If you haven't checked out her blog, she has an extensive background in humanitarian action worldwide. Here's what she says about the problems with sending Red Cross volunteers into New Orleans:
The situation is a mess, but, having worked in Kosovo, Haiti, Bosnia
and other places, there could be unbelievable complications sending
Red Cross volunteers - most of whom are not really trained or equipped
for this type or scale of disaster - into this situation.
They would really be sending such people into harm's way, especially
with the flooding/standing water; no electricity anywhere; NO
COMMUNICATIONS, the list goes on.
Many of the volunteers easily could end up victims. They would also be
taking up valuable space. The US does not have a civilian corps
trained for this kind of situation. I could be wrong but that is my
take. I think we're used to seeing images of relief workers helping
people in the midst of ruins, but AFTER the danger - or most of it -
has passed. This crisis is in active mode.
A statement along the lines of Marian's email to me would be much more informative and would help members of the public understand the situation better.
Apparently there are sound reasons for keeping the Red Cross out right now while the crisis is in full swing. I am still disgusted that Homeland Security and the Red Cross use right wing, victim-blaming rhetoric of "personal responsibility" to "inform" us about the situation ("Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city"). Though not the Red Cross, necessarily, a humanitarian presence IS needed in New Orleans. In a second email that just arrived, as I was typing this, Marian said:
[T]o me the real issue is that what's needed is not (yet) Red Cross volunteers, but a first-response corps of civilian disaster workers (to work alongside national guard/military) trained by FEMA -- if Bush had not virtually destroyed FEMA.