Red Cross Provides Disaster Health Services in South Carolina

By Robert W. Wallace, American Red Cross

The American Red Cross maintains a roster of health services specialists who are licensed as physicians, nurses, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics. When disaster strikes, these highly trained specialists deploy to provide health services to disaster victims as well as Red Cross volunteers involved in disaster response and recovery.

One of the critical things for health services is to provide and advocate for items in Red Cross shelters that are necessary to deal with resident’s functional needs, things like walkers, wheelchairs, and specialized medical equipment, according to John Decker, a Disaster Health Services Manager, currently deployed to Charleston, South Carolina.

Red Cross Disaster Health Services can also assist with replacing lost medications, help with negotiations with insurance companies and pharmacies, check vital signs in the field, provide referrals to local health specialists, and provide immunizations.


“One of the things we are finding very prevalent in our response to the South Carolina floods are broken front teeth,” said Decker. “Apparently, people fell and hit their teeth when being rescued by boat. We are doing a lot of referrals to local dentists and have been active in negotiating prices for dental care.”

American Red Cross Disaster Health Services volunteer Bill Roach checks the conditions Linda Yates’ feet as she sits amid the ruined furniture and construction materials from her home that are now piled out on the street.

Dawnda Smith, a Red Cross Disaster Health Services specialist, gives a comforting touch to flood victim Linda Yates. Sitting outside, amid the flood damaged furniture and construction debris from her home, Linda shared how she had lost everything in the flood. “I had renter’s insurance, but they turned me down, because I didn’t have flood insurance…In the past I could always count on help from my mom, but I recently lost her too,” said a tearful Linda.


Red Cross Disaster Health Specialists Bill Roach and Dawnda Smith check vital signs for flood victim Linda Yates. Linda’s home suffered heavy damage when it was inundated by the historic flood waters in the Charleston, South Carolina area. 

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