American Red Cross Making Client Service Faster, More Efficient

American Red Cross
Wednesday, 7 September 2005

Traditionally, one of the first things a disaster survivor sees at a Red Cross shelter, after a smile, is a registration form. Beginning this week, the smiles remain, but the burden of paperwork is being eased.

The American Red Cross is bringing the power of computers into its shelters to speed the sometimes tedious but essential task of registering shelter residents.

On Sept. 6, a shipment of 400 notebook computers arrived at the giant shelters at the Houston Astrodome and convention center, where trained shelter workers are transferring residents' data into a common database. An additional 400 units are earmarked for San Antonio and hundreds more will go into shelters in several states over the coming weeks.

"We're constantly working with our technology partners to improve our service to disaster victims," said Steve Cooper, chief information officer for the American Red Cross. "We look at every innovation for its ability to help us help people more quickly and more efficiently."

As the Red Cross collects information about each shelter resident, the organization will be able to share that data electronically internally and with other disaster relief agencies. Clients will no longer have to register and re-register each time they turn to the Red Cross, or other organizations, for assistance.

Capturing the information electronically has other advantages: No illegible handwriting, no lost forms, no need to copy or move the paperwork from place to place. The integrated database uses the latest in encryption technology to ensure client information remains secure.

In addition, shelter residents can choose to have their whereabouts posted automatically on the "Family Links Registry" website, operated by the Red Cross, which will help family and friends locate them from anywhere in the world.

Red Cross disaster technology specialists will use whatever communications infrastructure is available at shelter sites and as well as what can be brought in, including mobile "satellite in a box" units, additional land lines and other wireless technologies, to connect shelter terminals to secure centralized data storage.

All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help the victims of this disaster and thousands of other disasters across the country each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to those in need. Call 1-800-HELP NOW or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org.

For more information, or to contact American Red Cross, see their website at: www.redcross.org

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