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American Red Cross digital training program aims to help disaster relief volunteers

June 5, 2013

The American Red Cross has introduced a technology-based training program for disaster relief volunteers that will let them access information remotely through mobile devices.

According to the nonprofit, the training program was developed in part through a $500,000 contribution from AT&T. The initiative is just further proof that technology helps users throughout any of their journeys.

“To meet the growing demand for more flexible training opportunities, AT&T teamed with The Red Cross to support the creation of a new, technology-based training model,” said Anne Marie Borrego, a spokeswoman for Red Cross, Washington. “This new model will enable volunteers to use self-paced online courses, live webinars, mobile and other technologies to complete disaster training programs.

“By offering more flexible, technology-based training options, The Red Cross will be able to attract a larger variety of volunteers than ever before, including those in remote locations,” she said. “These new technologies will also improve the Red Cross’ ability to accommodate community volunteers, who offer to work with the Red Cross after disaster has struck.

“The initial pilot program will be Web-based and compatible with PCs, Macs and tablets. The Red Cross team is currently in the development stages of a training-focused app for smartphones. This will be released at a later date.”

Mobile help
The Red Cross and AT&T piloted the mobile technology-based training model with more than 1,100 AT&T volunteers during National Volunteer Week, which took place on April 21-27 in Dallas, Atlanta and Bedminster, NJ.

Previously, Red Cross disaster volunteers were trained in classroom settings.

With the growing penetration of technology, the nonprofit has teamed up with AT&T to move toward a technology-based module that lets volunteers remotely access Red Cross training courses through mobile and other digital devices.

American Red Cross believes that the program is a key step in ensuring that the nonprofit actively engages a wider audience in disaster preparedness and relief.

Using mobile technology-based training options, the Red Cross hopes to attract a larger variety of volunteers.

Moreover, the technology will help match volunteers’ learning preferences and will include self-paced, online training, live webinars and mobile learning opportunities.

American Red Cross expects to develop as many as 80 mobile technology-based trainings in the coming months, and will make the new volunteer training platform available to the public in early 2014.

Mobile past
American Red Cross is no stranger when it comes to using mobile to drive donations and awareness.

In 2010, the nonprofit raised almost $1 million in the 24 hours since it issued an SMS call-to-action for victims of this week’s earthquake in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince (see story).

In 2011, the American Red Cross committed to raising money via mobile for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan (see story).

“The Red Cross is using mobile technologies in a variety of ways to bring our lifesaving mission to others,” Ms. Borrego said. “For example, our suite of free apps can help individuals and families prepare for and respond to disasters in their areas.

“Our First Aid App has lifesaving information to assist with emergencies, and our shelter app can help people find a safe place to stay when disaster strikes,” she said. “We’re also engaging with more and more people through social media, by both providing real-time safety information but also aggregating public needs into trends that help inform our response.

“We’re also working with digital volunteers to reply to social media calls for assistance.”

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Rimma Kats is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach her at

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