Joseph where she’s a health care professional.

This is Cindy’s first Red Cross deployment to a disaster. Allan previously volunteered during Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. For them, it’s truly a labor of love.

“If you’ve never been involved with the Red Cross before, get involved. It’s the most rewarding thing you’ll probably ever do in your life,” Allan told reporters watching the couple leave Friday from the Greater Kansas City Chapter.

“We see the people in need on TV and witness the devastation they’re going through, we just think this is really a good way to go and help them,” added Cindy. “I’m excited for the opportunity to help people.”

The couple’s deployment brings to 31 the number of volunteers by week’s end from the Western Missouri Region helping in Louisiana. It’s the third ERV from the Region deployed to the disaster.

The flooding in Louisiana is the worst natural disaster to hit the United States since Sandy. Early estimates predict the massive Red Cross relief effort in Louisiana could cost at least $30 million – and this number may grow.

More than 1,400 Red Crossers – including some virtual workers helping online – from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are supporting Louisiana relief efforts.  The Red Cross is working with the entire disaster response community — national, state and local agencies and organizations — to make sure people get the help they need.

On Friday night, as many as 3,100 people were still seeking refuge in 20 Red Cross and community shelters in Louisiana. At the peak of the floods, more than 50 shelters provided safety for more than 10,000 people.

American Red Cross of Greater Kansas City
Cindy Slavin from the Northwest Missouri Chapter in St. Joseph checks out the Emergency Response Vehicle she and her husband Allan are driving to Louisiana to help with the American Red Cross flood relief efforts. Allan is seen talking to reporter about their trip. (Photo by Duane Hallock/American Red Cross)

The Red Cross has provided more than 36,000 overnight shelter stays since the flooding began as well as serving more than 171,000 meals and snacks with the help of several organizations. Volunteers are visiting shelters to offer emotional support and help replace things like lost eyeglasses and medications.

Dozens of disaster response vehicles are deployed to Louisiana as well as numerous trailer-loads of relief supplies. Some of the thousands of supplies arriving include water, personal hygiene items, insect repellant, cleaning kits, bleach and other supplies.

The Red Cross urgently needs the public to support relief efforts in Louisiana by making a financial donation today. People can donate by visiting; calling 1-800-RED CROSS; or texting the word LAFLOODS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

It has been a very busy year for disasters across the country. Thousands of volunteers have deployed – some numerous times – to support people in need. The time and talent of every volunteer makes a real difference in people’s lives.

To join us, visit today to learn more about volunteer opportunities and how to submit a volunteer application.

Red Cross blood donations urgently needed in final weeks of summer

The American Red Cross urges blood donors to give in the final weeks of summer to help overcome a critical summer blood shortage.

The summer months are among the most challenging times of the year to collect enough blood and platelet donations to meet patient needs.

Donors of all blood types are urgently needed to give now to help ensure blood is available for patients in need.

heart with American Red CrossThose who donated blood earlier this summer may be eligible to donate again. Blood can be safely donated every 56 days, and double red cells can be donated every 112 days.

In appreciation for helping to save lives, those who come to donate blood or platelets with the Red Cross now through Aug. 31 will receive a $5 gift card claim code.

Schedule an appointment by downloading the free Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

To help reduce wait times, donors are encouraged to make appointments and complete the RapidPass online health history questionnaire at

Here are the upcoming Red Cross Western Missouri Region blood donation locations in Kansas counties:


Aug. 23, 11 a.m .-  3 p.m.: 15433 West 100th Terrace.


Aug. 23, 8:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.: Public Works Robinson Complex, 1385 South Robinson.

Aug. 28, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.: Redeemer Lutheran Church, 920 Alta Lane.


Aug. 18, 1 – 6 p.m.: Memorial Hall, 411 Eleventh Street.

Red Cross volunteers from Western Missouri among those helping with Louisiana flooding

When a disaster strikes, American Red Cross volunteers pack their bags and head to where they can help those in need.

With the devastating Louisiana floods, the Red Cross by the end of the week will have around 1,000 volunteers from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico helping in the recovery.

American Red Cross flood graphic
This shows what states American Red Cross volunteers are coming from to assist in the Louisiana flooding recovery efforts. Around 1,000 volunteers are expected to be in Louisiana by the end of the week. (American Red Cross graphic)

In the Western Missouri Region, 28 volunteers by Wednesday had left to help out in Louisiana. That includes 17 from the Southern Missouri Chapter, based in Springfield; six from the Greater Kansas City Chapter; and five from the Northwest Missouri Chapter based in St. Joseph.

The current flooding is the worst natural disaster to strike the United States since Superstorm Sandy. Officials are estimating that more than 40,000 homes have been damaged as more than 6.9 trillion gallons of rain deluged Louisiana this week, marking the second time in five month that Louisiana has seen more than 24 inches of rain during a single storm.

American Red Cross flood relief
American Red Cross volunteers Mike Camden and Patricia Patterson of the Greater Kansas City Chapter left Tuesday with an Emergency Response Vehicle for Louisiana to help with the relief efforts following the massive flooding there. They go over their route with Diane Fodness, disaster program manager for the GKC Chapter. (Photo by Carl Manning/American Red Cross)

The flooding danger is not over. More rain is possible, and flood waters are moving down river, which causes additional damage.

On Tuesday night, more than 7,000 people still were seeking refuge in more than 34 Red Cross and community shelters. At the peak of the floods, more than 50 shelters provided safety for more than 10,000 people.

The Red Cross and partners have served nearly 100,000 meals and snacks since the onset of the flooding.

Residents of the affected areas can connect with their loved ones by using the “I’m Safe” button on the free Red Cross Emergency App. It can be found in the app store on mobile devices by searching for “American Red Cross” or going to

People also can visit to register on the Red Cross Safe and Well website, a secure and private way that friends and family connect. The site also allows people to update their status on Facebook and Twitter.

The Red Cross urgently needs the  public to join in supporting Louisiana by making a financial donation by visiting; calling 1-1800-RED CROSS; or texting LAFLOOD to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

If you would like to become a Red Cross volunteer, visit and find out more about volunteer opportunities and how to submit a volunteer application.


Security officers recognized for heroic efforts learned in Red Cross training

Four security officers from Kansas City’s Crown Center have received the Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders.

Such awards are presented by the American Red Cross to individuals “who save or sustain a life, outside of a medical setting, as part of their employment or while on duty.”

The four officers receiving the prestigious awards were (l-r) Carlton Probst, Nathaniel Hanway, Phouva Khensisana and Phillip Lockwood. The officers were nominated for the award by their supervisor, Greg Coppotelli. (Photo by Duane Hallock/American Red Cross)

Officers receiving the award on Aug. 2 were Nathaniel Hanway, Phouva Khensisana, Phillip Lockwood and Carlton Probst. Each had completed the advanced Red Cross training course “CPR/AED for Professional Rescuers and Health Care Providers.”

Their training was needed on the morning of April 3, 2016 when the officers saw a car crash on a public street on the Crown Center complex. The car caught fire, and the driver was unable to pull himself out.

The officers rescued the driver from the car, supporting his neck in the process. They also extinguished the fire and stayed with the driver until the police, firefighters and paramedics had arrived on the scene.

American Red Cross LIFESAVING AWARD 1
Red Cross training allows people to react and do the right thing rather than having to think through what to do next, explained Red Cross Board Chair Scott Mach. (Photo by Duane Hallock/American Red Cross)

The award certificate is signed by both the chairman and the president/CEO of the American Red Cross. The award package also includes a citation and lapel pin.