Disaster team training set

Published 9:15 pm Saturday, December 4, 2010

By Heather McGinley

Special to the News-Herald

When a family has an emergency like a home fire, it can seem impossible that they will ever get their lives back together again.

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However, they are often helped along the path by a group of dedicated American Red Cross volunteers called the Disaster Action Team.

“They are considered first responders like the fire department,” said Faye Byrum, executive director of the American Red Cross Suffolk chapter. “These individuals are identified ahead of time so that they can respond quickly.”

A series of training classes, led by former disaster team members, is set to begin next month.

According to Byrum, the Disaster Action Team is reserved for “people willing to make a commitment for training and detailed assistance.”

Team members respond to disasters such as single-family home fires, multi-family apartment building fires, and damage from floods, hurricanes and tornados. They assess and meet the family’s immediate needs, such as lodging, food, clothing and medications.

The work of the Disaster Action Team is crucial, especially during large-scale disasters, to ensure that immediate needs are met so that disaster victims can focus on recovery.

Through next month’s courses, volunteers will learn proper techniques for conducting interviews and completing forms that are crucial to providing assistance to disaster victims; how to educate the community in disaster preparation; how to perform initial assessments following disasters; resources that are available to assist disaster victims; and how to assist victims during stressful situations.

Former team members Carol Johnson and Vera Bright will be leading instruction and will be able to offer insight and first-hand knowledge to potential volunteers.

The courses are offered only twice a year and provide everything volunteers need to know to become certified for the disaster team.

The courses are scheduled for Jan. 8, 15, and 20 at the Suffolk chapter facility at 157 N. Main St., Suite C.

The schedule is as follows: Disaster Services Overview on Saturday, Jan. 8 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; Disaster Assessment Basics on Saturday, Jan. 8 from 1:30 to 4 p.m.; Client Casework: Providing Emergency Assistance on Saturday, Jan. 15 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Disaster Action Team Workshop on Thursday, Jan. 20 from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

To register or for more information, contact the Suffolk chapter of the American Red Cross at 539-6645. Pre-registration is required to attend classes.