March 2, 2009 – There were 33 people in attendance on Saturday morning at First United Methodist Church as they came together for their first American Red Cross disaster team training session.
"Besides our church, we have this big gym unit at the facility and with all the tornadoes and other disasters this country has been experiencing the last few years, we decided we should offer our building as a shelter and form a team to manage it," said Patty Caldwell, who with serve as facility contact person and director in conjunction with her sister, Ruth Caldwell.
"We know we may not be called upon every time there is an emergency or disaster, but we want to be ready if we're needed. And, I feel good that we wouldn't be on our own out there if and when an emergency situations happens. The Red Cross is so equipped to help us and we're thankful for them."
Wayne Adams, a specialist and instructor with the Red Cross office in Nashville, conducted the two-hour training course.
"We are especially proud of Wilson County in that it is ahead of other counties in regarding preparedness in Tennessee," said Adams. "And, the reason for this is partially because of John Jewell and the WEMA organization in Wilson County and all the facilities and volunteers that have gotten involved "
Not all disasters are of the magnitude of Katrina that brought thousands of victims into the Lebanon area for shelter. Most emergencies are single family or apartment fires or smaller areas being devastated by tornadoes or whatever. The Red Cross does amazing work, but the Nashville office staff is few and they can't be everywhere. So, the Red Cross is striving to have 10,000 volunteers trained across the state and many facilities in preparedness so whatever disaster happens anywhere, there are shelters and people to man them available at a moment's notice.
Adams explained what the Red Cross goes through when a team and facility offer to become a "sheltering partner" and commits to support them by furnishing pre-incident training and orientation materials; support during actual times of operation; provide technical guidance; work with the facility in assuming financial responsibility for costs of shelter operation above and beyond facility's ongoing costs, i.e., food, supplies, electrical bill, heating/cooling, etc.
The training course consisted of the following:
"¢ A welcome and introductory explanation of the American Red Cross disaster program.
"¢ The functions and services provided in a shelter.
"¢ Job descriptions and checklists for shelter functions.
"¢ Information for shelter residents.
"¢ Shelter supplies needed.
A question and answer period followed.
Adams reiterated that the American Red Cross is non-government affiliated and is an organization funded by private and public donations only.
He said last year the American Red Cross handled 17,000 national disasters, including fires, flooding, chemical spills, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc. The Tennessee office alone had 278 fires, affecting 378 families and 1,194 people and provided emergency relief dollars of $308,054 in obtaining needed prescriptions, food, housing, clothing, glasses, mental health counseling, etc. He said they've also aided 857 military families and provided educational training for 17,000 people, all through the help of 97 percent volunteers.
Two hundred countries throughout the world subscribe to the Red Cross/Red Crescent principal.
Adams said they may only have to open a shelter in the area four or five times a year because most people prefer to stay with family members and friends if possible.
"However, please remember if you happen to be in need of a shelter, you have some responsibilities also," he said. "For instance, parents are responsible for their children. In other words, a mother can't just leave her children in a shelter and go out shopping. Shelter occupants can't be running up long distance telephone charges. They need to call one relative and have that relative call the other relatives."
"We're so happy about our church and team of volunteers," aid Caldwell. "We intend to be ready if and when they call on us."
For more information on the American Red Cross and their disaster relief programs, check out their website.