An American Red Cross volunteer walks down a flooded street surveying damage in Hollister, California.
An American Red Cross volunteer surveys flood damage in Hollister, California, in January 2017.

Every 8 minutes, the American Red Cross responds to an emergency

From small house fires to multistate natural disasters, the American Red Cross goes wherever help is needed — ensuring individuals, families, and communities have clean water, safe shelter, and hot meals when they need them the most.

October 24, 2018

Viewpoints’ invites guest authors from outside of Wells Fargo to share an important perspective related to their work. Today, we welcome Trevor Riggen, Regional CEO for the American Red Cross of the Bay Area and Northern California Coastal Region.

Over the past 14 months, areas across the U.S. have experienced one historic and tragic disaster after another. With Hurricane Harvey dropping nearly four feet of water on communities across Texas, the catastrophic destruction across Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria, the terrifying wildfires in California and, most recently, the destruction of homes and communities by Hurricanes Florence and Michael — tens of thousands of individuals and families are working to recover and rebuild, while thousands more are still seeking shelter today.

Trevor Riggen is wearing a black polo shirt with the American Red Cross logo. He is smiling at the camera.
Trevor Riggen is the Regional CEO for the American Red Cross of the Bay Area and Northern California Coastal Region.

Throughout each of these disasters, there has been one distinct and inspiring constant — the community’s and our collective response. Tens of thousands of new Red Cross volunteers have raised their hands to serve, and millions more have donated blood, cash, and supplies.

Wells Fargo mobilized donors across the country through its ATM network and matched the contributions of its customers with financial donations of more than $1 million.

Together with our donors, partners, and thousands of volunteers, the American Red Cross has been able to maintain an unprecedented pace of service. Additionally, we have also launched extensive long-term recovery efforts to stand alongside families as they begin the difficult journey of rebuilding and moving forward.

Make a difference in your community

Even with these historic levels of service delivery, there is something else that I am most proud of over this past year — our efforts to help Americans prevent and recover from house fires.

Each day, more than 200 families lose their homes to a house fire — that results in more than 60,000 times a year that teams of Red Cross volunteers answer the call and, within minutes, rush to the scene to help those that have lost everything. Across the country, a network of volunteer Disaster Action Teams stand ready 24 hours a day to serve. This work continues even as many of them are also deployed for large-scale disaster recovery.

Tragically, an average of seven people lose their lives each day in these same fires. To combat this, we launched our Sound the Alarm Campaign, a series of home fire safety and smoke alarm installation events with local fire departments across the country.

To date, we have installed more than 1 million smoke alarms and prepared more than 300,000 households across the country with fire prevention and safety education. This effort has resulted in 472 lives saved, and we are hearing of more every day.

Even with all that we have been able to accomplish, there is clearly much more to be done. To meet the increasing pace of natural disasters and to maintain our response to and preparedness for the personally devastating fires that happen in our neighborhoods, we need your help. Here are some easy steps to protect yourself, your family, and your neighbors:

  • Get prepared. To make sure you and your family are safe and prepared, have an emergency kit ready both at home and in your car. Also, develop a plan that includes meeting points and points of contact should something happen, and ensure you have access to lifesaving information that will come from national and local authorities.
  • Get ready to serve. Recent examples have clearly shown that we all seek to serve those in need, so take the time now to ready yourself to help. The American Red Cross provides free disaster training and is actively seeking new volunteers across the country — for both local and national disasters.
  • Help share the story. While large-scale disasters grab national attention, smaller events — like tornadoes, floods, and fires — often fall out of the news cycle long before the people who need support have recovered. I encourage you to connect with your local Red Cross social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and help share the stories and efforts of the thousands of Red Cross volunteers helping every day.

Witnessing the impact of natural disasters can feel simply overwhelming. But whether it’s stepping forward to directly serve, donating to ensure help can arrive, or preparing our own families and neighbors for potential disasters — we can all make a difference. So please visit and join our effort to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies. Through the power of our volunteers and the generosity of our donors, we can make that difference!

The inside of a shelter in Houston with people on cots and makeshift beds on the floor.
A shelter set up in Houston by the American Red Cross during Hurricane Harvey in September 2017. Photo credit: Daniel Cima/American Red Cross