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Hurricane Ida - report from a Red Cross shelter

Hi all. I'm a Red Cross volunteer and just got back from a 3-day activation for hurricane Ida. The shelter I worked at is in Orange, TX which is about 120 miles west of the storm damage. We started taking in people on Monday, morning and it will likely continue to accept people until it reaches full capacity of 120 "clients".


Hopefully, none of you ever end up in a Red Cross shelter, but I thought I'd give you an idea on what to expect:

1. After being dropped off at the front door, one member of your family will fill out the registration info for your entire family. This is basic information such as name, date of birth, address, phone number, and if anyone is required to report their location to law enforcement agencies. You will also be given two copies of the shelter rules. You need to read one and sign it, showing that you understand the rules and that if you break the rules you may be removed from the shelter.


2. You'll be given two blankets, a towel which you need to use the entire time you're at the shelter, and a bag of toiletries containing a toothbrush, toothpaste, washcloth, soap, shampoo, deodorant, comb, tissues, razor, shaving gel, and feminine protection. The kid's version of the toiletries bag has a small toy in it.


3. Once you have your stuff you'll be assigned to a cot. The cots are set up in a big room, 6' apart from other cots. There may be over 100 cots in the room, depending on the size. In the case of very special needs, it may be possible to set up a cot away from others.


4. Clients will receive two hot meals (lunch & dinner) and one cold meal (breakfast) along with one snack (chips, cookie) per day. Bottled water is available all day. Coffee may or may not be available. Extra snacks may or may not be available. The Red Cross contracts local restaurants and grocery stores to supply the shelter's food. We can NOT accept food prepared in their kitchens by people who just want to help. All food served to the clients must be prepared in an inspected, commercial kitchen following very stringent food safety regulations. This is because the Red Cross has learned over the years that a shelter full of people with food poisoning is bad.


5. Quiet time/lights out is from 10am to 6am.


6. Showering is scheduled, you'll have to sign up for a specific time. New arrivals needing to wash off mud or whatever get priority over scheduled showers.


7. No pets are allowed inside the shelter. Service animals, which have been trained to perform specific, physical tasks for the owner are allowed, but "emotional support" animals usually don't qualify as a service animal and won't be allowed in. We'll work with you to find a local animal shelter or pet hotel that can watch your pet while you're in the shelter.


8. Shelter volunteers work 8 and often 16 hour shifts for multiple days so please have some mercy and patience with us. Also, if you see us sleeping on a cot, please don't wake us. Find a volunteer that is awake.


Our goal is to get you out of the shelter in 2-3 days. We'll help you reach out to friends or family outside of the affected zone to see if they'll take you in. In extreme situations we might be able to pay to put you up in a hotel room, but that is generally only something done for those with special needs.


Most hotel rooms within 150 miles of the affected zone will be booked up by insurance companies as soon as they know where the disaster is taking place. These rooms will be for their claims adjusters and for their clients who's homes were rendered unsafe. Also, depending on the type of disaster, many of the hotel rooms will be taken by electrical linemen, tree removal crews, heavy equipment operators, and other people there to help. You may have to travel 150 miles to find a hotel room.


The most important thing is to always have an emergency evacuation bag packed and ready to go (also known as a "go bag"). Recommended items to have in this bag, assuming you're heading to a Red Cross shelter are:

1. Two sets of underwear and socks, 1-2 shirts, 1 pair of pants

2. Phone charging cable and wall power unit

3. Spare medications or at least a print out of the prescription medicines & their doses you take, including eyeglasses prescription

4. Spare set of reading glasses, if used

5. "Sleep kit" consisting of small, foam earplugs, sleep mask to cover eyes, an inflatable pillow, and maybe sleeping pills

6. Printed copy of contact (friends, family, work, your doctor and specialists) phone numbers and email addresses

7. Copies of insurance documents (home, car, etc)

8. Small transistor radio with earpiece to get local news. This saves your phone battery. 

9. Entertainment items such as a book, deck of cards, dominos, etc 

Everything in this bag should be in Ziploc-style bags to keep them dry and organized until needed. 


I'm happy to answer any specific questions you may have...though these answers are not to be construed as official Red Cross statements.



The medicine man at
Community Manager
Community Manager

Thank you for sharing this valuable information @MarkV847771 and also for volunteering and serving your community!

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