American Red Cross sends out volunteers ahead of Hurricane Dorian


EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – Hurricane Dorian is lingering over the Bahamas, causing widespread destruction.

The storm is barely moving as it battered the islands, and heads toward the U.S.

Hurricane Dorian has been lashing the same areas over and over again since Sunday.

Countless homes in the Bahamas are destroyed, roads are flooded, and many people lost everything.

Government officials say based on the damage and the data that’s coming in the death toll is likely to rise.

And now Dorian is churning toward Florida, and even without direct landfall, it will still cause damage and problems for potentially millions.


Shelley Kirk: Joining me now to talk about this is Theo Boots, the Executive Director of the Red Cross of Southwestern Indiana. Thank you so much for joining me to talk about this. I know one volunteer, we covered it yesterday, one of several from our area left yesterday in one of the emergency response vehicles headed toward the S.E. Tell us about that. How many others are going as well?

Theo Boots: Well, two yesterday left with the emergency response vehicle. We have deployed over 110 emergency response vehicles from around the nation to assist. He’s in Montgomery, AL, which is a staging area, awaiting further orders. But they think they’ll be leaving sometime in the morning and before I came here, they didn’t know where they were going yet. We got them closer to where they needed to be.

Shelley Kirk: So, they can get there quicker?

Theo Boots: So, they can get there quicker, sure.

Shelley Kirk: Now, what will they be doing?

Theo Boots: Well, we are sheltering, so last night we had over 12,000 individuals in Red Cross community partners shelters. We’re anticipating we’ll need to house around 60,000 who are forced to evacuate. So, we’ve sent over 110 semi loads of cots and blankets and food and water, etc.… and then our emergency response vehicles. So, immediately we’re taking care of the immediate needs of those people. After the storm hits, we will work with them on recovery efforts, but right now we’re making sure those are evacuated who don’t have a place to stay – they have a place to stay.

Shelley Kirk: How long do you expect our local folks to be down there volunteering?

Theo Boots: When they sign up to deploy, they sign up for a minimum of two weeks. If they’re not needed, they’ll most definitely come home. But if they’re needed, they have signed up for at least two weeks.

Shelley Kirk: And Dorian is a strange storm, in that it’s turning now and it’s slowing down, but it’s still big and now it’s going to skirt the east coast – potentially impacting the entire east coast up into Canada. Does that pose an extra set of problems? How do you react to that?

Theo Boots: Well, we prepare for the worst and hope for the best. And right now, we’re sending our folks, we sent our folks to the Florida area and they were there by Saturday because of what was happening and now we’re sending a lot of the folks to the Carolinas. As I said earlier, we have 1,900 trained red crossers there to assist.

Shelley Kirk: Wow. And when you say we, you’re talking about Red Cross across the country?

Theo Boots: Yes, nationwide. Locally, in Indiana, we’ve deployed 19 red crossers and from the southwest area we’ve deployed 6. And on standby. Many people are on standby.

Shelley Kirk: Now, do you have everything you need? In situations like this, you do usually need extra help in helping all these other people.

Theo Boots: What we need right now is we need to send trained disaster folks, but we always need local volunteers because those folks help us out locally. So, if you’re interested right now is a great time to call to see what you can do for the Red Cross. We have different volunteer opportunities; we can find a role for you. And if you do want to deploy sometime, you could train now and be ready to go. But locally, we’re assisting in home fires every day in Indiana.

Shelley Kirk: So, it’s not just these big hurricane events?

Theo Boots: That’s correct.

Shelley Kirk: Every day you have issues.

Theo Boots: Every day. And we have blood drives and programs and services for armed forces so, there’s a lot of Red Cross programs to assist with.

Shelley Kirk: How long does training take? And a lot of retirees do this because it does take a chunk of time, right?

Theo Boots: We have volunteers of all ages so; it just depends on the volunteer’s duty. Those who deploy, either need to have a job that will let them get off for two weeks or retired. We do have some companies that do allow their individuals to leave for two weeks.

Shelley Kirk: How long does the training take then?

Theo Boots: It depends on the position. Some of it’s online and then in person. Each position is a little different on the level of training.

Shelley Kirk: For folks at home, it might not be a wise idea to send a box of items to the Florida area, how can they help you right now to respond to this?

Theo Boots: We’re dealing with such mass quantities so; we don’t really have the resources to sort and clean and then transport. Sometimes it cost more money to transport – we’re dealing with bulk quantities that need to be on pallets shrink wrapped in trucks. So, the best thing really is to donate financially. And you can donate 1-800-REDCROSS or or text the word “Dorian” to 90999. Some people may have lost their medication, or their glasses and so really financial dollars help the fastest and to what is needed.

Shelley Kirk: So, any amount will help.

Theo Boots: We’ve had to cancel blood drives – about 2 dozen blood drives in the affected area – so, we’re really needing blood. We’re already in a shortage anyway so, our office on Stockwell off the Lloyd, is open every day except Thursdays and Sundays. But you can still go to and find your local blood drive and donate blood as well – much needed.

Shelley Kirk: Thank you, Theo Boots with the American Red Cross for talking to us about all this.

Theo Boots: Thank you!

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(This story was originally published on September 3, 2019)

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