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American Red Cross gets worldwide emergency communication phone number

Posted 7/6/2011   Updated 7/6/2011 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Maeson L. Elleman
18th Wing Public Affairs

7/6/2011 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- The American Red Cross has recently implemented a single toll-free phone number to better connect military members to their families in the event of an emergency.

Unlike before where the individual requesting this important tool had to be in contact with the Red Cross in the local area, the ARC will be able to use this much more efficient system to speed up the emergency message process.

"Before, the family member called his or her local Red Cross, and the Red Cross would contact the appropriate channels, which could take a considerable amount of time to go through," said Gerry Bailey, Kadena American Red Cross assistant station manager. "This new system will provide a central local for service members and their families to initiate emergency communication messages."

The 58 ARC stations around the world provide assistance to more than 2 million service members and many of the nation's 24 million veterans. Families of service members can contact the ARC for anything from the birth of a service member's child or grandchild to the less fortunate situations such as the death or serious illness of an immediate family member.

When families contact the ARC for any emergency, Bailey said the message had to be delivered within 18 hours, or 24 hours if the service member is aboard a ship at sea. However, the old system could have caused the emergency information verification to take more of that time frame than the new toll-free number.

"Our primary responsibility is to provide verified information to service members and their command regarding emergency situations with their immediate family members," said Bailey. "This system is designed to speed up the process for delivering a message to the service member and his or her command."

Even though the system has been revolutionized, Bailey warned that the process could still take a lot longer if the family doesn't have all the correct information for the service member.

"When families have the proper information, we can get it done amazingly quickly," Bailey said, "but if the family doesn't have all of the appropriate information such as the member's rank, social security number, military address, unit, military base and APO number, it can delay the process. It's crucially important that the service member keep their families updated with all of this information."

"The Red Cross has always been there for us," said Mr. Robert L. Gordon III, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy. "It's critically important to our men and women serving away from home that their families know whom to call in the event of an emergency. The Red Cross is now making it even easier to make that call."

To contact the ARC from a U.S. toll-free number, call 1-877-272-7337. Bailey said that if someone on the island doesn't have the capability of calling a U.S. phone number, he or she can contact the KARC directly at DSN 634-1294, where the message can be taken during normal duty hours. If after normal duty hours, however, the call will automatically be forwarded to the toll-free number.

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