The Red Cross's Secret Disaster, by Justin Elliott and Jesse

For those absolutely devoid of scruples, charity fraud is the field par excellance, in which you can simultaneously harvest kudos for your humanitarianism and make off with vast bundles of untaxed cash. Convictions for charity fraud are so rare as to be nonexistent, so any criminals operating in other fields of endeavor are incurring unnecessary risks.

The Red Cross's Secret Disaster, by Justin Elliott and Jesse

Postby admin » Sun Dec 07, 2014 8:58 am

The Red Cross’ Secret Disaster
by Justin Elliott and Jesse Eisinger, ProPublica, and Laura Sullivan, NPR



October 29, 2014



IN 2012, TWO MASSIVE STORMS pounded the United States, leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless, hungry or without power for days and weeks.

Americans did what they so often do after disasters. They sent hundreds of millions of dollars to the Red Cross, confident their money would ease the suffering left behind by Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Isaac. They believed the charity was up to the job.

They were wrong.

The Red Cross botched key elements of its mission after Sandy and Isaac, leaving behind a trail of unmet needs and acrimony, according to an investigation by ProPublica and NPR. The charity’s shortcomings were detailed in confidential reports and internal emails, as well as accounts from current and former disaster relief specialists.

What’s more, Red Cross officials at national headquarters in Washington, D.C. compounded the charity’s inability to provide relief by “diverting assets for public relations purposes,” as one internal report puts it. Distribution of relief supplies, the report said, was “politically driven.”

Red Cross Presentation: Sandy and Isaac Lessons Learned


American Red Cross

Mass Care

Observations/Lessons Learned from Hurricane Isaac and Sandy



Material was compiled from:

1. ORO Narratives

2. ORO leadership feedback

3. NHQ MC experiences

Many recommendations, will cover some.


Facility - vertical sheltering, restroom/shower accessibility (1 accessible toilet for 60 people creating 30 minute wait). Segregation into "FNSS areas." Many were gov't shelters, but when ARC vests are in them, it's perceived as our shelter.

Services - 25+ clients had cot-wetting incidents with no effort to provide bedpans, medical cots or assistance going to the restroom.

Equipment - procurement issues, need more urgency. Lack of medical cots, 8-10 Clients with mobility issues lost their wheelchairs with no effort to acquire them one for first 5 days.

Clients slept in their wheelchairs for days. Problems getting medical cots (inclining head) or other means for them to sleep.

PAS - Contract was initiated by FEMA in NY & NJ, used sparsely, ARC needs to understand the process and allow access.

Dietary needs - not a priority, low-sodium and diabetic needs not addressed. Religious and vegetarian meals not in high demand.

SME' s - need to allow our SME's in HS & DMH to take the lead, work together as a team to help clients, resolve issues and communicate.


1. Planning w/ all types of partners to increase Whole Community response.

2. Education at all levels of chapter of FNSS issues, services, needs, community demographics.


Facility Selection - inadequate # toilets/ showers (takes too long to mitigate), obtaining last minute, gov't lead, put staff in shelters we wouldn't use for clients (under construction, not safe, sanitation issues ... ). Scrambling last minute to find.

Materials - lack of enough shelter kits, cots, blankets, ...

Staff - Inadequate staffing initially, inexperienced/untrained shelter mgrs, poor delegation, mean spirited ...

Shelter agreements - problems obtaining them by LOG.


Mgmt/staffing - poorly staffed in quantity and quality, which impacts ALL service delivery. Run them as you would for clients, we need to take care of our workforce.

Volume - not knowing # of incoming staff, not enough space, not enough facilities.

Location - not near worksites.


1. Shelter kit - national product.

2. 10 more staff shelters pre-disaster, work with partners (Elks Lodge).

3. During response, create a leadership team comprised of 1 SH, 1 SS and 1 LOG rep to solely run staff shelters. If lacking facilities, add External Relations group also.

4. Get SS rep in each staff shelter.

5. Read Staff Shelter handbook.

6. Large DR' s, get support teams of Staff Wellness and DMH.


Sex offenders - staff didn't know/follow procedures. Sex offenders were placed in a special area off of dorm, but they weren't there, they were all over, including playing in children's area. Mothers in shelter had raised issue.

Unaccompanied Minors - handled well!

Showers - unrelated adults showering with children, conjugal visits.


Reporting - continue to have problems getting #'s. Daily Shelter Report form!

FROST - did amazing work. Work with MC NHQ for connection to them.

Age demographics - first time use. Breakdown: 0-3, 3-7, 8-12, 13-18, 19-65, 65+. Helped partners provide appropriate services, prepare for long term recovery, ...

Capacity - embarrassing when CNN asks how 250 people fit into a shelter with 0 capacity.

Mapping - and app only show models 1 & 2. Continue to ensure the shelter is mapped ("Lookup" button next to Lat/Long data). You'd be surprised who and how many look at this.


Shelter Teams - pre-formed teams from chapters worked very well. Willingness to do something else was good and bad. Need flexibility to meet operational needs.

Direct Deployment - Orange, TX, created shelter teams and sent directly to shelter sites. Breakdown in communication, sites/district/GIA didn't know who/how many/where many times. DROHQ leadership didn't know either. HS/DMH needed more of a connection with their folks on these teams, needed ability to move them to meet operational needs. Current project team working on SOPs.

Shelter Assessment Teams - piloted new program developed from multi-agency concept. Was just ARC reps from SH, HS, DMH, and later CC. Great way to help inexperienced shelter mgrs, meet client needs faster, improve communication, increase situational awareness.


Expectations - clear definition of roles and responsibilities, especially with gov't. Big disconnect on this which caused poor decision-making and poor service to clients, mostly not our fault, but perception was different.

Population #' s - NSS expanded reporting is still a protocol, paint the big picture. Still difficult.

Support - guidance vs. reality. SH Assessment teams able to visit some and found numerous issues (lack of food, supplies, equipment). These visits also helped w/ reporting issue.


Kitchen Mgrs - Isaac - District model caused outpouring of SME' s to the districts and away from typical sites, such as the kitchens. Lack of appropriate staff at beginning caused problems with routes, quantity of food, waste, procurement, reporting etc.

Kitchen locations - Sandy - State took too long on decision of kitchen locations, caused loss 3+ days of hot food service delivery.

Kitchen support/setup - Sandy - lack of support equipment, trailers, etc. Gov't unable to help in timely manner, needed fuel, toll relief, etc. Seemed state didn't like working with ARC.

During the Sandy disaster, some government officials came to resent the Red Cross.

When the storm hit, officials in Bergen County, New Jersey activated their Emergency Operations Center. In keeping with a carefully established plan, representatives from government agencies and charities gather there to coordinate, share information and respond to crises 24 hours a day.

A seat was reserved for the Red Cross, the most important nongovernment responder. But the Red Cross’ seat remained empty for the full duration of the Sandy response.

“They were the only major player not there,” says police lieutenant Matthew Tiedemann, who helped run Bergen County’s response to Sandy. County officials had no easy way to get in touch with Red Cross leadership to tell them about areas of need on the ground, he says.

-- The Red Cross’ Secret Disaster, by Justin Elliott and Jesse Eisinger, ProPublica, and Laura Sullivan, NPR

Chapter food orders - in excess of $140K for food/snacks without DRO knowledge. 2 trailers full of food in a parking lot that no one knew about until we got the bill.

Food waste - excessive because

1. kitchen manager inexperience,

2. longer time in "seek and serve",

3. political pressures,

4. poor communication bit chapter & DRO.

Ex. Non-food product put on a reefer, ruined food.

Started tracking "overage" to help stop routes and for finance and planning purposes. Overage is any food product that is disposed of, or food that you have to find a place to deliver to so as not to waste it.

Shelter meals -

1. not the right amount (in both directions),

2. Low quality, clients preferred Salvation Army food (better taste & arrived on time).


ERV crews - Isaac - some had never been in an ERV, didn't know what an NFO or spoodle were.

Preloaded - Sandy - many came empty. Need to be pre-loaded with life essential items (shelf stable meals, snacks, water, etc.)

IKD mobile feeding partners expressed concerns about not being able to touch base with Mass Care about feeding needs, locations, etc ...


Politics - Asking for CUK' s before storm passed. Need to educate EM on the process of BD and improve relationship.

Support Services - waiting on warehouse, forklifts, etc.

Reporting -Sandy - separate BD push complicated reporting. Sheer size of DRO's crippled our ability to count. BD operation should have been consolidated weeks earlier.

Tracking standards - need standard way to track BD vehicles, too much key swapping between FF, BD and LOG.

Item push - too much pushed into area without knowing need, also applies to partner organizations. (However, with our slow procurement system, it' s better to overpush than have clients wait for days on needed product.)

IKD trailers were continually moved. Several in-kind refrigerated trailers were lost or continually misplaced for a 3 week period. (In some cases feeding partners were in possession of the in-kind trailers without Mass Care being aware.)


Staffing: Staffing requests during Sandy were disregarded immediately following landfall. SWL responders were not assigned until day 4. Staffing requests were submitted by MN pre landfall.


Safe and Well Website was poorly promoted on media during both Sandy and Isaac.

Shelter managers at ARC run shelters needed to actively promote Safe and Well paper registrations at registration intake tables on day 1 of shelter opening.


Shelter worker(s) need to be assigned to this task at each shelter.

Sandy: Computers and paper registrations were in the shelter kits at ARC Shelters but not utilized and were found later by SWL workers and set up for clients.


Sandy and Isaac - Chapters needed desperately to have a SWL representative assisting in answering phone calls from clients looking for loved ones on day 1 post landfall.


NHQ - Micro management. Direct involvement in Service Delivery decisions without local understanding. Writing of feeding purchase orders from NHQs, failing to provide copies of the PO to the DRO in a timely manner. Diverting assets for public relation purposes.

Supply Chain- not having accurate inventory/location of product, status of 6409's, slow system, lack of support trailers (kitchen & shelter). Need LOG rep at each kitchen.

Lack of understanding that if the resource is for a health related issue or FNSS issue, the resource should be purchased or rented from our two national contracts if not readily available locally.

No consolidated purchase process between regions and DROHQ. Frequently orders were entirely missed or doubled. Includes reqs for staffing, logistical items and meals. Too many people receiving on Mass Care side which made it difficult to track reqs.

MCPC - read the brochure, fill out register and save receipts. In jeopardy of losing this resource.

Staff lodging - too much moving staff, poor staff shelters, poor locations ... Didn't have a hot meal for dinner in NY b/c of staff lodging locations. Many people simply went home because we failed them here, including our SSC partners.


Number of community partners wanting services. Sometimes they were right next to each other. We should have worked to get them to work together instead of separately.

Cannot take a request at 11:30 for hot meals at 12:00. It should become standard operating procedures to make it mandatory that hot meals need 24 hours notice.

Need clearly defined roles and responsibilities with gov't and community partners. ARC Initially based shelter staffing models on assumptions of state role, which led to overwhelmed shelter staff and sub-par shelter conditions.


Paper - playing catch up on 5266, 6409, facility agreements, MCPC, etc. New tools developed during each DRO.

Operating Picture - Need a system to track and show all service delivery, would allow all activities to do better planning and service delivery, alleviate many information sharing issues.

Unable to provide up-to-date shelter addresses and contact info to other activities for first 10 days.

DRO Structure - Can't staff 3 OHQ's per state. Each DRO had issues that caused communication challenges between DRO, NHQ and service delivery sites. Better initial conversations on transition from chapter to DRO and a clear structure could resolve that. Clear and consistent roles and responsibilities.


1. Consistent template of how this works when we start up a DRO. Each operation seems to have a new twist and yet it never is clearly communicated from the start or it changes from week to week or job director to job director.

2. Playbooks/checklists to Include best practices.

SOPs - success too dependent on site manager's KSA' s - need checklists & exercises/drills to standardize field operations for managers and site managers, not reinventing wheel every DRO. MC at DROHQ also operates differently depending on who's running it. Operations should begin, transition and end in standard, professional and sustainable way.

Communication -

1. Couldn't accurately tell our story and show what and where of service delivery.

2. MC didn't communicate plans well with other activities (HS, CC, LOG) at times, so they couldn't keep up.

3, Too many layers for and opportunities for breakdown.

4. Info not reaching worker level.

LOG not knowing BD is shutting down and stranding BD trucks.


1. Use technology to show our service delivery and do planning! Also use to share with stakeholders.

2. Poll OM & government partners to discover patterns of info requests so we can update forms & procedures appropriately,

Sandy - MC Planning Cell - collected data of service and needs for planning.

Reporting -

1. some MN's had never seen a 5266 collection tool.

2. requirements and processes often changed. Spent too much time educating instead of service delivery.


These issues led to staff morale problems and many staff relations issues.

SH - New training not being taken, guidance not being shared. No effort during DRO to share.

Shelter manager leading a team, but first time ever in a shelter, didn't say anything.

SV skills lacking

Turning in numbers in time,
Sign in sheets for volunteers at the site,
Knowing there out processing dates,
Ordering more staff for their site,
Doing job inductions, putting people in there right positions to start off with.


1. Visiting Staff Orientation - start too late. Have 1 pagers ready with local information, that visiting staff wouldn't know. Include local resources, restaurants, demographics, etc. Examples: NY - how long it takes to go 5 miles (way underestimated). How to get a cab. LA - parishes. NJ - jug handles.

2. Local resource sheets by site (OHQ, Region, Shelter, Kitchen, Emergency Aid Station).


Slow Planning - storm sitting over land. Insufficient staff pre-landfall.

Direct Deployment- communication issues, staff deployed where not needed and not with right skills.

Structure/T.O. - too many people making decisions.

Kitchen support - Push packages not properly equipped. Lack of qualified staff on kitchen site.

Staff Relations - leadership spent up to 50% of their day on staff relations issues for many days.

Gov't - ARC is not directed by government - we are directed by our fundamental principles. Not a simple solution. Not acceptable that a state won't open shelters because "don't want the neighboring state/county/parish in them". Have to get smarter and client focused when it comes to government.


EAS - would have been first choice in service delivery, but didn't have the appropriate support staff (HS, DMH) or vehicles, couldn't get signage, tents, etc.

Hot Shots - This was a cluster because of multiple requests coming from many directions and slowing down the scaling up process, in addition to detracting from efficient tactical operations.


Standardized way to track requests - prioritize/verify, assign them so 6 people are spinning their wheels and getting 6 different resolutions, close the loop on outcomes.

Slow scaling up - Delayed decisions by State and Feeding Lead, (Salvation Army) on feeding responsibilities and location for ARC kitchens. Took too many days to setup kitchens with needed equipment, supplies, vehicles, staff, fuel, etc.

Emergency items - fuel, propane, water ...

Untraditional - high rises.

Tolls - Insufficient support from government, (NHQs) when waiver for tolls expired.

SOCIAL MEDIA - tracking spreadsheet from NHQ pushed to ground, closing loop. For better (fundraising) and worse (directing service delivery), social media is here to stay. We need to create systems that integrate social media during response.



Food banks - extending our ability to feed with longer term solutions.

Neighborhood - developed late, but helped us have a one stop shop for information so we could hound the DRO less.


Co-located shelters were run well.

First time distributing pet food through mobile BD on large scale.

Mentoring program, NY - incorporating local leadership into DRO leadership through KSA assessments and development interests.


During Isaac, Red Cross supervisors ordered dozens of trucks usually deployed to deliver aid to be driven around nearly empty instead, “just to be seen,” one of the drivers, Jim Dunham, recalls.

“We were sent way down on the Gulf with nothing to give,” Dunham says. The Red Cross’ relief effort was “worse than the storm.”

During Sandy, emergency vehicles were taken away from relief work and assigned to serve as backdrops for press conferences, angering disaster responders on the ground.

After both storms, the charity’s problems left some victims in dire circumstances or vulnerable to harm, the organization’s internal assessments acknowledge. Handicapped victims “slept in their wheelchairs for days” because the charity had not secured proper cots. In one shelter, sex offenders were “all over including playing in children’s area” because Red Cross staff “didn’t know/follow procedures.”

According to interviews and documents, the Red Cross lacked basic supplies like food, blankets and batteries to distribute to victims in the days just after the storms. Sometimes, even when supplies were plentiful, they went to waste. In one case, the Red Cross had to throw out tens of thousands of meals because it couldn’t find the people who needed them.

The Red Cross marshalled an army of volunteers, but many were misdirected by the charity’s managers. Some were ordered to stay in Tampa long after it became clear that Isaac would bypass the city. After Sandy, volunteers wandered the streets of New York in search of stricken neighborhoods, lost because they had not been given GPS equipment to guide them.

The problems stand in stark contrast to the Red Cross’ standing in the realm of disaster relief. President Obama, who is the charity’s honorary chairman, vouched for the group after Sandy, telling Americans to donate. “The Red Cross knows what they’re doing,” he said.

Two weeks after Sandy hit, Red Cross Chief Executive Gail McGovern declared that the group’s relief efforts had been “near flawless.”

The group’s self-assessments, drawn together just weeks later, were far less congratulatory.

“Multiple systems failed,” say minutes from a closed-door meeting of top officials in December 2012, referring to logistics. “We didn’t have the kind of sophistication needed for this size job,” noted a Red Cross vice president in the same meeting, the minutes say.

Red Cross officials deny the group had made decisions based on public relations. They defend the Red Cross’ performance after Isaac and Sandy.

“While it’s impossible to meet every need in the first chaotic hours and days of a disaster, we are proud that we were able to provide millions of people with hot meals, shelter, relief supplies and financial support during the 2012 hurricanes,” the charity wrote in a statement to ProPublica and NPR.
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Re: The Red Cross's Secret Disaster, by Justin Elliott and J

Postby admin » Sun Dec 07, 2014 9:02 am


The Red Cross says it has cultivated a “culture of openness” that welcomes frank self-evaluation and says it has improved its ability to handle urban disasters. One reform, the Red Cross says, moved nearly one-third of its “disaster positions” out of national headquarters and into the field, closer to the victims.

Richard Rieckenberg emails after Red Cross's Isaac Response

Subject: FW: Humcane Isaac Disaster Response

From: Galifianakis, Katerine [DELETE]


Date: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 9:47 AM

Didn't mean to send this back to you. I was sending it to someone else to illustrate the seriousness of the situation.


From: Galifianakis, Katherine

Sent: Wednesday, October 03, 2012 11:40 AM

To: Rieckenberg, Richard L.

Subject: FW: Hurricane Isaac Disaster Response


From: Richard Rieckenberg [DELETE]

Sent: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 7:46 PM

To: Riggen, Trevor

Cc: Galifianakis, Katherine; Rip Lebkuecher; Bob Scheifele; Mewbom, Virginia D.

Subject: Re: Hurricane Isaac Disaster Response

Thanks, Trevor. Bob and I are available for a meeting from 16 October through the rest of the month. I recommend an afternoon meeting and then a wrap-up the next morning.

Best wishes,




From: "Riggen, Trevor: [DELETE]


To: Richard Rieckenberg [DELETE]

Cc: "Galifianakis, Katherine; [DELETE]; Rip Lebkuecher; [DELETE]; Bob Scheifele; [DELETE]; "Mewbom, Virginia D."; [DELETE]

Sent: Thursday, September 20, 2012 3:34 PM

Subject: RE: Hurricane Isaac Disaster Response


This is a brilliant idea. I spoke with Gregg and Russ and they agree that a face to face with all of us is well worth the effort. I've asked Virginia to coordinate the meeting and arrange the travel. We are busy with AAR's for Isaac the first few weeks of October, but I do want to have the meeting sooner rather than later as your voice have a profound impact on the design moving forward.

Thanks again for challenging us on these issues and creating a framework for us to work through it together. Please feel free to call anytime. [DELETE]



From: Richard Rieckenberg [mailto: [DELETE]

Sent: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 7:36 PM

To: Riggen, Trevor

Cc: Galifianakis, Katherine; Rip Lebkuecher; Bob Scheifele

Subject: Re: Hurricane Isaac Disaster Response


Thank you for the prompt response to my email and for your kind words, I am sorry that it has taken me a bit longer to respond to you. I have been thinking things over carefully and I am somewhat of a slow thinker!

I spoke to Bob Schiefele yesterday. He told me that he had composed a letter of resignation on his plane ride home from Louisiana but his wife talked him out of sending it. This is compellingly sad for me. I think it is very painful for both of us to watch the ARC stumble so badly on DRs. We believe, sincerely, that the ARC is rapidly losing its ability to respond effectively to medium and large-scale disasters. We are suffering badly in our relationships with local government, with important elements of the local communities, with our partners and with our volunteers. In my conversations with Chiefs, both inside and outside of Mass Care, I find this view to be almost unanimously shared. We are saddened by what appears to be either a radical difference in our view of disaster response at the ground level compared to that of the ARC leadership or the unwillingness or inability of that leadership to solve problems that are becoming increasingly debilitating.

I will tell you that Bob and I have great faith in you. We trust your leadership, your perception and your intellect. Frankly, it is the only reason that we are both still participating in DRs. We are much less certain that you have the weight of authority to solve what is becoming an increasingly entrenched discord within the ARC. I will also tell you, candidly, that we are not willing to follow this path much longer. We need to see something which will give us a belief that the ARC is moving in the right direction.

My central tenet is that the fundamental problem with ARC disaster response is that we lack an underlying and unifying philosophy in dealing with disaster. We lack, what we used to call in the submarine force, a "concept of operations". Without that I believe that we respond arbitrarily, rather than systematically, to whatever buffets us most strongly at the moment. Without that we are rudderless and, in a large-scale disaster response, I can think of no analogy more appropriate (at least for a Mass Care Chief) than trying to make headway in a storm.

On the occasions that I have talked about a "concept of operations" with ARC leadership I have pretty much gotten blank stares. I think it is so unfamiliar to the ARC that it hinders communication. People think of it as a Table of Organization, or a massaging of our core principles, a job checklist, a recipe for running a DR or a disaster plan. It is none of those things.

Bob and I propose a dialogue, a brain-storming session, in the near future and at the DOC, with you. Greg O'Ryan, and Russ Paulson with the following purposes:

A. To share our perspectives of the manner in which we are currently conducting disaster relief operations,

B. To listen to your perspectives and to learn about the factors which you deal with of which we are undoubtedly unaware.

C. To begin a dialogue and find an area of common ground which will eventually lead to an underlying philosophy that we can apply to ARC disaster relief.

Bob and I are willing to create a draft "concept of operations" document. It is not unfamiliar ground for either of us. First, though, we need to gain an understanding of different perspectives and we need to do that in an informal face-to-face environment. It is not an easy task. I think it will be particularly difficult for the ARC because I believe the severe fragmentation the ARC exhibits during disaster relief operations is a result of sharply conflicting philosophies. Still, if we are unable to handle the task during non-disaster times we have no hope of working cohesively and decisively during a disaster relief operation.

Best wishes.



"Riggen, Trevor" [DELETE]

To: Richard Rieckenberg [DELETE]

Cc: "Galifianakis, Katherine" [DELETE]

Sent: Wednesday, September 12. 2012 12:37 PM

Subject: Re: Hurricane Isaac Disaster Response


You (as usual) have clearly articulated the core of the issues were are facing. From a broad perspective I completely agree with you ... we absolutely need take the initiative (i.e. courage) and move forward. Much of this is extremely systemic and goes well beyond the reach or responsibility of a chief or even a DRO.

Although I understand your frustration and concern, I would ask that you consider giving us a bit more time and perhaps give me some of yours as we move through the reengineering effort. We are at a critical moment in that work and will be quickly diving into design this month and your expertise and thinking will be invaluable as we potentially redesign much of what we do around some core principles designed to tackle the issues you described. Everything we have done thus far assures we are actually going to focus on the core issues ... not the symptoms.

On a personal note I do want to apologize for what you have faced, You have been an extraordinary asset to [t]he country ... and I believe we have only scraped the surface. We should be better. Whatever your choice, please know I have the utmost respect for you and am available anytime to talk.

All the best.



On Sep 12. 2012. at 1:44 PM. "Richard Rieckenberg" [DELETE] wrote:

Trevor and Katherine,

I am very concerned over the Red Cross performance in both Florida and Mississippi in response to Hurricane Isaac. Frankly, this is the type of disaster that we should be very good at handling. Hurricane Isaac was a slow- moving, low category storm. After a change of course as it was passing the Keys, it came in exactly as predicted in terms of location, strength, speed and impact. The state governments in both Florida and Mississippi are easy to work with and accommodating. Despite all of this, we were unable to properly position our resources in Florida, largely because of internal haggling. In Mississippi we were flat-out unprepared.

Beyond that, I have seen a sharp decline over the last two years in our ability, in a DRO, to carry out basic mass care tasks and get them right: our skill level at the manager and supervisor level is the lowest I have seen it. In Mississippi we were unable to open a single shelter with proper staff, materials and food resources prior to landfall. We had trouble getting food to our kitchens. Bulk workers were late in getting to bulk distribution sites and bulk supplies were late in arriving at those sites. We had no visibility of material resources on the ground despite the new order processing system. We were late in getting a Bulk Distribution Manager and both the Feeding and Sheltering Managers had to be replaced within a day or two of landfall. Steve Ade was sharply criticized for much of this by the chapters and, to a much lesser extent, the DOC. But it is unreasonable to expect that a Chief can come into a situation and overcome serious, deep-seated problems in a day or two. I watched Steve work. He worked hard, he talked to the right people, he was clear in his vision and in his communications. What did get done successfully was a result of his direct and consistent leadership. In many ways Steve was made a scapegoat in this DRO. It is unfair and a particularly destructive practice.

Two years ago, in Mississippi we had chapter executives and workers who were experienced, who had solid relationships within the communities, and who knew, intimately, how to respond effectively to a disaster. We have almost entirely lost that in the reorganization. Worse yet we seem unaware of what we have lost, much less how we can regain it. Our credibility with MEMA and the various country EMAs is very low right now. This is not a problem of perception; they perceive us accurately. We threw away our best people with very little regard to how that affected both our relationship with local government and our ability to respond to disasters. We didn't get that solved before Hurricane Isaac hit, and it hurt us a great deal. I think this can be repaired with hard work. Although there are a few bright stars in the ARC leadership in Mississippi, I don't believe we have the right people in the right place to make the necessary repairs. We are intent on following a course of mediocrity and we don't even recognize it as such.

I don't know how we would have done in Florida had the hurricane struck there. We made prelandfall decisions based on internal politics and parochialism rather than a tactical assessment of the situation at hand. This is demoralizing to our volunteers in ways that I have difficulty describing. We tend to think that staff lodging shortcomings, staff card snafus, and transportation issues are what discourages volunteers. This is true, but I think what is far more demoralizing is to be a small part of an organization that seems to be making decisions that make no tactical sense. You are going to get many hundreds of surveys from ARC volunteers that complain that they didn't know who their supervisor was and that they didn't have a clear understanding of their job. That is because the managers and chiefs at DRO HQ in Florida did not know who their workers were, how to contact them, where they were staying or what they were doing. This information was deliberately withheld by the West Coast Region Chapter, where over 90% of the non-local staff was sent (about 460 mass care workers), because they did not want these volunteers used in any capacity other than for their own response in and around Tampa Bay. The obvious fact that the Tampa Bay area was under no particular disaster threat from Hurricane Isaac was ignored.

I don't like to criticize disaster relief operations. I strongly believe that my job, as a Chief, is to take the cards dealt and figure out a way to win the hand. This type of criticism is a last resort for me. It is not an expression of anger. It is my way of saying that we are moving very quickly in the wrong direction and I don't know what else to do except to shout it out.

The advantage, or maybe the burden, of being a volunteer (or reservist), is that we weigh the morality of everything that we do against our own personal scales. We have no job to protect, no promotions for which we compete. It is refreshing because it allows a singularity of focus. The politics and machinations of the DOC, chapter execs, DVPs, and FEMA are meaningless except in the context of how they make my job harder or easier to provide services to our clients. But the singularity of focus is a double-edged sword because it is not tied to an organization, it is tied to a very personal mission. The last three DROs I have participated in have been marked primarily by internal political wrangling, power struggles and ineffectiveness. Therefore, I am considering leaving the ARC. I will make my decision in the next few days. Please don't take this as a threat, just as an candid statement of fact. No matter what my final decision is I wish both of you the best. I hold both of you in high regard and I fervently hope that the ARC finds the willingness and the courage, collectively, to put itself back on course.

Best wishes,



Richard Rieckenberg Letter to Red Cross Vice President Trevor Riggen After Sandy

18 November 2012


For the last week I have been weighing in my mind the best way to express myself. I guess the best way is to just get to the bottom line:

We have two huge problems which we are somehow unable to overcome. The first is that we continue to treat our workers (paid and volunteer) in a completely unacceptable manner. Here is what I think should be our minimal commitment to our workers:

1. A cot and a warm place to sleep each night.

2. The opportunity to eat three meals per day.

3. A place to get out of inclement weather for short periods during the work day.

4. An opportunity to shower each day.

5. To be treated with dignity at all times.

6. A minimum of eight hours daily to sleep and tend to personal business.

7. The tools necessary to conduct their jobs.

We failed in every single one of these core commitments in the fourteen days I was associated with this DR, not just in isolated pockets of a few individuals but broadly and consistently. I think there are a lot of reasons for this but there aren’t any excuses. This is a consistent failure on our part because we simply lack the will to solve it.

Our most egregious shortcoming was the lack of dignity which we afforded our workers. We routinely gave them tasks which made no sense from a mass care standpoint. Additionally, the senior leadership routinely subjected workers to shameful levels of bullying and verbal abuse. One AD stated to me that his “deep passion for the mission” justified these actions. I guarantee you that there is no justification.

Our second major shortcoming was the manner in which we, as senior leaders, allowed ourselves to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of this disaster and then lacked the discipline to respond in a positive manner. We became self-indulgent, panicked and irrational. In fact, Steve Ade and I were taken aside on day eight by our supervisor and told that we were acting “too calm and collected” and were told to behave in a “more excited and frantic manner”. Has this become the new leadership model for DROs?

Worse, as a matter of political expediency, we became committed to creating the illusion of providing mass care rather than the reality. At the level I was dealing with this was done in a very deliberate and cynical manner. We became focused on making “the numbers look good” and in “showing a presence”. I was in an interesting position as the Mass Care Planner. I was not asked to plan. Rather, I had plans given to me which I was expected to endorse. Some were absurd. Here is an example: At about 3:00 PM on Saturday, 3 November (I believe), Steve Ade and I were called into a meeting about expanding the feeding operation. One of our contractors was preparing 20Ks per day (10K for lunch and 10K for dinner). We were directed to increase that to 220K meals per day starting with 100K breakfasts the next morning. This would increase our daily meal count for Sunday to about 300K meals. This had an admitted visceral appeal but there were several serious problems with the execution:

1. Mass Care was in daily communication with the owner of the catering company and was quite aware that they were unable to increase production anywhere near that fast and to anywhere near those levels.

2. We only had 37 operational ERVs assigned to Mass Care at the time and 15 of them were committed to press conferences and news photo opportunities. That left just over 20 ERVs to serve 300K meals.

3. We didn’t have identified locations where there was a client feeding need even approaching that number. There was anecdotal evidence that a lot of people were suffering but we were having trouble connecting with them. In fact, we were wasting about 30% of the meals we were currently producing.

We actually agreed to do this on the assurance of the chapter leadership that they could get the additional 200K catered meals as well as provide Mass Care with 30 additional feeding locations by that evening. To the credit of our Feeding Team they developed a workable plan to carry out our side of the bargain, although it took until about 1:00 AM to do so. The end result the next morning, though, was that we received a partial order of breakfast from the caterer about 4 hours late along with an apology that they would be defaulting on the remaining meals (including the lunch and dinner meals that they had been providing for us daily). We also did not receive the promised feeding locations from the chapter.

The DRO leadership was actually thrilled with the result. The feeding numbers looked good. From a Mass Care perspective, of course, it was a disaster. We gave out perhaps the world’s most expensive cold Danishes and bagels instead of a more nutritious lunch and dinner. Our ERV drivers got up as early as 4:00 AM to wait for several hours for food deliveries that did not materialize. We had to try to patch things up with the caterer who now considered us a rather irrational customer. Our Feeding Team was completely demoralized. We estimated our wastage that day at about 50% (meals not put in the hands of a disaster victim). We demonstrated to our VOAD and government partners that we were much better at making promises than in carrying them out. Lastly, I am not sure of the extent to which word of this feeding plan got out to the affected communities but, if it did, we did them a very cruel disservice.

I wish this was the only example of foolish planning but it was not. It was definitely not the most cynical. The next evening I was provided with another feeding plan at a meeting with two ADs. When I said that I did not think it would meet the client’s needs I was quite bluntly told that they didn’t care – it was the plan that was going to make the ARC look the best to the local politicians.

I don’t intend to provide a chronicling of grievances so here is the promised bottom line: I think the ARC probably did a good job in manipulating the politics of this disaster to its advantage but this is the first time that I got the feeling that it was very coldly and deliberately done both with an indifference to the needs of the clients and at the expense of our workers. I think that we have been playing a little fast and loose with our moral integrity over the last two years but this is the first time that I felt that we had abandoned it entirely. We are making decisions which yield short-term benefits but have very bad long-term consequences. Within the last two years I have seen a sharp decrease in the respect given to the Red Cross by local and state officials and by some of our most valued partners. This is happening at the grass-roots level; the local fire and police chiefs, county EMAs, mid-level state officials. We are being seen as an organization whose talk is bigger than their game – whose reputation is better than the reality. Frankly, this is how we are behaving.

When we met in Washington, DC a month ago you mentioned that our public rating is extremely high despite some harsh criticism over the last two years. I think public opinion is hard to move but when it begins to move it is very difficult to stop. It moves when we lose grass roots support – when the firefighters, EMTs, police officers, pastors, “blue hats”, and county workers begin to judge us harshly. It moves when we send hundreds of volunteers home who resolve never to be involved again. I don’t think we should find comfort in where we are at right now.

I am done with DRs for now. I will be submitting a request to be placed in inactive status. From my standpoint this doesn’t affect my friendship with you and it doesn’t affect my willingness to work with you in restructuring disaster response. I wish you the best.


Richard L. Rieckenberg

But some Red Cross veterans say they see few signs the organization has made the necessary changes since Sandy and Isaac to respond competently the next time disaster hits.

Richard Rieckenberg, who oversaw aspects of the Red Cross’ efforts to provide food, shelter and supplies after the 2012 storms, said the organization’s work was repeatedly undercut by its leadership.

Top Red Cross officials were concerned only “about the appearance of aid, not actually delivering it,” Rieckenberg says. “They were not interested in solving the problem — they were interested in looking good. That was incredibly demoralizing.”

The modern-day Red Cross was created by congressional charter more than a century ago and plays a unique part in responding to disasters. The iconic charity has a government mandate to work alongside the Federal Emergency Management Agency in relief efforts.

Table of Contents:

• Section 1: Organization
• Section 2: Purposes
• Section 3: Membership and chapters
• Section 4: Board of Governors
• Section 5: Powers
• Section 6: Emblem, badge, and brassard
• Section 7: Annual meeting
• Section 8: Buildings
• Section 9: Endowment fund
• Section 10: Annual report and audit
• Section 11: Authority of the Comptroller General of the United States
• Section 12: Office of the Ombudsman
• Section 13: Reservation of right to amend or repeal
• Related Provisions of the United States Criminal Code
• Use of the American National Red Cross in Aid of the Armed Forces


Section 1 -- Organization

(a) FEDERAL CHARTER. The American National Red Cross (in this chapter, the "corporation") is a Federally chartered instrumentality of the United States and a body corporate and politic in the District of Columbia.

(b) NAME. The name of the corporation is "The American National Red Cross". The corporation may conduct its business and affairs, and otherwise hold itself out, as the ‘American Red Cross’ in any jurisdiction.

(c) PERPETUAL EXISTENCE. Except as otherwise provided, the corporation has perpetual existence.

Section 2 -- Purposes

The purposes of the corporation are:

(1) to provide volunteer aid in time of war to the sick and wounded of the armed forces, in accordance with the spirit and conditions of:

(A) the conference of Geneva of October, 1863;

(B) the treaties of the Red Cross, or the treaties of Geneva, of August 22, 1864, July 27, 1929, and August 12, 1949, to which the United States of America has given its adhesion; and

(C) any other treaty, convention, or protocol similar in purpose to which the United States of America has given or may give its adhesion;

(2) in carrying out the purposes described in clause (1) of this section, to perform all the duties devolved on a national society by each nation that has acceded to any of those treaties, conventions, or protocols;

(3) to act in matters of voluntary relief and in accordance with the military authorities as a medium of communication between the people of the United States and the armed forces of the United States and to act in those matters between similar national societies of governments of other countries through the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Government, the people, and the armed forces of the United States;

(4) to carry out a system of national and international relief in time of peace, and apply that system in mitigating the suffering caused by pestilence, famine, fire, floods, and other great national calamities, and to devise and carry out measures for preventing those calamities; and

(5) to conduct other activities consistent with the foregoing purposes.

Section 3 -- Membership and Chapters

(a) MEMBERSHIP. Membership in the corporation is open to all the people of the United States and its territories and possessions, on payment of an amount specified, or as otherwise provided, in the bylaws.


(1) The chapters of the corporation are the local units of the corporation. The corporation shall prescribe policies and regulations related to:

(A) granting charters to the chapters and revoking those charters;

(B) territorial jurisdiction of the chapters;

(C) the relationship of the chapters to the corporation; and

(D) compliance by the chapters with the policies and regulations of the corporation.

(2) The policies and regulations shall require that each chapter adhere to the democratic principles of election specified in the bylaws in electing the governing body of the chapter and selecting delegates to the annual meeting of the corporation.

Section 4 -- Board of Governors


(1) IN GENERAL.—The board of governors is the governing body of the corporation with all powers of governing and directing, and of overseeing the management of the business and affairs of, the corporation.

(2) NUMBER.—The board of governors shall fix by resolution, from time to time, the number of members constituting the entire board of governors, provided that—

(A) as of March 31, 2009, and thereafter, there shall be no fewer than 12 and no more than 25 members; and

(B) as of March 31, 2012, and thereafter, there shall be no fewer than 12 and no more than 20 members constituting the entire board. Procedures to implement the preceding sentence shall be provided in the bylaws.

(3) APPOINTMENT.—The governors shall be appointed or elected in the following manner:


(i) IN GENERAL.—The board of governors, in accordance with procedures provided in the bylaws, shall recommend to the President an individual to serve as chairman of the board of governors. If such recommendation is approved by the President, the President shall appoint such individual to serve as chairman of the board of governors.

(ii) VACANCIES.—Vacancies in the office of the chairman, including vacancies resulting from the resignation, death, or removal by the President of the chairman, shall be filled in the same manner described in clause (i)

(iii) DUTIES.—the chairman shall be a member of the board of governors and, when present, shall preside at meetings of the board of governors and shall have such other duties and responsibilities as may be provided in the bylaws or a resolution of the board of governors.


(i) IN GENERAL.—Members of the board of governors other than the chairman shall be elected at the annual meeting of the corporation in accordance with such procedures as may be provided in the bylaws.

(ii) VACANCIES.—Vacancies in any such elected board position and in any newly created board position may be filled by a vote of the remaining members of the board of governors in accordance with such procedures as may be provided in the bylaws.


(1) IN GENERAL.—The term of office of each member of the board of governors shall be 3 years, except that—

(A) the board of governors may provide under the bylaws that the terms of office of members of the board of governors elected to the board of governors before March 31, 2012, may be less than 3 years in order to implement the provisions of subparagraphs (A) and (B) of subsection (a)(2); and

(B) any member of the board of governors elected by the board to fill a vacancy in a board position arising before the expiration of its term may, as determined by the board, serve for the remainder of that term or until the next annual meeting of the corporation.

(2) STAGGERED TERMS.—The terms of office of members of the board of governors (other than the chairman) shall be staggered such that, by March 31, 2012, and thereafter, 1/3 of the entire board (or as near to 1/3 as practicable) shall be elected at each successive annual meeting of the corporation with the term of office of each member of the board of governors elected at an annual meeting expiring at the third annual meeting following the annual meeting at which such member was elected.

(3) TERM LIMITS.—No person may serve as a member of the board of governors for more than such number of terms of office or years as may be provided in the bylaws.


(1) may appoint, from its own members, an executive committee to exercise such powers of the board when the board is not in session as may be provided in the bylaws;

(2) may appoint such other committees or advisory councils with such powers as may be provided in the bylaws or a resolution of the board of governors;

(3) shall appoint such officers of the corporation, including a chief executive officer, with such duties, responsibilities, and terms of office as may be provided in the bylaws or a resolution of the board of governors; and

(4) may remove members of the board of governors (other than the chairman), officers, and employees under such procedures as may be provided in the bylaws or a resolution of the board of governors.


(1) ESTABLISHMENT.—There shall be an advisory council to the board of governors.


(A) IN GENERAL.—The advisory council shall be composed of no fewer than 8 and no more than 10 members, each of whom shall be appointed by the President from principal officers of the executive departments and senior officers of the Armed Forces whose positions and interests qualify them to contribute to carrying out the programs and purposes of the corporation.

(B) MEMBERS FROM THE ARMED FORCES.—At least 1, but not more than 3, of the members of the advisory council shall be selected from the Armed Forces.

(3) DUTIES.—The advisory council shall advise, report directly to, and meet, at least 1 time per year with the board of governors, and shall have such name, functions and be subject to such procedures as may be provided in the bylaws.

(e) ACTION WITHOUT MEETING.—Any action required or permitted to be taken at any meeting of the board of governors or of any committee thereof may be taken without a meeting if all members of the board or committee, as the case may be, consent thereto in writing, or by electronic transmission and the writing or writings or electronic transmission or transmissions are filed with the minutes of proceedings of the board or committee. Such filing shall be in paper form if the minutes are maintained in paper form and shall be in electronic form if the minutes are maintained in electronic form.


(1) IN GENERAL.—Voting by proxy is not allowed at any meeting of the board, at the annual meeting, or at any meeting of a chapter.

(2) EXCEPTION.—The board may allow the election of governors by proxy during any emergency.

(g) BYLAWS.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—The board of governors may—

(A) at any time adopt bylaws; and

(B) at any time adopt bylaws to be effective only in an emergency.

(2) EMERGENCY BYLAWS.—Any bylaws adopted pursuant to paragraph (1)(B) may provide special procedures necessary for managing the corporation during the emergency. All provisions of the regular bylaws consistent with the emergency bylaws remain effective during the emergency.

(h) DEFINITIONS.—For purposes of this section—

(1) the term ‘entire board’ means the total number of members of the board of governors that the corporation would have if there were no vacancies; and

(2) the term ‘emergency’ shall have such meaning as may be provided in the bylaws.

Section 5 -- Powers

(a) GENERAL. The Corporation may:

(1) adopt policies and regulations;

(2) adopt, alter and destroy a seal;

(3) own and dispose of property to carry out the purposes of the corporation;

(4) accept gifts, devises, and bequests of property to carry out the purposes of the corporation;

(5) sue and be sued in courts of law and equity, State or Federal, within the jurisdiction of the United States; and

(6) do any other act necessary to carry out this chapter and promote the purposes of the corporation.

(b) DESIGNATION. The corporation is designated as the organization which is authorized to act in matters of relief under the treaties of Geneva, August 22, 1864, July 27, 1929, and August 12, 1949.

Section 6 -- Emblem, Badge, and Brassard

(a) EMBLEM AND BADGE. In carrying out its purposes under this chapter, the corporation may have and use, as an emblem and badge, a Greek red cross on a white ground, as described in the treaties of Geneva, August 22, 1864, July 27, 1929, and August 12, 1949, and adopted by the nations acceding to those treaties.

(b) DELIVERY OF BRASSARD. In accordance with those treaties, the delivery of the brassard allowed for individuals neutralized in time of war shall be left to military authority.

Section 7 -- Annual Meeting

(a) IN GENERAL.—The annual meeting of the corporation is the annual meeting of delegates of the chapters.

(b) TIME OF MEETING.—The annual meeting shall be held as determined by the board of governors.

(c) PLACE OF MEETING.—The board of governors is authorized to determine that the annual meeting shall not be held at any place, but may instead be held solely by means of remote communication subject to such procedures as are provided in the bylaws.

(d) VOTING.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—In matters requiring a vote at the annual meeting, each chapter is entitled to at least 1 vote, and voting on all matters may be conducted by mail, telephone, telegram, cablegram, electronic mail, or any other means of electronic or telephone transmission, provided that the person voting shall state, or submit information from which it can be determined, that the method of voting chosen was authorized by such person.


(A) IN GENERAL.—The board of governors shall determine on an equitable basis the number of votes that each chapter is entitled to cast, taking into consideration the size of the membership of the chapters, the populations served by the chapters, and such other factors as may be determined by the board.

(B) PERIODIC REVIEW.—The board of governors shall review the allocation of votes at least every 5 years.

Section 8 -- Buildings

(a) OWNERSHIP. The United States Government shall retain ownership of the corporation’s permanent headquarters, comprised of buildings erected on square 172 in the District of Columbia, including:

(1) the memorial building to commemorate the service and sacrifice of the women of the United States, North and South, during the Civil War, erected for the use of the corporation;

(2) the memorial building to commemorate the service and sacrifice of the patriotic women of the United States, its territories and possessions, and the District of Columbia during World War I, erected for the use of the corporation; and

(3) the permanent building erected for the use of the corporation in connection with its work in cooperation with the Government.

(b) MAINTENANCE AND EXPENSES. Those buildings shall remain under the supervision of the Administrator of General Services. However, the corporation shall care for and maintain the buildings without expense to the Government.

Section 9 -- Endowment Fund

The endowment fund of the corporation shall be kept and invested under the management and control of a board of trustees elected by the board of governors. The corporation shall prescribe policies and regulations on terms and tenure of office, accountability, and expenses of the board of trustees.

Section 10 -- Annual Report and Audit

(a) SUBMISSION OF REPORT.—As soon as practicable after the end of the corporation’s fiscal year, which may be changed from time to time by the board of governors, the corporation shall submit a report to the Secretary of Defense on the activities of the corporation during such fiscal year, including a complete, itemized report of all receipts and expenditures.

(b) AUDITING OF REPORT AND SUBMISSION TO CONGRESS. The Secretary shall audit the report and submit a copy of the audited report to Congress.

(c) PAYMENT OF AUDIT EXPENSES. The corporation shall reimburse the Secretary each year for auditing its accounts. The amount paid shall be deposited in the Treasury of the United States as a miscellaneous receipt.

Section 11—Authority of the Comptroller General of the United States

The Comptroller General of the United States is authorized to review the corporation’s involvement in any Federal program or activity the Government carries out under law.

Section 12—Office of the Ombudsman

(a) ESTABLISHMENT.—The corporation shall establish an Office of the Ombudsman with such duties and responsibilities as may be provided in the bylaws or a resolution of the board of governors.

(b) REPORT.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—The Office of the Ombudsman shall submit annually to the appropriate Congressional committees a report concerning any trends and systemic matters that the Office of the Ombudsman has identified as confronting the corporation.

(2) APPROPRIATE CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEES.—For purposes of paragraph (1), the appropriate Congressional committees are the following committees of Congress:

(A) SENATE COMMITTEES.—The appropriate Congressional committees of the Senate are—

(i) the Committee on Finance;

(ii) the Committee on Foreign Relations;

(iii) the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions;

(iv) the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; and

(v) the Committee on the Judiciary.

(B) HOUSE COMMITTEES.—The appropriate Congressional committees of the House of Representatives are—

(i) the Committee on Energy and Commerce;

(ii) the Committee on Foreign Affairs;

(iii) the Committee on Homeland Security;

(iv) the Committee on the Judiciary; and

(v) the Committee on Ways and Means.’’.

Section 13—Reservation of Right to Amend or Repeal

Congress reserves the right to amend or repeal the provisions of this chapter.

[The Act approved January 5, 1905 (33 Stat. 599), as amended by the Acts approved June 23, 1910 (36 Stat. 604), December 10, 1912 (37 Stat. 647), February 27, 1917 (39 Stat. 946), March 3, 1921 (41 Stat. 1354), June 7, 1924 (43 Stat. 665), February 7, 1930 (46 Stat. 66), May 8, 1947 (61 Stat. 80), June 25, 1948 (62 Stat. 862), July 17, 1953 (67 Stat. 179), August 12, 1998 (112 Stat. 1494.), and May 11, 2007.]

Related Provisions of the United States Criminal Code

Whoever wears or displays the sign of the Red Cross or any insignia colored in imitation thereof for the fraudulent purpose of inducing the belief that he is a member of or an agent for the American National Red Cross; or

Whoever, whether a corporation, association, or person, other than the American National Red Cross and its duly authorized employees and agents and the sanitary and hospital authorities of the armed forces of the United States, uses the emblem of the Greek red cross on a white ground, or any sign or insignia made or colored in imitation thereof or the words "Red Cross" or "Geneva Cross" or any combination of these words—

Shall be fined not more than $250 or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.

This section shall not make unlawful the use of any such emblem, sign, insignia, or words which was lawful on the date of enactment of this title. [Sec. 706, Title 18, U.S.C.]

Whoever, within the United States, falsely or fraudulently holds himself out as or represents or pretends himself to be a member of or an agent for the American National Red Cross for the purpose of soliciting, collecting, or receiving money or material, shall be fined not more than $500 or imprisoned not more than one year, or both. [Sec. 917, Title 18, U.S.C.]

Use of the American National Red Cross in Aid of the Armed Forces

(a) Whenever the President finds it necessary, he may accept the cooperation and assistance of the American National Red Cross, and employ it under the armed forces under regulations to be prescribed by the Secretary of Defense.

(b) Personnel of the American National Red Cross who are performing duties in connection with its cooperation and assistance under subsection (a) may be furnished—

(1) transportation, at the expense of the United States, while traveling to and from, and while performing, those duties, in the same manner as civilian employees of the armed forces;

(2) meals and quarters, at their expense or at the expense of the American National Red Cross, except that where civilian employees of the armed forces are quartered without charge, employees of the American National Red Cross may also be quartered without charge; and

(3) available office space, warehousing, wharfage, and means of communication, without charge.

(c) No fee may be charged for a passport issued to an employee of the American National Red Cross for travel outside the United States to assume or perform duties under this section.

(d) Supplies of the American National Red Cross, including gifts for the use of the armed forces, may be transported at the expense of the United States, if it is determined under regulations prescribed under subsection (a) that they are necessary to the cooperation and assistance accepted under this section.

(e) For the purposes of this section, employees of the American National Red Cross may not be considered as employees of the United States. [Sec. 2602, Title 10, U.S.C.]

Note: As contemplated by the above-quoted statutes, the assistance of the American National Red Cross was tendered to and formally accepted by the President of the United States as of July 17, 1953.

The Red Cross has endured patches of trouble in the recent past. It faced allegations of financial mismanagement after Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina and a series of chief executives were forced to resign. Congress forced an overhaul. The Red Cross recruited McGovern to the top job in 2008.

McGovern had spent her career as an executive at AT&T and Fidelity and was teaching marketing at Harvard Business School. “This is a brand to die for,” she said in an early interview as the Red Cross’ chief executive.


Corporate exec Gail McGovern became the Red Cross CEO in 2008. She called the charity “a brand to die for.” (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Indeed, the Red Cross remains a magnet for wealthy and corporate contributors, drawing more than $1 billion in donations last year, including at least $1 million each from Lady Gaga, Nicolas Cage and the oilman T. Boone Pickens.

When McGovern took the reins, she inherited a sprawling operation with hundreds of chapters across the country. The Red Cross has more than 26,000 employees. After a storm, the full-time staff mobilizes volunteers and a smaller corps of disaster relief experts, known as reservists.
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Re: The Red Cross's Secret Disaster, by Justin Elliott and J

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While often praised as a stabilizing presence by those outside the Red Cross, McGovern initiated a series of changes inside the organization that roiled the venerable charity. She executed layoffs and reorganizations that closed local chapters and centralized power at national headquarters in Washington. In part, these changes reflected several years of operating in the red. In its most recent year, the Red Cross ran a $70 million budget deficit. “Fundraising fell short of our target in a year without any huge national disasters,” McGovern wrote in a September email to executives.

CEO Gail McGovern Email on Red Cross Deficit

From: American Red Cross

Sent: Thursday, September 04, 2014 10:23 AM

To: Chapter Executives; NHQ - Chapter Division VPs; BHQ - Division VPs; BHQ - Blood Services CEOs; NHQ - Directors and Above; BHQ - Directors and Above

Subject: Gail McGovern: Financial Update and the Path Forward

Distributed to: All Chapter Executives; Chapter DVPs; Blood Services Region CEOs; Biomedical Division VPs; Directors and Above, NHQ/BHQ

The following message is from Gail McGovern, President and CEO:

I hope all of you were able to spend time this summer with family and friends and take a break from the hard work you do every day on behalf of others.

As we are closing the books on FY14, I want to give you an update on Red Cross finances, where things stand on the FY17 transformation efforts, and what lies ahead.

While the FY14 year-end figures are not final, the latest indications are that

the Red Cross finished FY14 with a deficit of about $70 million. The causes of our financial challenges continue to be --

• industry wide declines in the blood banking industry,
• Fundraising that fell short of our target in a year without any huge national disasters.
• Costs of honoring the funding obligations of the pensions of our employees and retirees, and
• Continuing to pay down our long-term debt.

While facts like blood demand and the severity and number of disasters are factors beyond our control, we still must respond decisively to deal with them. We must be financially stable at the new lower level of demand for blood products. And, we must fundraise to ensure that we can provide help to those we serve who are impacted by the 70,000 disasters each year, regardless of the number of large disasters.

In January, senior leadership at the Red Cross began work on a plan to address these financial challenges and lay out a vision for how we expand our services to more people while lowering the cost of our operations, and making the best use of donor dollars. We set a planning window of three years to achieve this vision in 2017, and the FY14 financial results show the importance of getting ahead of these issues.

But McGovern’s moves alienated many longtime volunteers and reservists, current and former Red Cross officials say.

“I believe the reorganizations that have taken place are killing this organization,” says Bob Scheifele, a veteran Red Cross disaster response expert who was on the ground after Isaac and Sandy.

The Red Cross began to see the effects of McGovern’s changes in late August 2012, when Hurricane Isaac slammed into the Gulf Coast. The storm lingered over Mississippi and Louisiana, causing major flooding and more than $2 billion in damage. In some low-lying areas, residents had to be rescued from the rooftops of their submerged homes.

The Red Cross mobilized hundreds of volunteers, equipment, emergency vehicles and supplies. But it couldn’t marshal them promptly enough to help many Isaac victims.

When Rieckenberg arrived in Mississippi to help coordinate victim care, he witnessed the incident that so troubled Dunham, the emergency vehicle driver. An official gave the order to send out 80 trucks and emergency response vehicles — normally full of meals or supplies like diapers, bleach and paper towels — entirely empty or carrying a few snacks.

The volunteers “were told to drive around and look like you’re giving disaster relief,” Rieckenberg says. The official was anticipating a visit by Red Cross brass and wanted to impress them with the level of activity, he says.

The disarray and deception in Mississippi made Rieckenberg “furious,” he recalls. Rieckenberg, 62, had spent his career as a nuclear engineer on a Navy sub during the Cold War. He joined the Red Cross after seeing the images of Katrina’s devastation.

He was quickly promoted and became part of a select group of “Mass Care Chiefs.” In Red Cross lingo, “mass care” is the provision of food, shelter and supplies immediately after a disaster. When a serious storm was forecast anywhere in the country, Rieckenberg would get a call at his home outside Santa Fe and jump on a plane. Chiefs often work 18-hour days, setting up makeshift command centers in places like motel hallways, sometimes working without electricity. Jobs usually last a few weeks, beyond which chiefs risk burning out from exhaustion. As a reservist, Rieckenberg was paid small sums for responding to disasters.


Richard Rieckenberg, a former disaster expert with the Red Cross, says the charity cares about the “appearance of aid, not actually delivering it.” (David P Gilkey/NPR)

The problems with the Red Cross’ response to Isaac began even before the storm hit. About 460 mass care volunteer workers — 90 percent of the workers the organization dispatched to provide food and shelter for the storm overall — were stationed in Tampa ahead of landfall, Rieckenberg’s emails from the time say.

Richard Rieckenberg's Narrative of the Red Cross's Isaac Response

Mass Care Planning Chief Narrative for DR 710-13 and DR 727-13

7 September 2012

Here are my comments regarding DR 710-13 (Tropical Storm Isaac – Florida) and DR 727-13 (Hurricane Isaac – Mississippi):

DDR 710-13 Tropical Storm Isaac - Florida:

A. Red Cross initial staff and resource allocation were in sharp contrast to the plans being made by the State of Florida. Specifically, the State of Florida was preparing for three contingencies:

1. A low probability of hurricane force winds in Miami-Dade County.

2. A potential level 2 hurricane striking the Florida Keys.

3. A likely level 2 hurricane strike of the Florida Panhandle.

Red Cross deployment of resources centered almost exclusively around a disaster primarily affecting Tampa Bay. Over 90% of incoming DRO staff were sent to Tampa Bay (over 460 mass care workers). The remainder was sent into the Miami area. The deployment of ARC assets was not supported by a technical evaluation of available data from NOAA or other hurricane impact analysis.

B. Senior leadership in Mass Care at DRO HQ, supported by the Job Director, attempted to move mass care workers to the Florida Panhandle from Tampa Bay. The West Coast Region Chapter was initially unwilling or unable to release mass care staff and resources from Tampa Bay. Eventually about 60 mass care shelter workers were released and were able to pre-position themselves to support the Panhandle. Additional requests for shelter workers were not supported in a timely manner. Hurricane Isaac eventually veered west of the Panhandle causing only minimal damage. Had Florida experienced a level 2 Hurricane strike directly on the Panhandle we would likely have been unprepared to provide proper mass care disaster relief even though we had more than ample resources within the state to do so.

C. As it became clear that Florida was not significantly threatened by Hurricane Isaac the DOC pressured the DRO to release mass care resources to Mississippi and Louisiana. The West Coast Region Chapter was unable to effectively mobilize those nationally staffed resources and those resources were late in deploying to aid the other Gulf States. It took a period of days to find the national staff in the West Coast Region Chapter and release them from the DRO.

D. The State of Florida (Michael Whitehead) tasked both the ARC and The Salvation Army with creating an initial, independent prediction of the disaster potential and the resources that the ARC (and TSA) was willing to commit toward providing mass care relief. That prediction and resource commitment were changed daily as the disaster unfolded and discussed during the daily State Mass Care Conference call. I think this was a good way of addressing the approaching mass care problem.

E. My relationship with Mr. Michael Whitehead was very friendly and I believe that he felt comfortable in dealing with me. Part of that was my previous experience in Florida for Hurricane Ike.

DR 727-13 Hurricane Isaac – Mississippi

A. I left DR 710-13 and drove to Mississippi to help with approaching Hurricane Isaac. This hurricane was moving quite slowly as it approached landfall and so the storm impact was unusually long. All, or nearly all, of the ARC managed and supported shelters which were opened pre-landfall were inadequately supplied with material (cots, blankets, etc.) and food. Some shelters were only able to provide a single meal a day, or less, for both the staff and clients. Many clients and nearly all shelter workers were not provided cots or blankets for up to two days.

B. We were excessively cautious in deploying our ERVs after the storm passed, hindering both our ability to provide needed resources to our shelters and our initial visibility within the Gulf Coast communities.

C. Mass Care conducted a bulk distribution which was ill-timed and excessive for the storm impact. As a result, many county EMA officials, police, sheriffs and firefighters were critical of us for actions they considered to be obstructive and wasteful.

D. The DFSC Manager was extremely disruptive to this DR. I heard many reports of rude behavior, unwillingness to support the DR, and reckless and threatening actions. I personally witnessed him driving a forklift in a reckless manner and heard reports of him knocking down pallets of material in a forklift collision. The conclusion of Steve Ade, the Mass Care Chief, and Glen Lockwood, the Job Director, was that the manager was deliberately delaying the delivery of product to the job. Lastly, I received a report that he locked some ERVs in a fenced enclosure (with some of the drivers inside) to “teach them a lesson”. I have never met an ARC employee who has behaved so badly and damaged the response capability and morale of the DR. I strongly encourage the ARC to remove this person from this organization.

E. My relationship with the State of Mississippi ESF-6 director was very good. This was largely due to my previous relationship which I established during the 2011 Mississippi floods.


Both the states of Florida and Mississippi seem strong supporters of the position of Mass Care Planning Chief. Michael Whitehead (Florida) mentioned that it seemed to solve the problem of slow communications with the ARC in the face a fast-moving problem. It also helped in solidifying the expectation of the states with the ARC’s ability to respond.

I am painfully aware that most of the above comments are negative. I don’t like to write reports like this but the reality is that we had many problems during these DRs, nearly all of them caused by internal squabbling (within the ARC, not the DRO staff) or a poor ability to organize and lead disaster relief efforts. I sincerely hope we take strong action to acknowledge and solve these problems.


Richard L. Rieckenberg
Mass Care Planning Chief
DR 727-13

The hundreds of volunteers in Tampa weren’t only there for the hurricane: The Republican National Convention was going on there and the Red Cross wanted a large presence, Rieckenberg says. The Red Cross typically deploys about 20 volunteers to such meetings.


The Red Cross left hundreds of volunteers in Tampa, the site of the 2012 Republican National Convention, well after it was clear Hurricane Isaac would miss the city. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Emails from the time show Rieckenberg complained that Red Cross officials prevented disaster response leaders from moving volunteers out of Tampa even after forecasts showed that the hurricane wouldn’t hit the city. It was the first time in Rieckenberg’s experience that people in charge of disaster relief didn’t have the final say over where Red Cross volunteers were sent.

The Red Cross disputes the notion that the Republican National Convention influenced their deployment, saying it was responding to early forecasts that Tampa might be in Isaac’s path.

“There was nothing political in our decisions regarding Tampa,” the charity says. “We would have made the same decisions if it had been a convention of chiropractors.”

But according to the National Hurricane Center, at least five days before Isaac made landfall it was clear the storm would not hit Tampa.

The charity also insists that “the volunteers and resources we deployed to Florida did not come at the expense of other states.” It did not provide figures for how many mass care volunteers were on the ground in other states before Isaac.

Whatever the reason the Red Cross sent so many volunteers to Tampa, a number of Red Cross officials say there were delays in getting them out. “After how long they were in Tampa, they obviously could not redeploy. They consumed all their available time and went home,” says Bob Scheifele, who served as mass care chief in Louisiana. A former major in the Army, Scheifele was so upset after Isaac that he drafted a resignation letter, though he ultimately decided not to send it.

The overall Red Cross operation after Isaac was beset by problems. Rieckenberg emailed his superior at national headquarters on Sept. 12, 2012, to sound the alarm. “In Mississippi we were unable to open a single shelter with proper staff, materials and food resources prior to landfall,” Rieckenberg wrote. “We had trouble getting food to our kitchens.” The Red Cross’ relief efforts were “marked primarily by internal political wrangling, power struggles and ineffectiveness.”

“You (as usual) have clearly articulated the core of many of the issues we are facing. From a broad perspective I completely agree with you,” Trevor Riggen, the top Red Cross disaster response official, replied that same day. “This is extremely systemic.”

He also praised Rieckenberg for his service: “You have been an extraordinary asset to the country,” Riggen wrote.

In mid-October 2012, Rieckenberg and Scheifele traveled to Washington to present their experiences to Riggen and two other high-level Red Cross executives.

“We are more enamored with the perception of success rather than success,” Rieckenberg told them, according to his notes. He and Scheifele presented a host of other concerns to the officials.

Richard Rieckenberg Notes From Meeting with Red Cross Execs After Isaac

Principle Errors in Current DR Structure

16 October 20-12

A. Effective Command and Control is absent.

1. Decision "by committee" during a disaster is a disaster.

2. There is a difference between receiving multiple inputs and requiring multiple approvals.

3. We don't understand leadership.

B. "One Red Cross" is a fallacy and it is getting worse.

1. Too many rice bowls, too much politics.

C. We know who the client is; we don't know who the customer is.

1. We don't know what success looks like.

2. We are losing (badly) at the grass roots and with our partners.

3. Too large/too out of touch/too impersonal/too inefficient.

D. The system is too complex and is becoming more complex.

1. It almost never works right.

a. Staff cards/staff accommodations/transportation.

b. Getting right staff into DR.

c. Getting right stuff on time/medicine out of date/kits missing material.

d. Cell phones don't work/ERVs broken.

E. We do not understand the principles of accountability, responsibility and authority.

1. Responsibility without authority.

2. Authority without accountability.

F. We do not understand the principles of philosophy -- standards -- policies -- procedures.

1. Philosophy and standards flow down; policies and procedures flow up.

2. We have no Concept of Operations.

G. We believe 500 is better than 50.

1. We assume fracturing a response rather than centralizing it is optimum.

2. We chronically, severely overstaff DRs.

H. We are more enamored with the perception of success rather than success.

1. Perception is perception, reality is reality.

I. We do not model ourselves after any successful organization.

J. We are so "confrontation adverse" that we cause confrontation.

1. We try to be all things to all people.

2. We don't confront and correct poor performance.

K. We have the wrong people on the bus.

1. We put processes in place to try to compensate for poor performance.

2. We don't hold leadership accountable.

3. We are incorrigible micromanagers.

The executives asked Rieckenberg and Scheifele to be patient, promising reforms.

And then, on Oct. 29, 2012, Sandy hit New York.

The superstorm was the worst to hit the northeast in a generation. In addition to President Obama, Mitt Romney and Bruce Springsteen urged people to donate to the Red Cross. The charity ultimately raised $312 million to help Sandy victims. (ProPublica has raised questions about the opacity of Red Cross disclosures on how this money was spent.)

But while its fundraising was torrential, its disaster response was a trickle.

“The Red Cross would have been helpful if it had offered food, water, shelter, cleaning supplies, blankets,” says Rich Wieland, whose house in Toms River, New Jersey was flooded and whose neighborhood lost power for 16 days. His first contact with the charity came two months after the storm when Red Cross workers finally called to offer aid. “It was too little, too late.”

Richard Sturiale, who saw the basement and first floor of his home in the Rockaways destroyed by flooding, recalls that “the only Red Cross truck my neighbors or I saw came two weeks after the storm.” In contrast, he says, Mormon and Amish volunteers “appeared at my doorstep offering much-needed help” just three days after Sandy.

Behind closed doors, Red Cross executives acknowledged the effort was falling short. The charity was “not good at scaling up” to the size of the disaster, said the official in charge of the Red Cross disaster response in New York, according to the minutes of the December 2012 meeting to assess the charity’s performance. Among the multiple systems that “failed” was the charity’s tracking of its emergency response vehicles.

Minutes of Red Cross Execs' Meeting After Sandy

Hurricane Sandy Hot Wash



Keith Alvey
Vic Hencken
Clayton Kolb
Scott Graham
Kurt Weirich
Anne Reynolds
Gregg O’Ryon
Charley Shimanski
Trevor Riggen
Lauren Twohig
Anne Palmer (scribe)
*Bill Malfara & Becky McCorry dialed in for a portion of the meeting


Trevor – This is not the time to do full blown after action. Rather, there’s a need to get together at a high level to explore challenges and plus sides that occurred at the beginning of operation so we don’t loose sight of them. This hot wash will help inform the next phase of AARs. There is going to be some discussion about initial thoughts about Sandy at Gail’s level. Some of these issues may be organizational as well as related
specifically to Disaster Services.

Charley – Gail’s direct reports will be doing an enterprise-wide lessons learned meeting next week. All of Gail’s Direct Reports are encouraged to give feedback. Charley’s hope to give feedback informed by this hot wash.

Major Challenges:

Keith –

1. Biggest challenge – Skill set that is possessed by our workforce. Not able to quickly adapt to large urban response. Chiefs good at knowing tactical but not good at using flexibility and developing strategy and forward planning. Also not good at scaling up. Need to elevate managers’ and chiefs’ thinking.

Trevor – We don’t have OM training. Chiefs and managers are meant to direct a single program.

Training doesn’t explain how to select from an array of opportunities but rather gives specific direction.

Charley – Where do exercises fit into this to teach people that it’s ok to be creative?

Anne – We are not poised to be flexible and agile as an organization (lack of automation, basic communication tools.) Were not able to turn ship even had great ideas.

Vic – At SV and MN level, have shallow pool to draw from. Lack of understanding of who’s in charge.

Kurt – Agile thinking is one of the most critical factors. Tried innovative things early on that worked but didn’t know how to follow up on them. Don’t have way to capture info and improve. Need to teach situational leadership (focus on what is our mission vs. what is our process)

2. Planning has been on flat disaster. Need to adapt to vertical response model.

3. Our mindset on how engage partners early on and throughout to maximize ARC visibility to support our partners while having visibility

Vic –

1. Skill sets of workers. Shallow middle management. Division of supporting regions and being a DRO, confusion over who to call when.

2. Didn’t transition to DRO until 3-5 days after landfall. Caused delay in ordering staff and stuff. Lots of 2nd guessing at DOC of requests.

Trevor – We have a mirror structure at DOC and DRO. This causes confusion about authority.

Vic - Chapter staff have to be integrated into DRO. Keeping duplication just makes us thin all over.

Clayton – Integration was less of an issue in NY than it was in NJ. Planning for this happened after last year’s AAR. Development of SDCT throughout state, layered into operation and they stayed.

3. ESF6 communications with the State. State couldn’t articulate their needs.

Scott -

1. Need 2 or 3 models for a DRO that are elastic response models. Need 120 hr timeline post-landfall. Clarify what each entity is doing. Would have things like a planning, based of an ICS construct,…

Trevor – Biggest difference on how well we integrate is whether one region or multi-region area. When we have one region areas, we do pretty well on integration. When have multiple regions, more confusion.

Kurt – If do multi-regional construct, comes down to strength of OM team at the region.

Anne – Have tendency to create multiple levels. Long Island had essentially another DRO with more chiefs. This was done by incoming staff. We get attached to titles (i.e. OM Director for Kitchen #4.) They then created their own mini-operations. Chiefs were really acting as managers. Had too many people in Mass Care. Threw lots of people to solve problem.

Vic – Put depth to org chart don’t duplicate org chart.

Trevor – We overwhelm the job with resources. Got to push leadership down a level rather than add layers on top (i.e. chief becomes manager and OM becomes Chief)

Keith – Resources that showed up weren’t asked for. We created new reports and reporting requirements in the middle of the relief operation which taxed resources. We should build out the info and reporting requirements during steady-state so easier to facilitate in the future.

Trevor – Demand for info and reporting was more than we have seen before. Didn’t properly anticipate this.

Gregg – This request for reporting was driven by massive fundraising with questions about where Red Cross was/what doing with the money.

2. Tracking of our asset visibility. Not knowing when/where assets were/will be delivered. Pre-staging of supplies on Long Island saved lives but don’t have awareness of what these assets are. Need a system to track/locate assets. We have got to get to an understanding as an organization of how many assets we need pre-staged. Need to determine our steady-state needs for assets.

Keith – Multiple systems failed (e.g. ERV tracking)

Gregg - The shared complexity of the logistics of these operations were huge. We didn’t have the kind of sophistication needed for this size job. We used same system we always use.

Trevor -

1. Duplication of DOC with DRO

2. Logistics footprint

3. Talent pool

4. Authority (haven’t talked about yet) – The authority all rests at NHQ, not on the DRO. Drives to multiregional complexity

5. Sense of urgency (haven’t talked about yet) – We don’t have a program that builds services beyond sheltering initially. We focus a lot of energy on sheltering. There is an increased expectation for services post landfall. What’s the concept of operations that the chapter has to have to deliver services post landfall. What’s the expectation? Comes to the 120 hour post landfall timeline. We didn’t look beyond our national footprint for ERVs (i.e. Philly might have resources we could use). Strong bias toward mobile feeding might not have served us well in certain areas.

Best practices –See what work can be performed outside of the affected area (i.e. Packed coolers in Virginia)

Gregg –

1. Caliber of the people is a major issue (this is not a training issue)

2. Structure really matters. When disconnected from regions and multiple layers causes confusion

3. Lessons learned – strong job director model - Job Director asserted more authority than have seen in the past which was helpful. They took ownership, made decisions and pushed back

4. Volunteers were cared for well

5. How we could have made a larger mass care operation? i.e. – feeding sites at kitchens, tweet so get community to help deliver meals in urban environment, load up semis with meals versus ERVs

Charley -

Public trust: The “what’s your level of trust in Red Cross” survey question went up by 4 points. Highest ever been since started to do this.

Clayton –

1. Leadership teams. How we identify how we train, plan and deploy together.

2. Understanding the role of the activity leads in the DOC. Expectation that the activity leads are the chief of chiefs? Need to clarify.

3. Expectations management pre-deployment. Expectations of OMGs. Need to be flexible. Clarify when folks are coming from the DOC what they are coming in to do. Are they assigned to the operation? Causes confusion around roles. Do site visits help?

Kurt –

1. Social media – Adhoc social media groups stood up after Sandy that became places where folks came together to say what doing or what needed. Hard to get people to understand that this is a resource for info sharing. How do we use social media to take in info on what community is doing to help unify/support efforts.

2. Partnerships – Lots of community engagement. Commitment of some of the partners didn’t come through. How do we ground offers of community partners? Gave lots of stuff to partners to hand out but wasn’t branded so wasn’t awareness of what Red Cross was doing. Stickers never came.

3. Planning – Developed an incident action plan process that worked well to accomplish the tasks but as organization we don’t have the discipline to make a plan, follow a plan and then plan again. Hard to build plans into next operational period.

Anne –

1. Smaller groups of people that train and deploy together to establish relief operations and mentor people to take it over. Professionalize this like CRT program.

2. Getting info from different places. Hard to respond to traditional hot shot process. Had hundreds of requests of all types. Ability to take, aggregate, synthesize and adjust service delivery for the next day was not good. Got better after developed mass care planning cell.

Charley – Weren’t tied in well with Digidoc

Marita Wenner – (Was not able to join call but shared the following in advance of the meeting)

1. EFS6 for NJ is assigned to the state and Salvation Army not ARC. Past performance, relationships, and trust with partners had to overcome or developed.

2. Evacuation shelters were overwhelmed and additional help was requested from state immediately impacted. Since the entire state was affected, either with storm damage or power outage, DRO folks had not yet arrived to support.

3. Communication directly after storm was poor due to massive power outages. Scope and scale was not immediate which impeded ability to respond. Safety of workers was primary concern due to massive wind damage and downed trees.

4. Having the right leadership was critical to the success of the operation. Once we knew what we were dealing with, everyone did the job they were assigned. We all worked closely with the regions and our partners to develop plans for service delivery. Having everyone arrive at headquarters, get oriented and told what the expectations of the job director were before deploying to the field made everyone feel that they were on the same team and no one was getting special treatment. Teaming up experienced leadership with regional folks worked very well. Regions felt like they were in control of the operation, but had the experienced and knowledge they needed at hand to make the right decisions.

5. Creation of a planning cell was important to service delivery. Having state officer in the planning group needed for local information. On an operation of this size a planning team is critical to success.
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Re: The Red Cross's Secret Disaster, by Justin Elliott and J

Postby admin » Sun Dec 07, 2014 9:11 am


Again, top officials impeded the organization’s relief efforts in their zeal to burnish its public profile. An internal “Lessons Learned” PowerPoint presentation lists “hindrances to service delivery.” Its first bullet point: “NHQ” – national headquarters. Under that, it lists one of the problems as “diverting assets for public relation purposes.”

Rieckenberg, who planned the Red Cross’ mass care effort from Washington before the storm hit and then worked on the ground in New York, experienced the problem firsthand. In early November, the Red Cross had a limited number of emergency response vehicles, or ERVs, active in the New York City area.

But multiple officials complained that the vehicles, a crucial part of the relief efforts, were being tied up at press conferences. On Nov. 2, 2012, at the peak of the post-storm crisis, 15 were assigned to public relations duties, Rieckenberg says. Meanwhile, Sandy victims in neighborhoods along the beaches like the Rockaways couldn’t get food and drinkable water. Rieckenberg documented his concerns in an email on Nov. 18, 2012, to Riggen, the Red Cross executive in charge of disaster operations, and later mentioned it in a December email to other top Red Cross disaster volunteers.

Another Red Cross disaster response chief, Steve Ade, complained to a vice president, according to Rieckenberg and two other Red Cross officials.

“I can’t afford to have my ERVs sitting around all morning,” Ade said.

“Stop right there,” a Red Cross executive from headquarters responded. “These are not your ERVs. They belong to Gail and she’s going to do whatever she wants with them,” referring to McGovern, the Red Cross chief executive.


Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern speaks at a post-Sandy press conference on Staten Island with emergency response vehicles as backdrops. Relief workers were angered that the vehicles were diverted for public relations purposes. (Catherine Barde/American Red Cross via Flickr)

In a statement, the Red Cross denied that emergency response vehicles were “dedicated” to public relations duties. The charity said 15 vehicles were distributing supplies at a site in Staten Island where a press conference with then-Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano was held. Rieckenberg says this was 40 percent of all available ERVs; the Red Cross says that’s wrong but could not say how many ERVs were in New York that day.

The vehicles had been sent to Staten Island at the request of the borough president “to address needs in that area,” the charity says. According to the Red Cross, Chief Executive McGovern “participated in the press conference, but Red Cross did not hold the press conference and, to be clear, it was not the reason that ERVs were sent to Staten Island.” (The Red Cross did issue a press release for the event, stating that McGovern would have a “media availability.”)

Media Advisory: Red Cross President Gail McGovern, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to Travel to Staten Island, New York

Friday, November 2. 2012 1:30 PM

WASHINGTON - Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino and Red Cross President Gail McGovern will travel to Staten Island, N.Y., today, Nov. 2, to meet with state and local officials and view ongoing response and recovery efforts to Hurricane Sandy. While in Staten Island, Secretary Napolitano, Deputy Administrator Serino and Red Cross President McGovern will visit the Red Cross/National Guard distribution center, and join other state and local officials to participate in a media availability at Miller Field.

(logo: http://photos.prnewswire.oom/pmh/20090108/RedCrossLOGO)

Friday, Nov. 2

3:10 PM EDT: Secretary Napolitano, Deputy Administrator Serino and Red Cross President McGovern will visit the Red Cross/National Guard distribution center

Miller Field
New Dorp Lane
Staten Island, N.Y.

4:05 PM EDT: Secretary Napolitano, Deputy Administrator Serino and Red Cross President McGovern, and other state and local officials will participate in a media availability

Miller Field (FEMA side)
Mill Road entrance on corner of New Dorp Lane and Hylan Blvd.
Staten Island, N.Y.

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save


A Sandy photo-op with Heidi Klum tied up resources, angering a Red Cross official on the ground. (Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for AOL)

In another diversion, an emergency response vehicle was dispatched to an early December photo-op with supermodel Heidi Klum to tour affected areas with Red Cross supplies, recalled a third senior Red Cross official who requested anonymity because the official still works for the charity. “Did you know it takes a Victoria’s Secret model five hours to unload one box off a truck?” the official says. “I was so mad.”

The Red Cross says Klum was delivering supplies to families.

At the same time emergency vehicles were assigned to public relations duties, the Red Cross was having problems in many other parts of the relief effort, according to the “Lessons Learned” presentation.

Among the more worrisome instances had to do with sex offenders. Red Cross officials are supposed to track sex offenders who come to shelters and confer with law enforcement. But staff “didn’t know/follow procedures,” the presentation notes. There was an additional problem with “ unrelated adults showering with children.”

“It’s hard for us to know based on this document exactly what occurred and where,” the charity wrote in a statement. “The Red Cross has a humanitarian responsibility to provide safe shelter to all people who seek refuge in our facilities and has policies and procedures to handle a wide array of situations, including the presence of sex offenders in shelters.”

Red Cross Response on Lessons Learned

Follow Up to Pro Publica Request for Information

This document provides the information in response to your questions of August 19, 2014 and provides the information that would have been made available during our scheduled interview. We have organized the information into categories that cover the topics put forth in your previous email.

Nature of the Document

You asked us about the origin and nature of the document. This was a discussion document that was one part of the after action process after both Hurricanes Isaac and Sandy. The mass care team at Red Cross national headquarters informally solicited feedback from volunteers to identify problems and improve processes after the 2012 Hurricane Season . We encouraged people to be forthcoming without attribution or retribution . It was in that spirit that this document was developed.

We always welcome all suggestions and feedback from our volunteers as part of the broader after action process. The items noted on the slides and in the notes sections contain observations from our mass care teams across multiple locations. This document does not contain official findings of the organization. Rather, it often contains the perspective of one person reporting what he or she might have seen around them.

It is important to remember that there were more than 17,000 disaster workers deployed during the 2012 hurricane season and only a tiny number contributed to the document. None had a broad enough perspective to see trends within the disaster operations, and therefore, much of what was reported in this document tended to be isolated incidents.

In some cases the observations may have been about things out of the control or authority of the Red Cross. In others, people were commenting on a problem based on their personal expertise and with the misperception that this was a Red Cross issue. We have tried to pinpoint and verify each issue raised in the document. However, in many cases it is impossible to know exactly what shelters or facilities were involved because volunteers did not give that level of detail. In other cases, we believe the issues actually occurred at facilities that were not managed by the Red Cross. In yet other cases, we couldn't verify the incident took place. Nevertheless, we took each of these observations seriously and addressed the issues if we had the authority to do so. We also learn from each disaster and we reengineer our approach as we learn. This was a process we started well in advance before Sandy and Isaac struck.

Disasters are chaotic and complex. We have to make hard decisions about how to allocate resources -- human, material and financial. Disasters are unpredictable too and things don't always go as perfectly as planned. But at the end of the day, we provided a great deal of care and support to a great many people affected by Sandy. Three out of every four Red Cross clients in NY and NJ expressed a positive experience with the Red Cross, and we mounted a huge response effort that included 17 million meals and snacks distributed, 74,000 overnight shelter stays, 7 million relief items, 17,000 disaster workers and tens of millions of dollars provided to individuals and community organizations that needed our help.

Training Issues:

The American Red Cross takes great pride in the training we require our volunteers to obtain prior to joining our disaster workforce. It is uniform across the country, and it is rigorous. During Sandy, we deployed 17,000 trained disaster workers, 90% of whom were volunteers. The individuals must take courses at their local chapters, rise through the ranks by volunteering to assist after local fires and other regional disasters before they are deployed. Those who work in shelters or drive Emergency Response Vehicles undergo specific simulation training.

For events like Sandy that are massive in size and scale, our seasoned volunteers often serve alongside people from the community who wanted to lend a hand for the day. Because statements in the document addressing training issues are vague, it's difficult to tell exactly what volunteers or locations these statement references. Because there were 17,000 staff and volunteers working on Sandy, it would be impossible for the person making this statement to have seen anything but a small and narrow cross section of those workers.

As to the training of the ERV drivers, given the complexity of driving in an unfamiliar urban environment, even our most seasoned drivers encountered challenges. We struggled to find people who were willing to deploy to drive under those conditions. This brought us to a critical lesson learned for us: we reached out to local labor unions whose trained workforce knew the area and were more than happy to assist their communities. We found that working with those groups to be tremendously helpful.

If we find that behavior is not in line with our training, we address it immediately. For example, during the 2012 hurricane season, we noted that several Facebook posts indicated that a shelter manager was not sensitive to residents. Based on that feedback, we intervened immediately, and he was removed from his position.

Questions about NHQ Management:

For an event that stretches across 13 states and a U.S. territory, it is critical that national headquarters be involved in the disaster response, if for no other reason than to help manage the flow of resources to areas that need them most. Red Cross national headquarters can see the larger operating picture and this involvement actually helps the operation flow more smoothly. From the very local perspective of one worker, this can be construed as micromanagement.

However, we do strive to provide flexibility to our workers on the ground, since local leadership understands their communities best. In a large disaster affecting multiple locations we have to balance that with the need to allocate resources to places with the most need. Through the process of reengineering our disaster program, which started in early 2012, we sought to find ways to push greater decision-making to the field and have seen that play out successfully after disasters like the Moore, Oklahoma, tornadoes and the Colorado floods.

Political/PR Pressure:

During a disaster, the Red Cross receives information about areas of need from a variety of sources, including elected officials and community leaders. Their feedback is important and we trust that they know the needs of their constituents and communities. We strive to meet those needs as best we can.

We also listen for needs through a variety of means. Sandy was the largest disaster during which we utilized our Social Media command center, and we documented 88 times when we changed service delivery based on intelligence and data we gathered from the public on social media. For example, a Facebook community in New Jersey posted a call for help, and we sent it. It is a new technique for many of our volunteers, and not all workers are used to it. Many of them believe that social media is simply part of the PR effort, when it has actually become a vital part of how we gain situational awareness during disasters.

When a disaster worker is in the middle of a response on the ground and unable to see the full picture, it can be difficult to understand why you may be asked to change your feeding route or go to a completely different area to serve the community. However, when this is the result of legitimate intelligence gained from social media or a government official, it can advance our service delivery efforts.

Shelter Residents:

The Red Cross has a humanitarian responsibility to provide safe shelter to all people who seek refuge in our facilities and has policies and procedures to handle a wide array of situations, including the presence of sex offenders in shelters. We work to obey all local, state and federal requirements in regards to housing sex offenders during disasters and work closely with law enforcement in the shelter management process.

Shelter registration forms ask if people are required to register with the state for any reason. If the answer is "yes" the shelter manager must speak with the individual immediately. If a shelter resident is identified as a registered sex offender, the Red Cross will work with local law enforcement to determine what's best for the safety of those in the shelter. We have workshops and exercise the proper procedures in disaster simulations, so our workers know exactly how to handle these scenarios.

In regard to your specific questions, it's hard for us know based on this document exactly what occurred and where. Those details are important, as it is unclear whether this situation occurred in a Red Cross shelter, a state shelter, a shelter run by a faith-based organization or an independent community shelter where we may have had a presence. If residents tell us that they know a sex offender, we pull that individual aside and work with law enforcement. The information provided by residents mayor may not be correct.

Our Shelter Assessment Teams routinely visit both Red Cross and non-Red Cross-managed shelters during disasters, including Sandy and Isaac. When we see something like this happen, we fix it right away. There was at least one situation during Sandy where a resident identified someone who he/she thought was a sex offender. When this was brought to our attention, we brought in additional resources and handled the matter. It's not clear based on this survey document whether the individual who provided this comment had any knowledge of the follow-up or if he/she simply knew that of an incident.

Working with State and local Officials:

We have every indication that officials in New York and New Jersey were-and still are-satisfied with our work during Sandy. Throughout the Sandy relief and recovery process, we have maintained a constant line of communication with state and local officials-even holding hourly calls with them during the initial phase of the response. From the official level, we have not heard the same kind of complaint recorded in the document, and if we did, we would address it immediately.

Furthermore, your question about "state help for shelter staffing" is based on a false premise. The American Red Cross does not receive state help to operate its shelters. Rather, we assist federal, state and local agencies during disaster response.

Functional And Special Needs Shelter Residents:

The Red Cross is committed to helping people with a wide range of needs during disasters, including people with disabilities, people with mental illnesses, people with chronic health concerns and the elderly. We have an excellent track record in this area. In fact, we have signed national agreements with the National Council on Independent Living and Port Light Strategies Inc and the National Disability Rights Network. We ensure that Red Cross nurses and mental health workers are on site at all our shelters to address the specific needs of all our residents.

There have been isolated instances when entire assisted living facilities have been dropped off unexpectedly at our shelters and have briefly overwhelmed the systems we have in place. We believe that the comments in the document referencing FNSS clients may refer to a specific situation during Hurricane Isaac in which that happened. In those cases, our staff and volunteers work with shelter residents to determine the best course of action, so they can remain safe until we have the physical resources to better manage their individual situations and needs.

The bottom line is: If we're unable to provide suitable equipment to address these needs immediately, we bring in the resources necessary to address them as quickly as possible. But in the interim, our health and mental health staff ensures that the shelter residents are safe and cared for.

Lessons Learned:

As a part of our after-action review, there were three categories we identified as areas for improvement, and we've made changes to address all of them.

People: Our most valuable asset and the true miracle of the Red Cross are our volunteers. We have nearly 400,000 volunteers and 100,000 that can be deployed at a moment's notice to disasters across the country. They do amazing work to help those that need it the most. We are always seeking ways to improve, and in our after-action work, we made additional improvements to increase scalability, speed, and efficiencies. We have also encouraged greater decision making ability to those working directly with our clients.

Supplies: As expected, pushing supplies into an urban environment that was heavily impacted presented challenges. So in addition to our large warehouses, including one we recently opened in Arlington, TX, we've also created distribution centers throughout the Greater New York region. We have been working to create new IT systems to help in our supply chain management, thanks to a grant from a generous donor. We're also now centralizing our fleet management which will enable us to get vehicles on site faster.

Partnerships: We've tightened relationships, re-signed agreements and found new partners. For example, we now have a solid SOP with the state of New Jersey on the process for opening up shelters.

One other area that provided us with key learnings after Sandy was the use of direct listening via social media.

During Sandy, we collected and analyzed more than 2.5 million public social media posts in our Digital Operations Center, located in Washington DC to help identify emerging issues and needs.

For two months after landfall, more than 30 digital volunteers responded to nearly 2,500 individual posts through Facebook and Twitter.
In 88 cases, the Red Cross adjusted its services based on the situational awareness gained through social data and the Digital Operations Center.

We've since expanded our capacity to include a regional social media listening center in Dallas, and we're opening a new one in San Francisco next month.

In summary, we learn from every disaster and build upon that to improve future responses. Superstorm Sandy was especially challenging because we had operations spread out across an area the size of Europe, in 13 different states and territories, and one of the most populated regions of the United States. In addition, post landfall we were dealing with bridges, subways, and roads closed, long waits for gas, and a winter storm that hit a few days later with snow!

Still, together with our Federal, State and local partners, we mounted a massive response that served hundreds of thousands of people. The vast majority of the people we surveyed were positive about out services and grateful for our help.

We are grateful for our generous donors who make this response possible, and for our amazing volunteers who lived in shelters themselves, gave up Thanksgiving and their religious holidays and were willing to be deployed in tough conditions while doing so with kindness and good humor. They are the hallmark of the American Red Cross.

More generally, in response to questions from ProPublica and NPR about the “Lessons Learned” presentation, the Red Cross wrote, “Some of the issues were corrected immediately during the response, others we are taking additional steps to improve.”

During the Sandy disaster, some government officials came to resent the Red Cross.

When the storm hit, officials in Bergen County, New Jersey activated their Emergency Operations Center. In keeping with a carefully established plan, representatives from government agencies and charities gather there to coordinate, share information and respond to crises 24 hours a day.

A seat was reserved for the Red Cross, the most important nongovernment responder. But the Red Cross’ seat remained empty for the full duration of the Sandy response.

“They were the only major player not there,” says police lieutenant Matthew Tiedemann, who helped run Bergen County’s response to Sandy. County officials had no easy way to get in touch with Red Cross leadership to tell them about areas of need on the ground, he says.


In one New Jersey county, the Red Cross was AWOL, says Lt. Matthew Tiedemann of the Bergen County Office of Emergency Management. (Michael Rubenstein/NPR)

Turnover and reorganizations appear to have had a corrosive effect on the Red Cross’ effectiveness. The “ biggest challenge,” one top Red Cross official said in the December 2012 meeting, is the “skillset that is possessed by our workforce.” Another was even more stark: The “ caliber of the people is a major issue (this is not a training issue),” according to the meeting minutes.

The Red Cross acknowledges that nearly two-thirds of the volunteers responding to Sandy had never before provided relief after a large disaster.

Some of the Red Cross’ Sandy volunteers were hindered not only by their lack of experience or skills but by their advanced age. As the Red Cross’ internal documents note, the challenges of urban disaster response include physically grueling tasks such as walking up stairs in high rises to get to people in need.

“You’ve got a 75-year-old emergency response vehicle driver who’s got to go up 17 stories to feed a 75-year-old disaster victim. You can’t do that,” bemoaned one top Red Cross official who was on the scene in New York.

Relief workers for other groups often found the Red Cross’ efforts ineffectual and at times even “absurdist,” says Sofía Gallisá Muriente, a volunteer for the relief group Occupy Sandy. She started working in the Rockaways a couple of days after the storm hit and stayed for 10 months.

When the Red Cross finally appeared weeks after the storm, volunteers were planning to distribute flashlights but discovered they had no batteries, she says. One Red Cross staffer came to a Rockaways community center and asked them to donate some. “I was infuriated,” she recalls. “Didn’t Lady Gaga just donate a million dollars to you guys?” she asked the Red Cross staffer. “Buy some batteries with it.”

Bringing volunteers from places like Kansas and North Carolina to New York City, in some cases for the first time, led to problems. Muriente and others recall that Red Cross workers got lost driving around New York without GPS devices, trying to find devastated neighborhoods. In one previously unreported incident that became instantly notorious among Sandy responders, the Red Cross brought a truck full of pork lunches to a Jewish retirement high-rise.

With the charity stumbling badly in the early days after Sandy, Red Cross headquarters began feeling pressure. Sandy victims were going hungry. In early November, headquarters issued an edict that the New York operation needed to start producing more meals.

That wasn’t the problem, Rieckenberg told his superiors. He was in charge of tracking food and, at the time, the Red Cross was already wasting three out of every 10 meals being prepared, he estimates. The real issue was that the Red Cross was failing to gather information about where hungry victims were located.

Officials at the Red Cross’ national headquarters stood firm over Rieckenberg’s objections. They directed a catering company to increase its output dramatically, from 20,000 to 220,000 meals per day. And it had to start with breakfast for 100,000 the next morning.


The Red Cross "divert[ed] assets for public relations purposes," says one internal report. (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

In the ensuing chaos, the caterer was only able to deliver 70,000 Danishes the following day, Rieckenberg says. The cost to the Red Cross: about $7 apiece, much more than normal. Top Red Cross officials had assured Rieckenberg that someone would get him the locations where staffers could deliver the meals. The list was never supplied. About half of the pastries were wasted. The caterer couldn’t produce the lunches and dinners. Red Cross volunteers had to distribute cold leftover Danishes instead.

“We were pushing every resource we had to its maximum capability,” Riggen, the Red Cross executive, said when asked about the episode.

In response to questions about its performance after Sandy overall, the Red Cross frequently points to the total number of services it says it delivered: 17 million meals and snacks, 74,000 overnight stays in shelters, more than 7 million relief items like blankets and flashlights.

However, one internal report casts doubt on the reliability of these figures: The “sheer size” of the disaster “ crippled our ability to count” the number of relief items distributed, it says.

Asked about that, Riggen says “crippled” is “a strong term.” The public enumeration of the Red Cross’ services was accurate, he says.

The focus on public relations persisted throughout the Sandy operation. In early December 2012, Red Cross officials asked Bob Scheifele, who was then mass care chief for New York, to put on a demonstration for donors who had funded the Spirit of America, a giant mobile kitchen attached to a semi, which has the capacity to make 30,000 meals a day.

The Spirit of America had recently been shut down, as the need for meals was tapering off. Scheifele says he made the arrangements to have it restarted, but there was a snafu, and the Spirit of America didn’t get up and running properly.

Top Red Cross executives were furious. Scheifele says they demanded that he fire people under him. He was baffled by the reaction. They hadn’t failed to deliver disaster relief, after all. He says he refused, telling his superiors that if anyone should be let go, it should be him, since he was in charge. The Red Cross sent Scheifele home, dismissing one of its most senior disaster responders.


When a demonstration for donors to show off its giant Spirit of America mobile kitchen went awry, Red Cross top brass dismissed a disaster official. (Jason Colston/American Red Cross via Flickr)

“Public relations became the issue. It was a dog-and-pony show,” Scheifele says. He has since reconciled with top executives and continues to work on disasters for the Red Cross, an organization he says he loves.

The Red Cross maintains that the Spirit of America was reopened to serve the community, not for donors. It declined to provide documentation for its account. Scheifele documented the incident at the time in a “ memo for the record.”

Bob Scheifele's Memo for the Record: Spirit of America Incident

Memo for the Record: Feeding at The Spirit of American kitchen unit.

• Several days ago Mass Care was informed that a group of donors for the Spirit of American kitchen unit would visit and they requested to visit the Spirit to see it in action.
• The Red Cross kitchen site manager was informed along with the White Hat’s at the relief operation HQs and K-2 where the Spirit is currently located. They were instructed to integrate the use of the Spirit with the SBDR kitchen unit for all cooking scheduled for the day of the visit.
• Since SBDR prepares meals very early each day, all concerned were informed that in order to see the Spirit in action, visitors should arrive prior to 10:30 am.
• At the 8:30 am Mass Care staff meeting I asked the SBDR White Hat assigned to Mass Care at the HQs if everything scheduled at the Spirit was in fact OK. I was informed that the Spirit was cooking as planned.
• At about 2:00 pm I was informed by Charles Blake that when the visitors arrived at K-2 the Spirit was not, and had not cooked any meals for the day.
• I discussed this with the SBDR White Hat here at our HQs and he informed me that the White Hat in charge of K-2 and the Spirit, made the decision he did not need the Spirit’s production capacity and was going to set up demonstration cooking for the visitors. However, he did not communicate this decision to Red Cross or SBDR staff at the HQs.
• At about 2:15 pm, I contacted the Red Cross kitchen site manager to learn from him just what happen at K-2 and asked why the Spirit had not cooked as planned.
• The Red Cross kitchen site manager was in fact at the airport waiting to board a flight home because of a family emergency, but I was able to reach him and he stated the following:
o The SBDR White Hat at K-2 made the decision not to use the Spirit for actual cooking, but was prepared to do a presentation that would include cooking in the Spirit.
o The visitors arrived at about 10:55 am, which was after normal cooking was completed.
o He, the Red Cross kitchen site manager met and greeted the visitors and took them on a tour of the Spirit. The visitors did not want them to start a cooking demonstration for them.
o He reported that the visitors seemed more interested in experiences of the Red Cross and SBDR feeding staffs, previous assignments, etc.
• The fact remains that the Spirit of American was not in fact cooking today. Had the group showed up on time they would have found the Spirit ready to cook for their visit, but not in the process of cooking the normal meal, which was the intent.
• As the Mass Care Chief, I am responsible for this failure, and I accept that responsibility fully. If management decides that removal action is warranted because of this failure, I am the one who should be so relieved, and I am prepared to leave.

Robert Scheifele
Mass Care Chief
5 December 2012

As he had after Hurricane Isaac, Rieckenberg brought his concerns to top Red Cross officials after Sandy. “We became focused on making ‘the numbers look good’ and in ‘showing a presence,’” he emailed Riggen, the Red Cross vice president, on Nov. 18, 2012. He described what happened when he advised his bosses that a suggested feeding plan wouldn’t help storm victims. “I was quite bluntly told that they didn’t care – it was the plan that was going to make the ARC [American Red Cross] look the best to the local politicians,” he wrote.

Riggen, the disaster official, pledged to call him the following week. Rieckenberg says he never heard from him.

Before he left New York, Rieckenberg finally was able to look up from his post, leave the relief operation center in Manhattan and get out to see Sandy’s destruction for himself. He encountered an older woman who was running a kitchen for the Southern Baptists. The Red Cross was supposed to be supplying the kitchen with propane, but the woman said it hadn’t arrived. She told him a group of volunteers scraped together $700 to get the supplies they needed.

“I felt so ashamed,” he says.

More recently, sitting on his patio in a small town in New Mexico, he says his experiences in Isaac and Sandy had permanently altered his view of an organization he had loyally served for years.

He was asked: Should people give money to the Red Cross? “I don’t donate to the Red Cross. People should do what they think is best for them.”

This story was co-produced with NPR. Theodoric Meyer contributed reporting.
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