Red Cross to hold local disaster volunteer training

Photo by Bobbie Poynter Sandra Nickell, Knox County Medical Reserve Corps Unit Coordinator, fills a bag full of emergency supplies that someone may need in the event of a disaster.
Photo by Bobbie Poynter
Sandra Nickell, Knox County Medical Reserve Corps Unit Coordinator, fills a bag full of emergency supplies that someone may need in the event of a disaster.

“Just because you think you are too old or too young or have your own special needs doesn’t mean you can’t volunteer to help others,” said Sandra Nickell, Knox County Medical Reserve Corps Unit Coordinator. “Someone in a wheelchair can sit at a table and register people. Seniors, or those who can’t stand for long periods of time or haven’t the strength to lift heavy objects can stuff emergency packs, fill lunch bags, deliver towels, water, blankets or snacks. More important, you could just sit and listen to someone who needs company, maybe even play cards or a board game, anything to help pass the time.”

In times of crisis, as in a natural disaster, chaos ensues, ripping both your family and your community apart. How do you know if your loved ones are safe? Will your family know how to reach one other? What do you do with the family pet? Where will you go if the tornado siren goes off or floodwaters begin to engulf your property?

The answer to these questions, and more, will be answered at a special Red Cross Shelter Training Saturday, Nov. 21, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the First Baptist Church in Barbourville. The purpose of the training is twofold, Nickell explained.

“There are so many variables families need to be aware of during a time of crisis,” said Nickell. “The first thing we’ll do is show everyone how to prepare your family in advance of a disaster, like having an escape plan, or knowing how to fill an emergency backpack for each member of the family and creating backup communication plans for family members so they can find one another.”

In the case of phone lines being down, the shelter could use the assistance of any ham radio operators available in the area. Families could also coordinate through a specified relative who lives far away from the disaster area, or plan to to meet at a specified Red Cross shelter in town. There are currently five certified Red Cross shelters in Knox County, including Artemus, Locust Grove, Turkey Creek and Keck Baptist churches, and First Baptist Church on Main Street in Barbourville.

For those residents who are actually displaced and need to find shelter right away, here’s where shelter training helps the community.

“Only those people who have had Red Cross Shelter training will be able to enter the shelter area,” said Nickell. “This is not only to make sure displaced people are registered so family members can locate them, but also to protect them. During such a time when people are already traumatized, we can’t have just anyone walking into the shelter and taking advantage of the situation.”

The training is only required one time and is valid in every state, she said, so there will be no required future trainings. The training is free and can be taken by anyone ages 16 and over.

“In a major disaster, it could be hours or even days before the we begin to receive any outside assistance,” said Nickell. “This is a chance for our community to learn what we need to do to take care of ourselves.”