Monday, June 17, 2013

Hurricane Drill "Rocs" Disaster Volunteers

Volunteers get the morning briefing inside the
"Hurricane Roc" response headquarters
In reality, the weather was beautiful across Western New York and the Finger Lakes on Saturday. But inside the Disaster Operations Center at 50 Prince Street in Rochester, "Hurricane Roc" had struck the region!

Nearly 100 Red Cross volunteers from across the newly-combined Western New York and Finger Lakes Regions came together for a disaster drill that tested our ability to respond should an actual disaster take place. 

"No matter what else happens, this has already been a success," said NYS Disaster Assessment lead Sarah Perkins as she kicked off Saturday's exercise. "You have all come together as one region. Anything else is icing."

Disaster Assessment teams hit the streets
and reported back to headquarters
The volunteers quickly went to work responding to "Hurricane Roc". The scenario included massive flooding and some power outages, leading to mandatory evacuations in some areas. Disaster Assessment teams went out into the field and reported back to headquarters, helping all the various activities including sheltering, feeding and logistics to know what was needed where. To keep responders on their toes, various scenarios were added to the mix during the drill, including a flooding in a previously unreported neighborhood and an outbreak of SARS inside a Red Cross shelter.

NYS Disaster Assessment Lead Sarah Perkins discusses
Saturday's Drill with Ashley Zilka and WROC News 8.
"It's important because if we do it now we can make mistakes that we won't make the next time around," said Emergency Services Director Tim Pitoniak. "We get to build relationships and learn where we have strengths and weaknesses, so we're prepared when something like this actually happens, which it can and will."

"The original storm track for Sandy brought it right into this area. It was only by a weather change that it didn't happen here," added Perkins, who had just returned from a deployment to Oklahoma. "So much was accomplished here in just one day, with fruits that will benefit us all for months to come."