With disaster overload, Red Cross volunteer pool runs thin


June 13th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

The chapter of the American Red Cross that covers southwestern Iowa and eastern Nebraska is launching a series of disaster orientation classes in hopes of bringing in new volunteers to assist others in recovering from floods, tornadoes and other catastrophes. Andrea Noon, spokeswoman for the Heartland Chapter, says they’re running short on help.

“We really do need the volunteers,” Noon says. “We’ve had over 30 disaster operations going since late March. With the situations that are happening, we’re going to need more local volunteers as well, so that’s why we’ve added more training classes to get those volunteers prepared for the classes and the things they are going to need to do.”

Among the requirements, Noon says volunteers need to be at least 18 years old.
“Anybody who wants to volunteer has to take our Disaster Orientation class,” she says. “That’s the basic overview about the Red Cross, about how we work with our volunteers and then what you would experience on a disaster relief operation. That is a requirement before anybody can be deployed or take some of these more specialized courses.”

Noon says if you want to be sent on a disaster mission, make sure you can get the time off from work or school. “What we’re looking at right now is a two-to-three-week deployment period,” Noon says. “That’s something that people have to consider. We also have specialized deployments for medical personnel as well.”

Noon says they had more than 100 people attend an orientation meeting several days ago and she hopes that trend continues. Specialty classes include basic food safety, shelter operations, disaster assessments and bulk distribution. The chapter is based in Omaha/Council Bluffs. Learn more at “RedCrossOmaha.org” or call (402) 343-7700.

(Radio Iowa)