POSTED: Friday, May 20, 2011 - 8:40am
UPDATED: Saturday, May 28, 2011 - 2:49pm
Baton Rouge, La (NBC33) — With new predictions for an above-average 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, the American Red Cross is adding technology to the many ways it helps people to get prepared.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that 12-18 named storms, 6-10 hurricanes and 3-6 major hurricanes will occur this year. The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season starts June 1.
As many in our community are facing disaster now with floods, families should take steps now to create a family emergency plan. Among the steps to help you have the best possible response to disaster: Establish responsibilities for each member of your household and plan to work together as a team. Choose where to meet after a disaster. Review where emergency information and supplies are kept.
To make that planning easier, the Red Cross has developed a free iPhone app that gives the location of all open Red Cross shelters. The app not only maps the location of a shelter, but also shows capacity and current population. To download the app, users can visit the Apple store and search “American Red Cross shelters.” For those without an iPhone, the same shelter information appears on the Red Cross website and can be accessed by visiting www.redcross.org  and clicking on “Find a Shelter.” Both are refreshed with updated information every 30 minutes.
In addition, the Red Cross Safe and Well website now allows users to update their Facebook and Twitter status when they register on the site. Safe and Well is a secure way to let your loved ones know where you are going during a hurricane evacuation or that you are “OK” in the aftermath of a disaster. If users choose to do so, they can easily let their entire network of friends and family know they are safe in one step.
“This is an ideal time to get a disaster supply kit ready, make an evacuation plan with your family, and get information on what to do during a hurricane,” said Charley Shimanski, senior vice president of Red Cross Disaster Services. “It’s also the right time to learn how to locate a shelter or use Safe and Well, and new technology is making it even easier to do that.”
As natural disasters have followed one after another this spring, the strength of the community depends on a prepared citizenry uniting. Support community plans by volunteering through the Red Cross, such as the 547 volunteers who have been trained through this disaster operation alone.
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 www.redcross.org  or join our blog at www.redcrosschat.org .