After Storm, Empty Red Cross Trucks Drove Around for Show
ProPublica, NPR team up for investigative report
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 29, 2014 1:48 PM CDT
Red Cross trucks are seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac in 2012.   (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser) ProPublica and NPR are out with a joint investigative piece about the American Red Cross, and it's not pretty. You won't get very far into it before encountering this nugget regarding relief efforts on the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Isaac in 2012:

  • "During Isaac, Red Cross supervisors ordered dozens of trucks usually deployed to deliver aid to be driven around nearly empty instead, 'just to be seen,' one of the drivers, Jim Dunham, recalls."
The allegation is backed up by a second named source who arrived on the scene and learned that an unnamed official ordered 80 empty or near-empty trucks to drive around—because he was anticipating a visit from higher-ups and wanted to impress.

The incident provides just a taste, with the report depicting a bloated, inefficient organization that struggles to provide relief in the aftermath of disasters and sometimes seems more concerned with image than aid. A few months after Isaac, for example, Superstorm Sandy arrived:

  • "During Sandy, emergency vehicles were taken away from relief work and assigned to serve as backdrops for press conferences, angering disaster responders on the ground."
And this:
  • "After both storms, the charity’s problems left some victims in dire circumstances or vulnerable to harm, the organization’s internal assessments acknowledge. Handicapped victims 'slept in their wheelchairs for days' because the charity had not secured proper cots. In one shelter, sex offenders were 'all over including playing in children's area' because Red Cross staff 'didn’t know/follow procedures.'"
Click for the full report, which suggests that reorganization efforts put into place in recent years by Chief Executive Gail McGovern have done more harm than good.