WASHINGTON (NNS) -- In the wake of Japan's massive earthquake and tsunami March 11, Red Cross officials are encouraging U.S. service members and families posted there to register with an online resource intended to keep family and friends back home informed of their welfare.
Military members and their families overseas can relay their status and pass on messages to loved ones through the American Red Cross-sponsored "Safe and Well" website at http://redcross.org.
"It's a great online tool," Deanna Swanier, senior director of service delivery for the American Red Cross' Service to the Armed Forces. "Family members back here can visit the website and look up loved ones to see if they're safe."
Hours after the earthquake and tsunami struck, officials confirmed U.S. military personnel and their families were accounted for. Still, family and friends back home were seeking information.
One woman turned to Misawa Air Base's Facebook page for information that day. Misawa is about 400 miles north of Tokyo.
"Not sure if anyone can find out anything," she wrote, "but my brother is on base, and we're trying to figure out if everything is OK over there. Does anyone know?"
To register for Safe and Well, people enter their name, contact information, and then choose from a list of standard messages: "I am safe and well," "Family and I are safe and well," or "Currently at shelter." or they can type a customized message.
While many service members may turn to e-mail or, if available, a phone call to contact immediate family members after a disaster, Swanier encouraged them to also register on Safe and Well so extended family members and friends can find out about their well-being.
"It offers another avenue of communication," she noted.
Red Cross officials said family and friends back home can access the messages by entering the service member's pre-disaster phone number or complete home address. They cannot, however, register themselves on the site. The site is intended to facilitate communication from inside the disaster-affected areas to families outside.
While the site offers a quick and easy way to pass on a person's current status, not everyone chooses to register. In this case, officials encourage people to try calling, texting or checking online to see if their loved one is updating their social media page, such as Facebook or Twitter. People who have a loved one with a serious health or mental health condition can initiate an Emergency Information Request by calling their local American Red Cross chapter or calling 1-800-RED-CROSS.
Along with Safe and Well, Red Cross officials also passed on a few other ways to contact U.S. citizens living or traveling overseas.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has launched a special "Family Links" website to help people seeking to re-establish contact with family members and friends. People in Japan and other countries in the Pacific can register at http://www.icrc.org/familylinks to inform their family and friends that they are safe, and provide their current contact information.
People in the United States looking for loved ones can check the list for information. They also can register the names of family members and friends, encouraging them to get in touch.
Additionally, people can contact or locate U.S. citizens living or traveling in Japan by calling the State Department's office of overseas citizens' services at 1-888-407-4747 or 202-647-5225.
For more news, visit www.navy.mil.