By: Thomas Martin
President and CEO of the American Red Cross, Gail McGovern, spoke at Town Hall Los Angeles on February 12th, 2019 about what her organization is doing to prepare and respond to disasters in Los Angeles and across the country.
McGovern addressed Town Hall LA members and guests on the recent Camp and Woolsey Fires, two of the largest and most devastating wildfires in California’s history. She thanked the 3,700+ volunteers, some of whom were in the audience, for providing over 375,000 meals and helping with the over 57,000 overnight stays for victims of the wildfires. She also noted that there are still Red Cross volunteers on the ground assisting Camp Fire victims.
McGovern also touched on the Red Cross’ Sound the Alarm program, which installs free smoke detectors in homes located in underprivileged communities. So far, the program has installed over 1.6 million alarms. McGovern said that she hopes the program will continue to reduce the over 2,200 instances of small disasters in the LA area.
“The Red Cross is also embracing new forms of technology and outreach,” McGovern said. By using a new disaster response platform, RC View, Red Cross workers and first responders have access to real-time information and images from satellites and drones, and can track emergency vehicles. The platform also allows for seamless information sharing between the Red Cross, governments, and other relief agencies. The Red Cross has also begun to integrate itself with Amazon Alexa. McGovern shared that device owners can currently ask Alexa to walk them through CPR, other first aid procedures, and even send a donation to the Red Cross. She also shared that citizens may be able to ask Alexa to set up a blood donation appointment sometime in the near future.
To close her remarks, McGovern disclosed how her presidency at the Red Cross has changed her personally. Overall, she admitted to growing to be more compassionate and more grateful. While she first accepted her role as an intellectual challenge, she has grown to realize that her work is devoted to helping people in their darkest hours. And while some say that the American people are more divided than ever, McGovern said that through firsthand experience she has seen people in their most generous, compassionate, and resilient forms. She hopes that the symbol of the Red Cross will continue to be a sign for hope and help for all who need it.
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