In emergency situations like flooding, the Red Cross goes through stages of preparedness, response and recovery, according to the executive director of Heart of Missouri Chapter of Red Cross.
Preparedness for central Missouri's recent flooding meant opening Red Cross shelters, including one for the Miller County area, on Wednesday afternoon. The locations of local shelters are determined before disaster strikes if possible so they can be open within an hour, said Executive Director David Griffith.
The Miller County shelter, located at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Lake Ozark, closed Thursday afternoon, as it went unused, and the Red Cross no longer saw a need for a shelter in the area.
The story is different a little farther south. Due to heavy flooding damage in the Waynesville area, the Red Cross will continue to maintain a shelter in St. Robert.
Griffith said the St. Robert shelter hosted 27 flood victims after opening on Wednesday. As of 5 p.m. Thursday, the shelter still had 14 guests, with more anticipated if rainfall forecasts were correct.
"Most of them lost their homes and just didn't have anywhere else to go," Griffith said.
The Red Cross continually evaluates the need for a shelter in a particular area to avoid using unnecessary volunteer labor, which is why the Lake Ozark shelter was not maintained, according to Griffith.
"We'll shut down a shelter as soon as we see there's no longer a need for it," he said. He foresees the St. Robert shelter remaining open at least for the next few days. "As long as it's needed, we want to have it open."
The Red Cross provides those using the shelter with a cot, blanket, food and security, as well as offering medical and mental health services for flood victims coping with losses. People misplaced by flooding may remain at a shelter as long as it is open.
The St. Robert shelter is located at the St. Robert Community at 114 J.H. Williamson Dr.
In the event of flooding danger, the Red Cross recommends the following steps:
• Be prepared to evacuate at a moment's notice.
• If a flood or flash flood warning is issued, head for higher ground.
• Stay away from floodwaters. Do not try to walk in water above ankle height or drive through a flooded road.
• Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to see flood dangers.
• Be attentive to keeping children away from floodwaters.
To contact the Red Cross about helping people affected by the floods, call 1-800-RED-CROSS or visit redcross.org.