Friday, October 07, 2005

Biting the hand

Our experience dealing with the Red Cross has been perplexing. They are terrific about raising money and assisting people struck by natural disasters. But their communication and organizational skills could use some improvement.

For the past five weeks, we have been unable to get through to the Red Cross financial assistance line. Everyone hands it out to us, but reaching it has been an acknowledged exercise in frustration. Katrina overwhelmed the system and flooded the agency with calls.

Then came Rita. These two back to back events maxed out systems and crisis plans.

We read the same media stories you do about the Red Cross sheltering evacuees in hotels and helping out with the bill. We wonder how that process works - and no volunteer we have met can tell us. We ended up paying our tab with precious emergency cash.

From shelter to shelter we go - looking for answers. Where are the key messages, information databases and frequently asked questions (FAQs)? And why are they taking information down on paper instead of computers? Who's going to re-enter data for a million-plus evacuees?

The Red Cross is making me cross.