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Red Cross sets up disaster field supply centers in Pasco

Red Cross logistics leader Kel Bartley stores a pallet of meals at a west Pasco facility on Thursday morning.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

Red Cross logistics leader Kel Bartley stores a pallet of meals at a west Pasco facility on Thursday morning.

Hurricane season has been quiet so far this year. But the American Red Cross isn't fooled.

"We're just entering the heights of hurricane season," said Janet McGuire, Red Cross disaster communications officer.

In anticipation of the peak of hurricane season, traditionally in mid September, the relief organization established two disaster field supply centers in Pasco County this week. Thousands of cots, ready to eat meals and blankets are ready to be deployed to a weather-affected area at a moment's notice.

About a dozen of these centers are established each hurricane season throughout high-risk states. The only other Florida disaster field supply center is in Miami.

The Red Cross asked that the county locations, which were donated, not be revealed for security reasons.

But we can say the supply centers are located on the east and west sides of the county in areas relatively immune to storm surge and flooding.

"They are as high of an area that we could find in the Tampa Bay area," said Chad Magnuson, emergency services director for the American Red Cross, Tampa Bay Chapter.

The locations are also close to major roads, meaning the supplies can be easily mobilized to many areas in the state.

"We're really centralized," McGuire said. "We learned from Hurricane Charley — (hurricanes) don't just do damage on the coastline, they can also do damage inland."

On the east side of the county, 12 trailers loaded with 800 cots, 800 comfort kits and 1,625 blankets each are prepared to support up to 9,600 people until more supplies arrive.

The comfort kits contain soap, shampoo, and shaving supplies, among other toiletries. Children get a special kit that includes a stuffed animal.

Two additional 53-foot trailers loaded with supplies to support a mobile kitchen are also ready to be deployed to a recovery zone.

On the other side of the county, volunteers used a forklift Thursday morning to unload 30,000 self-heating chicken and beef meals into a storage facility.

If this year's hurricane season remains quiet, the supplies will be returned at the end of November to their permanent homes at Red Cross warehouses in Mississippi and Virginia.

Helen Anne Travis can be reached at htravis@sptimes.com or (813) 435-7312.

Red Cross sets up disaster field supply centers in Pasco 08/06/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 6, 2009 9:42pm]
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