Many nurses worked for the Red Cross

The Red Cross organization was formed in response to Henry Dunant's experiences in Italy in 1859. His book encouraged the establishment of a committee whose main purpose was to found an organization that could provide immediate relief and medical attention to those who were wounded or ill as a result of war. The red cross on a white background was adopted in 1863 as the symbol of this work. The Canadian Red Cross was not officially established until 1909. As early as the Riel Resistance in 1885, the work was being done, under the auspices of a doctor who needed to identify the wagon used to transport the wounded. He tore up red material and sewed it on to a white background so that the purpose of the wagon was clearly visible to both sides.

In 1939, the Canadian Red Cross began preparation for the war that was imminent by establishing branches and divisions across the country. Nurses have worked since the early days of the century in the Red Cross organization, but became embedded in the fabric of society during those horrifying years of the Second World War. When the war was over, the programs still included first aid for accident victims, assistance for wounded veterans and education in the areas of health and safety. And, of course, the Red Cross is most well-known locally for its blood collection and transfusion program.

Alberta nurses have been involved in responses to other disasters besides war. In May of 2000, the Red Cross provided support following an evacuation of 5,000 residents of Red Deer, Alberta following a hazardous chemical spill. And in July of the same year, a tornado that devastated a campground in Pine Lake killed 12 and sent close to 140 to hospital. Over 220 volunteers and staff worked hard to respond to inquiries, and to provide support and medical aid at the campground immediately following the tornado.

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