For the second straight week, American Red Cross disaster volunteers are caring for tornado ravaged towns and cities across the South. But the work may not be finished as the same storm system dumps large amounts of rain on the east coast. As the clean up begins in Oklahoma, Missouri, and Georgia, the Red Cross is ensuring that people have the food, shelter and clean up supplies that they need.

"The priority of the American Red Cross right now is to get our disaster workers on the ground to provide food, shelter and supplies to the communities devastated by the tornadoes," said Joe Becker, senior vice president, disaster services. "The Red Cross is working with state and local authorities to get all the victims the assistance they need to start down the road to recovery."

As rains continues across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, the Red Cross has shelters and volunteers on standby, in the event that homes flood or evacuations are necessary from rising flood water. That, as the Red Cross continues sheltering and feeding in four other states. Distribution of clean up supplies, such as rakes, work gloves, plastic sheeting and trash bags, begins soon in many places and mental health support is in full swing in the affected states.

If you have been affected by the disaster, then please register yourself on the Safe and Well Website. From a list of standard messages, you can select those that you want to communicate to your family members, letting them know of your well-being.

After the storms

Although tornadoes generally occur during spring and summer and more frequently in the Plain states, they can happen anytime, anywhere. Regardless of the location or time of year, if conditions are right, a tornado can develop. Tornadoes have been reported in every state. They can strike at any time of the day or night but are most likely to occur between 3:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.

The American Red Cross recommends people take the following actions to stay safer after a tornado:

- Continue listening to local radio or television stations or a NOAA Weather Radio for updated information and instructions. If you are away from home, return only when authorities say it is safe to do so.

- When it is safe to return home, wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and sturdy shoes when examining your walls, doors, staircases and windows for damage.

- Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines and report them to the utility company immediately.

- Avoid damaged areas as your presence might hamper rescue and other emergency operations and put you at further risk from the residual effects of tornadoes.

- Stay out of damaged buildings.

- Use battery-powered lanterns or flashlights when examining buildings. DO NOT USE CANDLES.

- If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and get everyone out of the building quickly. Turn off the gas using the outside main valve if you can, and call the gas company from a neighbor's home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.

- Clean up spilled medications, bleaches, gasoline, or other flammable liquids that could become a fire hazard.

- Check for injuries. If you are trained, provide first aid to persons in need until emergency responders arrive.

- Take pictures of the damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance claims.

- Use the telephone only for emergency calls. Telephone lines are frequently overwhelmed in disaster situations. They need to be kept clear for emergency calls to get through.

- Watch your animals closely. Keep all your animals under your direct control. Your pets may be able to escape from your home or through a broken fence. Pets may become disoriented, particularly because tornadoes and the heavy rains that accompany them will usually affect scent markers that normally allow animals to find their homes.

All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help the victims of thousands of disasters across the country each year, disasters like the tornadoes across Missouri, Oklahoma and Georgia, by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to victims of disaster. The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster please do so at the time of your donation. Call 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting redcross.

About the American Red Cross

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation's blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization - not a government agency - and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its humanitarian mission. For more information, please visit redcross or join our blog at redcrosschat.

American Red Cross

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