Logistics: The Action Behind the Scenes

By: Janice Winston

Red Crossers pore over their training materials at a Logistics Boot Camp session.

The Back Story
Most people become aware of the American Red Cross through its blood drives, made possible by dedicated donors and volunteers. But those campaigns are just one element of the organization’s larger humanitarian mission. In fact, the Red Cross offers a wide range of volunteer opportunities tailored to all talents and passions, and there are lots of ways you can help. If you’re an orderly, systematic type of person who loves to plan things out, give logistics a try. It might become your favorite Red Cross activity.

What does logistics mean for Red Cross projects? It’s a critical aspect of serving a disaster-affected community. Jeff Banks, manager of logistics for the Eastern Pennsylvania region, defines it simply as “the management of the movement of supplies from one point to another.” In other words, it’s all about wrangling the moving parts, and the organizational geeks at the American Red Cross have logistics down to a science. The volunteers behind the scenes form the backbone of this effort.

Jeffrey Banks -Red Cross Logistics Specialist

“Logistics volunteers engage in such activities as transportation, warehouse, supply, procurement, in-kind donations, life safety asset protection, facilities, and disaster services technology,” Banks said. All of those efforts give the organization the ability to prepare, respond, and offer recovery services after any disaster, whether it’s a single-family home fire or a larger response involving a hurricane or wildfire.

The Training
Preparedness is key in any Red Cross response, so on February 1, the region hosted the first of three logistics boot camps organized by Jeff Banks and regional training lead Kate Crowley. Held in Norristown, it was an entire day of education on ordering supplies, obtaining in-kind donations, completing shelter surveys, and more. Banks and Crowley provided the all tools for volunteers to succeed in their chosen activity.

Kate Crowley leads a discussion at the February 1 boot camp.

Good logistics support ensures that everyone has what they need to fulfill their mission in the field. In communities across the country, these ongoing planning efforts help the Red Cross have material resources in the right place and at the right time—critical in a time-sensitive disaster situation. Logistics involves coordination, analysis, and the ability to have the resources named, ordered, and delivered. The boot camp participants received important training from experienced instructors. Volunteer Jayne Cabnet told me she enjoyed the people in the class, gained useful knowledge, and is now interested in working in the supply area.

“Our mission is dependent on courteous, reliable, and trained logistics workers to provide support every day within our organization,”  Banks says. This first boot camp gave volunteers the opportunity to meet, bond, share a common learning environment, and provide input. Some volunteers may end up working together. A truly rewarding experience!

Don’t Miss Out
Upcoming boot camps, to be held February 22 in West Chester and March 7 in Wilkes Barre, will focus on warehouse and transportation endeavors and review some topics covered in the first boot camp. To learn more, reach out to your local chapter. Hope to see you behind the scenes!

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