Red Cross positioning for the future as services, needs grow

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Outside the Red Cross office in Sequim, WA

By Mark Walker

Photos by Don Zanon

As demand for services grows, the American Red Cross is studying how to best serve millions of people residing throughout the Northwest.

The effort includes best practices for managing disaster and emergency services, and where supplies, offices and other facilities are located.

“We’re re-examining the way we stockpile disaster supplies, where they’re located and how to best insure those materials are reliably held,” said Chris Von Seele, Northwest Region Chief Operating Officer.

“We want to make sure that we are able to hit the ground running in the event of a disaster or need for our services.”

The recently launched initiative includes a comprehensive survey of hundreds of storage sites holding a wide array of supplies. Many of those facilities are decades-old, and the Red Cross is looking at whether their addresses make sense in today’s world.

“We want the ability to have a uniform response. To quickly put resources and assets into service and avoid the additional time it takes to sort through logistical issues,” Von Seele said.

Among the region’s more than 2,000 volunteers, those in the 101-year-old Clallam County chapter are leaning into the effort as the first in the region to see some changes, he said.

“Disaster Services is looking at how we can improve delivery nationwide,” Von Seele said.

In this region, the examination includes possible office relocations, restaging supplies and fewer fixed facilities.

Leigh Kamasz, Red Cross executive director for the Olympic Peninsula and Kitsap County chapter and its more than 150 Disaster Services volunteers, sees the effort as also improving relations with community partners and more logical distribution of materials.

In the end, Von Seele said the community will be enhanced as the Red Cross repositions to meet modern-day demands.

“We’re a 140-year-old organization and we’re are at a crossroads in preparing ourselves and our services for the decades to come,” he said.

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