The American Red Cross is upgrading its emergency operations in central Iowa this week to improve efficiency -before- the next disaster strikes. Jerry Grant, a senior official with the Red Cross’ national branch office in Des Moines, says the many computer databases that held things like volunteer contact information weren’t compatible between the various local, state and national people who might need to access them. Grant says they have a new software program that integrates the information so that data entered at the chapter level is available to all of the other entities. He says it will speed up the ability to staff a disaster relief operation and to provide better service. Grant says there are 65-thousand disasters every year in the U.S. and 20-thousand of them require help from neighboring Red Cross chapters. A prime example is Tropical Storm Katrina, a pending hurricane, which threatens to hit the Florida coast late tonight or early tomorrow. With the new computer system in place, Red Cross officials in Iowa can readily see what might be needed in Florida. He says if supplies, personnel or other resources are available here in the Midwest, they can “get ’em moving.” Grant clarifies the 65-thousand disasters-a-year figure. He says “A single-family fire is a disaster to that family, just like a hurricane that devastates 20-thousand homes in Florida. We respond to them all and we want to make sure that when we respond, we’re there when the people need our help, not three or four days late.” For more information, surf to “www.redcross.org”.