Red Cross Announces Hurricane Season Upgrades

With the start of the hurricane season today, the Greater Houston Chapter of the American Red Cross says things have changed since last year, with beefed-up emergency plans and resources. Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports.

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Both Katrina and Rita severely stetched the resources of the local Red Cross last year, depleting supplies and overwhelming a staff the couldn't keep up with demand. Local Red Cross CEO Davis Henderson says officials won't underestimate the need next time.

"We had based our response ability on the number of clients that we had served and the number of cases we had had in Florida two years ago after the four hurricanes. We believed that that would be the largest operation that we would ever respond to. It was the largest in our history. And of course, Katrina followed by Rita quadrupled, quintupled what our response was. So we have decided with more and more people living on the vulnerable coast, we have to increase our capbility, and we have done that."

Henderson says if a storm comes our way again this year, there will be more evacuation shelters in the Greater Houston area.

"We had added to our network almost 35 shelters, so in the Greater Houston area, we have a network of more than 200 shelters that at this point have trained staff and that are prepared to respond."

The American Red Cross estimates it spent more than $2 billion on recovery related to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma last year, the most expensive string of disasters in the organization's history.

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