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Helping the Red Cross “Do Business”

Editor’s note: As the Senior Technical Advisor for Domestic outreach for the Global Disaster Preparedness Center, Omar Abou-Samra focuses on coordinating and building mutual learning between the domestic and international sides of the American Red Cross.


As a kid growing up in Southern California, I was taught that it is import to crawl under a desk or a table during an earthquake. I learned that staying low with my neck covered would decrease my chance of injury when ‘The Big One’ happened. I remember thinking how cool it is to be prepared for a disaster, but I never imagined that I would have a career in disaster preparedness. I started working for the American Red Cross in 2006 and since then I’ve spent a lot of time considering the types of actions people can take in the event of a disaster that can save their lives and minimize damage to their property. Today, I find myself helping launch a new American Red Cross initiative that has the potential to affect how Red Cross and Red Crescent societies around the world prepare their communities for disasters of all kinds—from major earthquakes to seasonal flooding.

The Global Disaster Preparedness Center, which launches today, is a joint initiative between the American Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies to help Red Cross and Red Crescent societies around the world continuously improve their disaster preparedness work. Instead of focusing on implementing disaster preparedness programs, the Center aims to do what people are often too busy to do: organize and share the knowledge we collectively have, ensure that we learn from the latest research, connect and build networks amongst those working to prepare their communities.

Today’s launch represents the culmination of more than a year of work that involved talking to practitioners, government representatives and organizations in the U.S. and abroad to understand what they perceive to be the biggest needs in disaster preparedness right now. The whole Global Disaster Preparedness Center team is really excited to have more than 100 representatives from the Red Cross, U.S. government, donors, and international non-profit communities participating in the event today, each showing their commitment to the development of this Center.

One of the things we are working on that demonstrates the potential ripple effect that this new Center could have is a ‘Universal’ First Aid App. We are working with partners to enable any Red Cross or Red Crescent around the world to adapt the First Aid app that was released in the U.S. earlier this year for use in their country. By providing a web-based platform and licensing to do this, the Center will help other Red Cross and Red Crescent societies provide potentially life-saving information to people in their countries, while saving time and money.

This launch is just the beginning. In the years to come, the center will be involved in many more initiatives that will help Red Cross and Red Crescent societies around the world, and hopefully the wider humanitarian community, do “business” better. For more information about the GDPC, please visit www.PrepareCenter.org or redcross.org.