/PRNewswire-/ -- The American Red Cross has launched a new fundraising drive in anticipation of a very active hurricane season that could be made even worse by the Gulf Coast oil spill.
"We are worried about predictions of a severe hurricane season and the possibility that people will need to evacuate their homes for longer periods of time, given the oil in the Gulf," said Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the Red Cross.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts three to seven major hurricanes this year. Major hurricanes are those Category 3, 4 and 5 storms that do the most damage -- such as Hurricanes Andrew, Katrina, Rita and Wilma -- with winds of more than 100 mph.
These predictions bear an eerie resemblance to the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, when multiple major hurricanes, including Katrina, struck the United States. More than 35 million people live in regions vulnerable to Atlantic Ocean hurricanes, and many in the Gulf Coast region are already experiencing hardship as a result of the oil spill.
In preparation for this hurricane season, the Red Cross has already spent $30 million training and preparing volunteers and pre-positioning equipment and materials and is gearing up to provide 1 million meals a day, shelter for 350,000 people a day and deployment of 50,000 volunteers.
"Practicing what we preach on preparedness, we are asking the public for their support in advance, rather than after a disaster strikes," said McGovern.
"Contributions to the fundraising drive will support our readiness to the 70,000 disasters the Red Cross responds to every year, whether they are hurricanes that affect millions of people, floods that affect thousands, or a house fire that drives one family from their home," added McGovern.
While media attention has focused on the Gulf oil spill and on Haiti, the American Red Cross has responded to 29 significant disasters in the U.S. so far this year. These have included floods in Tennessee, North Dakota, the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, tornadoes in the South and Midwest, and major fires in communities across the country.
As part of the new disaster response fundraising effort, kicked off just before the height of the hurricane season in August and September, the Red Cross is airing television ads, sending targeted fundraising appeals, using social media and making public appeals for disaster donations.
"Red Cross chapters across the country will be asking for help for disaster relief, and we hope people will respond," McGovern said. "Please click, text or call to donate to the Red Cross to help people affected by disasters. Every single donation brings hope to those in need."
People who want to make a contribution can go to www.redcross.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief -- or text REDCROSS to 90999.
The Red Cross spends about $450 million a year responding to nearly 70,000 disasters across the country -- floods, hurricanes, wildfires, tornados and home fires.
You can help people affected by disasters like floods, fires, tornadoes and hurricanes, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters. Visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS. Contributions may also be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.
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