New phone number expedites urgent Red Cross messages

21 Jun 2011 | Cpl. Miranda Blackburn

Family emergencies can happen while service members are deployed.

During these times of crisis, American Red Cross Armed Forces Emergency Services keeps military personnel in touch with their families by delivering urgent messages – a service provided through the organization’s worldwide network of staff and volunteers.

There is now one single number, 877-272-7337, to call and send an urgent message to a service member.

This is the telephone number currently available worldwide.

Procedures for overseas calling will remain the same, with the option to call the new number directly, access the number through a military operator or call the local Red Cross station.

 Even if service members call an old number, the Red Cross staff will still be able to serve them immediately.

"We’re just trying to streamline our business to give the best service that we can possibly give," said Jocelyn Townsend, American Red Cross senior station manager aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. "They should see faster service because now it’s one main number, whereas before they had to call their local Red Cross."

With the new service in place, the Red Cross has also set up four different call centers compared to the two they had in place before.

From start to finish, a service member should receive their Red Cross message within 24 to 48 hours from the time their family member makes the call.

These urgent messages can keep service members in touch with their families, relaying important news.

The Red Cross provides these services to service members and their immediate family members.

"If it’s an aunt, uncle or cousin, we’ll have to have extenuating circumstances," said Townsend. "What that means is there’s something that would require them to come home, whether their aunt raised them or their cousin lived in the home with the service member for an indefinite amount of time. Once those requirements are met, then we can do a Red Cross message."

Communication services are also available to Department of Defense civilian contract workers working on military installations overseas.

If family members are in a situation where they cannot reach their deployed service member directly and need to send an emergency message, they should have the following information readily available: full name, rank, branch of service, Social Security number of the service member, military address of the service member, and information about the deployed unit and location of the rear detachment unit.

"If we have all the correct information, we can easily get verification," said Townsend. "That’s our job. We’re here to provide emergency messaging and valid, verified messages."

The changes allow local Red Cross chapters to provide vital services with a personal touch, including hospital programs and outreach to reserve families, by freeing up resources from call-intake functions.

 According to a release from the American Red Cross aboard MCB Camp Lejeune, "The improvements we are making today are the foundation for continued quality service delivery to our men and women in uniform and their families."