Lessons for Organizations and Life from a Red Cross Weekend

The Red Cross had a Disaster Training Institute last weekend at Laurel Ridge, up in Alleghany County, North Carolina. I don’t think they could have picked a better location. The people and the rooms were welcoming, we had three classrooms to use right there in the same building, and the mountain views were phenomenal.

While the entire weekend was wonderful, there were a couple of key takeaways for me that can be applied to life in general–not just the Red Cross.

The Red Cross values people more than I had internalized before. Not only was this emphasized verbally during the various sessions, but, more importantly, I witnessed it. Volunteers who were new and volunteers and staff with 30 to 40 years of experience were treated with the same respect, and my very knowledgeable instructors in one class were often my classmates in another. I was impressed with how late-comers to class (understandably unavoidable sometimes) were naturally incorporated into the group. People from different areas intermingled and enjoyed being together. In addition, I learned the importance the Red Cross places on trusting people with firsthand knowledge in the disaster cycle (preparing, responding, recovering).*

Knowing what to expect is helpful. Disasters range in size from something affecting a single home to one that affects many people–and large scale incidents often evolve in size and complexity. Understanding beforehand that increasing the scale of a response will often result in shifting people into different positions of responsibility and why that is the case decreases confusion during a change.

The Red Cross is enthusiastically embracing technology that will make delivery of service even better.

Relationships are important, both within the Red Cross and with people in community organizations and government agencies. Strengthening those relationships through regular interaction during non-disaster times is important so that familiarity and trust are already in place in times of need. Spending a few days together with other Red Crossers was probably as beneficial to me as the classes themselves.


It was a great experience, on many levels.



*The importance of firsthand knowledge reminded me of the scope of judicial review.


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