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American Red Cross: US Public Not Ready for Disaster Situations - 2004-01-28


The head of the American Red Cross is calling on U.S. citizens to prepare for disasters of all kinds, including terrorism. She says the risk of devastating emergency situations continues to rise.

Marsha Evans' greatest concern is the general public's lack of preparation for disasters. "America needs a wake up call because out there, 175 million people are basically asleep at the switch when it comes to their own and their families' safety and security," she stressed.

Ms. Evans, who is president and chief executive officer of the American Red Cross, said the group is the biggest support network for disaster victims and emergency responders in the United States. She noted that, unlike most countries where governments provide humanitarian services, here there is no government safety net if the Red Cross cannot deliver.

With that responsibility comes her drive to help Americans prepare for the worst. Ms. Evans pointed out that the nation faces more disastrous events, such as wildfires, hurricanes and floods.

"With over half the population living in coastal communities, and nearly a third in the top nine metropolitan areas, the risk of catastrophic, mass casualty disasters increases annually, and that's without adding the threat of terrorism," she said.

The head of the American Red Cross went on to say that 80 percent of the preparation is the same for a terrorist attack as it is for any other natural disaster. But most Americans have not done basic planning, such as stocking emergency supplies.

She said her organization is launching a national campaign on disaster preparedness that will bring together the government, research groups, relief agencies and the private sector.

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