Many of you come to us during disasters with offers of support and donations, but also with questions about how the Red Cross helps in the immediate aftermath of an emergency.

We are on the ground from day one into the weeks and months ahead to help individuals, families, and communities recover from disasters. Events like these are complex and we’ll work to assess the varying needs of households and communities. We hope this information will help in understanding what type of assistance we’re providing in Ottawa, Ontario after tornadoes devastated communities on September 21.

How does Red Cross provide immediate assistance?

Within hours of the tornadoes touching down in Ottawa, the Red Cross was on the ground responding at the request of the City of Ottawa by staffing reception centres and shelters, providing information and referral services, registration and emotional support. Since then, the Red Cross has registered more than 570 households in the Ottawa area. Beyond the immediate needs that are present after any disaster, continued and emerging needs that we are seeing on the ground include: temporary accommodation, mental health services, food and clothing, and help replacing household items.

How much financial assistance is available?

Direct financial assistance to families started on October 5, and has steadily increased since. We are seeing more families coming forward to identify their needs, from cost of deductibles to debris removal, so we anticipate that the distribution will continue at a faster pace going forward. In addition, as of October 31, any impacted households in Ontario who have registered with the Red Cross and have not yet received Red Cross financial assistance will automatically receive funds to help with their immediate needs.

How is help prioritized?


During the initial stages of a disaster, the Red Cross is concerned with meeting the needs of the most vulnerable people. In Canada and around the world, that’s how the Red Cross delivers aid: to the most vulnerable and based on those with the greatest needs. In situations like the tornado response, this could be people who didn’t have insurance and who don’t have another line of defence. Every disaster is different and through individual assessments, we’re able to identify additional needs that emerge over time and as a result, provide more help to all of those who need it.
In Ottawa, all registered impacted households, regardless of previous assistance received, may also receive additional financial assistance, which is provided on a case-by-case basis to address unmet needs. This can help to cover unexpected costs such as insurance deductibles, replacement of household necessities, and temporary accommodations.
This aid will not duplicate existing support either at the provincial or municipal levels, or through insurance.

How quickly are funds distributed?

It is not simply about getting the money out quickly. It’s important to recognize that people recover at different paces. Our intent with the allocated funds is to provide assistance for families and to do so where and when they need it the most.
From experience, we know that a combination of both fast, upfront help and longer-term support are needed following disasters of this magnitude. We also know the impact of disasters like this will continue for the months ahead, and the Red Cross will continue to use our expertise and our funds to best support people on the road to recovery. We are still encouraging anyone who needs assistance to contact us.

How much makes it to people who are affected?

The Red Cross is committed to transparency and provides donors with regular updates reports about how funds are being used.
When the Canadian Red Cross raises funds for an emergency, 95 cents of every dollar will always be put towards the affected region and the impacted individuals, families and communities. The remaining 5 cents are spent on essential functions, such as processing donations, issuing receipts, staffing call centres as well as reporting and communicating with the public. Funds are used over a period of time whether it’s to provide emergency assistance in early days and weeks following the disaster or other forms of assistance to support the community’s recovery.

How is the Red Cross held accountable?

We produce regular donor reports which are available on our website. We also produce annual reports and financial statements that are publicly available. The Canadian Red Cross is audited by an independent auditor yearly.
Find out more about the Red Cross response in Ottawa and Gatineau regions.