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11 Ways Wearable Technology Can Do Good in Disasters

Post by Abi Weaver, director of the Global Technology Project

Every so often, we have to pay homage to a good old-fashioned Buzzfeed-esque “top 10” list. Or, in this case, 11. Today, we count down the many ways wearable technology can do good in disasters.

Wearable technologyAnd by wearable technology we mean mini computers and sensors embedded in your watches,  jewelry, clothing, shoes, backpacks, headwear, eyewear, prosthetics and medical implants, temporary tattoos, body cameras and basically just about everything else that attaches to your body, leverages your mobility and can be operated hands free. If this list isn’t long enough, TechCrunch has shared an entire periodic table dedicated to wearable technology.

The American Red Cross began exploring wearable technology applications back in 2014 along with other emerging technologies like 3D printing, drones and robots. We’ve been actively connecting with entrepreneurs and other tech savvy groups developing software and hardware solutions that can support people’s future disaster-related needs. Here are 11 of our favorites.

Full descriptions of each idea are available at www.tech4resilience.org.

Preparedness applications for wearable technology

1. Early warning of threats and hazards
2. Simulating disaster scenarios
3. Controlling other electronics, such as remotely shutting off gas lines

Response applications for wearable technology

4. Navigating through an evacuation
5. Searching and rescuing
6. Reconnecting separated families
7. Assisting the disabled with emergency messages

Recovery applications for wearable technology

8. Tracking lost pets
9. Diagnosing and treating illnesses and injuries
10. Translating conversations and signs
11. Charging and connecting your other devices

There you have it – 11 of our favorite ideas for applying wearable technology in disaster situations.

Take the challenge

Want to get in on the wearable technology trend and do good in the process? Take up our challenge and help the Red Cross develop these ideas further. Start by joining the Wearables for Good competition sponsored by UNICEF, frog and ARM. We’ve supplied them with some of these potential applications to help inspire the competitors and will advise the finalists as they build out the most promising concepts.

Image credit RIT.edu.

Meaningful Tweets

As the Red Cross social team, we feel so lucky to see all your heartfelt, personal and sometimes downright funny tweets from behind the scenes. We thought we’d bring some of our favorites to light and share some “meaningful tweets” that we’ve seen over the years.

Stay tuned for more special meaningful tweets in the months to come!

Free and Easy Father’s Day Gift Ideas

If Father’s Day snuck up on you this year, or you’re looking to save some cash, we’ve rounded up our top free and fairly easy ideas for Father’s Day, 2015.


  • Download our apps for his phone to stay safe and connected. Steal his phone (temporarily!) to help him access a wealth of information. Download our First Aid app for all his injury and emergency needs, from burns and cuts to helping someone who is unconscious. Next, download the Red Cross Emergency App, with tons of info about preparing for and recovering from severe weather, including alerts so he knows when danger is heading his way. Check out the rest of our apps on redcross.org.
  • Donate blood in his name. You can help save up to three lives when you donate one pint of blood through the American Red Cross. Head to our  SleevesUp page to set up your donation (and even get others involved!) in honor of your dad. Blood donors are especially needed over the summer – when donations typically decline – to help maintain the blood supply and prevent a shortage. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in most states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood.
  • Take fire safety off his task list (for now). Dad probably has a lot to do around the house, so why not help out? Forget coupons for doing dishes! Try testing all the smoke alarms in your home, changing batteries if needed and mapping out a fire escape plan so your bases are covered. Tuck a checklist with everything you did into his card, then lead your family through your 2 minute fire escape drill.
  • Volunteer together. Does your dad like experiences more than gifts? Find and set up volunteer opportunities through your local Red Cross chapter for some quality time together, and to lend a hand in your community. Volunteers constitute about 90 percent of the Red Cross workforce, and there are plenty of ways to help out.
  • Take care of dinner with Red Cross cooking safety tips. Prove to dad you can whip up a yummy meal AND not start a fire! Consult our cooking safety tips, and wow your dad with your culinary and safety prowess.


On a related note, check out these touching stories from new dads, shared with the Red Cross.

One Red Cross blood donor shares the reason he donates blood:

“27 years ago my youngest son, Henry was born. Ten weeks early and only three pounds at birth, Henry had a very rough time and was incubation for 13 days (his weight dropped down to 1.5 pounds). He needed blood and I went to the Red Cross and started giving blood on the day of his birth. I have been giving blood for quite some time now. […] By the way young Henry is a strapping healthy young man who has overcome a lot of challenges due to his premature birth but has a college degree in Geology. Thanks to the American Red Cross for all they do with blood donations, help with disasters, and the help to the military!”

We’ve even helped bring new dads home for their child’s birth:


Father’s Day is Sunday, June 21. Grow your AmazonSmile donation potential by encouraging your supporters to shop at http://smile.amazon.com/ch/53-0196605 in support of American Red Cross.

Texas Flooding Recovery: Stories from Red Cross Volunteers

Content in the “Overcoming Challenges to Deliver a Hot Meal and a Smile” section written by Michele Maki, American Red Cross, Central & South Texas Region 

The American Red Cross has been busy the past few weeks helping residents of Texas and surrounding states recover from severe weather, including flooding that hit many communities. Red Cross volunteers helped in many ways, including supporting shelters, distributing food and water and keeping affected residents informed.

Red Cross Shelter Residents Stay Upbeat

Trent Winston, a Red Cross volunteer from Tennessee, found a friend in a highly energetic 4-year-old girl named Genesis. Genesis and her mother, Columbria, are currently residing at a Red Cross shelter in the Houston area. The recent flooding in the Houston area totally destroyed the family’s house, which was home for three adults and seven children. Despite the circumstances, Winston says Genesis is happy to spend hours playing games on his cell phone, dancing and staying on the move around the shelter.


Food, Information and a Listening Ear

Xiaodi Lin and her husband, Rob Raphael, were surprised and delighted when a Red Cross mobile feeding vehicle stopped and volunteer Shoba Brown offered water and lunch. Lin and Raphael were hard at work carting out ruined drywall, furniture and other household goods that were ruined by 25 inches of water in their home brought by the Houston floods.

“They came at just the right time,” said Rob. “We were getting really frustrated with all the work. The food and the information they provided were great, but the best was just having people here to share our story.”


Overcoming Challenges to Deliver a Hot Meal and a Smile


Close your eyes and imagine for a moment you have survived a terrifying flood that tore through your home in the middle of the night. Now the flood waters have receded and the process of recovery begins. Drywall, appliances, floors, carpet, furniture – it all must be torn out and thrown away. There is humidity and mold. There are continuing severe storm outbreaks that bring more rain. This nightmare never seems to end. And, to make matters worse, your home has been cut off from your town and neighbors by a collapsed bridge.

In the photo to the right, Marcus Diaz takes Red Cross supplies by boat back to his isolated community near Houston hit hard by recent flooding.

Elsewhere, a Red Cross volunteer faces a similar challenge. She has not been able to get her mobile feeding vehicle across the river to reach folks cut off by this disaster. “There are areas we haven’t been able to reach yet and it weighs heavily on all our minds,” said Mary Brown, a volunteer from Tucson, Arizona.

A little reassurance comes from the local sheriff who advises Brown and her response team that the road is now open for emergency vehicles such as hers and local residents who are trying to recover. Brown is assured that it is now safe to cross.

carying-in-mealsDamaged homes can be seen here and there from these narrow country roads and now the challenge reaching everyone. Where homes are clustered together, lots of volunteers and clean-up crews can be seen; the team stops and feeds everyone who is hungry. But how can teams reach other scattered homes in opposite directions? A plan is devised and the team splits up and hand-carries meals in, walking down the narrow road. Even the Red Cross photographer who has been following the team pitches in. With this kind of teamwork, the mission is completed.

“Sometimes we have to think outside the box to make it happen,” Brown explains. “These dirt roads are so narrow and overgrown with trees, that getting our feeding truck in safely would be near impossible. But we got it done! I’m happy with that. Teamwork and Red Cross ingenuity works every time!”

Photo Credits: Trent Winston and Genesis, photo by Robert Wallace/ARC Volunteer; Shoba Brown with water, photo by Mimi Teller/ARC Volunteer; Volunteer with supplies in boat, photo by Shoba Brown/ARC Volunteer; Volunteers carrying meals in Wimberley, Texas from Blog for the Central and South Texas Region of the American Red Cross.

The Real Story of the 6 Homes in Haiti: Answering Your Questions

This piece was written by David Meltzer, Chief International Officer of the American Red Cross. He has traveled to Haiti more than 20 times—both before and after the earthquake— including in the days after the disaster struck.

Our objective in all of our humanitarian work is to alleviate suffering of those in need—particularly those most vulnerable. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the needs were great and like other aid groups, we faced difficult choices about where to best spend money as quickly and effectively as possible.

Did the American Red Cross only build “6” new permanent homes?  Yes, these were part of a pilot project outside of Port-au-Prince. As the project progressed, we learned a number of lessons that helped us revise our long-term shelter plans. The solutions we decided on ultimately helped more people than can be served through new construction efforts and could be implemented faster, helping people living in camps get back into safer homes and conditions sooner.

Did we plan to build more new homes? Yes, plans for three different communities of new homes funded by the American Red Cross were developed, of which two were outside of Port-au-Prince. In all three cases, there were competing claims of land ownership and clear land title couldn’t be established. We also learned that new housing communities built outside Port-au-Prince often remained unoccupied because people strongly preferred to move back into the neighborhood they lived in before the quake – near their jobs, schools and family.

Did we help 132,000 Haitians obtain safe and improved housing? Yes. In the days following the earthquake, the Red Cross provided emergency shelter in the form of 860,000 tarps to people whose homes were damaged or destroyed. Of course, living underneath a tarp or tent is only a short term solution, so the American Red Cross developed plans to provide medium- and long-term housing.

  • Working with partners such as Habitat for Humanity, Handicap International and others, the American Red Cross provided more than 6,100 transitional homes for nearly 31,000 people and more than 25,000 people received upgraded and progressive shelters.
  • Prior to the quake, a large percentage of residents in Port-au-Prince rented their homes and camp residents who were renters before the quake asked for secure safe rental housing. With American Red Cross funding, more than 5,400 households, received rental subsidies which enabled them to move out of camps and into homes. Additionally, understanding the need for more safe rental properties, the American Red Cross helped homeowners add rooms to their houses to increase housing stock in the area. These owners provide these new spaces rent free for one year to a family living in a camp.  To date, over 54,000 people have benefitted from these repair, rental subsidy and retrofitting programs.
  • Finally, nearly 22,000 people to date are benefitting from major neighborhood redevelopment and owner-managed construction initiatives including safe construction training, allowing them to repair and expand their own homes and obtain high-demand job skills to help support themselves in the future.

Housing a relatively small number of people in newly constructed homes that unfortunately could not be quickly built given the uncertainty of clear land title was inconsistent with our mission to quickly and effectively alleviate suffering. In response to these challenges, the American Red Cross chose to focus its housing work on alternatives that offered many more people the opportunity to move into safe and improved housing. We stand by that decision.

To learn more about our recovery program in Haiti and to hear from those we have helped and continue to help, please visit our Haiti Assistance Program page.


The Red Cross reports annually how we spend donor dollars on our website and break it down according to sector. We raised $488 million for our work in Haiti and here is how our spent and committed funds have been allocated:

  • Emergency relief: $66 million
  • Shelter: $173 million
  • Health: $73 million
  • Water and sanitation: $47 million
  • Livelihoods: $48 million
  • Disaster preparedness: $56 million
  • Cholera prevention: $25 million

13 Facts about the Red Cross Response in Haiti

This post was updated on June 4 to include additional details on spent and committed funds (see the fourth myth/fact pair) and a link to our Myths vs. Facts matrix in French. Please also see a new post by David Meltzer, “The Real Story of the 6 Homes in Haiti: Answering Your Questions.”

Thanks to the generosity of our donors, almost five and a half years after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the American Red Cross has made a difference in the lives of millions of Haitians who desperately needed help and humanitarian assistance.

These funds have helped build and operate eight hospitals and clinics, stem a deadly cholera outbreak, provide clean water and sanitation, and move more than 100,000 people out of make-shift tents into safe and improved housing. When land was not available for new homes, the Red Cross provided a range of housing solutions including rental subsidies, repairs and retrofitting of existing structures, fulfilling our promise to ensure tens of thousands of Haitians are back in homes. We also built and repaired schools, roadways and water distribution points vital to neighborhoods.

Read our full statement here. Our Myths vs. Facts matrix (13 Faits au Sujet de l’Aide Humanitaire de la Croix-Rouge Américaine en Haïti) is also available in French. You can also visit redcross.org/haiti to learn more.




The American Red Cross never had a final plan for its work in Haiti. The Red Cross began our long term planning shortly after the earthquake. Within the first year we had a working plan that established six strategic priorities and added a seventh:

  1. Emergency relief
  2. Shelter
  3. Health
  4. Water and sanitation
  5. Livelihoods
  6. Disaster preparedness
  7. Cholera prevention

Haiti is a complex place to work and because of that we needed to adjust and improve the plan to address the changing environment and challenges.

Example: When we could not secure land to provide new housing, we focused on safe housing with a wide spectrum of choices, not a one-size-fits all plan (rental subsidies, repairs and retrofitting of existing homes, as well as teaching people how to repair their homes).


Internal issues delayed services.

  • Staff turnover
  • Lack of planning
  • Poor relationships with partners

  • We have worked effectively, leveraging the capacity and specific skill sets of 47 partners to extend our reach and serve a spectrum of needs simultaneously.
  • Staff turnover was relatively low and, as we understand, consistent with other NGOs in Haiti.
  • The Red Cross continuously responded to changing circumstances by adapting our plan and remaining responsive to emerging and evolving needs.


Red Cross service delivery statistics are misleading.
  • 4.5 million people have been helped through our disease prevention programs. That’s the most conservative estimate of people assisted.  
  • Many who received help through disease prevention programs also benefited from multiple Red Cross services such as housing, job training, and access to clean water, but we only count them once. 
Details of Red Cross spending are so broad as to be useless. The Red Cross reports annually how we spend donor dollars on our website and break it down according to sector. We raised $488 million for our work in Haiti and here is how our spent and committed funds have been allocated:

  • Emergency relief: $66 million
  • Shelter: $173 million
  • Health: $73 million
  • Water and sanitation: $47 million
  • Livelihoods: $48 million
  • Disaster preparedness: $56 million
  • Cholera prevention: $25 million
The Red Cross takes overhead, then grants money to partners who also take overhead.
  • 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends goes to our humanitarian programs and services.
  • We partner with organizations that also keep their expenses low. 
  • It is more cost effective to rely on the expertise of partners than if we tried to build and staff these programs from scratch.


The Red Cross gave donor dollars to the U.S. government.
  • It is rare that we would grant money to a government agency, but in this case we pooled funds with the U.S. Agency for International Development – which assesses no overhead – each bringing our expertise and strengths to the project.
The Red Cross president promised to provide tens of thousands of people with permanent homes but only built six new homes.
  • The Red Cross has provided more than 132,000 people with safe and durable housing, through a variety of methods.
  • Often, the fastest and most efficient way to get people into safer homes is through rental subsidies, or repairs and/or retrofitting of existing homes.
  • We also build and repair infrastructure that is vital to neighborhood recovery – like schools, roadways and water distribution points. 
  • The bottom line is that there hasn’t been sufficient land available to build new homes – particularly in the most heavily affected areas of Port-au-Prince where people want to live.
  • Haitians don’t want to leave the neighborhoods where they lived, worked and went to school before the earthquake.
  • Red Cross has fulfilled our promise to make sure tens of thousands of Haitians are back in homes. 
The Red Cross calls temporary, or t-shelters, permanent homes. False.

  • In no place has the Red Cross called a t-shelter a permanent home. We consistently refer to the range of housing solutions that the Red Cross has offered in Haiti to provide people safe housing.
The cholera program had severe delays getting off the ground, despite Gail McGovern’s statement that Red Cross “sprang into action.” False.

  • Within 72 hours of the announcement of the cholera outbreak, teams of Haitian Red Cross volunteers were providing cholera prevention training in camps and staff members were sent to the epicenter of the epidemic to help respond.
  • Within five days, tens of thousands of pounds of cholera relief supplies were airlifted.
  • We have also provided most of the funding for a first-ever cholera vaccine in Haiti, and $47 million for projects to provide clean water.  
The Red Cross didn’t hire enough Haitians on staff, relying heavily on expensive “expat” staff. Wrong. 

  • Since the beginning of our earthquake recovery program, more than 90 percent of our staff has been Haitian.
  • Red Cross does not tolerate prejudice of any kind and took steps to train people in  cultural sensitivity.
  • The American Red Cross has hired some international staff with expertise in major disaster recovery and their benefit package is in line with the international humanitarian sector.
The Red Cross misled residents of LAMIKA by not telling them how much money would be spent there and not fulfilling promises of new homes.
  • We worked very closely with community residents in LAMIKA to keep them informed of plans and budgets, and got their input to decide how to spend funds in their neighborhoods.
  • We initially budgeted for 700 houses to be repaired, retrofitted or built, but we adapted and responded to the fact that clear title to land in the LAMIKA community could ultimately not be obtained.
  • Additionally, residents gave a higher priority to other needs such as roads and pathways, jobs, schools, etc., so we invested in shared community assets such as road, sidewalk, drainage and school construction.
Sources in the Red Cross say that 24 cents of every dollar donated for international programs goes to overhead – not 9 cents.
  • As with every dollar the Red Cross spends, an average of 91 cents goes to our humanitarian programs and services and only 9 cents to management, general and fundraising.
The Red Cross declined to show us projects in Haiti.
  • The Red Cross often arranges interviews for U.S. based media when they are visiting Haiti.
  • Other media outlets routinely provide us with several days of notice before visiting because they understand that our staff members have to stop their work to accommodate journalists.
  • We denied the request of ProPublica and NPR after they showed up in Haiti without making arrangements ahead of time.

Giving Day Is Here!

Giving Day has arrived! Visit the Giving Day website to donate and stand together – All In 1 Day – so that every day, when needed, neighbors in your community will not be alone. When you give to the American Red Cross, you are delivering help and hope to people when they need it most.


So you donated and want to share your good news? Try one of our suggested posts, written just for you!

Find customizable posts on the Giving Day Social Ambassador website. Just find the Weekly Posts or In Your Words tabs, find a post you like and post to your social networks.


Find custom profile pictures for all your social networks in the Image Library tab, like this one for Facebook:


And don’t miss the other images in the Image Library tab to help give a visual boost to all your posts.


Share why you’re all in with our Selfie Sign. Write your story on the sign, snap a photo and include the #allin1day hashtag wherever you post – Vine, Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Join us to help bring more good days to those in need.

About our Corporate Giving Day Supporters

The American Red Cross is grateful for those corporate donors that have gone “all in” to support our Giving Day. They include: eBay, Energy Future Holdings/TXU Energy/Luminant, Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, Konica Minolta, Kroger Pharmacy, Midwest Recycling, and State Farm.  Thanks to the generosity of these and other supporters, the Red Cross is able to deliver help and hope every day to people when they need it most.

On the Ground Perspective: Lone Star Response

Post by Richard Reed, Senior Vice President, Disaster Cycle Services

TX1They say everything is bigger in Texas. They aren’t kidding. I’m writing to you from here in the Lone Star state. I came to see the operation in action and to spend time with the volunteers and employees who are putting in serious overtime helping those devastated by the floods and tornadoes.

TX2For those who aren’t familiar with what’s going on in Texas, here is a good background read. The disaster operations here and in Oklahoma are our largest and most complex since Hurricane Sandy. It’s not just the size that makes it complicated, but the drawn-out nature of the event. So far it’s affected nearly every part of this large state, including both urban and rural areas.

Here are some quick impressions of what I’ve seen on the ground from Red Cross disaster operations:

  • The Red Cross has scaled up disaster operations fast.  Already, we have multi-agency resource centers set to open this weekend where residents will be able to interact with multiple agencies and community organizations to get the support they need during this tough time.
  • Our local Red Cross folks are doing an amazing job, but after a month of responses they are fatigued. So now we’re bringing in support from across the country to give staff here some well-deserved rest. It’s great to see staff working together as we respond to a disaster that impacts thousands of people over such a large geographic area.
  • There is incredible collaboration with diverse partners. Red Cross partners include Buddhist Tzu Chi, Southern Baptists Disaster Relief, the Salvation Army, Church of the Brethren, Islamic Relief USA, Catholic Charities, St. Vincent de Paul, Portlight Strategies, the National Council on Independent Living, the National Council of La Raza, and local businesses like HEB Grocery Store. It is inspiring to see the community coming together here to help those in need.

dogIt’s been a long month for the Lone Star state and our responding Red Cross folks here, some of whom have seen their own homes flooded and devastated.  Despite the challenges, I am encouraged by the resiliency of Texas, and the compassionate determination of our Red Cross staff who are working tirelessly to help affected communities.

Hats off to all those who have helped out or who have offered their support.

If you’d like to help, please consider making a financial donation. A donation to Red Cross Disaster Relief can help provide food, water and shelter for someone who has had to leave their home. Help people affected by disasters like floods, tornadoes and countless other crises by making a gift to Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. To donate, people can visit www.redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

The Digital Disaster Response

Post by Nigel Holderby, Public Affairs Volunteer 

There are many aspects of disaster response. From shelter operations including caseworkers, driving a feeding truck, and managing the distribution of clean up supplies, all the way up to the operation headquarters. There is one thing that is connected to, and connects, everything: Communication.

Currently, there are more than 1000 volunteers who have been assigned to the operation in Texas. Those are boots on the ground volunteers as well as digital volunteers. Digital Operations is nothing new for Red Cross. In fact, Digital Volunteers, or as we call them, DigiVols, have been around since 2011 and the value they add to an operation is integral to situational awareness as well as connecting people to valuable information and even emotional support.

In each phase of a disaster there are conversations that begin online. These match the conversations happening in the physical space starting with preparedness, and then moving to response and lastly, recovery.

When sharing information with the online community, DigiVols are trained experts in getting out the right messages. Whether it is sharing the link to download the free Red Cross tornado app or tips about where current shelters are open, these messages are being seen and people are taking action.

Dig Disaster Response 1

The value of the digital operation can be quantified through numbers. During the response to storms and floods in Texas we measured several things to see how our online communication was being received in the digital space. Some of the important things we look at are how many people take action with the information we share, which many times is looked at under the broad umbrella of “Engagement.”

Dig Disaster Response 2

In just one week @RedCrossDFW saw an average of 23.3k Impressions per day. With an average of 60 people taking action each day to click the links, they were able to access valuable and life-saving information.

One of the most recent examples, showing the value of social media during disaster, is this connection that happened between a deaf family and our casework/recovery team. Digital Volunteers are connecting much needed resources to a family whose only connection to help was through the use of written word.

Dig Disaster Response 3

The digital space continues to evolve, becoming more important and valuable with each passing day. With each new disaster that comes our way, the Red Cross will be here, physically and digitally, providing hope and help to those affected by disaster.

Gail McGovern’s Georgetown Commencement Speech

Earlier this month, Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern gave the 2015 commencement speech to McDonough School of Business graduate students at Georgetown University.

She had some great advice to share, and we wanted to share it with you! Hear Gail talk about her five keys to successful leadership and suggest to ask other leaders the same question to pick and choose what points resonate with you personally. Here’s Gail’s start to develop your own leadership style:

  1. Staffing. Effective leaders recruit great peopel to work for them.
  2. Embrace change. If you don’t embrace change, you can’t survive in corporate America. Or in the non-profit world, for that matter.
  3. Be resilient. Everyone is watching you and taking cues. If you don’t project confidence and optimism, it can rattle an organization.
  4. Make decisions purely based on what’s good for the institution.
  5. Effective leaders lead not only with their head, but also with their heart.

Watch her entire speech below.