Finding relatives in disaster area difficult

Red Cross volunteers and staff in north Colorado have mobilized to support the American Red Cross' massive response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Texas and Alabama by dispatching volunteers and raising funds.

The Centennial Chapter, which serves all of north Colorado and portions of southeastern Colorado is reaching out to every trained Red Cross volunteer eligible to work on a national disaster.

"At this point, we are mobilizing the people who have gone through significant Red Cross training for just this situation," said Jason Godinez, response director. "We have more than 40 volunteers with exceptional skills, and they'll be the members who will help if available."

As of Monday at noon, nine volunteers from Meeker, Craig, Greeley, Pueblo, Fort Collins and Evans have agreed to respond.

The chapter's emergency response vehicle has been deployed to the Little Rock, Ark., staging area. Untrained volunteers will not be needed at this time, Godinez added, but he encouraged those who would like to help in disasters to contact the chapter at (800) 824-6615 to begin training.

Next to trained disaster responders, the organization most needs cash to provide the emergency supplies and recovery tools that the thousands of affected persons will need. Cost to the American Red Cross has not been estimated, except that it will likely exceed tens of millions of dollars.

Locating relatives who have been evacuated from their homes in a disaster can be frustrating. The American Red Cross Centennial Chapter recommends the following techniques:

Place calls during off-peak hours, after 10 p.m. and throughout the night, when phone calls are more likely to get through. Phone service can be spotty and intermittent, depending on the volume of calls into the disaster area.

Try sending an e-mail to the sought person. He or she may have evacuated to an area where e-mail can be accessed.

Think of other friends or relatives whom the sought person may have contacted first and call or e-mail them.

Monitor the news media for information about the restoration of phone lines.

Send a letter to the sought person, enclosing a self-addressed, stamped envelope to be returned to the caller. Even if they have evacuated and are staying somewhere else, they will usually pick up or get their mail forwarded. If they evacuated, the sought person may not have brought the phone numbers of families and friends with them.

If the person being sought is a relative with a serious medical condition, and has had any contact with the American Red Cross through its shelters or disaster relief efforts, the Centennial Chapter can help. Call 800-824-6615.

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