Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Mapping of a Disaster

David Hall is a 12-year veteran volunteer with the American Red Cross, and through his particular knowledge of maps and expertise in computer programming, he has worked himself into his self- described dream job - mapping disaster sites as a member of the Red Cross’s Disaster Services Geospatial Technology Unit.

David is affiliated with the Kentucky Region Bluegrass Area Chapter and serves on the Daniel Boone Community Red Cross Board. He has been a “map geek” from a young age, and at his Madison County, Kentucky high school, began taking computer programming classes. He continued to explore mapmaking and computer science at Eastern Kentucky University, and fortuitously some of his classes familiarized him with the software that the Red Cross uses for their mapping. It’s called ArcGIS.

David’s first disaster deployment with the Red Cross was to Hurricane Matthew, which occurred in Fall 2016 and left a wake of destruction from the Caribbean through the Southeast US coastal states. As an example, FEMA is usually first on the scene. They gather a lot of the initial data about where and to what extent the damage is concentrated. They do this partially by heat sensor mapping, to show the epicenters of the damaged areas (in Matthew’s case, multiple epicenters).

When the Red Cross hits the ground, thousands of volunteers working from this initial FEMA data literally go address-to-address to assess the damaged areas. The Red Crossers are evaluating in terms of help needed and/or level of destruction. (In North Carolina alone, 2,174 volunteers were out assessing after Hurricane Matthew!) This information is then fed into a computer to create an Excel spreadsheet. David and team then take the street addresses and geocode them to get the actual coordinates, longitude and latitude, for each address. From this he creates a cleaner spreadsheet with the geocodes, along with more specifics such as Red Cross contacts and phone numbers, specific needs, etc.

With addresses geocoded, the software is able to create a damage assessment map - everything feeds off this map, and from here David begins layering on information; shelter locations, supply inventory locations, specific city transportation maps and much more, can be overlaid onto the original damage assessment map to provide more specifics to assist relief workers in helping victims in a more timely and effectual manner. David confides, before ArcGIS, a lot was left up to guesswork.

David considers mapmaking as much art as science, which speaks to his love for the endeavor. The Red Cross has been utilizing the software since before Hurricane Katrina, but David feels there is plenty of room for improvement, and he is excited about helping to hone ArcGIS’s capabilities to anticipate a disaster’s damage and cut response time down even further.

If you would like to find out more about joining the Red Cross as a volunteer, please visit

Friday, February 10, 2017

Red Cross Uniforms in WWI

"The wearing of any of these uniforms is to be a mark of service to the Red Cross; the privilege of wearing them is to be carefully guarded," announced the National Headquarters of the American Red Cross in 1917.

After the declaration of World War I, the outpouring of volunteerism in the U.S. was at an all time high. Proud Americans were eager to do whatever they could to help the war effort, women especially. The women who volunteered for the Red Cross took part in everything from canteen work and fundraising to knitting garments to send to soldiers overseas.

Women wanted to wear a uniform while doing “war work”, but due to regulations and possible confusion, the volunteers could not wear the nurse's uniforms that were already being given out to women. So, in the fall of 1917, the American Red Cross announced they were granting new uniforms to women volunteers. To keep a clear distinction between the nurses and other specialized volunteers, four new uniforms were issued to women working as Corps members.

Uniforms from left to right: Supply Corps, Clerical Corps, Refreshment Corps, and Motor Corps.

The first uniform was for the women working in Supply Corps. These volunteers were in a division of the Red Cross that was in charge of preparing surgical dressings, hospital garments, and other supplies. They donned a white dress, with dark blue veil, white shoes, and a dark blue armband with a “horn of plenty” embroidered on it.

Another uniform that was introduced was for the Clerical Corps. These volunteers were responsible for the clerical work in active Red Cross chapters, like bookkeeping and video stenography. Clerical workers wore a solid gray dress with a broad white collar, a white duck hat, and white shoes. The arm band they wore was yellow with two crossed quill pens.

The next uniform was for women working in the Refreshment Corps. This division was dedicated to feeding soldiers en route to hospital or troop movement, and also making lunches for soldiers in nearby camps. Refreshment Corps uniforms consisted of dark blue and white striped dress, long white apron, white duck helmet with a dark blue veil and tan shoes. The Red Cross emblem was on the apron and helmet.

The fourth division of volunteers to receive uniforms were the women in the Motor Corps. This service included all of the motor drivers required for chapter work. The uniforms worn were made up of a long gray coat with a tan leather belt, a close fitting leather hat, riding breeches, canvas leggings, and tan shoes. Motor Corps wore a light green arm band and displayed the Red Cross emblem proudly on their hats.