Monday, March 26, 2012

Practicing what we preach

Here at the American Red Cross, we constantly encourage people to take steps ahead of time to prepare in case of disaster. So it would be pretty hypocritical of us to not do the same thing. That's why several of our emergency services staffers and volunteers gathered at our Clement Mansion headquarters Saturday to take part in a table-top "disaster drill."

Volunteers check out staffing availability
during "disaster drill"

Shortly after arriving at 9am, we were presented with our mock scenario: massive flooding was occurring around Silver Creek and Cazenovia Creek, and residents would be evacuated. It didn't take long for the team to jump into action, doing damage assessment, working with first responders and community partners to figure out what would be needed where, finding out what staff and volunteers would be available to operate shelters over the next several days, and more disaster response activities.

Throughout the day, we were presented with different scenarios that might occur during the course of an actual event. For example, we were told that one evacuee was concerned about the care for his hundreds of horses, and we had to reach out to other organizations to try to find someone who could assist him.

The Southwestern New York and Western New York Tri-County Chapters joined the American Red Cross, Serving Erie & Niagara Counties as part of this drill, which tested our capabilities as an entire region. The lessons learned (I learned that I need to not only communicate with the media and public, but do a better job communicating with the different teams responding to the disaster) will be implemented into a "business plan" going forward, improving our response should an actual disaster take place.

Volunteers assess the "damage" to figure out where
to focus the Red Cross response

It was really impressive to see what these volunteers are capable of. Not only did everyone sacrifice a part of their weekend for a "drill", it's amazing how quickly and capably they responded to an ever-changing scenario, and how seriously everyone took their responsibilities.

If you want to help turn heartbreak into hope the next time disaster strikes--be it a single-family house fire, widespread flooding, or anything in between--we are always looking for new volunteers. For more information, contact volunteer coordinator Christine Kukelka at or (716) 878-2140.

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