Tips for Emotional Support and Health

December 4, 2012

Story by Lilly Watson, photo by Nikki Baxendale

Spiritual Care-Photo

NEW YORK, N.Y. – While many services provided to disaster survivors may vary depending upon the type and size of the disaster, there is one type of service the Red Cross always brings to those in crisis: emotional support.

Since the days after Hurricane Sandy made landfall on October 29, Red Cross Spiritual Care Teams have provided the Spiritual Care Services of presence, words of comfort, hope and prayer to people affected by the disaster. Red Cross clients and the family of loved ones who have faced profound loss, sometimes including the death or a spouse or loved one, can open up to Spiritual Care Team members about how this trauma has affected them and their spirituality.

Team members are ordained, licensed or commissioned by a religious authority to function in the specialized ministry of care or equivalent chaplaincy training.

Matthew Cobb, a Red Cross Spiritual Team member on the Hurricane Sandy operation in New York from Manhattan, Kansas, believed that his specialized training helps him understand religious backgrounds and cultural sensitivities, but he sometimes cannot reach everyone straight away. Here are six steps that all people can take to provide emotional support to people feeling loss and desperation:

1. Check the person’s breathing. Encouraging deep breaths can reduce anxiety and panic and allows survivors to begin getting in touch with their emotions. “When you’re connected to your breath, you can get in touch with your true emotions and begin getting it out through expression,” Cobb said.

2. Make sure the person is drinking plenty of water. Even if a storm survivor says he or she is not thirsty, chemicals in the brain are released during times of acute stress and anxiety that make people thirsty or dehydrated. The pause required to take a sip of water can lower the breath and help a person in an emotional state begin to refocus.

3. Pass the tissues. “Offering tissues to someone in distress lets them know that you recognize something is broken and that the expression of that is natural,” Cobb said.

4. Hugging and contact allows a shocked and grieving person to feel they can collapse. By being close to someone physically, his or her breath can begin to move from shallow and anxious to be on pace with the steady and deep breaths of the person of support.

5. Be accepting of thanks. “When someone in anguish thanks you for being there, you can know that appreciation means that he or she is moving out of imminent emotional distress,” Cobb said. Receiving these thanks fully and graciously lets the victim feel reciprocal of your service.

6. Look for early signs of acceptance. “When someone asks you to keep them in your thoughts or prayers, it signals that they are aware that this is a tough situation,” Cobb said. “While it will be hard, he or she is recognizing that there will be an end with your emotional support.”

While emotional support is Cobb and other members of the Spiritual Care Team’s specialty, many Red Cross workers bring this type of relief to everyone they serve. While Spiritual Team Members are trained to know the right words to say to people facing severe loss, the presence of a Red Cross worker can often be a sign of support to those trying to move on after a disaster.

“Just being there is so important, even before you say something,” Cobb said.

Press Release: American Red Cross Responds to Flooding in Humphreys County

July 12, 2012

July 12th, 2012- Belzoni, MS – The Northwest Mississippi Chapter of the American Red Cross is responding to flooding in the Delta area. Eighty people are displaced and twenty homes are affected. Disaster Action Team members are currently accessing the damage. “We will continue to monitor the rainfall and begin assisting the families with immediate needs.” said Jo Gibbons, Readiness and Response Manager.

All Red Cross disaster assistance is free and made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help the victims of disaster events in Mississippi and thousands of other disasters across the country each year by making a financial gift to American Red Cross Mississippi Region Disaster Relief which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to those in need. To make contributions, call 800-RED-CROSS or donate online at

Press Release: Red Cross Assistance Continues Following Montana Fires

July 11, 2012

Great Falls, MT (July 11, 2012) – With containment declared for the Ash Creek Complex fire in Southeastern Montana, the American Red Cross has closed its remaining shelters, but remains committed to assisting the community though the recovery phase.

Over the next few days, Red Cross workers will continue to canvas areas impacted by the recent fires, meet with those who have been affected and help create recovery plans.

Those who need fire-related assistance should call (800) 272-6668 and ask to speak with the duty officer.

“This is a critical time for the Montanans who have been touched by these fires, but our staff and volunteers are here to help” said Rod Kopp, CEO of the American Red Cross of Montana.  “No one has to experience this disaster alone.”

Since the fires began in late June, the Red Cross has (as of July 9):

  • Opened 11 shelters around Montana
  • Provided nearly 500 overnight stays to evacuees
  • Served more than 14,000 meals and snacks local residents and firefighters
  • Distributed more than 1,500 relief items including hygiene kits and cleaning supplies, such as rakes, and work gloves.
  • Deployed nine emergency response vehicles to assist with mobile feeding, disaster assessment and information.

Those who wish to help support American Red Cross Disaster Relief in Montana and around the world can do so by visiting, calling (800) 272-6668 or mailing a check to the American Red Cross of Montana, 1300 28th Street South, Great Falls, MT  59405.

If you have items like clothing or furniture to donate, consider instead donating your goods to a charity thrift store that is equipped to clean and store the items; often, the Red Cross works with charity partners in the community to connect disaster-affected residents with these resources. Although your generosity is appreciated, Red Cross is asking everyone to not bring unsolicited goods to shelters.

Press Release: American Red Cross Continual Assistance

July 10, 2012

American Red Cross Continual Assistance

Lake City, Florida July 9, 2012- The American Red Cross continues to support the community by providing safe shelter and food to those affected by flooding left behind by Tropical Storm Debby. In the shelters, Red Cross client caseworkers are identifying client needs while disaster mental health and health services nurses provided counseling as required. Additionally the caseworkers are providing referrals for assistance to partner agencies. While in shelters the Red Cross assists them in engaging federal assistance through FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC) or calling FEMA at 1-800-621-3362. The FEMA website is

As shelter populations decline and client emergency needs are met, the Red Cross either consolidates or closes facilities. Often times these community members return to the life style in which they engaged before disaster forced them to seek shelter. During the long term recovery of the communities affected by Tropical Storm Debby, the Red Cross will remain active assisting affected members of the community and collaborating with our community partners to assist in long term recovery.

American Red Cross shelters close when the immediate needs of our clients have been met. The Red Cross and our partners are present to be involved with the client’s long term recovery assistance planning.

Throughout the Tropical Storm Debby disaster relief the American Red Cross has provided safe shelters for 1186 residents with 44 remaining in shelters as of July 8th, 2012. Residents have received 16,279 meals and 62,801 snacks, 3076 cleanup kits, and 11,726 comfort kits.


HOW PEOPLE CAN HELP Help people affected by disasters like the recent tropical storm, by donating to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.  On those rare occasions when donations exceed Red Cross expenses for a specific disaster, contributions are used to prepare for and serve victims of other disasters. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for disasters and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance to victims of all disasters. Call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish) or text 90999 for a $10.00 donation. Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting


HOW TO FIND RED CROSS SHELTERS People who have been forced to evacuate can find out where Red Cross shelters are open by going to or accessing the free Red Cross phone app. Both are refreshed with updated information every 30 minutes. Residents can also monitor local media—radio, newspaper and television—to find out where local shelters are located.


REGISTER ON SAFE AND WELL The Red Cross Safe and Well website is also available. People affected by the fires and flooding can access the site and let loved ones know where they are. There are several ways to register on Safe and Well, or search for a loved one. From a computer, visit; from a smart phone, visit or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to be connected with one’s local Red Cross chapter.


Press Release: Red Cross Provides Comfort and Shelter from the Storm as Hurricane Earl Moves Up the Atlantic Coast

September 4, 2010

WASHINGTON, September 4, 2010 – The American Red Cross has provided help and shelter from North Carolina to New England as Hurricane Earl and its winds and rain moved up the Atlantic Coast.

Friday night, twelve Red Cross shelters in New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island gave nearly 100 people a safe place to ride out the storm as Earl moved past Cape Cod with strong winds and heavy rain. Thursday night, a dozen Red Cross shelters in North Carolina gave more than 260 people comfort as the storm passed through that area.

The Red Cross deployed 500 trained disaster workers and 62 emergency response vehicles to North Carolina, New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island to be ready for Hurricane Earl, and had additional vehicles, staff and supplies on standby.

“The Red Cross provided shelter and comfort to people as Hurricane Earl moved up the coast,” said Joe Becker, senior vice president, Red Cross Disaster Services. “Just as we ask each of you to be ready for disasters, the Red Cross practices preparedness by having trained workers and supplies in position before hurricanes come ashore so we can be ready to help as soon as the danger passes. This time much of the East Coast was spared a direct hit by a powerful hurricane, but we’re going to take the steps necessary to be ready when severe weather threatens.”

According to area officials, Earl weakened to a tropical storm and had little impact on Cape Cod and the surrounding areas, causing no major damage and few power outages. The storm is now headed towards Canada, and is expected to weaken further.

The Red Cross worked closely with various state, county and local government officials along the Atlantic coast on emergency planning for the storm in states such as North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

While it has moved away, Earl is expected to continue to cause powerful rip currents that are likely to be seen along the Atlantic Coast throughout the Labor Day weekend. The Red Cross advises anyone visiting the shore areas to swim only on lifeguard protected beaches and within designated swimming areas.

To make a financial donation to the Red Cross to help people affected by this storm and other disasters here in the United States and around the world, people can click, call or text – visit, call 1-800-RED CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. The storm may also impact blood collections in the affected areas. To find out how you can be a blood donor, visit

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation’s blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; 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 mission. For more information, please visit or join our blog at

Disaster Alert: Home Fire in Washington

August 27, 2010

Disaster Alert

Washington — The Mt. Baker Chapter of the American Red Cross responded a fire in Blaine on Aug 24 that destroyed a family home. Red Cross volunteers provided support and assistance to the family.

Disaster Alert: Wildfire in Washington

August 27, 2010

Disaster Alert

Washington – Fast moving wildfires in several portions of the state destroyed homes, burned hundreds of acres and caused the evacuation of residents in Ferry, Stevens and Klickitat Counties on Thursday.

The Inland Northwest Chapter deployed Disaster Action Team (DAT), dispatched two Emergency Response Vehicles, opened two shelters and provided Mass Care to the evacuees. The Southwest Washington Chapter deployed DAT, opened a shelter for residents in the affected area and staffed the County EOC.


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