Red Cross of West Michigan responds to 749 disasters

Published 12:52 pm Tuesday, December 31, 2013

In a year that had deadly tornadoes, fierce wildfires and destructive floods in many states, the American Red Cross of West Michigan responded to 749 disasters in the region and assisted more than 2,200 people between Jan. 1 and Dec. 30 in 2013.  The vast majority of those disasters were home fires.

“This year, the Red Cross continued to serve the people of West Michigan through the dedicated work of its staff and volunteers,” said Sam Tidwell, Regional CEO of the American Red Cross of West Michigan. “2013 was a busy year and we are so very thankful for everyone who supported our efforts to help those in need.”

Here at Home

Most recently, the Red Cross of West Michigan opened 3 shelters in order to provide a safe and warm place to go after severe winter weather left thousands of people without power. About 50 Red Cross volunteers worked around the clock during the holidays to provide this service at no cost to the public.

The flooding in April brought hundreds of Red Cross volunteers together to open 6 shelters in 4 counties including Kent, Ottawa, Ionia, and Newaygo. During this disaster response, volunteers distributed more than 6,700 items to those affected by flooding and served around 1,000 meals and snacks.

Many Red Cross volunteers from West Michigan also assisted with disaster responses across the United States including the Oklahoma tornadoes, Colorado flood and wildfire, and the Indiana tornado in November.

Behind the Numbers: Mobilizing 

Responses for Big Disasters

The Red Cross disaster responses across the country in 2013 included:

• 16,700 workers—many of them volunteers—providing care, comfort and support to those in need.

• 89,000 contacts by specially trained workers with disaster victims who needed mental health support or health services, which is more people than the amount of travelers who pass through Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on an average day.

• 1.8 million meals and snacks, the equivalent of feeding the entire population of Philadelphia lunch in a day.

• 29,000 overnight stays in shelters for people forced from their homes by disasters, enough to fill the largest hotel in New York City for more than two weeks.

• 1 million relief items distributed, including more than 33,700 toothbrushes.

• $74 million to more than 60 nonprofit partners to help people and communities recover from Superstorm Sandy.


In April, flooding struck 10,000 homes in 10 counties in Illinois. More than a thousand Red Cross volunteers provided shelter and food to displaced families and delivered relief supplies to those returning to waterlogged homes. In September, almost a half-year’s worth of rain fell in just three days across several counties in and around Boulder, Colo. Red Crossers responded and served more than 204,000 meals and snacks, handed out more than 249,000 relief items and provided about 15,000 health and mental health contacts. The Red Cross also provided a total of 3,800 shelter stays for people forced from their homes by the flooding.

Tornados and Severe Storms

The largest and most deadly tornado outbreak in 2013 came in Oklahoma in May, when a series of tornadoes ripped through the state, and Red Cross workers were there to comfort the survivors, including the community of Moore, Okla., where two elementary schools were struck by a deadly EF-4 tornado. More than six months later, the Red Cross continues to help residents through long-term recovery centers and other community programs.

In addition, Mississippi was hit particularly hard by severe spring storms for the third year in a row, including a tornado that severely damaged the Red Cross building in Hattiesburg in February. Again in April, the Red Cross was there, opening shelters, providing food and water, and helping survivors recover. In November, dozens of tornadoes cut a path of destruction through the Midwest, damaging more than 1,000 homes and leaving hundreds of thousands without power during a cold snap.


When wildfires threatened communities, the Red Cross offered evacuees a safe place to stay and supported first responders. In total, the Red Cross mobilized more than 2,000 workers to support 10 large wildfire responses in eight states during 2013, such as Colorado, Arizona, California and New Mexico.

Home Fires

It’s not just the high-profile disasters that left thousands of people in need this year. The Red Cross also responded to more than 52,000 home fires across America, helping 226,000 people get back on their feet. For those who have suffered a home fire, the event can be just as devastating as the high profile disasters that get a large amount of national attention. Regardless of the size of the event, the Red Cross responds in the same way—with shelter, food and emotional support.

International Disasters

In 2013, the American Red Cross assisted an estimated 1.3 million people affected by disasters in 24 countries outside of the U.S. These included storms and floods in the Philippines, Argentina, Bangladesh and Nigeria. Red Cross workers continue to respond to the ongoing humanitarian need created by the civil unrest in Syria, as well as needs caused by conflicts in other areas around the world. The Red Cross responded to food insecurity issues in Malawi and Zimbabwe and continued our earthquake recovery work in Haiti that has been ongoing since 2010. Additionally, the Red Cross continued its vital work in reconnecting families separated by conflict and disaster, reconnecting 886 families this year alone.