What is the Red Cross doing for the victims? This question is asked at disaster sites worldwide. Just stop and think about that for a minute. Worldwide. And consider, a Red Cross volunteer representative must be there to provide an answer. This is essential because when we hear of a disaster we think – what can I do? We experience the human impulse to help others in need. When we learn what the Red Cross is doing to help the victims, we feel comforted. The Red Cross is our proxy when we cannot be there ourselves.
But how do we receive this information? The volunteers at the scene are often too busy meeting the extraordinary needs of victims to speak with those whose job is to share information with the general public. That’s why, in addition to traditional volunteers, the Red Cross needs exceptional people who are willing to communicate with the media and answer that question – What is the Red Cross doing for the victims?
This is such an important role in any disaster response that the American Red Cross conducts trainings for Public Affairs Volunteers so that they are prepared to answer The Question. In the training materials it states,
The mission of Disaster Communications is to ensure that vital relief and recovery information is shared in a timely and accurate manner with both internal and external audiences on a disaster relief operation.
Why is this so important? The public needs to know what is being done so citizens can help the Red Cross by volunteering themselves or sending donations to support our work.
Here’s the tricky part. Disasters happen in the middle of the night. People who do public affairs and communication in the middle of the night require special skills. In a state of shock, concern and interrupted sleep, they must maintain a professional demeanor, be articulate, answer questions with complete knowledge of the facts and convey confidence in Red Cross activities. These volunteers play other vital roles like protecting victims from media intrusion, or brokering interviews with victims or volunteers when appropriate. Discretion is the key.
For anyone interested in acquiring experience in public relations, being an on-call 6pm to 6am public affairs volunteer for the Red Cross is a fantastic opportunity to gain diplomacy skills, get to know local media persons, and develop communication expertise while providing a crucial service. We are always looking for new faces to add to our on-call team. Please consider giving it a try. Encourage a friend.
Think, the next time you hear the words, “The Red Cross is on the scene providing food and shelter to the those whose homes where destroyed.” That’s what the Red Cross is doing for the victims. What are you doing for the Red Cross?