West Contra Costa prepares for disasters with shelter drill
Thursday, August 4, 2011
More than 100 community volunteers, their pets and local emergency responders and agencies will join forces to participate in a mass care and shelter exercise on Tuesday.
The Contra Costa Community College District, Contra Costa County's Health Services, Animal Services, Office of Emergency Services and Employment and Human Services departments, the Cities of Richmond and San Pablo, the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army are conducting a community shelter exercise 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. August 9 on the San Pablo Campus of Contra Costa College, 2600 Mission Bell Drive. Representatives of these agencies and community volunteers are being trained by the Red Cross to set up and operate a shelter that would provide care for people displaced by a disaster. Animal Services also will practice for the first time setting up an emergency indoor animal shelter for displaced pets.
"This exercise will give us the opportunity to provide care for animals in an indoor emergency shelter environment for the first time. Sheltering animals in an indoor setting offers unique challenges and we're hoping to leave with some lessons learned," said Noell Crosse, Humane education Coordinator with Contra Costa Animal Services' County Animal Response Team.
Participants also will practice providing care for people, including those with special needs such as persons with disabilities and the elderly. Another first for the exercise will be the county's use of the "Safe and Well" network, an online tool developed by the Red Cross that allows people inside a disaster-affected area to list themselves as "safe and well" and for loved ones to search for these messages.
"By using the Safe and Well network, family members gain peace of mind and assurance that their loved ones are okay while leaving traditional communication lines open for emergency purposes. This exercise will allow us to use the network hands-on here in Contra Costa," said Red Cross volunteer Rick Palmer, who is helping organize the exercise.
During a disaster thousands of community members could suddenly find themselves in need of essentials like food, water, or shelter and emergency responders may be spread thin, said Rick Kovar, Emergency Services Manager with the Office of the Sheriff. An effective response requires the committed support of local government agencies, community groups and even private businesses.
"We know that training and practice are the keys to a successful emergency response and the community's participation is critical in supporting local response efforts," Kovar said.
More information about disaster preparedness training and volunteering with the American Red Cross, visit www.redcrossbayarea.org
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