Red Cross to train volunteers for hurricane preparedness - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Red Cross to train volunteers for hurricane preparedness


Hurricane season officially started last week, on June 1, and many Texans all along the Gulf Coast are waiting to see what the season will hold.

And the Smith County Chapter of the American Red Cross is hosting their second annual hurricane preparedness training event this weekend to make sure East Texans are ready for hurricane season.

When you think of hurricane preparedness training, you probably think of training people to go to a site that's just been hit by a hurricane.

But that's not what this training is really about. First and foremost, local Red Cross officials say it's about training volunteers to help evacuees who leave a disaster area and come here to East Texas to get away from the storm.

Smith County Red Cross officials say they don't know what to expect from the week-old 2013 hurricane season - they just know they need to be ready to host evacuees.

"If they do come here, it is expected to be a fairly active season, and the gulf is above-average temperatures right now, so warmer waters tend to produce larger hurricanes," said Matthew Brown, the Emergency Services Field Specialist for the American Red Cross - Smith County Chapter.

"Texas residents, Texas citizens tend to go inland for hurricane season, so people need to be prepared to shelter those folks, and since East Texas is right at the end of several of the primary hurricane evacuation routes from the coast, once people get to the end of the line, they're located here, so we need a place to put them," said Brown.

Volunteers will learn how to provide basic sheltering and feeding needs, because East Texas is one of the first places people stop on an evacuation route.

"So you need facilities and you need trained people to run those facilities in order to shelter those folks until it's safe for them to go home," said Brown.

The Red Cross will also train volunteers on how to put evacuees in touch with loved ones and how to handle the mental and psychological aspects of natural disasters.

"People have often lost everything that they own," Brown explained. "They're separated from their norms."

Some volunteers will also learn how to make sure the shelters run smoothly.

"We need plenty of worker bees, but we also need someone on top to kind of act as the liaison with the relief operations headquarters, and then we also have the people who know the terminology and know how to interact with our government partners, because the Red Cross and the Texas State Government work hand-in-hand together to take care of the citizens of Texas," Brown said.

Most of all, Red Cross officials stress, it's time to get ready.

"We can prepare for the worst, but hope for the best," Brown said.

Red Cross officials also say that while this training is specific to hurricanes, you'll learn skills you can use if you'd like to volunteer during other times as well.

The rally is completely free. It starts at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning at the Shiloh Road Church of Christ in Tyler. The last session ends at 6 p.m.

You can register for the training online by filling out a Volunteer Application, or you can register on-site at 8:30 a.m. Saturday morning.

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