Red Cross Demonstrates Emergency Preparedness

Written By Sarah Kloepping for the Herald Times

Area business representatives were able to experience what disaster victims would go through if they went to the American Red Cross for aid.

The Red Cross office in Manitowoc held an experiential lunch Wednesday where participants “checked in” to a makeshift shelter, receiving what real-life victims would get upon arrival: two blankets and a comfort kit filled with personal hygiene items.

“A lot of these people are in a state of shock,” said Joel O’Connell, a Red Cross volunteer who was assisting with the simulation. “It really tears you up to see what these people have to go through sometimes. You’d be surprised how traumatic this is to some people.”

Tour offered

During the event, participants were given a tour of the Manitowoc office and vehicles used at a disaster site. A lunch similar to what victims would receive from the Red Cross also was provided.

“We don’t use this stuff everyday. We often don’t use this stuff every year,” said Travis Waack, a regional disaster services director for the Red Cross. “But we have to have it, because we never know when Manitowoc is going to become the next Joplin, Mo. It could happen any day. And we’re ready.”

Residential fires

Waack said the most responded to incidents are residential fires.

Two Rivers Fire Chief Scott Schneider said the city has utilized the Red Cross several times throughout the years.

“Because there has been total house loss and the occupants need some other assistance,” he said. “Either it’s housing for a couple of days, clothing, food, shelter that they’re looking for.”

Schneider said he is used to working with Red Cross for the single-family incidents, but was surprised to learn of the all the other aid the local chapter can provide if needed.

“I see what Red Cross does on a national scale when there is a disaster and they show a gymnasium full of cots and the shelter that’s provided … but I guess I wasn’t aware that we here locally have that capability to provide those services. That was an eye-opener for me.”

The Red Cross, which is a nonprofit agency without federal assistance, responds to an average of 70,000 disasters nationwide every year.

“We have one of the most robust disaster technology teams of any public safety agency in the country,” Waack said. “I can guarantee you that.”

Between July 2010 and June 2011, the Red Cross responded to 972 incidents in Wisconsin.

“We’re all about keeping prepared so when there is a disaster, we’re ready to respond. It really is that simple,” said Cindy Vana, Red Cross director of development.

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