Red Cross Website Links Japan-based Troops to Home

WASHINGTON, March 15, 2011 — In the wake of Japan’s mas­sive earth­quake and tsuna­mi, Red Cross offi­cials are encour­ag­ing U.S. ser­vice mem­bers and fam­i­lies post­ed there to reg­is­ter with an online resource intend­ed to keep fam­i­ly and friends back home informed of their wel­fare.
Mil­i­tary mem­bers and their fam­i­lies over­seas can relay their sta­tus and pass on mes­sages to loved ones through the Amer­i­can Red Cross-spon­sored “Safe and Well” web­site at http://redcross.org.

“It’s a great online tool,” Dean­na Swanier, senior direc­tor of ser­vice deliv­ery for the Amer­i­can Red Cross’ Ser­vice to the Armed Forces, told Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice yes­ter­day. “Fam­i­ly mem­bers back here can vis­it the web­site and look up loved ones to see if they’re safe.”

Hours after the earth­quake and tsuna­mi struck March 11, offi­cials con­firmed U.S. mil­i­tary per­son­nel and their fam­i­lies were account­ed for. Still, fam­i­ly and friends back home were seek­ing infor­ma­tion.

One woman turned to Mis­awa Air Base’s Face­book page for infor­ma­tion that day. Mis­awa is about 400 miles north of Tokyo.

“Not sure if any­one can find out any­thing,” she wrote, “but my broth­er is on base and we’re try­ing to fig­ure out if every­thing is OK over there. Does any­one know?”

To reg­is­ter for Safe and Well, peo­ple enter their name, con­tact infor­ma­tion and then choose from a list of stan­dard mes­sages –- “I am safe and well,” “Fam­i­ly and I are safe and well,” or “Cur­rent­ly at shel­ter” –- or they can type a cus­tomized mes­sage.

While many ser­vice mem­bers may turn to e-mail or, if avail­able, a phone call to con­tact imme­di­ate fam­i­ly mem­bers after a dis­as­ter, Swanier encour­aged them to also reg­is­ter on Safe and Well so extend­ed fam­i­ly mem­bers and friends can find out about their well-being.

“It offers anoth­er avenue of com­mu­ni­ca­tion,” she not­ed.

Fam­i­ly and friends back home can access the mes­sages by enter­ing the ser­vice member’s pre-dis­as­ter phone num­ber or com­plete home address. They can’t, how­ev­er, reg­is­ter them­selves on the site. The site is intend­ed to facil­i­tate com­mu­ni­ca­tion from inside the dis­as­ter-affect­ed areas to fam­i­lies out­side, Red Cross offi­cials explained.

While the site offers a quick and easy way to pass on a person’s cur­rent sta­tus, not every­one choos­es to reg­is­ter. In this case, offi­cials encour­age peo­ple to try call­ing, tex­ting or check­ing online to see if their loved one is updat­ing their social media page, such as Face­book or Twit­ter. Peo­ple who have a loved one with a seri­ous health or men­tal health con­di­tion can ini­ti­ate an Emer­gency Infor­ma­tion Request by call­ing their local Amer­i­can Red Cross chap­ter or call­ing 1–800-RED-CROSS.

Along with Safe and Well, Red Cross offi­cials also passed on a few oth­er ways to con­tact U.S. cit­i­zens liv­ing or trav­el­ing over­seas.

The Inter­na­tion­al Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross has launched a spe­cial “Fam­i­ly Links” web­site to help peo­ple seek­ing to re-estab­lish con­tact with fam­i­ly mem­bers and friends. Peo­ple in Japan and oth­er coun­tries in the Pacif­ic can reg­is­ter at http://www.icrc.org/familylinks to inform their fam­i­ly and friends that they are safe and pro­vide their cur­rent con­tact infor­ma­tion.

Peo­ple in the Unit­ed States look­ing for loved ones can check the list for infor­ma­tion. They also can reg­is­ter the names of fam­i­ly mem­bers and friends, encour­ag­ing them to get in touch.

Addi­tion­al­ly, peo­ple can con­tact or locate U.S. cit­i­zens liv­ing or trav­el­ing in Japan by call­ing the State Department’s office of over­seas cit­i­zens’ ser­vices at 1–888-407‑4747 or 202–647-5225.

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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