Red Cross sets disaster training

Published 9:51 pm Monday, November 10, 2008

In the hours immediately after the tornado slammed through Suffolk last April, the American Red Cross was there.

And if your house catches on fire or floods after a hurricane, the Red Cross will be there to make sure you have the basic necessities – clothes, a hot meal, a roof over your head – in those first devastating hours.

But the organization’s success depends largely on the strength of its volunteer base, said Ashley O. Greene, development officer for the Suffolk office.

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“The employee side of things here is skeletal,” she said. “Volunteers are crucial. They are the doers, the ones who do the work out in the field.”

The Suffolk Red Cross is recruiting and training volunteers for all sorts of roles during the next few weeks.

“Right now, the chapter especially needs people who are interested in volunteering at our Suffolk-area blood drives,” said Greene. The volunteers help register donors and assist in canteens during the drives.

The chapter also will host a weekend training session Dec. 12, 13, 14, and 16 for people interested in serving on its Disaster Action Team. The class will give volunteers the skills necessary to assess disaster damages and help victims get their most urgent needs covered after a disaster.

The disaster team volunteers were critical to Suffolk in the wake to the April 28 tornado, said Faye G. Byrum, director of the Suffolk Red Cross chapter.

“Trained Suffolk volunteers were on the streets immediately following the tornado providing lodging, food, clothing, mental and health services and clean-up supplies,” she said. “A team of Suffolk volunteers began assessing the damages first thing the next day and assisting victims individually two days later.”

According to Greene, class participants will focus on several topics during the four-day training, including disaster assessment, how the Red Cross delivers mass care, and details about processing the casework necessary to get victims whatever services they need in as short a time possible.

“Our goal is to have personal contact with each person affected,” Greene said.

The local disaster team is most critical in the first 36 hours when dealing with a disaster on the magnitude of last April’s tornado, she added. After that, a national team arrives to relieve local volunteers, she said.

Local team members who are interested will be eligible to go to other communities hit by disasters as Red Cross representatives, she added.

All volunteers will be interviewed and must submit a free online background check, Greene said. This can be done at the Suffolk chapter office at 157 N. Main St., Suite C.

For more information on any volunteer opportunity or to pre-register for the Disaster Action Team training, call 539-6645.