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During Harvey, sign-ups spike to volunteer at American Red Cross

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — In the wake of the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey, people have been flooding to the American Red Cross website to sign up to volunteer, according to Beth Healey, the Director of Volunteer Services for Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Sign-ups nationwide have been coming in online at a rate of 700 people per hour, Healey said, 42 times the previous record that was set after tornadoes in Joplin, MO in 2013.

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Locally, sign-ups are flowing in at a rate of about 10 people per hour.

“When we’re on the news, we get quite an increase,” Healey said. “We have people telling us ‘I’m ready, I can leave tonight.'”

Volunteers can’t jump on a plane to Texas right away; they have be properly trained and background-checked before joining the team. Healey said a training session will be held in Providence on Friday, and training will be ramping up across the region.

The Red Cross posted a video to its national twitter page Tuesday asking potential volunteers to be patient with the sign-up system, explaining that “our systems are taxed, and are being upgraded.”

The Rhode Island chapter of the Red Cross has already sent at least 10 staffers and volunteers to help with disaster relief in Texas, including the chapter’s executive director. Two volunteers are currently driving down in an emergency response vehicle.

Healey said the Rhode Island chapter also needs more volunteers to help cover for the people who have deployed to Texas. Rhode Island sees one to two fires per day, she said, and the Red Cross assists the victims.

The organization welcomes monetary donations to help the victims of Harvey, but discourages donating clothing and supplies to local branches.

“We actually have to spend money, donor dollars, to send that down. So it’s really more useful to just send money, and then we buy the resources,” Healey said.