Cisco is proud to announce it has received the 2014 Humanitarian Partnership Award from the Silicon Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross. The award recognizes the support Cisco has given to the American Red Cross’ mission, and salutes the significant impact Cisco has made in Silicon Valley.

Cisco’s relationship with the Silicon Valley Chapter, and the American Red Cross in general, is deep, enduring, and reciprocal. We have been strategic disaster response partners for more than a decade, and we share a common focus. While the American Red Cross is frequently first on scene to provide food, shelter, water, and relief services during disasters, Cisco’s rapid response IT solutions – and its employees — are not far behind, as supporting critical human needs is a key component in Cisco’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) pledge.

Over the years, Cisco has supported the American Red Cross by making cash and product donations, lending technical expertise, and encouraging extensive employee volunteerism, not only in Silicon Valley, but throughout the United States and the world.

Cisco "Ready When the Time Comes" volunteers are a critical element in their communities' disaster readiness.
Cisco “Ready When the Time Comes” volunteers are a critical element in their communities’ disaster readiness.

Tom Tanner, a program manager for technical support at Cisco based in San Jose, California, is a long-time American Red Cross volunteer and he speaks for many when he says it’s a hand-in-hand relationship between the two. “The American Red Cross is saying ‘thank you’ to us for donating phones, expertise, employee volunteer time, and fundraising,” he said of the award. “We say thanks for coming on site to train us, and letting us help. It’s part of Cisco’s culture, it’s who we are, and it works for us.”

Cisco employee Tom Tanner deployed with the American Red Cross to support the Superstorm Sandy relief efforts in 2012.
Cisco employee Tom Tanner deployed with the American Red Cross to support the                                     Superstorm Sandy relief efforts in 2012.

Tom has served as the “IT guy” at an evacuation center in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and been deployed to New York after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and Birmingham, Alabama in 2011 after 50 tornadoes struck in one day. “My bosses are totally supportive of what I’m doing, and if I have to go to a disaster site, they say ‘go’ and don’t even bat an eye,” he said.

Tom is also a Disaster Action Team member with the local American Red Cross chapter, providing families displaced by house fires with emergency sheltering, clothing, and other necessities.

Other ways employees can get involved in disaster response is to be trained as Disaster Incident Response Team (DIRT) volunteers, who are assigned to our Network Emergency Response Vehicles (NERV) and Tactical Operations (TacOps) teams. TacOps teams operate specially equipped trucks that can be quickly deployed to disaster sites. Once on location, they establish satellite-based communications using Cisco’s voice, data, and video connectivity, providing first responders and disaster relief organizations with vital emergency communications links.

Cisco TacOps provided command support for Emergency Medical Services personnel supporting 30,000 runners during the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco, CA on October 20, 2013.
Cisco TacOps provided command support for Emergency Medical Services personnel supporting 30,000 runners during the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco, CA on October 20, 2013.

“Cisco TacOps has responded to a number of emergency incidents in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the 2010 San Bruno Gas pipeline explosion, the 2009 fiber cut in the southern part of Santa Clara County, and, more recently, we supported the Silicon Valley American Red Cross First Aid Station Team (FAST) at the 2013 Nike Women’s Marathon,” according to TacOps team member Rakesh Bharania.

In this symbiotic relationship, Cisco leverages its global employee network and ICT technologies to help the American Red Cross and first responder agencies coordinate relief services more quickly, helping more people in time of need.

Disaster Preparedness Starts at Home

As one of the largest employers in the Silicon Valley, Cisco aims to set a disaster preparedness standard, both internally and externally, within our local community. Employees are encouraged to participate in drills and table-top exercises to simulate what an actual disaster might feel like.

They are also encouraged, through our partnership with the American Red Cross, to become certified in First Aid, CPR, and disaster resiliency training. Cisco even donates $10 to the American Red Cross for every hour an employee spends in training or volunteering.

During fiscal year 2013 (August 1, 2012 to July 31, 2013), Cisco, Cisco’s employees, and the Cisco Foundation donated US$1.8 million to support the Red Cross mission.

Bay Area Support

Our support for disaster response extends beyond Silicon Valley. Since 2010, Cisco and the Cisco Foundation have provided cash grant support to InSTEDD (Innovative Support to Emergencies, Diseases and Disasters), a nonprofit organization that uses open source technology to improve disaster response, to develop and pilot test its Watchfire volunteer recruitment and management application. Watchfire uses GPS, voice, and text messaging to identify and recruit disaster response volunteers more quickly and efficiently to a disaster site.

Representatives from the American Red Cross participate in a user testing session for Watchfire, a volunteer recruitment and management application.
Representatives from the American Red Cross participate in a user testing session for Watchfire, a volunteer recruitment and management application.

After a successful pilot, the application was scaled to the American Red Cross’ nine Bay Area chapters with plans to roll it out to American Red Cross chapters nationally. Watchfire users reported an 85 percent decrease in the amount of time it took to recruit volunteers to disaster sites. InSTEDD is already working to roll it out on a global scale with international humanitarian aid organizations, thereby reaching millions of people.

Additional Disaster Support

In addition to its work with the American Red Cross, Cisco has partnered with other disaster relief agencies, such as Save the Children, CARE, and NetHope, to provide relief to people affected by Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, famine in the Horn of Africa, and Typhoon Haiyan, among other international crises.

Why does Cisco support natural disaster relief? It’s part of our larger strategy to support critical human needs worldwide. We believe people need the basics – food, water, shelter, and medical care—to survive, thrive, and build better opportunities for self-sufficiency. And, we believe technology can facilitate faster and more efficient responses when disasters do strike, saving lives and reducing injury and loss.

Disaster relief organizations like the American Red Cross help people in their times of greatest need. Cisco support helps assure the American Red Cross will be there when, and if, that need arises.


Khanh Russo

Lead the critical human needs investment portfolio

Cisco Foundation