Every athlete has heard the long-used quote, “Practice like you play.” Well, the Red Cross isn’t a group of athletes, but rather a team of volunteers who spring into action on what could be considered someone’s worst day.
Our “practice” revolves around being ready to respond to disasters big and small. Whether it be a house fire, earthquake, wildfire or other disaster – the Red Cross is ready at a moment’s notice. How? Through ongoing education and training for volunteers.
One way we practice is by holding large-scale exercises that test our teams’ ability to respond to a large disaster with little notice.
Recently, Red Crossers from Riverside and Coachella Valley/Morongo Basin came together to for a disaster drill that involved setting up a mock shelter in the city of Moreno Valley. The city’s emergency management director saw this drill as a perfect opportunity to train city workers alongside Red Cross volunteers on proper sheltering techniques.
“I have a long history with the Red Cross, said Andrew Cheng, Moreno Valley emergency manager. “They are the subject-matter-experts when it comes to taking care of a large group of people displaced at once. Having our city employees learn how to properly set up, operate and tear down a shelter means we have a larger pool of people to help when the next emergency strikes.”
About ten miles away, the Red Cross Serving Riverside County’s Emergency Operation Center was running at full speed. Volunteers were active establishing a communications net, working on the logistical needs, and simulating interaction with Moreno Valley officials – all things that happen in an actual emergency.
Throughout the day, the Red Crossers were given scenarios to simulate what could happen when responding to real disasters.
“We looked at some of the things we’ve encountered in responses across the country,” said Senior Disaster Program Manager Sean Ward with the American Red Cross Desert to the Sea Region. “We wanted to give our new volunteers an opportunity to practice the techniques they’ve learned in the classroom over the last few months. Watching them recognize a problem and work towards a solution is a great way to see how well they’re progressing in their learning.”
The selection of Moreno Valley for the exercise was no accident. The city was one of four cities throughout Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties chosen for a Prepare SoCal outreach campaign, a public awareness campaign to create more resilient communities that are better equipped to help each other prevent, prepare for and respond to disasters.
Each of the Desert to the Sea chapters will come together in early June for a regional disaster exercise. This will to test volunteers’ ability to scale from a local chapter response to a bigger regional response over a larger geographical area.
It takes a strong team to respond to disasters big and small, and we are always looking for more volunteers to join us. For more information on becoming a Red Cross volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer.