As I write to you today, we have a major Category 3 hurricane headed to the Hawaiian Islands. While the storm is expected to lose strength, it is still projected to hit the islands as a strong tropical storm or possibly a Category 1 hurricane. Current tracking has it passing between the Big Island and Maui, but all of our Hawaiian Islands must be prepared.
This is where the amazing work Maria Lutz, Jaylene Chee and their team have put in during the past few months is evident – they were on top of the Seasonal Readiness Campaign and they have their volunteers ready as well as a healthy training queue of shelter workers for the island. And they have already started working on recruiting volunteers in their media coverage. Check out this great interview with both Maria Lutz and regional executive Diane Peters-Nguyen.
Welcome to the Red Cross, Diane – a hurricane is part of our official onboarding process for the Pacific Islands.
We are also benefitting from the hard work that has been done on the ground on all of the islands, talking with emergency managers and making sure we are all on the same page for congregate sheltering. A reminder, the Hawaii State Department of Education manages their evacuation shelters with Red Cross support. Evacuation shelters will have 60 feet per person, in alignment with our COVID-19 guidance. Post-storm, the Red Cross normally takes over sheltering and Maria and her team have a plan for that.
We have strong leadership in the Pacific Division, so we have identified a group of Pacific Islanders to run the response, with backup from our volunteers and staff across the Pacific Division. This is the first real test of our COVID-19 guidance, made especially tough in a state with restrictions for incoming workers. We will not be flying anyone in from the contiguous United States, which would require a COVID-19 test and possibly quarantine, but we will be supporting remotely via the Microsoft Teams platform. Even so, we are requiring that everyone who supports the Hawaii response have the four requirements for Seasonal Readiness.
The storm is expected to make impact Saturday night or Sunday.
Everything is so much more complicated in the new, COVID-19 environment. From people being able to buy food, to how we run shelters, it’s harder than ever to be prepared for a storm like this. But we have put in the hard work and the training here in the Pacific Division. We will meet this challenge and support those who need the Red Cross. I am super proud of our team and I will keep you informed as this storm plays out.
Division Disaster Executive – Pacific Division