Five Lines Of Service: Disaster Relief Operations

By Shannon Randol, intern contributor, American Red Cross

What does Disaster Relief Operations (DRO) do?

Two terms the Red Cross uses and the public should know are “Blue Skies” and “Gray Skies”.

A Blue Sky day is when the daily operations are executed for the community when natural disasters aren’t occurring. A Gray Sky day is when a natural disaster occurs and all hands are on deck assisting with clients – victims of said disaster.

During Blue Skies the focus is on preparedness and administrative work. Nationally, Red Cross volunteers make up 90 percent of our staff. Here in North Texas where everything is bigger, volunteers make up 96% of our team. It’s imperative to disaster operations to have volunteers not just for disasters, but as educators out in the community teaching youth how to prepare, respond and survive the aftermath of disasters.

This  Blue Sky preparedness is known as the Pillow Case Project. A 45-60 minute session with children aged 8-11 taught by Red Cross volunteers. The program is working on expanding to children aged 5-10, but we need more dedicated volunteers to do so! If you are interested in assisting the education of children, please don’t hesitate to follow the previous link!

Fire Alarm Safety is another preparedness operation the disaster program focuses its Blue Sky roll. Did you know an average of 7 people die every day because of a home fire? And every 40 minutes an injury from a home fire is reported!


Fire experts agree that people may have as little as 2 minutes to escape a burning home before it’s too late to get out. Approximately 62 percent of people believe they have at least 5 minutes to escape a burning home.

Other home fire statistics:

  • 18% mistakenly believe they have 10 minutes or more to escape.
  • 52% of parents with children ages 3-17 have not talked to their families about fire safety.
  • 70% of families with children have not identified a safe place to meet outside the home.
  • 82% have not practiced home fire drills.
  • 69% of parents believe their children would know what to do or how to escape with little help.

“The biggest threat to American families aren’t floods, hurricanes, or tornadoes — home fires are. The American Red Cross responds to a disaster every eight minutes, nearly all of them are home fires.”

People can take easy steps to increase their chances of surviving a fire in three easy steps:

  1. Make an escape plan.
  2. Make sure you have working smoke alarms in your home.
  3. Practice fire drills and then check your escape time. Is it under 2-minutes?

The Red Cross is looking for dedicated volunteers to knock on doors, canvas the streets and educate in classrooms the importance of home fire preparedness, as well as assist with smoke alarm inspection and installation. To volunteer please go to redcross.org/support/volunteer. 

Gray Sky rolls range from client casework- contacting victims of disasters and assisting with their emergency needs. To dispatching Emergency Response Vehicles (ERV’s) to affected communities to distribute water, food and other materials. To Shelter Operations- supporting victims who need shelter after a disaster occurs.

Disaster relief aides in providing snacks and meals, as well as provide health and mental health to victims who needs help dealing with how to cope.  

A gray sky is short hand for, all hands on deck!  

“Volunteers are important during Gray Sky rolls and just as important during Blue Sky operations,” said Senior Disaster Program Manager, Anngie Johnson. “We are only as efficient as how many volunteers we have serving.”

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