D-H to Host Red Cross Training Saturday in Response to Hurricanes 

  • Rescue staff from the Municipal Emergency Management Agency investigate an empty flooded car during the passage of Hurricane Irma through the northeastern part of the island in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. Hurricane Irma lashed Puerto Rico with heavy rain and powerful winds, leaving nearly 900,000 people without power as authorities struggled to get aid to small Caribbean islands already devastated by the historic storm. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti) Carlos Giusti

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/7/2017 9:51:38 AM
Modified: 9/8/2017 7:30:06 PM

Lebanon — The Red Cross has scheduled a one-day training on Saturday for Upper Valley residents to become disaster response volunteers and to prepare current volunteers to take on leadership roles.

The session was spurred by Hurricanes Harvey, which devastated Houston last week, and Irma, a Category 5 storm barreling through the Caribbean toward Florida.

The full-day “Hurricane Harvey Disaster Boot Camp,” which will take place at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, will cover topics such as psychological first aid and shelter fundamentals for new volunteers, and management basics for current volunteers.

“We’re receiving a lot of calls from not just current Red Crossers but also Red Crossers who have been active in the past,” said Dan Lavilette, the Burlington-based acting disaster officer for the Red Cross’ New Hampshire and Vermont region. “They want to get re-engaged.”

The Red Cross is getting calls from new volunteers as well, Lavilette said.

“From the bottom of my heart, I’m extremely grateful of all the folks that have come forward,” he said.

The space at DHMC can hold 150 people, and as of Tuesday, Lavilette said 50 people had registered for the training. Lavilette said he is hoping to have 90 new or returning volunteers and 60 current volunteers seeking to broaden their skills.

The basic training will include an overview of how the Red Cross helps people prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters. It will review the role of community and government partners. In addition, it will cover the process for setting up, running and closing a shelter during a disaster. Volunteers will learn how to deliver services to people with disabilities, help disaster victims cope with emotional stress and manage the stress of responding to an emergency themselves.

Participants in the leadership track will take a refresher course in setting up, running and closing a shelter. They’ll also learn the basics of responding to a mass casualty event, and how to manage other volunteers and the people they serve in a disaster setting.

The Red Cross and other relief workers still are working to assess the needs on the ground in Houston, but Lavilette anticipated the needs would continue for some time. For example, volunteers are needed to staff the shelters and ensure that people have a safe place to eat and sleep, he said.

He predicted the Red Cross’ push for volunteers will continue for the next year, but the needs in Houston will be ongoing for years.

Some of that work will be “helping folks find their new normal,” Lavilette said.

Lavilette, who currently is managing operations in both states while his boss is deployed to Houston, anticipates heading to Texas himself to lend a hand in October or November.

“(It’s) all hands on deck,” he said.

National volunteers typically are asked to commit to a stay of two to three weeks in a disaster area, he said. At that point, volunteers often “start feeling responder fatigue,” he said.

On the home front, Lavilette said, the Red Cross continues to respond every 18 hours, on average, to house fires in Vermont and New Hampshire. The organization also is running a home fire preparedness campaign, which involves installing smoke alarms in homes without them.

“We have a lot of irons in the fire,” Lavilette said.

The region, which currently has 700 volunteers, has so far sent 20 volunteers to Houston to assist with relief efforts following Hurricane Harvey, Lavilette said.

Christina Hammond, of Hanover, is among them. She is deployed in a leadership capacity down there, said David Muse, disaster program manager for southern Vermont and the New Hampshire part of the Upper Valley.

In addition, Wesley Miller, a safety and occupational health specialist in DHMC’s Environmental Health and Safety Department, will deploy as a Red Cross volunteer to assist with disaster recovery operations in a leadership role in either Houston or Florida for two weeks at the end of the month, D-H spokesman Mike Barwell said in an email.

Muse, who returned a few weeks ago from a deployment in response to wildfires in California, noted that the training is open to anyone with a willingness to serve. While people may think that disaster relief workers have to be physically fit, that’s not the case.

“There’s a position for everyone,” Muse said.

If the event is successful, Lavilette said, he hopes to host another, perhaps at the Vermont Emergency Preparedness Conference scheduled to take place on Sept. 15 and 16 at Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee.

Those interested in participating in Saturday’s training, which is set to run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., can register online at redcrossbootcamp.eventbrite.com. For more information, contact Angela Russell, American Red Cross volunteer services manager, at 802-660-9130 ext.123 or Angela.Russell@RedCross.org.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.

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