Preparedness Has Made the Difference

Joan Egge's family is safe from the Red River’s high waters because of preparedness measures, such as temporary clay dikes. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

By Lynette Nyman, American Red Cross

To appreciate the rising of the Red River, you have to see it. Water appears to spread from horizon to horizon across this northern prairie landscape.

With waters reaching nearly 40 feet in some areas, what would have been a major crisis in past years is mostly a threat under control because of preparation.

For example, clay dikes and sump pumps are protecting many homes, including one in Oakport Township north of Moorhead, Minnesota, where Joan Egge has lived for eighteen years.

“Because we’ve been preparing and preparing you’d kind of hate it if didn’t flood,” says Egge.

Red Cross vigilance remains high as the Red River’s high waters continue to move north and threaten rural communities. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Sandbagging started in early February. Since then the Red Cross has providing more than 150,000 beverages and meals to community volunteers and other responders who have worked to hold back the water both day and night.

“Preparedness is in many ways the greatest piece of what the Red Cross does,” says Tom Tezel, a Red Cross emergency services director leading the response on the ground.

Every disaster is different, but in general the Red Cross responds when the disaster is done, such as when a tornado has swept through a town or an earthquake has struck.

Since early February, Tom Tezel has been leading the Red Cross disaster response to the 2011 Red River flood. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Here, the Red Cross response started during the preparedness phase before the waters started to rise.

“Our mission includes preparedness,” says Tezel. “We can’t wait for disaster.”

Red Cross disaster responders continue to watch and respond, especially as the high water flows north into largely rural areas, cutting off families from essential resources.

Egge, whose family and dog Henry are safe only yards from the Red River, agrees that preparedness is very important. She’s grateful for the help her community has received.

“I know the Red Cross does a wonderful job,” says Egge. “The people here are true heroes.”

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