Posted by: stevenhaas | January 20, 2008

“That Made Us Human”

 

Kay Wilkins – Executive Director, Southeast Louisiana Red Cross 1/15/08

Although the American Red Cross has received some criticism for their response during Hurricane Katrina, after talking with Kay Wilkins, CEO of the Red Cross in New Orleans, I quickly realized how well they prepared and responded in the wake of a catastrophic hurricane. The Red Cross had a plan in place for years prior the storm, so when Hurricane Katrina became a threat to the New Orleans area, they knew exactly what to do. The Red Cross opened shelters north of Interstate 12, which is outside of the designated “risk area” for storm surge. The plan was to move 1.6 million people of New Orleans to the furthest shelters before the storm came barreling ashore. It was against Red Cross policy to stay in the danger zone during a major hurricane, so therefore they made every effort to get as many people as they could to follow their evacuation plan.

The radio played a major role for the Red Cross during the storm and for the weeks following it. “Talk radio became the way you got all of your information, good, bad and ugly,” Wilkins said. During the weeks after Katrina, there was poor communication as a result of no electricity and cell phones not working. As a result, the Red Cross was able to use the radio to dispel some of the misinformation that people had. Wilkins began calling in to the radio at 7am and 7pm every day for 3 weeks to answer questions from listeners and provide information about the relief efforts of the Red Cross. “That was when we started really becoming human and becoming part of the group that was trying to find solutions.”

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