Photo by Daniel Cima for the American Red Cross


2017 was a year of natural disasters in the United States, as the American Red Cross set a record for the relief provided by the institution. The past year has seen several storms, hurricanes, wildfires and floods in the United States.

There were 242 large disaster responses in the United States in 2017. Hurricane Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria wrecked havoc throughout several states. When Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, it released an estimated 11 trillion gallons on the Lone Star State. The storm caused some 316,000 power outages across the state, with the Houston 911 emergency number receiving 56,000 phone calls in 15 hours. As a result of the impact of Hurricane Harvey, countless numbers of volunteers and emergency staff came to the rescue of those in need.

Throughout 2017, the Red Cross mobilized more than 56,000 disaster workers, 92% of these volunteers. This included:

  • Opening 1,100 emergency shelters to provide 658,000 overnight stays
  • Serving 13.6 million meals and snacks
  • Distributing 7 million relief items
  • Providing 267,000 health and mental health consultations
  • Supporting 624,000 households with recovery assistance


Not only do the American Red provide relief to disasters at home, they also provide aid to people all over the world. This included helping nearly 9,400 families to search for loved ones who were separated during international conflict or disasters. It also involved sending humanitarian aid to 26 countries to help in the aftermath of disasters.

Susan Schaefer is an American Red Cross worker who aided families in the Caribbean in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Speaking about her experience, she said “If you don’t know whether your kids or your family members are okay, it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself, to remind yourself to eat and sleep. You just can’t focus on anything else.” Schaefer added, “Being able to provide peace of mind to people helps them to be stronger for themselves so they can focus on their recovery.”

Red Cross volunteers also visited more than 2 million households to encourage families to vaccinate their children against measles in countries like Malawi and Indonesia and helped to save lives by mapping vulnerable communities around the world — using only a computer and Wi-Fi connection.

Further Challenges

Scientists estimate that climate change could result in an increase in natural disasters over the coming years. Populations in maritime communities are already at risk of flooding from rising sea levels. Climate change risks wiping out societies which have been in existence for generations.

Furthermore, international conflicts continue to rage, especially in the Middle East and North African region. As a new year approaches, the war in Syria rages on. The American Red Cross and Red Cross organizations from throughout the world continue to aid the people of these areas.

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