By Carmela Burke, Red Cross Volunteer                                          

|      He helped save at least 200 lives in Houston.

On Friday, August 25th, as Harvey was approaching the Texas Gulf as a hurricane, the disaster leadership team at the national headquarters of the American Red Cross contacted the Pacific Division seeking to support the Red Cross national call center network.  It seemed the Call Center received an astounding number of calls requesting shelter location information.

The division team reached out to the Red Cross Los Angeles Region at 10 p.m. that night.  “Within 30 minutes, we identified seven people to work from home to become part of the call center network,” according to Scott Underwood, Deputy Regional Disaster Officer for the Los Angeles Region. Using their personal computers and telephones, the volunteers received their call center operator training and their scripts.  Underwood said they were activated for an overnight shift starting 11 p.m. Friday.  Hurricane Harvey made landfall at 10 p.m. hitting the town of Rockport, Texas on Friday, August 25, 2017.

One of those seven individuals is Michael Sproule.  A longtime Los Angeles based Red Cross volunteer and community advocate, Michael is a member of the Los Angeles Region’s Disaster Action Team, active with the Home Fire Campaign, as well as a part of the planning and public affairs teams.

The American Red Cross has handled thousands of calls regarding assistance for Hurricane Harvey.  Michael answered a call late at night from a frantic young man and a group of his neighbors who were stranded at a local library without food or water. Michael stayed calm and took down the caller’s information while asking intelligent questions to be able to determine the best services to provide the caller.  The caller indicated that roughly 200 people were at this library ranging all ages from all walks of life.  Michael took down this information and passed it to the American Red Cross Disaster Cycle Services (DCS) Call Center staff to take action.  The DCS Call Center provided this information to Ground Operations staff.  By morning, the Red Cross opened a shelter at this library and provided food, water, snacks, and a place to sleep.

“Michael has been an incredible asset to the DCS Call Center for Hurricane Harvey,” said Mary Waller, Special Project Associate at the American Red Cross headquarters in Washington D.C. “He has done a great job of taking everything in stride.”

Doing All We Can

The National Weather Service estimates that 6 million Texans have been impacted by 30 inches or more of rainfall. And, preliminary FEMA estimates indicate as many as 67,000 homes in Texas may be damaged.  The Red Cross is doing all that it can while access into many areas is still quite difficult.  The Red Cross is partnering with the U. S. Coast Guard and the Texas National Guard to move supplies and volunteers to where they are needed most.

As a member of the vast network of agencies, the first priority of the Red Cross is keeping people safe while providing shelter, food and a shoulder to lean on. Throughout the night, emergency responders continued to bring rescued families to shelters while more evacuees streamed in on their own. Estimates indicate at least 32,000 people sought refuge in more than 230 Red Cross and partner shelters across Texas Tuesday night, August 29. Three shelters are also open in Louisiana with nearly 40 people.

If You Need Help or Want to Help

You can find shelters by visiting, downloading the free Red Cross Emergency App or calling 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767). The Emergency App is available in app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to

The Red Cross needs financial donations to be able to provide immediate disaster relief. Help people affected by Hurricane Harvey by visiting, calling 1- 800-RED CROSS or texting the word HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

As volunteer or employee in the not-for-profit world, Carmela Burke’s experience has covered a variety of administrative and leadership roles including constituent relations, providing content for traditional and social media, and visiting a school in Uganda for donor reports. Her first Red Cross deployment was in 1992, for Hurricane Iniki, in Kauai, Hawaii. She also helped support the American Red Cross 9/11 recovery efforts, in New York.


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1 Comment

  1. I’m very proud of my younger brother Michael Sproule. His determination to serve other has been one of his top priorities. Well done Michael!

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