Red Cross asking for volunteers ahead of hurricane season, urging preparedness in Northeast Florida

The pandemic impacted how organizations, agencies and communities responded to disasters and events. Instead of evacuating to shelters, families had to be evacuated to hotel rooms, making it harder for Red Cross to provide the best care.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hurricane season officially starts Tuesday, June 1st. Forecasters predict it will be an above-average year. There are 17 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 4 are expected to be major hurricanes.

The 2020 season was the most active, and one of the most expensive on record.

Red Cross volunteers fanned out across the country and helped people affected by storms with names like Iota and Eta. Some brought back a new perspective, especially after dealing with the impacts of COVID-19.

The American Red Cross Disaster Relief in Northeast Florida is ready to depart at a moment’s notice. In his 40 years with the organization, Jack Morgan has seen a lot, but 2020 was unlike anything he’d seen before.

“Covid has impacted how organizations, nonprofits, government agencies, communities respond to events,” Morgan said.

While COVID-19 was front and center, the mission never changed. Morgan says the Red Cross had to switch gears from what it always knew, meaning families were evacuated to hotel rooms. He says it presented new challenges.

“When individuals are in hotels, it’s a little bit different trying to gain that support,” Morgan said. “Especially when you’re trying to provide mental health support, first aid health and safety, and spiritual care.”

Now that things are improving with the virus and more people are becoming vaccinated, the Red Cross volunteers are transitioning back to using schools and community centers for evacuations. Morgan says it helps volunteers provide the best care.

For this upcoming hurricane season, Morgan says people need to do the traditional preps. That includes getting your papers together, building your hurricane kit, and having a plan in place to make sure your pets are safe and taken care of. But he also says if Covid taught him anything, it’s knowing your exact health status. Along with that of every person who lives with you. He says this info is crucial when planning for a possible evacuation.

“Are you taking care of your mom or your dad? Or your aunt or your uncle--and do they have a condition?” Morgan said. “Which says, ‘hey, it would be best for them to stay in a non-congregate place such as a hotel?”

With hurricane season starting, Morgan says a great way to help everyone is to become one of the helpers.

“I think people stepped back and having gained that confidence or willingness to come back,” Morgan said. “The need for volunteers is exponential right now.”

The Red Cross and many other disaster response organizations need help with volunteers. To learn how click here:

About the Author:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013. She reports for and anchors The Morning Show.