Research shows that a
building that withstood Hurricane Celia (1970 storm landfall Corpus
Christ) a category 3 Hurricane, is not guaranteed to be a safe shelter in
a hurricane like Hugo (1989 storm landfall in Carolinas) or Andrew (1992
storm landfall in Florida), both of which were category 4 Hurricanes.
The American Red Cross guidelines prohibit
placing shelters in dangerous areas. We are not supporting people who
remain in hurricane evacuation zones or areas vulnerable to storm surge.
"Our priority is saving lives,"
said Disaster Services Vice President John Clizbe. "To ensure the
safety of our relief workers and the families they serve, the Red Cross
does not establish shelters in areas that are in imminent danger of
hurricane-caused damage or destruction," he added. In addition, the
Red Cross does not establish shelters in evacuations zones. "If we
put the Red Cross symbol on a shelter, people trust it will be reasonably
safe. It is simply not safe to establish shelters in an area where people
have been advised to leave by the authorities," noted Clizbe.
Similarly, potential shelter sites that have structural shortcomings and
poor road access will not be staffed or supplied by the Red Cross. People
have an expectation of safety in Red Cross shelters, and the organization
will not expose hurricane victims to continued danger by directing them to
shelters of dubious safety or construction.
- In accordance with our mission, the
primary concern of the American Red Cross in preserving lives threatened
by hurricanes. This means that we cannot knowingly locate either
evacuees or paid and volunteer staff in unsafe shelters.
- Hurricane intensities are uncertain and
justify the use of worst-case scenario planning for hurricane
- Given the difficulties of evacuation,
people should use good judgement and those in evacuation zones or in
unsafe structures should not wait for mandatory evacuation orders to be
issued. Event though they might well evacuate when weaker storms strike
or even miss, the cost of evacuating in these cases is far less than
that of losing lives of loved ones when stronger storms do strike.
- Our shelter criteria are built upon the
best scientific and historical information. Red Cross Guidelines for
Hurricane Evacuation Shelter Selection explain hurricane shelter
criteria to be applied as hurricanes threaten, approach landfall and
come ashore at hurricane strength. These guidelines do not apply to
shelters used after hurricane conditions have passed or for other
- Red Cross chapters in at-risk states are
working together and with state and local emergency management agencies
to assure the residents of those states that in the event of hurricane
evacuations, reasonably safe shelters will be available for everyone in
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON SHELTERING
Question: Why is the Red Cross no longer
sheltering during a hurricane evacuation?
Red Cross will open shelters in safe locations (outside of evacuation
zones and Category IV storm surge areas) before and during hurricanes
and will, if possible open shelters in affected areas after the storm has
The Red Cross has never stopped sheltering
during a hurricane evacuation. Plans call for many shelters to open before
hurricane landfall. However, we are concerned with preserving lives and
must do all we can to ensure that we are not unnecessarily placing
hurricane evacuees at risk by our evacuation shelter selection process or
agreements. We have developed a position on hurricane evacuation
sheltering that discusses acceptable and unacceptable risk and provides
guidelines that we will use to open a Red Cross shelter. The Red Cross
position is based on the best scientific and historical information
Question: Are there some situations in
which shelters can be opened in category 1 or 2 surge areas?
it is the position of the Red Cross that shelters should not be opened
in any Category I and II surge areas. It is known, for example, that
most deaths do not occur as a result of hurricane winds but as a result
of hurricane-related flooding and storm surges. Science and hurricane
history strongly support planning evacuation and sheltering for worst
Due to changes in hurricane tracks,
intensity and landfall, scientists cannot accurately predict hurricane
intensity or landfall.
In recent history, both Hurricane Andrew
in 1992 and Hurricane Opal in 1994 rapidly intensified without warning.
Question: What are you going to do about
the areas where it is absolutely impossible to evacuate the number of
those who need to be evacuated?
general safety of the public is the responsibility of local government,
and as such, they must determine how best to advise residents about the
risk they face, when to evacuate, how long it will take, etc. The Red
Cross works closely with state and local emergency management agencies
to support the needs of these communities to the greatest extent
The Red Cross will not compromise its
standards of safety in order to meet demands to provide shelter to
evacuees in unsafe facilities. The Red Cross also believes that opening
shelters in a high-risk area communicates a dangerously false sense of
security to those who might be tempted to delay evacuation or to stay in
an evacuation area. The Red Cross will support local emergency
management by participating in shelter selection and by providing
community education on what to do to be ready for a hurricane.
Question: Will the Red Cross be using a
"refuge of last resort" system?
the Red Cross does not operate refuges of last resort. Our goal is to
operate shelters that will survive storms and protect the lives of those
inhabiting them. After the storm has passed, we will staff shelters in
the areas where shelters are most needed, including the risk areas.
(A "refuge of last resort"
typically is a "last-ditch" option for people who have been
unable, through choice or circumstance, to evacuate the risk area before
the onset of storm conditions. These facilities provide a place for
people to seek protection from the elements, but they are not shelters.
Usually they do not provide food, drink or sleeping accommodations.)
Question: What can I expect the Red Cross
to do this hurricane season?
can expect the Red Cross to do this year what we've done for the past
119 years-to protect and save lives of individuals and families in
hurricane prone areas. Red Cross disaster response has not changed. We
will continue to provide sheltering, feeding and emergency assistance to
those affected by hurricanes. The Red Cross will continue to work
closely with local and state emergency management to identify and open
safe shelters that complement government emergency management plans to
protect the lives and property of citizens as a hurricane approaches.
After landfall, one can expect the Red Cross to quickly be onsite
providing sheltering, feeding and emergency assistance to hurricane
Question: What about elderly people and
those with disabilities?
Any disaster presents special challenges for elderly people and
individuals with disabilities. It is the responsibility of local and
state management to make sure evacuation plans are established for the
evacuation of these individuals. While the Red Cross does not open
"Special needs" shelters per se, all shelters are open and
accessible to everyone, including those with specific needs. If the
American Red Cross Disaster Health Services determines that an
individual cannot be cared for properly in the Red Cross shelter
environment, other arrangements will be made for the needs of that
individual. Such arrangements include being sent to an appropriate
health care facility or to a municipal or state designated and managed
"special needs" facility.
Question: What about people with beloved
Red Cross Disaster Services has a long-standing practice of making
special arrangements to accommodate persons who seek shelter in Red
Cross disaster or evacuation shelters accompanied by a service animalódefined
as a guide dog, signal dog or any other animal individually trained to
provide assistance to an individual with a disability. For many reasons,
including public health concerns, the Red Cross has not allowed other
animals in its disaster or evacuation shelters nor assumed
responsibility for providing alternative arrangements for them. The Red
Cross recognizes and appreciates the importance of pets to their owners
and the sense of responsibility that pet owners feel toward their pets,
especially in times of disaster. At all times, including times of
disaster, primary responsibility for the care of pets rests with their
owners, supported by animal care professionals and by public and private
animal-care organizations in the local community.
In addition to community-based
organizations, there are national organizations--like the National
Humane Society--that can be valuable resources to owners and communities
in planning for pet care during disasters. Under a statement of
understanding between the Red Cross and the National Humane Society, Red
Cross chapters refer disaster-caused animal care needs to the local
Humane organization. Using these resources, responsible owners should
plan for the safety and care of their animals during such events.