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Red Cross, CDC Ready Country for Emergency Threats
Date:6/16/2009

People Encouraged to Take Basic Preparedness Steps for Hurricane and Flu Seasons

WASHINGTON, June 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Last year in the Americas, more people were affected by disaster than any year in the previous decade, according to the 2009 World Disasters Report. Over the next six months, as the United States and the Caribbean face the prospect of simultaneous responses to hurricanes and the H1N1 flu, response organizations are preparing for the possibility of an even higher number.

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"Disaster response always has an element of uncertainty," says Joe Becker, Senior Vice President of Disaster Services for the American Red Cross. "However, by strategically acting in advance, we can profoundly impact the number of lives we save and livelihoods we preserve."

The official hurricane season started two weeks ago on June 1. Experts predict that there will be between four and seven hurricanes in the Atlantic this year, of which one to three will likely have a major impact.

In response, organizations are undertaking extensive preparedness efforts to ensure that supplies, trained personnel and detailed plans are in place to minimize the impact of any emergency. For instance, the American Red Cross is prepared to shelter and feed 500,000 people, four times more clients than the organization had to shelter during its busiest night after Hurricane Katrina.

"There are plausible response situations that would be larger than any one organization could handle on its own," says Becker. "A flu outbreak - alone or coupled with another disaster - would be one scenario where we would look to our partners in government, the private sector and the non profit sector to join forces to help America."

Last Thursday, the World Health Organization raised its pandemic alert level to phase 6, indicating the widespread nature of the H1N1 flu in advance of the traditional flu season.

American Red Cross and CDC officials call upon communities to take basic preparedness steps, which can have as much impact as national and regional planning.

On Tuesday, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies will release the 2009 World Disasters Report, which emphasizes the importance of community preparation and early disaster warning in order to minimize damage. The American Red Cross offers information at www.redcross.org on assembling a supply kit, creating a family plan, and dealing with the challenges of various disasters. The CDC offers advice on flu preparedness at www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu.

About the American Red Cross

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation's blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization -- not a government agency -- and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its humanitarian mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at www.redcrosschat.org.

Editor's Note: For b-roll of hurricane and flu preparedness, visit www.redcross.org/video. To speak with preparedness experts, please call Mat Morgan at 202-262-9148.


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SOURCE American Red Cross
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