2 minute readDisaster, International

International Collaboration Key to Disaster Response

Written by Suzy DeFrancis, Chief Public Affairs Officer, American Red Cross

As I write this blog, our thoughts are with the people of Mexico and our partners at the Mexican Red Cross: Cruz Roja Mexicana.  Hurricane Patricia, the most powerful tropical cyclone ever measured in the Western Hemisphere, is forecast to make landfall in Mexico Friday evening as a catastrophic Category 5 storm, putting 400,000 people at risk.  In addition to unprecedented winds, the storm will bring flooding rainfall and a dangerous storm surge to the Mexican state of Jalisco which includes the popular coastal resort city of Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city. Moisture from Hurricane Patricia may also add to the heavy rainfall and flash flooding expected in Texas and neighboring states this weekend, and local Red Cross chapters are mobilizing volunteers, supplies and shelters in case they are needed.

CAMX1American Red Cross disaster specialists are monitoring Hurricane Patricia closely, remain in close contact with colleagues at the Mexican Red Cross, and are on standby to help if asked by our neighbors in Mexico.  Earlier this week, our senior leadership met in Canada with our Mexican and Canadian counterparts to discuss Cross Border Emergency Response.  These meetings, which have annually taken place for the past seven years, have led to a strong collaboration between our three Red Cross societies and strong friendships between the three Red Cross Presidents, Gail McGovern of the US, Fernando Suinaga of Mexico, and Conrad Sauvé of Canada, affectionately referred to as the “three amigos.”

Recent examples of how we have reached across borders to help each other in time of need include:

  • Due to major flooding in Hildago County, Texas and widespread damage in upwards of 50 counties throughout Texas, in June 2015 we called on our Mexican Red Cross counterparts for help. Within two days, they deployed a 10 member team from neighboring Reynosa, Mexico and stayed for nearly 2 weeks, helping with bulk distribution of relief supplies and serving as translators for caseworkers and providing much needed psycho social support for survivors.
  • The American Red Cross worked closely with the Mexican Red Cross in the aftermath of Hurricane Odile that struck Baja, Mexico on September 14, 2014. We contributed $43,000 to the Mexican Red Cross to assist in providing food kits to displaced people.  We also helped reconnect families of US citizens stranded in Mexico during the hurricane.
  • In 2014, when an influx of unaccompanied minors coming into the US were being processed by Customs and Border Patrol, the American Red Cross provided over 14,000 calls to enable these children to tell their loved ones that they were safe. This response was made possible by countless American Red Cross volunteers and collaboration with the Mexican Red Cross.
  • The Saskatchewan wildfires in Canada in July 2015 prompted the largest evacuation in Canadian history, and 26 American Red Cross workers deployed to support the Canadian Red Cross.
  • During the Alberta floods in Canada in July 2013, the American Red Cross put operations experts on the ground to help with bulk distribution of 574,000 relief items.
  • During the response to Hurricane Sandy in 2012, both the Mexican and Canadian Red Cross societies sent workers to New York and New Jersey to help.

We are grateful for this continuing strong collaboration between ourselves and both our Red Cross counterparts in Mexico and Canada and we look forward to deepening it in the coming year with cross-training and exercises to simulate a future disaster.  We are all stronger and better equipped to do our best when we work collectively.


L to R: Cruz Roja Mexicana National Director, Fernando Suinaga; American Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern; Canadian Red Cross President and Chief Executive Officer, Conrad Sauvé